Tuesday 31 May 2011

Galerie Art Zone 2

Our last article, a few days ago, featured Catherine Medico's Galerie Art Zone in Die.  It's hard to appreciate Catherine's work from a distance, with its wealth of detail, fascinating and amusing features.  Here are just a few individual pieces.
For more about GAZ please read our earlier article.

Catherine Medico, Atelier GAZ, Die

Catherine Medico, Atelier GAZ, Die

Catherine Medico, Atelier GAZ, Die

'Cap Lamp' by Bruno Croiset at the Atelier GAZ, Die

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Galerie Art Zone

Very few people know of Die, the administrative centre of the Diois, a small and fascinatingly varied 'Pays' tucked into a corner of the Drome, almost but not quite Alpine.  Transitional, intensely individual, a touch bohemian, and only lightly populated.  Die is a big village with the services of a town, its own cathedral, a distinctive and independent culture.

Catherine Medico's Atelier Galerie Art Zone reflects the virtues of this unusual place.  An eclectic selection of work by local artists.  At first glance a somewhat baffling collection of sculptures, jewellery, furniture, glasswork and, at the moment, photography.  But the richness and breadth of the collection reward frequent visits.

Catherine's work calls for a catalogue of individual images to illustrate its artistry, inventiveness, humour, sometimes Gothic intensity, and of course craftsmanship.  Assembled from cast-off everyday objects that most of us could see no more use for, her creations have taken on a life of their own and have become a range of self-sufficient characters  -  birds, fishes, and some of those surprising people who pass you in the street.  Most of us forget passing characters until we see them again.  Catherine recreates them with the precision of three dimensional cartoons. 

A visit to GAZ will change your appreciation of a tea strainer, a pair of old sugar tongs, a discarded knife and fork, a crystal wine glass, an old bottle or who knows what else.  The whole is greater than the parts.  The impact of the finished piece at first disguises the structure, usually something that we or our ancestors carelessly threw away.

Apart from Catherine's work, the birds, the fishes and the flying beasts, she represents in her gallery the work of a number of other local artists.  At the moment, some of our Papua New Guinea prints.  Finely crafted wooden furniture from Jean Laigret.  Lucie Yvon's paintings.  Constance Hirsch's inventive wire sculptures - expressive minimalism.  Senegalese birds from Dorothee DuFour and Assan Deme.

Jewellery by Christelle Rigaud.  Glasswork from Aimee Langlet.  Also more of Catherine's provocative pieces.

Metal furniture, benches, display stands and even lighting, elegantly designed, welded and finished by Bruno Croiset.

 The collection changes.  If only there were more space.  Last year, amongst other works, the Gallery exhibited some superb dresses and shawls from exquisite fabrics, all made and designed by a local artist.  

There is no shortage of talent and choice of works that deserve more than local recognition.  Die can offer only a small market for its over-abundance of talented and inventive artists.  Thanks to Catherine's atelier GAZ, there are opportunities in Die and, after that, who knows.

Thursday 19 May 2011

La Gresiere

 Visit our website at: www.bowater.fr  to see a comprehensive selection of our work and a large range of photographs for sale as limited edition prints.

We have much more to say about Venice but  a lot of work to do first.  In the meantime, worrying that we were missing another generation of flowers in the mountains, we tackled a walk over La Gresiere for the first time.  Very rewarding but rather long.

Starting at Les Gallands near to Chatillon-en-Diois, the path rises rapidly into the forest at the moment lit up by clumps of laburnum in full bloom.

The path was hacked out of the mountainside.  Around the turn of the 20th Century, one of France's periodic and often very productive social/public works projects was in full swing.  Small hydro projects and, above all, massive re-afforestation employed thousands with generally beneficial results which still positively mark the landscape.  The path to La Gresiere was the route taken from the plant nurseries to the slopes where vast acreages of largely Austrian pine were planted.  When the path reached a massive fault, unperturbed the foresters tunneled through it.  Now that less hardy types use the path, a steel cable has been fixed at the entry to the tunnel.  We have found a number of these examples of remarkable little engineering works in remote places in France.

The woods are decorated with vivid blue Gentians, Aquilegias, white flowered house leeks, sainfoin and a host of other flowers.  The trees are mostly Pinus Sylvestris (Scots Pine) the most decorative of all, Austrian Pine, Beech, a few Oaks, and plenty of Hazelnuts and other shrubs.

For us, it's always the highlight of our day to see something unusual  -  a plant, a bird, an animal.  This time we were rewarded by several Lady's Slipper Orchids (Sabot de Venus).  This orchid is relatively rare and grows in few places.  It's one of the most striking of the Orchid family.

As the path rises above 1 000m the choice of orchids increases and our chances of identifying one variety from another diminishes.  There are also strange Broomrapes in relative abundance.  And near to the summit at 1 492m there were carpets of Poet's Eye/Pheasant's Eye Narcissus, just past their prime but still splendid in such profusion.

As the season progresses, the limits of our botanic knowledge become painfully obvious.  Growing just below the summit is a mass of white-flowered shrubs which we presume to be Amelanchier.  We spotted a number of large orchids growing beneath them.

From the summit of La Gresiere the views are magnificent.  To the West a clear view of the valley of the Drome as far as Die and the mountains beyond.  To the East, a view over Trieves to the Parc des Ecrins and real snow-capped Alpine peaks.

In the view towards Les Ecrins there are five black dots in the sky, not visible at this magnification,  a group of vultures circling above the Trieves.

The clouds were building up and the descent proved to be interesting, even dodgy.  With our aging and stiff joints it felt like a sledge ride down the edge of a cliff.  The storm was kind enough not to break until we had reached relatively easy going.

Sunday 15 May 2011


 Visit our website at: www.bowater.fr  to see a comprehensive selection of our work and a large range of photographs for sale as limited edition prints.

We've waited the best part of a lifetime to get to ourselves to Venice.  If that wasn't always an ambition it has been for a long time.  Now we realise what we have been missing.  Venice is fabulous.  Fabulous in every sense  -  not just a collection of extraordinary buildings and art but a piece of history, still very much as it was in Carpaccio's vibrant paintings of the city at the end of the 15th Century.  

Venice guide books are even richer than usual in their descriptions of religious buildings and art.  There is a multitude of galleries which make the works of artists like Tintoretto, Veronese and Titian seem almost commonplace.  It's all worth visiting but it doesn't matter if you're not that way inclined.  Venice is the sum of its parts and is more than all its components put together.  The city radiates something very special, quite apart from its physical beauty.  It grew as an independent republic which had survived for over a thousand years and it still survives in the face of the economic logic that normally dominates our lives.

Gondoliers also defy the logic of our times.  Once the main source of transport in the city, the gondola is now a tourist attraction but also a very necessary part of the atmosphere of the city, fortunately paid for by the better-heeled visitors.

We walked and walked and walked, usually lost in a maze of busy streets, some of them too narrow for corpulent tourists.  Always a new vista ahead, another exquisite little bridge over another canal lined with yet more extraordinary buildings.  Never boring, ever romantic, the perfect place for poets and musicians, artists and photographers, honeymoon couples and, of course, historians and architects.  Too rich to begin to absorb in the mere ten days that we had.  Why did we hesitate so long;  when can we find time to go back.

Piazza San Marco and the splendid Basilica di San Marco.  The square attracts most of the passing tourist trade and is often very crowded but apparently it always was.  Once described as: "A mixed multitude of Jews, Turks and Christians, Lawyers, Knaves and Pickpockets, Mountebanks, Old Women and Physicians, Women of quality with masks, Strumpets, a jumble of Senators, Citizens, Gondoliers and other people of every character and condition".

The Grand Canal is also busy and relatively crowded but much more civilised than a ring road and much more fun.

A perfect place for a honeymoon.

Many of the views are familiar but there is no sense of disappointment.  Seeing the real thing is a similar experience to comparing reproductions of great paintings to the originals.  There was no great plan for Venice, it just grew.  And those miraculous vistas and the perfect play of light -  did they just happen?

Many obscure canals and streets are living works of art.

The Grand Canal is lined with palaces of varying degrees of splendour and, of course, varying degrees of decay.  The 19th Century was for Venice as the Victorian era was for Britain  -  a disastrous time for old buildings which were ruthlessly and insensitively restored to modern tastes.  Fortunately, restoration today is on a much higher plane and some recent work has been very good indeed.