Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Canadian Opera Set Designer and Artist Gerard Gauci's latest Exhibition in Montreal

Gerard Gauci's latest exhibition in Montreal, Quebec

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GAUCI, Gerard

Gerard Gauci is a painter and a theatre designer whose sensibility is literally and figuratively operatic. As resident set designer for Toronto’s Opera Atelier he creates vast and sumptuous on-stage environments for the works of Monteverdi, Lully and Mozart. As a painter Gauci, creates miniature tableaux depicting famously preserved interiors of grand homes and palaces throughout Europe and America. Looking back to an artistic genre popularized in 19th century Gauci renders these rooms with a precision that documents their theatrical architecture, magnificent decor and intimate personal effects. Acknowledging their creation in 21st century, he subjects the paintings to the splashing, dripping and scraping of pure pigment. These intrusions point to the work’s essential reality as paint on a flat surface and simultaneously suggest the energy held by spaces, whether the ghostly residue of the past or the volatile atmosphere of the present day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Glorious Chateau Champs sur Marne

20.5 kilometers east of Paris, just a short hop by train in Marne-la-Vallée area, lies the glorious Chateau Champs sur Marne. Built in 1699 'Champs' has an illustrious past. Once home to Duc de La Vallière, the Princess de Conti (daughter of Louis XIV) and later Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's glamorous mistress. Bought in the 1880's by Comte Louis Cahen d’Anvers, a weathly banker, whose son donated the mansion to the state in 1935 when crippling death taxes meant he was unable to keep it, the mansion was then used as residence for French Presidents where celebrities, VIPs and heads of state were entertained until the 70's. Today, after undergoing a full restoration, the house is a gem with stunning interiors and enviable furniture set out as if the Cahen d'Anvers were still in residence. The classic french parterre garden and structured landscape is magnificent radiating on a long axis at front and back of the building with two large ornamental fountains. If you only have a short time in Paris this is an easy afternoon trip.

Walking to the train from Ile St Louis, we stopped into the Hotel Hospitel next-door to Notre Dame on Ile d la Cite where we found this extraordinary statue (above left). Originally representing French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren, Born 1777, the statue is painted each year by Med Students as a different character. Not sure if this year he's Elvis, Liberace or ??. At Noisiel the allee of chestnuts led us to the gates of the chateau. 
Loved these charming statues of children and dogs either side of the entrance to the house. 
Touring with dear friends from Toronto, Roberto and Gerard, whom I'd seen at Versailles earlier in the week, we stopped en-route in the village of Noisiel for a quick coffee at a local bar. The jovial host made his way around the restaurant welcoming each patron, stopping to chat, infusing warmth into our experience of this very ordinary little working class town. Strolling for 20 minutes through an allee of flowering chestnut's, then following a tall stone wall, we arrive at the moated gates of the chateau. (Sadly no water in the moat) Arriving before the house opened at midday, we picnicked in the garden, eating luscious baguettes stuffed with smoked duck or ham we'd bought earlier on the Ile Saint-Louis where my friends had an apartment. Once again we had the garden to ourselves, lounging on old wicker chairs positioned to catch the sun and the view of fountains and the parterre. Divine!

Inside the house was sublime. I've been lucky enough to visit some of the great house museums, chateaux, castles and stately homes in Europe, but this little Chateau was the most charming. The sense of style and taste of the interior design and furnishings is both fabulous and intimate. I only hope my photo's do it justice. 
The main reception rooms have painted panelling, lush upholstery and ornate gilt and crystal chandeliers. 
The second story hallway adorned with pale statues, gilt lanterns and ethereal painted ceiling(top right) 
 
Glorious silk draped beds in all the bedrooms which are hung with dazzling chandeliers. 
 We finished our tour with a ramble through the park and gardens. I loved the rectangular clipped trees and roses in the English Potager garden.
With Roberto in the gardens of Champs sur Marne. Behind us are rectangular clipped trees and parterre gardens. Beyond are the wild meadows, vivid orange poppies in the potager and classic urns and statues. 


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Kew Palace and Kitchen gardens

Roses are planted in hugs curving beds (top left) Bicycles in Kew Village (bottom left) The lily house (top right) The little road train that is a great way to get through the acres of park (bottom right) 
My mother has visited most of the great gardens in England and was a little dismissive about my proposed visit to Kew Gardens, her thoughts were that there was not much to see with the exception of the great Glasshouse at Kew. Regardless I stuck to my plan and took the overland train out to Kew on Monday morning, arriving at opening time. The little village of Kew was quaint and it would have been nice to have more time to explore.
 

I joined the little tourist train which puttered around the wooded acres, walking the rose gardens and waterlily house first. The highlight for me and reason for my visit were the two veggie gardens at Kew Palace. Speed touring mad King George's very modest palace I couldn't help lingering in the garden. The Queen's garden has been redesigned as a lovely physic garden brimming with plants and herbs used for medicinal properties.


Next door another building housed the extensive kitchens for the Palace, the actual kitchen is a huge basement room with stone floors, long rough wooden tables and cavernous fireplaces filled with black iron stoves. The Kitchen Garden was charming and brimming with spring bounty and ideas for planting beds at ground level.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Four Days in Jolly Old England! (First three days)


6.15am, slipping out of Alex's apartment on Rue Guersant, I squeeze myself (and back pack) into the very Parisian mini elevator cage and take the four floors down to the street. Waiting for me, a very handsome chap in a big black Mercedes ready to whisk me off to Garde du Nord and my next adventure. 

Eurostar is waiting as we travellers channel through English Customs and Immigration. Lovely to hear a British accent. Settling into my seat the train slides silently on its way at exactly 7.13am, picking up speed as we leave the city. Green wheat fields fled by until we slowed to descend into the Chunnel. Before long we popped out into the soft grey light of Old Blighty. Funny the countryside was exactly the same as France just there! 8.30am we slipped to a stop at St Pancras station London.

Kings Cross Station, London
St Pancras and ajoining Kings Cross station is pretty cool. Helpful staff point me in the right direction of the overland train that whisks me across the Thames to the Tate Modern.

First up is Matisse's Cut Outs. (see video of exhibit at this link) Sadly no photo's allowed. Very cool how this artist at the end of his career took the cut out technique he'd used previously to help with composition and turned it into a winning formula for the last great works of his life. We saw how his assistants painted the card, that he then cut out and affixed to walls or canvas. He drew at times with charcoal atop huge long poles.


The Tate Modern is laid out in four wings across three levels. Each focusing on a major art movement or theme, exploring its origins and how contemporary artists have responded to these ideas. My tour took me from top to toe. I didn't love the Tate. Odd as I gravitate to gritty industrial spaces. Its a big stark ugly building which is being renovated. MoMA in New York has the edge with more elegant galleries, more important works and that stunning sculpture garden....Or... perhaps my art experience is so biased towards American modernism, expressionism and contemporary works that I simply didn't appreciate the plethora of unfamiliar and rather bleak European art on display. Hmmmm!


After a whirl around London in a open top double-decker, next stop was Waterloo Station. A sprint across the Thames from Westminster and I puffingly made the train to Gillingham with three minutes to spare. An hour and half later I was being swept through utterly romantic hedgerows frothing with roses, cow parsley and campion in a low slung Bentley Continental driven by my distant cousin Richard. No lanes could be narrower or prettier! Richard's wife Cathy and daughter Ella welcomed me in their gorgeous low beamed, stone flagged, Aga warmed kitchen in their uber charming home Bulpits House. Once a rope millers cottage, a few centuries of additions to the original stone house had created a true gem of English rural history and charm.

Water bubbles from the ground in this part of Dorset which borders Wiltshire, the river Stour begins near by and is made famous by neighbouring Stourhead Park. In front of Richard and Cathy's house is a long tranquil leat (long shallow pond), once used to soak and soften the hemp or material used to make the rope. Today it's a stalking ground for graceful herons. Parklike grounds surround this lovely house, Cathy's english border burgeoning with spring growth was a glorious tapestry of textures and colours against an ancient brick wall. Roses clamber up stone walls. Gravel crunches underfoot.

Rambling over Bulpit's 9 hole golf course, complete with quaint brick club house we are surrounded by the aching green of England in spring and the sound of rushing water. 

The following day and 7 hours of walking later Cathy and I have circumnavigated the Capability Brown designed park and lakes at Stourhead, taking in the house tour and a pub lunch along the way. I had just read a wonderful book about the history of ice-cream and ice houses was tickled to see the old ice house at Stourhead pictured below. The deep well would have been filled with great blocks of ice which would stay frozen all year round. The ice boy would chip blocks off and barrow ice up to  kitchens of the big house for the icebox.
 The Park is full of vistas and follies, one is the famous Temple of Apollo, cresting a hill overlooking the lake which featured along with the arched stone bridge in the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightly and Matthew Mcfadyen.


The scene at the stone temple is shown in the video below. You may remember its when Mr Darcy asks Elizabeth to marry him for the first time. Both soaked by the rain.


Today, not a drop of rain, but the Rhododendrons were in full flight, the air rich with exotic perfume from towering bushes foaming with huge blooms. With temples and bridges, grotto's and statues, lakes and artful vistas, the 200+ year old planting is spectacular. Listed as one of the 6 greatest gardens in England. Sadly a number of old trees were lost in recent storms.


Notice the stone toadstools in the picture above at right. Staddle stones were thought to be used to support ancient granaries, hayricks etc off the ground. You see them everywhere in this area.
Below this pic is a typical farmstead, I believe it is the gamekeepers house, with stone walled animal runs pretty much as it would have been in days gone by, though Cathy and I thought there'd have been fruit trees and veggie garden back in the day!

 Building of Salisbury Cathedral began in April 1220
 The following day I toured ancient Salisbury Cathedral (read Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd ) where a copy of the Magna Carta is on show, then trained back to London and the waiting arms of the Great Northern Hotel perfectly positioned for Eurostar travel at Kings Cross. This gorgeous hotel, glamorous with huge chandeliers in the GNH bar, fab cut glass mirrored elevators and the Plum and Spilt Milk restaurant showcasing Mark Sargeant's (used to be head chef at Gordon Ramseys at Claridges) fab food. I indulged in creamy smoked haddock and poached hens egg (best fish pie ever tasted), then grilled cuttlefish with broad beans and chorizo. Simple and divine.

Creamy smoked Haddock with poached hens egg and sorrel

ps: all pics in England taken on iPhone 4* with varing degrees of success!! (*Hence the selfies!!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Musee Arts Decoratifs : Dries Van Noten Inspirations

The work of the Belgian fashion designer, Dries Van Noten, is featured at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.For this exhibition, Dries Van Noten has brought together elements which point to other sources of inspiration, such as the Renaissance ‘chambers of wonder’ or ‘curiosity cabinets’ in which collectors amassed memorabilia and souvenirs. He has selected anonymous 19th century pieces and works by emblematic couturiers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior, to evoke intimate subject matters such as youth, the archetype, ambiguity and passion, while highlighting his ‘signature’ themes. Masterpieces by important artists such as Bronzino, Kees Van Dongen, Yves Klein, Victor Vasarely, Francis Bacon, Elizabeth Peyton and Damien Hirst are on display in each section of the show. Major films, including Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange and Jane Campion’s The Piano, are also part of the event.

















Monday, May 26, 2014

Monet's house and Garden at Giverny

Our destination today is Giverny. The home of Monet. It's kinda scary visiting a place with such a huge reputation. If spring hasn't sprung yet the visit will be so disappointing. My heart rose as we entered the township of Vernon to see irises blooming on the roadside and roses frothing over a fence. Perfect!


Deep rose scented air after a rain shower wafting from cascades of white species roses and soft lavender irises was my first impression as I stepped from the car. Divine!

Poppies and blue cornflowers strewn across a meadow, spring green trees and hills rolling away behind was my next. Hedges, verdant potager's, rounded mounds of lavender, spent tulips piled in wooden crates, wisteria, roses and perennials too. This was just the entrance to the area. Not even at the house yet!


The garden and house of Monet are everything you imagine them to be. Cacophonous colour, low perennial beds with frothy standard roses marching down the centre, interspersed by long runs of pale gravel, bisecting the beds. The colour starts to make sense as you traverse the garden and glance down the paths where repetitive planting in waves of colour combinations wash over the garden like a rainbow. 

Unintentionally dressed to tone with the predominant colour!!

The house, familiar from books and doco's was quaint and musty. There is something in me that pines for people to live in houses and I always feel the heart of the house is gone when just left to nosey tourists.


Graham Ross of 'Australian Better Homes and Gardens' fame was filming in the garden. I spoke briefly to him in between takes.  It was interesting to see him wandering through the garden chatting away to his invisible microphone, the camera team filming from afar to get those long shots. Every now and then he'd whip out his personal camera and take a pic of a flower or vista!
 

Crossing the road to the water gardens you enter a world of the famous waterlily paintings.Crazy croaking, like the sound of a hundred angry crows, greeted us. Turned out to be a handful of mating little frogs. Eventually the noise died down completely. TG!!


Later we drank hot carrot soup and enjoyed being outdoors at the little cafe. Monet's hamlet is really quaint with charming houses all along the road, giving tantalising peeks of lives lived in this famous spot. For the garden lover or artist visting Giverny is a must do. I was tickled to be here in spring to see the roses and irises.