The letter, “E”, from the Winchester Bible.  Book of Joshua.


The letter, “E”, from the Winchester Bible.  Book of Joshua.

(via thesixthduke)

CCA Andratx is a very special place: a Kunsthalle, collection gallery, café and artist studio complex in the West of Mallorca. I was fortunate to stay there for a week whilst my friend the artist Clare Woods was doing a residency in one of the studios this summer. It’s an inspiring place to stay and to create work: it even has a perfect pool in the olive grove - what a great example of artistic patronage by Patricia Asbaek and her family to have the foresight to create such a place.

The Lovelace Tomb in Hurley Church in Berkshire is like a piece of fairground folk art rather than a funerary monument. The painted figures recall ship’s mastheads, but have a moving directness as they kneel facing towards the high altar.

Good food in Mallorca

When I saw the wall drawings in Joan Miró’s home/studio I couldn’t avoid thinking of the shocked reaction of parents when they discover that their child has been drawing all over the living room walls. The drawings, executed directly onto the plaster walls of the old house, have a child-like directness and intensity. Of course, they are far more sophisticated than first impressions might suggest, and in several cases relate directly to sculptures or paintings on which Miró was working. It’s like a kind of thinking out loud - only on the walls.

On 15 August it was the Festival of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, known in Spain as the Mare de Déu d’Agost, marking her death and assumption to heaven. In the churches of Mallorca lifelike carved statues of Mary were laid on intricate carved throne-like beds towards the rear of the church. Some of these are carried in processions as part of the festival celebrations. I took these photographs in Sóller, La Seu Cathedral in Palma, and the Church of Santa Clara in Palma.

The Castell de Bellver is a remarkable example of a round castle. This 14th-century royal fortress & prison is surrounded by fragrant pine woods and overlooks the city of Palma in a Mallorca (Bellver means ‘lovely view’ in Catalan). The central courtyard has 21 Catalan Romanesque arches in the lower tier, above which are 42 octagonal columns supporting 21 Gothic arches. It’s incredibly satisfying as a piece of architecture: particularly in the layering of graceful curves, and the views both within and without.

Me getting into the spirit of Josep Lluis Sert’s colourful architecture for Joan Miró’s studio in Palma. Like De Stijl or a Mondrian.

Me getting into the spirit of Josep Lluis Sert’s colourful architecture for Joan Miró’s studio in Palma. Like De Stijl or a Mondrian.

Capgrossos from Mallorca: these masks date back to c.1930 and were used in street processions, a kind of folk art. They are now in the Castell de Bellver in Palma.

The Studio of Joan Miró is one of those rare deeply satisfying building that kind of hits you in the solar plexus. Designed by the Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert (who had co-designed the celebrated Pavilion for the Spanish Republic at the 1937 Paris World Fair, which featured a mural by Miró) it is all about controlling light to best effect. Arched roof panels like seagulls in flight let in light from above - refracted on the ‘down’ of the opposite arch, while the South-facing front is broken up into recessed cubes with doorways painted in primary colours like a De Stijl abstract. Glazed, angled tiles prevent direct light, but would have allowed the artist to work with fresh sea air. A bank of windows on the other side let in light from the North. Sert had moved to the USA (in self-imposed exile from Franco’s dictatorship) and so designed it by correspondence. He was also to design the Maeght Foundation in the South of France and the Fundación Joan Miró in Barcelona.

The architecture of the Fundació Pilar y Joan Miró in Palma de Mallorca is a real joy. Designed by Rafael Moneo, the galleries form a kind of star shape - mirroring a common form in the artist’s paintings. The use of materials is stunning, yet practical for the bright light of Mallorca: alabaster panels in the windows and angled grills filter the daylight for the artworks and sculptural stone walls divide the spaces like stage sets: a mixture of high dramatic flats and low walls for smaller, intimate works. It’s topped with a kind of infinity pool reflecting the sky and suggesting the sea below.

Reflections on the roof of the Fundació Pilar y Joan Miró in Palma de Mallorca: Every museum must dread the moment when the roof starts to leak and drips fall into the galleries (I’ve sen it everywhere from Tate to the National Gallery). Having an infinity pool on the roof is therefore a brave move- but oh how inspired. The Fundació Pilar y Joan Miró was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and its galleries have a flat roof pool that not only reflects the skies, but suggests the sea below - it’s a clever move that also blocks the view of nearby apartment blocks and creates a sense of space - and a kind of sculptural magic.

Clare Woods: Work in Progress This week I have been staying with the British artist Clare Woods and her family in Andratx in Mallorca. She is here for a month’s studio residency at CCA Andtratx, a Kunsthalle and studio space set in the edge of the hills above the town. It’s a stunning setting, but Clare is more likely to be inspired the rows of jamon and chorizo hanging in the shops than the picturesque views. It’s an interesting question for an artist: what would you do if given a studio space for a month with none of your usual equipment, past work, or references - literally a blank canvas. Clare has chosen to explore collage, using spray paints, and working on easily transportable canvas (she normally works on aluminium panels). It’s impressive how quickly she has found a structured way of working in this new temporary set-up, but part of that may the liberation from normal concerns. Also the fact that work- life balance can be found in a focused early morning start in the studio, and afternoon excursions to swim in the crystal blue waters of the coves nearby with her family - surely something all artists would aspire to.

The houses of artists & writers always seem to hold a peculiar charge that connects us to them through the minutiae of their domestic arrangements: the table where they wrote an iconic novel, the objects they collected, books on their shelves and so on. The house in Deia, Mallorca, where the poet and writer Robert Graves (1895-1985) lived from 1929 to his death, is no exception. Walking around it I felt that surge of feeling visually and spiritually enriched just by being there and absorbing so many details. The interiors of Ca N’ Alluny are modest, but the placement of objects is stimulating - such as the quaintly English touch of the China dogs that stand guard in the entrance hall, or the modernist paintings by Len Lye (whose work I only really know from his avant-garde film A Colour Box’), the pictures and ceramics of cats in a bedroom, or the ephemera on the writing desk where Graves wrote ‘I Claudius’. Above the patchwork quilt in one bedroom is a painting by John Aldrich of the house in the Essex village of Great Bardfield where Graves had once lived, and from nearly every room are open windows framing the views of the surrounding landscape and garden. In its quiet way it is inspirational and life-affirming.

Recently I joined the Marx Memorial Library in London as I have been working on an exhibition about British Artists and the Spanish Civil War, and the Library holds the remarkable International Brigade Archive. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric building: used from the late 19th century by the twentieth-Century Press (with backing from William Morris) during which time the exiled Lenin worked in the building publishing 17 issues of his newspaper Iskra here. An office is preserved as a memorial to him. But besides the 43,000 pamphlets, books and newspapers on Marxism and working class history (and the kind volunteers) the most wonderful thing is the mural by Viscount Hastings ‘The Worker of the Future Upsetting the Economic Chaos of the Present’ painted by Viscount Hastings (Jack Huntington) in 1935 with the assistance of the American artist Clifford Wight. Huntington had trained with Diego Rivera and was a key figure in the Artists a International Association in the 1930s. It is an extraordinary place - I’ve worked in some wonderful libraries, but this has to be one of my favourites.