Monday, November 28, 2005

The Party's Over...

So goes the old song that Sammy Davis Jr. used to sing, "The party's over now / Its time to call it a day... " I have just finished clearing my studio space prior to sorting packing my bags. This song came to mind. Its been a wonderful month here. With a little bit of luck I may be able to repeat the experience next year with the added advantage of knowing what to bring and what not to bring. Some items never got used while others.... I could have done with bringing a light coat for the cool evenings but I brought too many pairs of socks, I hardly wore them being in sandals most of the time. I'd like Brenda to come along this time for part if not all of the trip. When you're here for a month the "holiday urgency" evaporates and soon you settle into a rythm like you've always been here. I took each day at a time and simply followed the routine that had evolved. The climate helped too. Warm weather most of the time. I can count the wet days on one hand and they were something of an event.
As this is my last full day in Cyprus I simply wandered about town, window shopping. The shops are all shut on Sundays except in the touristy area. We went beach-combing (again), I and a couple of other artists. We built a construction at the water's edge and photographed it before the sea claimed it. A monument to impermanence. Nothing lasts.
I fly out from Larnaka at quarter to six tomorrow evening, Cyprus time, and land at Heathrow at 9-00pm GMT. The bus for Preston leaves at midnight. I should be home by breakfast time on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Memories are made of This

Its not the great sights of Cyprus such as the Amphitheatre in Kourion or Aphrodite's Rock, great though these things are, that make the abiding memory of being here, its the simple things as shown here. This is the studio courtyard. The chair in the sun, the pomegranate tree growing in the background. The day spent sitting out here with the others, all of us making art or music as the sun circles overhead. the acommodation is primitive to say the least but the cameraderie is priceless. It is as it says on the tin; artists frrom all over the world come to Limassol Studios. The majority are Brits but we have artists from Russia, Bulgaria, USA, the Carribean, Germany, Greece and of course, Cyprus itself.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Clear Mediterranean



The clear waters of the Med. The sun sparkles on its surface. Tropical fish swim freely in it. This is how it is just now. I believe its freezing or even colder in England. This is just to let you know it is abit warmer on other parts of the planet. Roll on the summer hols eh?

Unfornutnately for me my stint in Cyprus comes to an end next Monday and I fly back to England and all that goes with it. Now where did I leave my overcoat?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Greek Ikons



These ikons are in the porch of St. Anthony's Church in Limassol. The sun was blazing on them at the time so there was no danger of damage by "flash" photography. Last Friday afternoon I was experimenting with pencil on canvas and working outside in the courtyard. One of the artists from the studio next door invited me over for a Greek coffee. In Cyprus it is considered bad manners to decline such an offer. He showed me what he does. Ecclesiastical work in the Greek Orthodox manner; murals, frescoes and ikons. He demonstrated the techniques whereby the actual pigment is used and mixed with the support medium as one works. No pre-made paint for him. He showed me how he makes egg tempera for ikon work by mixing pigment and egg yolk.

He made a mean cup of Greek coffe too.

The art form is rigidly prescribed having its roots in Byzantine works. Indeed, for many, the making of these works is a religious act of devotion in itself; a sort of artistic liturgy where instead of the prescribed words for worship, it is the making of prescribed forms.

One of the images shown here is of a man holding a baby and a cross. This is St. Simeon, the one who held the Christ child and uttered the "Nunc Dimittis". He was one who was destined not to die until he had seen the Messiah. This is why he is depicted as a very old man. He died shortly afterwards.

This incident is not unlike the one related in the story of the Buddha's birth where a saddhu named Asita held the Buddha child and prophesied He would either become a great king or a Buddha.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wave Cairn



The finished article. A truly international effort.
For fuller written account of this, see "Wave Cairn" posted Friday November 11.

Topping Out

Cairn Building Team



The group of art students who took part in the cairn building project last week. They came from all over the world, Germany, Greece, Eire, New York, and UK. The half built cairn is behind them. We stopped for lunch. In the far background is Lemesos Harbour.

At Kourion



Thole Man 'imself in the sun, in Kourion, in Cyprus. Can't say more than that.

Kourion Amphitheatre



Ancient seating arrangement of the open air theatre in Kurion, some 20 km west of Lemesos. It is still used for performances.

Trodos


You might be forgiven for thinking I'd slipped in one of my "forest" images in here but this is in the forest that lies on the slopes of Mount Olympus in Cyprus. The impression is one of a well managed forest as a national park, which indeed it is. Along the tracks there are signposts indicating the fauna of the area. For example, at the base of a particular specimen of say a blach pine, there is a sign telling you that is what it is. I might know my way around a forest and be able to see the more subtle signs of forest activity but here in Cyprus the trees are unfamiliar. Not a Sitka to be seen anywhere. These tall pines are Cyprus Black Pine, indiginous to Cyprus. There is, one can see from the picture quite a mix of broadleaf and conifer. The forest, set at 6,000 ft above sea level has a more English climate. Today it was distinctly autumnal, rather like the Lake District at this time of year.
For the bus trip up into the mountains, warm clothing was the order of the day.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Work Completed



This is it. The Limassol Chain for want of a better title. I worked far into the night last night to complete it. It is a graphite work on paper, 120 x 84 cm (A1 size). Needless to say I slept rather well after that. I'll be bringing it back to England with me.

Hard to believe it, but there's only ten days of this residency left. Three of us intend to take a bus up into the Trodos mountains tomorrow morning. The Trodos is the mountainous region in the centre of Cyprus. The highest mountain is Mount Olympus, 6000ft high. Not to be confused with the Olympus in mainland Greece.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dominant Colour

The forest's dominant colour, not surprisingly I suppose, is green. Usually to get that particular quality I use viridian and ultramarine mix and for the deeper hues, add a little prussian blue. The very bright greens encountered on the forest floor need pricipally primary yellow and viridian for the very bright, almost bleached colour and of course one of the deeper blues for the rest. Light red and umbers feature also but like I said, green is the main colour.
In the Mediterranean, it is blue. Yes, we all know that is the dominant colour but what blue? I brought some cerulean with me thinking that with the strong light the colour would be bleached. Well it is somewhat. But to my surprise, the only colour that seems to get it right is an intense ultramarine. The tonality has to be varied of course, just as the use of viridian is in the forest. Good job I brought some ultramarine as well then.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Work inProgress



This large drawing on A1 size paper is shown here in its half way stage. Tim, one of the other artists here kindly photographed it on his digital camera so I can show it here.

I am using the same techniques as in the "forest" pictures but to continue that theme here would be something of a waste of my journey to Cyprus. The trip here is an opportunity to do something different. I came here with an open mind and to simply let things evolve. It seems the theme has settled on beachcombing. I spend the day wandering the beaches in a beachcomberish sort of way collecting ideas. This anchor chain for instance lies embedded in the sand at a boatyard about half a mile or so west of the old harbour. It makes an interesting study and as can be seen, is progressing as a fairly large work. (Working on paper means it can be easily rolled up for transporting back home.)

The stretch of beach between the Old Harbour and the boatyard is where the cairn was built. It is not a "holiday" beach. There is a container depot inland and this particular beach is devoid of sand. A perfect place to fertilize an artist's imagination. Out to sea there are lots of ships coming and going. Not surprising; this is the first port west of the Suez Canal. Its only 10 hours sailing time away.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Wave Cairn

A new bigger cairn has been built. Six students came along and after I had gone through the basics of dry stone walling we set to. Many hands make light work. After a couple of hours or so we had a five foot high structure. Three of our number set of to find more decent size stones. They were gone a long time and the rest of us were just about to give up on them when a couple of hours later they returned with some stones but also a large bag of newly picked figs. That was the cue for a lunch stop. I've never tasted fresh figs before, I've always had the dried variety. They were delicious. But the juice does make for sticky fingers. No matter, we can always wash up in the Med. W hich we did. Even in November the Eastern Mediterranean is warm. the lunch break by the way was held on Greek time. Nobody hurries on the greek timescale. It was well into the afternoon before work resumed. We completed the structure, and took photos of each other beside our handiwork. But what to call it. One of our number decided on "Wave Cairn" as we were beside the waves. So "Wave Cairn" it is. Pictures will be posted when the film is developed.
Early evening. Seven figures strolling back towards the Old Harbour. The westering sun warm on their backs as their shadows extended in front of them. It had been a good day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Poseidon's Cairn

Katholiki



This is the Greek Orthodox Basilica in the next street to the studios whose early morning bell-ringing ensures no-one needs an alarm clock.

It is the official seat of the Bishop of Lemesos.

Kourion

Took a bus trip today about 15 miles west of Limassol to the recently restored Greek theatre at Kourion. This is a world heritage site. The bus got me there for 10-00 am. and would pick me up at 3-00 pm. Plenty of time to do some drawing. Which I did. When I arrived there were three busloads of German tourists on the site. The guide was explaining it all (in German). It seems the theatre played a principal role in the days of Homer, Plutarch and in the Roman period the likes of Virgil. It did have a short period during Diocletan's reign as a colosseum during the anti Christian purges. But this was short-lived and soon reverted to its original purpose. Today it is used for staging both modern and classical Graeco-Roman plays.
The sun rose high in the sky. It got very warm, even by Cyprus standards. Later I wandered on the moors above the cliffs of Kourion that overlook the Med. Much of the vegetation is shrivelled except for a particularly vicious looking thorn bush that grows just about everywhere around here. Later I was told this is the type of thorn from which Christ's crown of thorns is reputedly made. Ouch!
There is a church nearby dedicated to St. Lazarus. Seemingly this Lazarus is the same one as was raised from the dead in the Gospel story. After his recovery he spent the rest of his life, a period of about 30 years, in Cyprus.
I did a few drawings of these thorns I mentioned earlier. It is a wild place here but without the wind and rain you get on British moors.
After that, the bus ride back into Limassol and a much needed siesta. It is now evening as I post this Blog. the sun has gone down, and the temperature with it. Such contrast. Tee shirt and shorts through the day and sweaters and jeans in the evenings.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Limassol Studios



This is the main entrance to the Studios. The place is a converted cinema. The main studio space was the auditorium. The ceiling is a long way up. The red brick part with the balconies is the accomodation area.

The Street where I live...

The studio buildings are just behind me. Some of the streets are even narrower than this and still carry traffic. Never again wil I winge on about Lancaster's narrow pavements. These are less than a couple of feet wide...and cars park on them. Needless to say a one way systen is in operation. This picture was taken early morning as I was heading for market.

The Man Who Loves Cats

Not far from Lemesos there is a monastery dedicated to St. Nikolas of the Cats. Access is very limited on two counts. The nuns are part of an enclosed order and it lies right in the middle of the Sovereign Base which is a restricted zone.
But...
This morning I saw a man carrying a large carrier back walking towards the pier in the Old Harbour. He was followed by what appeared to be the entire feline poulation of Limassol. And, more and more cats rin to join him. When he got to the pier, he stopped, opened his carrier bags and handed pieces of cat food to each individual cat. There was no hurry. No scrabbling among the cats and the man himself made sure the weaker ones and the kittens each got their fair share. The entire process took some time. He patiently fed these cats untill all the cat food was gone and the cats all fed. Then he turned and left the cats and went his way.
There are many feral cats on the island. Cyprus is said to be famous for them. Its nice to know there is at least one guy who cares about them.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Its Not Over Yet...

News of the destruction of the cairn has spread round the Studios. The students want to build another and could I teach them? We will make a day of it. We'll build something more substantial, take some food, take some local red plonk and have a good time! The students will learn a bit about stone dyking and some of them are unsure as to what a cairn is. They are from all over the world so its not that surprising.
Another day by the sea. More drawings. Probably the most abiding memory of Cyprus I'll retain is walking along the pebbly beach back to the Studio with the warm sun on my back as it sets due west, the gentle breeze and my long, long shadow on the beach. The gentle sound of the Mediterranean lapping on the shore.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Poseidon has claimed his cairn

Ther was a heavy deluge of rain last night with a stiff breeze blowing. Consequently the tide was higher than usual. The cairn has been swept away, only the foundation stones remain. Poseidon has claimed his cairn.
Good job I took some photos.

Never let a Name Mislead You

In the posting, "Angelus" I said the nearby basilica was Roman Catholic. Not so. It is Greek Orthodox. I was thrown by the title, "Katholiki". Turns out this place is the seat of the Greek Othodox bishop of Lemesos. So now we know.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Poseidon's Cairn

Set off after breakfast around 8-00 am to do a bit of local sketching and take a few photos. The idea was to have about an hour's session at that and return to the studio.
It didn't work out that way.
I was taking some photos of the local Basilica when my camera batteries died. So.... made a diversion into Theo's newspaper shop and got new batteries. I realised by now a Greek phrase book was becoming essential. Went to the books shop down the Athina towards the harbour. Got the phrasebook and as it was getting seriously warm by this time I finished up in a local cafe. After spending an hour or so there soaking up the ambience and trying to learn some basic Greek, the studio was long forgotten. So I wandered down to the Harbour and passed St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Church. I looked in. It is full, wall to wall with ikons. Fantastic. The verger showed me around and explained these ikons but, he only spoke Greek. All I could do was nod sagely and look at the works. They are well worth seeing even if you do miss out on the commentary.
From there a walked along the stony beach between the old harbour and the new one where the cruise ships call. the other visiting artist had already made an installiation on the beach; a small stone circle. About a mile or so further on I built a cairn. As its by the sea lets call it, "Cairn to Poseidon." Wind and tide will ultimately destroy it so I took some photos of it. THEN I returned to the studio. It took me 3 hours to build that cairn. No wonder I felt tired when I got back. It has been a full day.

Angelus

In the next street to the Limassol Studio there is a Roman Catholic Basilica. Early rising is not a problem. The Angelus rings out at 6-00 am every day and is followed every hour by a peal of bells to announce the Mass. This lasts untill 10-00 am.
Fortunately, this part of the town retires early. The Tabernas are closed by ten and we've all gone to bed.
Anyway, once the sun rises in the morning, the temperature rises with it and it can be in the lower twenties by seven.
So in its way the Angelus is far gentler than an aggressive alarm clock.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Limassol

I'll not go into details about flying over the Alps or the lovely green Greek islands passing beneath etc. I arrived very tired at Larnaka airport just as the sun sank into and orange sky. The mountains ecthed into sharp sillouette. After having been told not to worry about learning Greek because everyone in Cyprus speaks English, well the taxi driver that took me to Limassol spoke no English and I no Greek. But we managed somehow.
To arrive in the old quarter of the town afer dark was something of a culture shock at first. But next morning after a good nights kip, simple accomodation, but a VERY comfy bed, I took stock of the surroundings. If you like things that are well off the tourist trail, then this is for you.
By the end of the day I feel my face has a permanent grin stuck on it.
Cypriots are very friendly and very helpful.