Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Just spent all day working up this drawing of Aphrodite taken from the statue that stands in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia, the capital. The drawing is 50 x 70 cms on 300gsm paper. I used charcoal, graphite and black chinese ink plus a bit of sweat running off my finger ends. I do use a rather energetic drawing technique. I don't mark the paper, I assualt it. That is why I use a heavy gauge paper. When I had decided it was finished, that is to say, couldn't think of any more to add, I sprayed some fixative on it as is routine. But once it had dried out I saw there are a few hairs off my beard mixed in there. So this work really has got a part of me, - literally(!) The dark sombre sky is hardly what one envisages the Mediterranean to be like but I needed that dark background to project the stark whiteness of the marble from which the sculpture was made. Mind you, when a storm rolls in from Crete or Egypt the sky really does get that black. Cyprus is in Biblical territory so Biblical storms will happen.
There are no upcoming exhibitions for me at the moment which means there is no pressure just now to produce finished work. So I am spending a bit of time experimenting with these mythological figures and trying to find some way of expressing their mythological essence. The ancient Greek gods may be long gone, but some trace of them remains. You can sense it in the air.
By the way I have not returned to Cyprus, -not yet. I am still in England enjoying (sic) its cold summer. I return to Larnaka in September. Meanwhile, I can dream and make a few more mythological images.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plank Art

I suppose its time I posted some of the art I made on the last Cyprus trip. This one, which I have left on show at the Gallery in Lempa is an example of Plank Art, that is to say, art made on a plank. I was asked to put some stuff up for the Degree Show and this is one of the items made. I found this plank of dressed timber, about a metre long and ten or so centimetres wide. After sanding it and applying a couple of coats of gesso I painted this picture on it in acrylics. It is one of those scenes I did "at the office". Instead of breaking up the image into a series of square frames, I let the natural boundaries created by the breakers split the image. The foreground is in monochrome, not quite black and white, more a blue-ishness and white. The scene recedes into full colour. The horizon is deliberately obscure.

Hope you like it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Degree Show

Its that time in the Academic Year again when Art Departments put on their Degree Shows and CYCA at Lempa was no exception. Indeed much of my time and energy during my stay there was directed at getting this show off the ground. The degree show is assessed prior to the private view and is , in effect, the students' final paper. They do have to produce an essay to accompany the work but the essays are not part of the show. The hands-on work I was involved in was getting working studios converted into a passable art gallery. I had fixtures to make and we all had to get a decorator's paintbrush in our hands and apply some flat white emulsion to the walls. Even with the most meticulous forward planning it can all end up as a last-minute rush. One corner of the show, showing work by Leigh Watson of Cambridge, UK.
Another corner showing work by Christina Parestis, an ex-patriot Cypriot from London. She concentrated on sculpture, especially stone carving. Probably the most important part of any Degree show, or any Private View for that matter, - the refreshments table.
Back in England now, the Degree Show PV season is well under way. I was at the University of Cumbria's show at St. Martin's College in Lancaster yesterday, there will be one at the Peter Scott Gallery in Lancaster University on Tuesday and the Lancaster and Morecambe College of Further Ed. has theirs on Thursday. UCLAN in Preston just had their's at the end of May but on the night I was somewhat involved with the one in Lemba. I can't be everywhere.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Filigree Work

Still in Cyprus, - retrospectively. Early morning, arounf 6-00 am. The sun just starting to clear the horizon. The low filters horizontally through the bamboos and prickly pear plants and wonderfully picks out these spider's webs. Each one is about a foot in diameter. I took the picture in b&w as I reckoned the brownish ochre colour of the background wall would detract from the filigree design. It was one of those lucky shots when I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Talking of filigree, here is one of the Hellenic figure drawings I did while out there. This is one taken from a series of sculptures of Amazons, the legendary warrior maidens of Ephesus on the Black Sea coast and now part of modern Turkey. I find ther complex folds and pleats of her short chiton fascinating. This drawing was done using a 0.5 mm technical pencil on pretinted paper. That is to say, I did a water colour of the image first then applied the pencil detail once the painting was dry, which in Cyprus' heat didn't take all that long.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Touch of St. Paul

In the Bible, [Acts Ch.13], St. Paul's travels through Cyprus are outlined. He landed at Salamis, the ancient city just north of modern Famagusta and journeyed across the island, presumably passing through Lefkosia, modern Nicosia the present capital until he, along with St. Barnabas, a Cypriot [Acts Ch4], arrives in Paphos, the island's capital at the time. It was here that he blinded Elymas the sorcerer in front of the Roman prefect Sergius Paulus and thereby converted this Roman governor to Christianity. These ruins are the site of that meeting. Despite the obvious Ionic column in the foreground, I have been reliably informed a basilica to St. Paul stood here until the Saracen invasions of the 12 - 14th Centuries. However the basilica was built to mark the site.
In subsequent centuries a new Greek Orthodox church rose phoenix like from the ashes as can be seen in the background. In the foreground is the smooth stump of a pillar dubbed "St.Paul's Pillar" where legend has it that St. Paul was flogged for stirring up a riot. After the flogging he told the Governor he was a Roman citizen and therefore entitled to a proper trial. The Governor said the Latin equivalent of "Oops!" and arranged this. It was at this trial, the chief witness for the prosecution [Elymas] was blinded.
There is no biblical evidence to support the story of Paul's flogging or if it really happened but the faithful do make a point of touching that pillar,or kissing it in some cases.
The church building still belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church but is on permanent loan to the Western Catholic Church. So now the Roman Catholics and Anglicans share it. On the day I was in Paphos the Anglicans were having a flower festival along with bring and buy stalls etc. "A little corner that is forever England." The open air garden party had only one element missing other wise it could have been England; - there was no rain and the 28 degree sunshine was most UN-English.
The flower Festival was taking place during the Orthodox Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The Orthodox Easter was a full month later than the Catholic one this year so I have had two Easters. "Καλω Παχσά!"

St. Paul's Pillar with inscription saying so.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sitting Quietly, Doing Nothing

At this time of year and until December the Cypriot climate is such that rising with the sun is the best option. By 10-00 am the temperature is well into the upper twenties (Celcius) and in the afternoon a siesta is necessary, it gets too hot to do anything. Consequently my sketching trips to the beach are very early in the mornings and even then you can feel the sun scorching through your tee shirt. Not that I'm complaining you understand.
My room in Lempa, like the others in the accommodation was a simple one, not unlike a monastic cell. It has a tiles floor, whitewashed walls and a small shuttered window. At sunrise I get up, having woken naturally, no need for an alarm clock, then sit and meditate for twenty minutes or so. Usually I have my door open to let in some fresh air. As well as fresh air, the sounds of rural Cyprus come into my room too. A cockerel crowing, pidgeons cooing, tree frogs croaking and the distant sussuration of the sea. There is very little motor traffic. There is only natural thought arising here. I am aware of the sounds but they don't intrude. Deliberate thought only arises when I realise it is time to go and have a bite of breakfast before heading off for the beach.
The whole college complex has something of a monastic feel about it but a monastery it isn't. It is a place to make art and have a lively exchange of ideas. The evenings were often spent doing just that. There is no TV or radio so the outside world tends not to intrude with its endless chatter. We only ever got to find things out if something important happened. The only bit of news we heard was of some trouble in Lebanon and that there may be refugees arriving. But it must have resolved fairly quickly, no refugees came.

"Sitting quietly
Doing nothing
the Sun rose
All by itself."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Great Art Wall of Lempa

The Great Art Wall of Lempa is a wall made up of accumulated sculptures made at CYCA over the years. It started off as one sculpture and just... grew.
In many ways it compares with a similar art wall in Barcelona at the other end of the Med but that one was planned and built by Gaudi who designed the ongoing cathedral project there. The Lemba wall, on the other hand, arose out of pure seredipity. It just... happened. All this is the dreamchild of the college's founder Stass Paraskos. You can get some idea of this man on the you-tube here.
It has now become a tourist attraction in its own right. It takes a bit of getting used to, working in the middle of a tourist attraction. I have even had tourists approach me when I'm working in the yard and ask in pointed slow words, "Do - you - speak - English?" I mean, just because my beard has grown a bit long, as has my hair, I'm covered in stone dust and developed a bit of a tan, well, I mean, do I look Greek? Our next door neighbour says, "Ελά Νορμάνου! You take a look in the mirror sometime!" OK, Δαχί. Point taken. But I do love the look of relief on these tourist's faces when they learn I am English, well, - as English as any self-respecting Northumbrian can be, but that's another story.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Lemba - a (very) small Cypriot Village

Cyprus College of Art's original school, discounting the days when it was in Famagusta before the Turks occupied it and drove all the Greeks out, - is in the tiny hamlet of Lemba (Λεμπα) situated some seven kilometres north of tourist infested Paphos and about one kilometre inland from a point on the coast midway between Kato Pafos and Coral Bay. It is a working class community quite untainted by the popular tourist industry. It consists of about six dwelling houses, a pottery, an archeological centre, a Chalcolithic village reconstruction and an art college, more of which anon.
When I arrived here I could not help but draw comparisons between here and the village of Halton-Lea-Gate in Northumberland where I lived for twenty years or so. Both are very rural and rely on neighbouring villages for services. Halton-Lea-Gate had its own Co-op shop, Lemba hasn't, though it does have a ladies hairdressing salon(!) The nearest shop is in neighbouring Chlorakas (Хλορακας) about a kilometre away in one direction and the orthodox church is in Kissonerga (Κησώνργα) two kilometres the other. There is a pre-motorway main road, the Archbishop Markarios III Way (Λεοφωρος Αρξηπισκου Μαρκαριός ΙΙΙ), which runs frm Cape Akamas at the westernmost tip of the island to Cape Grecko at the easternmost. This road by-passes all these villages. Lemba is a sleepy little place, well most of the time. This lane is the one Iwalked along to and from the studios every day. In a morning there are lizards of all types running around and in the evenings, stunning red sunsets as the sun plunges almost vertically into the wine dark sea. [Had to put a bit of Homeric romance in!]
An old style Cypriot house, rapidly disappearing before the inexorable advance over so-called "development."

This is the environment in which I have spent the last few weeks. There have been impromptu Mediterranean feasts sometimes involving the whole community, rather like a street party. We all contribute our little bit, wine, food, goodwill, and the locals cooked some real traditional Cypriot food.