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Norms: The Saints Collection | Saint Sebastian

Next up in the fast growing Norm Saint’s Collection is Saint Sebastian. Famed for being the martyr who was martyred twice (once when he was shot with arrows, and second when, after that didn’t kill him, he was pummelled to death), Saint Sebastian is the saint whose writhing naked body, filled with arrows, has become as popular a gay icon as it has a symbol of religious devotion and a great favourite of artists through the ages.

My Norm Saint Sebastian is only the latest depiction of this saint to join the mass of works executed throughout art history by famed artists such as Titian, Botticelli and John Singer Sargent. And like many of those which have gone before it, my depiction shows this poor arrow-riddled saint tied roughly to a tree, while behind him, a beautifully bucolic background gives otherwise irrelevant depth and magnificence to the scene. Meanwhile, a host of dear little Norm angles are doing their best to try and save this most suffering of saints, by pulling out the arrows from his tender skin one by one in an attempt to save him from inevitable suffering and death.

Saint Sebastian Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen, ink and gold paint on paper)

Saint Sebastian Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen, ink and gold paint on paper)

Happily, as the story goes, Saint Sebastian did not die from his arrow wounds – miraculously he was nursed back to life by Saint Irene, only to be finally condemned to a more violent end when he taunted the Emperor Diocletian for not having killed him properly in the first place. Some might say he should have learnt his lesson from the first occasion he spoke up against the Emperor a little too loudly. But then he wouldn’t be a very good martyr if he didn’t suffer for his cause.

Up next: Saint Jerome.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here

Musing on the Magic of a Marbella Morning

I’ve often thought that the true magic of a town happens not in the bustling middle of a day, but first thing in the morning, when the first rays of sunshine hit deserted squares, when workmen and women head quietly into the streets to prepare for the visiting masses, when cafes start to open up for business, and when the squares and fountains and pavements are scrubbed clean in readiness for another day. In Rome I remember savouring the view from my hotel window in the Piazza Della Rotunda at 6am, watching the elegant fountain being scrubbed clean in front of the Pantheon before the tourist masses descended. In Krakow likewise I would be mesmerised watching the cleaners out on the streets first thing in the morning, while from the Mariacki Basilica the Hejnalista trumpeter would play his mournful tune. 

Marbella, one of the gems of Andalucia, is no exception when it comes to the tourist crowds. And while I often find myself becoming vexed at the sheer number of visitors who clutter up the streets of the city’s old town, which I am lucky enough to call my second home, I cannot blame them for wanting to visit. For Marbella’s old white washed streets and cobbled squares are amongst the most beautiful on Spain’s Costa del Sol.  But for me, they never look better than first thing in the morning, empty and in the first sun rays of the day. 

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So when I headed out to Marbella this Easter, the first thing I did on my first morning when, accustomed to rising early in London, my body clock got me up early, was to stroll out into the deserted streets of the old town to enjoy these rare quiet moments of having the town almost to myself. The shop shutters were still closed, and the postcard stands hadn’t yet made it out onto the streets; the rising sun was casting long shadows over the cobbled squares; and the only people around were those few taking equal advantage of these quiet moments: to head up a ladder to change a light bulb in a street lamp, to mop the patio in front of a cafe, to quickly walk the dog before work. 

So as Marbella gradually opened up for the day, I took a seat in the Plaza de Naranjos at the heart of the old town, sitting in one of the only spots being hit by the slowly rising sun. And with the square’s cafes only just beginning to open up, with chairs being unstacked and umbrellas gradually opening up around me, I gave the first order of the day to an open cafe’s lone waiter: churros and coffee, to be sampled slowly while watching the world around me awaken. 

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Now that is the magic of a Marbella morning.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Norms: The Saints Collection | The Crucifixion

It’s an image which is famous around the world; a depiction full of pathos, tragedy and the pain but glory of salvation: It is the crucifixion of Jesus, the event which sits at the centre of the Christian religion.

In depicting lately a series of Norms based on the art historical tradition of religious-themed paintings, I could not pass by the opportunity to create a Norm version of this crucial Christian scene. With its dark skies and bleak landscape, it is an image which evokes the full drama and horror of one of art’s most famous portrayals, while the hope of salvation which the event brought Christian believers everywhere is symbolised through the presence of angels. One in fact is charged with gathering up the blood dripping from Jesus-Norm’s wound; a representation of the fact that intrinsic to the core belief of transubstantiation, his blood becomes the wine of the Holy Communion and vice versa.

To his right and left, the two convicted thieves who died at his side are present, one depicted, as per tradition, as the good thief seeking salvation from Jesus, while the other is depicted as the bad thief, mocking Christ for giving into his fate. Meanwhile at the foot of Jesus Norm’s cross are the figures who consistently feature in depictions of the crucifixion – Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, and St John the Apostle.

The Norm Crucifixion (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen, ink and gold paint on paper)

The Norm Crucifixion (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen, ink and gold paint on paper)

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For anyone religious looking at this work, take note that this is not an attempt to dilute the sanctity of this religious festival, but rather, as is the central aim of my blog, to reference and reinvent art history and the most popular depictions in art. There is no greater scene than the crucifixion to get across the Christian message in art, and my Norm version has to be amongst my favourite of all my Norm sketches. Happy Easter everyone.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here

Norms: The Saints Collection | The Last Supper

It’s Maundy Thursday, and all over the world Christians will be marking the 5th day in the Holy Week calendar, which is the day on which Jesus is reputed to have held his final dinner with his 12 apostles before his death by crucifixion. It was at that supper, so it is said, that he first broke bread and offered it as a representation of his body, doing likewise with wine, something which has since formed the scriptural basis of the Eucharist (also known as the Holy Communion). It was also at that dinner that Jesus predicted both his future denial (when the cock crows three times…) and his betrayal (by Judas). And it is precisely this moment of universal consternation around the table when the news of his future betrayal is unveiled that Da Vinci portrayed so famously in the most well known portrayal of the Last Supper in the world.

Da Vinci’s masterpiece may be dramatically crumbling away from the walls of the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, but back in Norm-world, the brilliance (and some say significance) of its composition has been apt inspiration for the Norms to re-enact their own version of the Last Supper for this year’s Maundy Thursday celebrations.

The Norm Last Supper (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen, ink and gold paint on paper)

The Norm Last Supper (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen, ink and gold paint on paper)

Perfectly accompanying the Norm Saints collection which has gone before it, the one arch frame of those renaissance style Norm altarpiece devotional images has been expanded to three arches through which the whole table of the Last Supper can be seen. It’s a happy coincidence that this expansion to three reflects the innumerable references to three (and therefore to the Holy Trinity) which runs through Da Vinci’s original, from the triangular shape of Jesus’ posture, to the grouping of apostles into threes: (from right to left) Bartholomew, James (Son of Alphaesus) and Andrew; Judas (who has spilt some salt – a sign of his betrayal), Peter and “John”; Thomas James (the Greater) and Philip; and Matthew, Jude and Simon.

Of course readers of the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown will probably know why I have placed “John” in inverted commas; for rumour is rife that the suspiciously feminine features of the apostle to Jesus’ right are actually those of Mary Magdalene rather than John, and that she represents the true Holy Grail, that being the bloodline of Christ. That, says Dan Brown, is the reason why there is no other chalice on the table, and why there is a prominent “V” formed by the empty space between Jesus and this disciple (V is the symbol for sacred feminine). It’s a theory which is reflected in my Norm work with the help of an ever so feminine look to my Norm – or should she be called Normette?

Conspiracy theories asides, reflecting Da Vinci’s great work in this Norm re-enactment was a joy to create and a great addition to my sacred Norm collections of late. But there’s something even more special on its way tomorrow.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here

WW1 Centenary | The Dead Stretcher-Bearer

This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War, and there will no doubt be a series of events commemorating the start of the Great War as the year goes on, especially towards the end in the months when the actual conflict began. One of the first events to mark the centenary in London is the latest temporary exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The Great War in Portraits looks at the war, not through the more typical Nash depictions of ravaged landscapes and desolate trenches, but through portraits of the people who began the war, led the armies, fought and, all too often, gave their lives.

The exhibition is a small but perfectly formed homage to this most terrible of conflicts, which ranges chronologically from the period immediately predating the conflict (in which portraits of the relevant royals of Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia are on display, as well as Frans Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary whose murder precipitated the whole war) and continues into the conflict, right through to the end when artists used their skills to depict the horrific injuries inflicted upon soldiers, and struggled to find a way of expressing the true horror of the conflict through creative means.

But one artist who certainly didn’t struggle to depict that horror, and who created what for me was the star painting of the show, is Gilbert Rogers. In 1919, when the general censorship on morale-destroying honest depictions of war had slipped away, and representations of its true horrors began to surface from beneath the censors, Rogers painted this work, The Dead Stretcher-Bearer, which represents the horror and futility of war with unflinching directness. Doing what the title of the work suggests, the painting shows a stretcher-bearer dead on the very stretcher which it was his duty to carry, probably killed in the course of trying to rescue another injured soldier.

Gilbert Rogers, The Dead Stretcher Bearer (1919)

Gilbert Rogers, The Dead Stretcher Bearer (1919)

The paint has been applied coarsely and liberally without too much detail – instead the application of white to mark the shine on the masterfully conceived folds of the tarpaulin covering the soldier’s body attracts all of the viewers attention, focusing our mind at the very heart of this tragedy. Meanwhile the muddied colour palate and the pools of water demonstrate in simple brushstrokes the horrific conditions of trench warfare, while those limited colours are interspersed with dashes of red, the colour which has later become such a hallmark of the conflict.

This painting is but one brilliant canvas in this moving and enthralling show. To see the works yourself head along to the NPG - The Great War in Portraits runs until 15 June. Admission is free.

Spring has arrived! – Vol. 2

Only two weeks ago I enthusiastically published a set of photos which warmly welcomed the arrival of Spring. When a few days after posting it, temperatures turned towards winter again, I feared I had been hasty in making my salutations to the season. But happily Spring has arrived all over again, the temperatures are back up, Londoner’s white legs are starting to get an airing, and the flowers which were mere buds when I had photographed them but two weeks previously had now burst open into the most stunning kaleidoscope of colour.

The photos below were taken in some of London’s most beautiful open spaces. In St James’ park at the front of Buckingham palace, the sea of daffodils which I shot a few weeks back has dwindled away, only to be replaced by a stunning range of vividly coloured tulips. Similar flowers also grace the flower beds of the Embankment gardens, which I am lucky enough to pass through on my way to work.

The colour kaleidoscope of London’s parks

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Meanwhile, in the elegant streets of Chelsea, the start of April had brought about the reopening of the Chelsea Physic Garden. This garden, set on prime realty just round the corner from Gordon Ramsay’s flagship Chelsea restaurant and alongside the Thames is a perfect solitary spot, where the chaos of London’s streets immediately dissipates as soon as you walk under the trellis-covered gateway. At this time of year, it’s early days for these neatly tendered flower beds which are packed with specialist medical plants from around the globe, but in these early weeks of the summer season, the garden is resplendent with blossom, with newly shooting exotic plants and a pond full of quivering tadpoles. Bliss.

The Chelsea Physic Garden

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

New Woodcut: Boats in the Porto Santa Lucia, Naples

Introducing my new (and second) woodcut print: Boats in the Porto Santa Lucia. Like my first woodcut completed earlier this year, my second is inspired by the incredible Christmas trip I took with my partner across Italy, from Venice, to Rome and ending up finally in Naples. 

This woodcut was inspired by our first morning in Naples when, with the sun shining a surprisingly summery warmth upon us, we headed down to the city’s Mediterranean port and were bowled over. Of course we’ve all heard of Naples’ bigger industrial port, but just around the coast, in front of the upmarket Santa Lucia region and around the Castel dell’Ovo is a beautiful little marina full of all of the shiny white yachts, fishing boats and other marine paraphernalia you would expect. 

Boats in the Porto Santa Lucia, Naples (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, woodcut (3 plates) printed on fabriano)

Boats in the Porto Santa Lucia, Naples (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, woodcut (3 plates) printed on fabriano)

I was unsurprisingly obsessed by the water there and all of the brightly coloured ripples reflected from the boats and the harbour walls. This woodcut is an attempt to capture them. It’s a multi-plate print which means that a number of plates are cut and combined to introduce different colours into the print. Below are shots showing a print of each coloured plate individually, which combined together really bring the work to life. You can also see the plates set out alongside the inks and rollers in the printmaking studio, as well as a series of prints hanging up to dry – editioning is tiring stuff!

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This is now my second woodcut and my seventh print since I started printmaking last Spring. I can say without hesitation that I now consider myself to be as enthusiastic a printmaker as a painter and I can’t wait to make more! 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here.

Domingo de Ramos

It’s Palm Sunday and all over the world, people will be marking the start of Easter Week. I’m not that religious myself (I went to Catholic school and sung in a church choir throughout my childhood, but that’s probably the extent of it), but there is something undeniably enchanting about the celebrations which are afoot in the Christian church at this time of year, especially in Southern Spain.

In celebrating Semana Santathe Spanish go all out in a devotional show which makes the spine tingle with its emotional impact. Every evening in Spanish towns and cities throughout the country, but particularly in the South, brotherhoods (hermanidades) of various churches dust off the various statues of Jesus and Mary which usually sit in the enclaves and side chapels of their churches, dress them up in flowers and candles, and with great fanfare parade these statues upon gilded tronos around the streets of their respective cities. The hermanidades themselves are likely to parade as nazareños, the slightly sinister masked figures who accompany the floats, with their pointed conical hats carrying candles which sway to the rhythm of the parade. Seeing row upon row of these figures lined up in the street is a moving and dramatic sight.

Grupo de Nazareños (2009 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown) Oil on canvas

Grupo de Nazareños (2009 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown) Oil on canvas

My first ever experience of one of the Semana Santa parades was in my (sometimes) hometown of Marbella on palm sunday. Decked in rich velvet costumes of red, green and white, the nazareños carrying their heavily decorated silver and gold crosses and candlesticks completely inspired me, and I painted this quick oil painting named after the day of the parade which inspired it - Domingo de Ramos.

Of course those who know my art will know that this is but one artwork which has been inspired by the moving spectacle of Spanish Semana Santa, but as it depicts Palm Sunday, it seemed only appropriate to share it with you today.

And if you like my artwork, don’t forget that all of my Spain-inspired paintings will be on display at my forthcoming exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, starting one month today!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here.

 

Paolo Veronese – The Martydom of Saint George

London’s National Gallery is celebrating one of the gems of Italy’s and more specifically Venice’s Renaissance age: Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). In its new exhibition, Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice, the National can’t help but put on a show. In celebrating the work of this artist, whose paintings epitomise the magnificence and theatricality of Renaissance Venice with huge historical and religious canvases, bold colours and a wonderful aptitude for painting figures, classical buildings and sensational drapery, the National Gallery brings us one big hit of a painting after another. It’s almost a problem for the exhibition, which has collected together so many brilliant, vast masterpieces, that the visitor is bamboozled, unable to concentrate on any one painting in particular.

So being the great public service blogger that I am, I decided to solve this problem with a neat solution – to focus on just one of the utterly brilliant paintings on display, and the one which took my breath away over and above all the rest.

Paolo Veronese (c.1565), The Martyrdom of Saint George - on loan from the city of Verona (image source: wikipedia commons)

Paolo Veronese (c.1565), The Martyrdom of Saint George – on loan from the city of Verona (image source: wikipedia commons)

Painted in 1565, The Martyrdom of Saint George was created at the apex of Veronese’s illustrious career. Measuring some 4.2 metres in height, this vast canvas offers us all of the glorious elements that make Veronese’s paintings sing like a grandiose opera almost half a century after they were painted. Depicting the moment when Saint George, a Roman soldier, accepted his martyrdom after refusing to worship pagan idols, this moment of dramatic realisation is captured with skilfully applied light (just look how our eyes are drawn to that perfectly lit torso and the outstretched arms of the martyr), and a brilliant composition, with clouds tumbling upwards into paradise, where the Virgin and Christ child appear with Saints Peter and Paul along with the allegorical figures of virtue: Faith, Hope and Charity.

The balance of the painting is brilliant, with the cerulean blue sky echoed in the drapery beneath Saint George, in the clothing of the turbaned man on the left, and up in the celestial clouds at the top, while the figures are variously placed at different heights, intensifying the feeling of drama and the sense of audience participation in this dramatic moment of religious history.

Of course this painting is but one in an amazing collective celebrating the genius of the often overlooked Venetian master. And at the risk of being quite overcome by it all, you may as well go along and revel in the glory.

Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice is on at the National Gallery, London until 15 June 2014.

The Daily Norm’s Photo of the Week: Catalan Lizard

When I was recently in the process of choosing some miscellaneous shots of Barcelona to tantalise you all with, I came across this photo, recently taken on my weekend away to Barcelona. So beautiful is the shot (not by virtue of my skill, but rather because of the wonder Mother Nature again) that I felt it had to be featured all on its own – this beauty can’t be allowed to get lost in the pack. With its stunningly patterned scales looking like delicately applied beads, and its characterful piercing gaze looking straight at the camera, this little lizard (and it really was little) is a true beaut.

I’m still surprised that I managed to capture the shot. Using the close focus application on my Sony Cybershot, I had to hold the camera pretty close to this mischievous little lizard in order to take the shot. It was a delicately balanced game of stare-out for us both. The lizard didn’t dare to move because he didn’t know what would happen if he did. I didn’t dare to move in case he scuttled away (and these guys move fast). Slowly I took the camera nearer, closer and closer, holding his gaze until “click!”, I managed to take the photo before he shot away at lightening speed.

Photo of the week

I love the defocus on his long curling tale, which contrasts wonderfully against the hard focus on his head and frontal body. Then in the middle, the focus ebbs away, in a kind of haze, such that you can almost feel the heat exuded by the sunshine on that wonderful Barcelonian day up on the Montjuic hill.

That is why my lizard is The Daily Norm’s Photo of the Week.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

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