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Shakespeare 400: Richard III

It probably will not have escaped your notice (particularly if you live in the UK) that this year marks 400 years since the death of Britain’s most famous ever playwright and poet, William Shakespeare. And across the country and beyond there has been something of a resurgence of interest in his work. This, together with the coincided discovery of a Shakespearian theatre troupe out here in Mallorca aroused my own Bard reawakening, not least because I have a little anniversary all of my own – some 20 years since I painted, at the tender age of 13, my first ever substantial collection of paintings which just happened to be a scene from every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays.

So with one thing leading to another, it wasn’t long before I felt old inspirations stir up, and the decision to once again tackle Shakespeare as an inspiration for my art took hold.

Richard III (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Richard III (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

First off the rack is this painting of one of the Bard’s history plays, Richard III. Painted in my new style, interpretative abstraction, the work appears simple but in fact represents the story of Richard III in three clear aspects. First, the three piles of what one could mistake for bricks or books represents, at the painting’s most simplistic visual level, the “III” of Richard in roman numerals. The second meaning is the allusion to the famous scene whereby the Duchess of York (Richard’s mother), Queen Elizabeth (his dead brother’s wife) and Queen Margaret (the previously exiled wife of the former King Henry VI) meet together and bemoan and curse the Machiavellian rise of Richard III to power.

That rise is finally, and most importantly represented by the same three pillars of blocks, each of which depict an important part of the story: The central column is the staircase which tracks Richard’s bloody ascent through the rungs of power to be King, with the slash of the golden crown shining boldly at the top; the column on the right is the Tower of London and in it the two yellow cubes are the two blond princes, the true heirs to the throne who Richard famously kills in the tower in order to clear his path to the crown; and the column on the left, with its overlapping grey forms like medieval armour, represents the Battle of Bosworth at which Richard was finally defeated.

It seems remarkable that some 20 years have passed since I painted my teenage Shakespeare collection, especially now as I rediscover the same excitement which his plays engendered in me all those years ago. Now I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding them again, and painting them afresh (albeit perhaps not all 37…!).

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Descent from the Cross (After Rubens)

They often say that something much sought after is better found when you stop searching. And that’s exactly what happened when it came to discovering a new inspiration for my next abstract project. As soon as I completed my abstracted interpretation of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, I was hungry for another art historical challenge. But search as I might, nothing quite ticked the boxes for me. Fast forward a few weeks to Easter and my parents’ stay in Mallorca. When I returned from a quick easter-egg countering visit to the gym, my parents where extolling the virtues of a certain “Descent from the Cross” painting which had been presented on TV as part of an Easter special. As my interest peaked, I searched for the painting on google. And although, as it turned out, I didn’t come directly to the painting which had been the subject of the documentary, the Descent I found struck me like a bolt of lightening: The Descent from the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens. My new project had been found!

Rubens FINAL

Descent from the Cross (after Rubens) 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic and oil on canvas

Painted between 1612-1614, The Descent from the Cross is the central panel of a triptych which forms the second of Rubens’s great altarpieces for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. Featuring some 9 of Christianity’s most important figures, and filled with the diagonal action tracking the descent of Christ’s body from the cross, it is a veritable masterpiece of both composition and colour. What struck me when I first saw the painting was the light – this incredible white light shining from the centre of the painting and glowing in contrast to the dark stormy sky behind. Not only that, but the colours used by Rubens are likewise inspiring, not least the magnificent red tunic of St John and the vivid blue of the Madonna.

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The Descent from the Cross – the Rubens original

This light, colour and the brilliance of Ruben’s composition formed the central tools of my reinterpretation which I present today. It is a work which follows the same colour palette and compositional alignment of the Rubens original, albeit that the figures are paired down to abstract forms, as is the central exercise of my new interpretative abstract method. This painting is nevertheless embellished by some more realistic elements, and most notably at all, the work is finished off with a distinctive marble antiquity-style torso replacing the main Christ figure. At some 120cm in height, and with the same dramatically looming thunderous sky as its backdrop, my Descent from the Cross is certainly a centrepiece in my new collection, and the fruit of a period of very enjoyable but laborious work.

I’m on the search for my next project. But as with the Rubens, I’m going to wait for it to come to me.

Rubens DETAIL 1Rubens DETAIL 2

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 4: Virgin Beaches

So after all the sun shone on our weekend in Menorca, and while our stay saw its fair share of grey skies tumbling across the island, the times of sunshine were all the more remarkable by contrast. And for my final post of my little Menorca season, I am sharing photos captured on a long sunny Sunday afternoon, where the sun did nothing so well as to magnify the sheer stupefying beauty of Menorca’s natural scenery.

For where Menorca lacks in the city buzz of Palma here on its neighbouring island of Mallorca, it gains in the untouched virgin landscape which nature has left for us humble visitors to enjoy. Just as I thought Mallorca’s beauty could not be beaten, along came the calas (coves) of Menorca whose colours just blew my mind. There, the sands were so white, so pure and unsullied by the slightest hint of humans, that as they slowly descended beneath the fringe of the mediterranean coastline, they did so creating a paradisal cerulean blue melting into darker azure tones. Across the waters, the crystal clear seas shone and glimmered, and just underneath the surface, one could admire the camouflage effect of the odd rocky outcrop contrasting against the golden surface of the seabed.

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We could have quite easily spent months visiting the many calas which pepper Menorca’s coastline, such are their number, but we satisfied ourselves with the double whammy of the Cala Macarella and its smaller even more beautiful sister, the Cala Macarelleta, just around the corner. Approached through a densely planted aromatically fragrant pine forest, both beaches are a sight to behold and a treat for all the senses. The waters are every bit the match of the Caribbean, untouched, unspoilt and in the month of May blissfully underpopulated (save for the odd nude bather).

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Here in the Mediterranean, paradise always feels very close at hand, but in the calas of Menorca, I feel we had practically made it.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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.

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 3: Ciutadella

When we saw the weather forecast for our weekend in Menorca we were on the verge of cancellation. We even went so far as to check the cancellation charges, as rain descended upon the Mediterranean. Could it be possible, we asked ourselves? Surely it couldn’t rain in Menorca. But as it was, we decided to go, lured by the promise of hotel pampering and a change of environment, and as it happened it didn’t rain all the time as the weatherman had promised. In fact for at least 60% of the time, the sun shone delightfully.

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Consequently, our experience of Ciutadella, the beautiful second city of the island in which we based ourselves was something of a mixed weather bag, as we dodged rainfall, spent our time in more cafés and restaurants drinking wine than could perhaps be justified, and constantly revisited the same sights in the hope of capturing the best photos of the famous pink-tinged sandstone which characterises the city. The collection which results is therefore one which shows not only the beautiful city, one filled with little cobbled lanes and impressive palatial buildings, but also the weather conditions which changed its character. I especially love those photos when the buildings are almost illuminated by a hazy sun, but where the promise of a menacing dark rain storm looms in the background.

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Whatever the weather, there is no doubting the charm of Ciutadella as a holiday destination. Far prettier (in my opinion) than Menorca’s primary city of Mahon, it’s hard to see Ciutadella as a city with some 20,000 inhabitants only. However, there is something truly cosmopolitan about its main square surrounded by baroque and classical facades and an impressive town hall built on the ruins of an old Moorish Alcazar, not to mention it’s imposing cathedral whose box like character looks like a large lump of peach coloured soap, complete with gargoyle detailing and a not displeasing perfume of incense.

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The city also benefits from a very beautiful little port which takes advantage of a natural inlet which creeps into the city from the nearby outer coastline from where the views of Mallorca are truly stunning. Back in the centre, this small city can be enjoyed at its bustling best around the popular Placa Llibertat Market, or in the crowded little arched shopping arcade, Ses Voltes, all white washed of course in the Menorcan fashion.

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The Market of Plaça de la Libertad

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Come rain, come shine, Ciutadella is Menorca’s gem. A little historical focal point on an island otherwise characterised by its uninhabited open spaces and utterly unspoilt natural beauty.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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.

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 2: Pedreres de s’Hostal

There is something about the largely uninhabited central landscape of Menorca that gives it a mystical enigmatic quality like a magical bucolic setting for Tolkien’s hobbits or something out of Wonderland. But this sensation was deeply magnified at Pedreres de s’Hostal just outside the small city of Ciutadella. Formed out of a vast landscape of old and not-so-old sandstone quarries, the organisation Lithica has done the impossible, transforming what could have been an industrial waste land into the most stunningly unique gardens you are likely to see.

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What makes the gardens so unique is the landscape. The shapes left my stone cutters long ago are surreal to say the least. In sharp angular spaces of yellow rock, plants and flowers of every Mediterranean variety appear to have reclaimed the land from the hand of man as they twist and turn across the rock’s surface. Amongst unique anthropomorphic shapes, trees scatter light and herbs their heady aroma. My favourite two gardens were a pristine medieval courtyard garden set within one of the deepest mines like the cloister of a monastery, and a medicinal herb garden planted amongst a twisting path of stone.

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At the centre of it all are two vast mines more recently quarried, in the largest of which a labyrinth has been crafted from stone. Led into the maze by the challenge of finding the centre, we felt almost mythical in amongst a near Minoan landscape of ochre, half expecting the Minotaur to rear up before us at any turn. With the walls soaring up around us at the most peculiar angles, it was truly like being in a fantasy world.

Sadly the weather that graced our visit was for the most part vexingly cloudy. Nevertheless the photos I took are full of the magical spirit of this place, and when, at the end, the sun finally shone, it was like the golden reward bestowed upon us as the centre of the labyrinth was reached.

More information on the gardens can be found at www.lithica.es

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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.

Across the Water to Menorca, Part 1: Binibèquer Vell

It’s just a small stretch across the water. Reach out your hand from the bay of Alcudia, and you can almost touch the island across the bay, and certainly see its gentle profile floating upon the horizon. Menorca is the little sister of Mallorca, an island which shares much of Mallorca’s Balearic history and culture, but which likewise has its own personality, and much more of the unspoilt beauty which Mallorca too would have retained were it not for the tourism boom. It is an island altogether more tranquil and sedate, with its rolling hills and flattened floral landscape, and with residents so apparently laid back that at times you wonder if they are falling asleep as they charm you with their somniferous tones.

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Last weekend we headed, for the first time, to our neighbouring island of Menorca, and while I have several tales from that trip to relay to you hereafter, I am starting somewhat back to front with the last place we visited, just before we returned on our 20 minute hop through the skies. For in visiting Binibèquer Vell, a tiny little whitewashed village by the sea, it felt as though we were seeing in manifest form the very epitome of this island, unravaged and virginal, a place of pure light and clean simplicity.

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Situated on the southern coast of the island some 15 minutes from the capital Mahon, the “Vell” in Binibèquer Vell connotes its age compared with its more modern counterpart. However, as some commentaries would have it, the village isn’t old at all – rather constructed in the 70s as a kind of reproduction idyll to entice the tourists. I’m not overly sure whether this is as much a myth as the commentators declare the village to be. All I know is that we were both enticed to visit, and enamoured by the whitewashed quaint shapes of this incredibly cute cluster of fishermen’s houses. Caught somewhere between a smurf village idyll and a museum piece, few could deny the charm of this place, with its pure white forms radiating against the almost neon blue skies, and the kind of simplicity which makes the island of Menorca beautiful.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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.

Wholemeal lemon and rosemary cake

I was sitting just next to my little blooming lemon tree, breathing in the subtle perfume of its abundant blossom one morning before work when I saw the recipe for a lemon polenta loaf cake go up onto the blog of my phenomenally talented (and heavily pregnant!) blogger friend Lady Aga. It was undoubtedly the heady combination of lemon blossom and her tantalising looking photos which immediately inspired in me the certain knowledge that I was going to make this cake at the first opportunity. And last weekend, lemon, rosemary and olive oil at the ready, I did! Sadly for Lady Aga’s wonderful recipe, and perhaps also for my resulting cake, I was a little too keen on the uptake. Midway through, I realised I lacked polenta and a loaf shaped tin. It quickly became clear that I might have to disembark from the Lady Aga road slightly.

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So recipe a little altered, and a round cake tin employed for the purpose, I opted instead for  wholemeal not-so-loafish cake using the integral flour which we have in stock in an attempt to be healthy. I also blended a load of his trusty breakfast porridge oats as Lady Aga suggests, and with the rosemary growing fresh on our terrace, it worked a treat. I won’t recite the recipe here seeing as Lady Aga has it penned so well, but whether you decide to go with my wholemeal approach or the undoubtedly better polenta recipe, this cake is surely exquisite.

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Fresh out of the oven, its sugary lemon juice drizzle still a little sticky, we eagerly devoured a slice or two of this delicious cake in the creamy afternoon (terrace photos happily intermingled with model-shots of cake above). Accompanied by a steaming earl grey, the lemon and rosemary flavour couldn’t have made for a better British-Mallorquín afternoon tea, and as for the wholemeal flour, while I worry that it may have made the cake slightly drier than the polenta version, the result is a cake which made every appearance of a morally highbrow, persuasively healthy teatime treat. Thank you Lady Aga!

Discovering Mallorca: Arty Artà

I’m not sure whether somewhere in my subconscious I was influenced by the name, but the moment I entered Artà, the little town nestling on top of a hill deep in the countryside in the North Eastern corner of Mallorca, I felt that it had something inherently arty about it. Not that the place was full of galleries – far from it – but rather the town had a kind of avant-garde artistic spirit which could be seen in the small touches added by locals to characterise the town, such as the knitted socks placed on the tree trunks like winter warmers or tea caddies, and the little shops and cafés, each of which appeared to have their own whimsically creative character.

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This was no more so than in the Café Parisien, our first stop as we entered the town, and a fine place to rest after the long drive across the island from Palma to Artà for a spot of lunch in a sun-dappled patio courtyard garden perfumed with jasmine and filled with herbs and other aromatics. Sitting on a juxtaposition of differently designed chairs, eating off rustic tables, the paint peeling from years exposure in the sunshine, and surrounded by a panoply of old advertising paraphernalia, pots, plants and a carnival of flowers, it was rather like being welcomed into the garden of an ageing artist after years of taking inspiration from the natural world. It felt old and at the same time freshly bohemian. The food was great too.

The Café Parisien

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But the real age of Artà was to be found not in the old café gardens, but up on the hill which dominates the town. Up through winding streets and climbing a gently rising but extensive stone staircase, we headed up to the Sanctuary of Sant Salvador, a site oozing the history of this ancient town which has been occupied for some 3,000 years. With a charming small church at its centre, with its tiny ageing Madonna looking like a porcelain doll glowing above the altar, and an outer ring of authentically moorish ramparts offering stunning views over the surrounding mountainous countryside, the hill was the high point of the visit, not just in geography but in experience. It was like taking a trip to Granada and Salamanca, in the time of the Moors and the Medieval conquistadors, all rolled into one.

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Thus we concluded that little Artà, this town almost lost in the mountains so far from Palma down in the south, was well worth the drive from one corner of the island to the other and made for a perfect little visit, and a fascinating insight into the history of Mallorca.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 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.

Interpretative Abstract: Cala Sant Vicenç

After some months now of pursuing a new artistic style, I think I’ve finally hit upon a way to describe it. In cleansing my forms and decluttering my method of expression, there is something decidedly abstract about my new work. But by its nature, painting the abstract is to strip an image of almost any recognisable qualities, and instead to create something entirely without figuration. My paintings do not do that –  more often than not they aim to reinterpret something recognisably visual, whether it be an famous painting from the history of art, or an Easter parade. Yet those interpretations are in many ways decidedly abstract – simplistic, geometric. And therefore I think that the best way to describe them would be to call them Interpretative Abstracts. That way, at least, I feel I am on my way to understanding what it is I am setting out to create.

Interpretative Abstract: Cala Sant Vicenç (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Interpretative Abstract: Cala Sant Vicenç (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

This week I am featuring the newest work off my easel, in which I have attempted to extend my new interpretative abstract style to the simple landscape. Taking one of the most generic views in Mallorca, the jagged rocks of the Cala Sant Vicenç, and simplifying every aspect of the landscape, the result is a painting which is at once a place, and at the same time a simple composition.

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

 

Abstract #26: Todos Rectos

I have long been inspired by the Semana Santa parades which fill the streets of Spain with their melancholic processions at Easter time. Too many times I have berated the confusion of ignorant outsiders who see the parades as anachronistic, or worse still, reminiscent of the unthinkable 3Ks. In truth, they make for a stirring spectacle, no matter that their devotional repercussions are undoubtedly far weaker than they might have been 100, even 50 years ago. Yet with the sinister pointed masks of the nazareños, the swinging thrones lifted on high allowing a precious statue of Jesus or the Madonna to make its annual outing into the streets, and their moving brass band harmonies resonating throughout cobbled streets, Spain’s Easter parades are for me a highlight of the annual calendar.

Readers familiar with my blog will know that this will not be the first time I have painted Spain’s Easter parades. They feature in my Seville Triptych, my study of Domingo de Ramos, my Semana Santa code, and my painting Catholicism CatholicismBut these solemn spectacles never fail to move me, and it was during the afternoon in the week immediately preceding the parades that a moment’s reflection on what was to come brought this image sweeping before my eyes. That same evening I bought my canvas and set to work.

Abstract #26: Todos Rectos (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Abstract #26: Todos Rectos (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Featuring all of the various characteristics of the parades; the pointed hats of the nazareños, the enthroned statues of Jesus and Mary, the candles, trumpets and incense smoke, this new painting encapsulates Semana Santa, with each aspect reduced into an abstract form typical of my new style, and with a highly limited colour palette of deep blood red, yellows and touches of blue.

Asides from the forms, the title of the piece is something of a play on words. Todo recto in Spanish means straight on, like the direction of the parade, led by the trumpet. But to be todos rectos is to be literally all right, referring not only to the moral righteousness of those involved in the procession, but also eluding to the right wing politics with which the Spanish Catholic church was always historically associated. And of course to be recto is also to be straight. Enough said.

It’s a painting with which I am wholeheartedly delighted. A finely balanced addition to my new collection, and the many of my works which have been inspired by Easter in Spain.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. 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. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

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