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Solidarity for London

22.3.17 – just another number to add to a growing series of dates which mark terrorist atrocities. The trend begun with 9.11, and those images so ghastly that none of us could believe our eyes. The dates which have followed each add a further horror to this incredible trend of evil, senseless murder in countries known for their civility. Today, London was hit again, and we must once again reflect how unsafe we really are; how, owing to the despicable ignorance of an unconscionable few, we must live life on a knife edge, gambling with our existence when we simply walk over a bridge, or take the tube in the mornings.

Yet we British are famous for our resolve. The show will go on – how could it be otherwise. But that does not mean that we should indulge too far in the English “stiff upper lip”. This is a time to reflect and show emotion. To be shocked and to react. To fight against terror and stand up for our free-thinking democratic society. There is always a bastard in every group of innocents.We must just do everything we can to stop them in their tracks.

So doing my bit for London solidarity, I´m posting a few of my recent shots of London, taken on the go. Their desaturated, grey tonality is beautiful, but also rather appropriate for this sombre day. But while London is today shrouded in the black of mourning, its soul is deeply, strongly, diversely coloured. Centre of the world, standing stronger whatever the adversity.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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

London welcomes in the Springtime

Outside living was an inescapable characteristic of our daily Mallorca existence. Apart from maybe the odd week around January time, there were very few days when one could not go for a stroll to breathe deep of the Mediterranean air. In returning to London, we did so in the knowledge that our relocation would mean an accompanying retreat to the indoors, to cosy wine bars, chic restaurants, bustling galleries, but far fewer midnight strolls…And I would be lying if I said this were not true, as we allowed ourselves to become quickly ensnared and enveloped in the comforting charm of dimmed lights and candle-flickering interiors while outside the crispness of late winter lingered.

But as though Mother Nature wished to sooth an internal longing for the great outdoors, our return to London was marked with a surprisingly clement burst of Spring. Such were the favourable conditions that we had little time to bemoan our loss of Mallorca, for here in London, our world-famous expanses of green parkland glimmered as lush green grasses and newly sprouting flowers bended towards the sunlight. Spring had arrived early!

And today, as we mark the Spring equinox and more or less the true beginning of British summertime, it seemed the most appropriate time to share a collection of photos collated during these weeks as I enjoyed these first glimpses of better times. They are all quick snapshots, taken on my trusty iPhone while life (and my home renovation) made time fly fleetingly by. They are shots which do not pretend to be photographically refined, but which offer a flash of hope for happier, warmer, sunnier times to come, even here in Blighty.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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

My Mallorca Gouache goes Bankside

I look at the date I last posted on this blog and blush with shame. But to be fair, my excuses are good. Very good. For I have just made an international move from Mallorca, back to London, and for almost 3 weeks I didn’t have a computer to write with, and for a further week beyond that, I had no office nor desk to place it on. However things are slowly getting there, and with only some 7 boxes out of around 107 left to unpack, and an entire home redecoration project more or less at its end, life is finally starting to settle, and my characteristic devotion to The Daily Norm will now, I hope, do likewise.

One of the escapes I was able to make during the course of this hectic  time was a series of visits to the Bankside Gallery on London’s South Bank (to be found directly next door to Tate Modern). For in a moment of perfect poetry, in my last days of Mallorca residence, I discovered that one of my paintings of Palma had been accepted by the jury of the Royal Watercolour Society Contemporary Watercolour Competition, and would be soon thereafter exhibited in London. So a painting of one home is exhibited at the very heart of another, and as I re-embrace London as my new home city, I was delighted and indeed honoured to be able to visit the Competition exhibition, both to see my own work displayed, and to admire the work of all the other successful competitors.

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My winning submission: Ocho Balcones No. 2: Old Town Cables, Palma (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

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All of the works currently on show in the exhibition can be seen here on the RWS website. What struck me from the show was just how versatile water-based mediums are in the creation of contemporary art. Often seen as a traditional method of painting, watercolour and other water-based mediums such as gouache can be used to create vivid, modern depictions of the world around us, or simply abstract or surreal images straight from the artist’s head. They are also great for really precise work on paper, as my winning work, Ocho Balcones No.2: Old Town Cables, demonstrates.

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Enjoying the packed private view …

My tardy publication of this article does not give you much time to enjoy these fine works in reality, for the exhibition will come to a close this Wednesday. But if you get a chance, go along…not just for my sunny glimpse of Mallorca, but for the wonderfully diverse work of the other participants whose art really proves that water-based mediums are as popular today as they ever were.

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Mallorca My highlights – Part One: The First Year

A big move is in progress. The Daily Norm has one gelatinous leg in its new London home, and the other floating somewhere in transit as we await the delivery of all the possessions – and post importantly the computer – which makes writing of The Daily Norm a regular possibility. So excuses are sought from all readers for the temporary scarcity of posts. But at the same time, as any self respected blogger, I don’t want to lose this moment to reflect upon the magnitude of this change, nor to miss the opportunity to look back on my time in Mallorca. For two short years it may only have been, but those 27ish months provided a lifetime of unforgettable experiences for which I am so grateful.

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So in the next two posts, I plan to reflect back upon those two years, doing so by way of the medium of my photos which is surely the best way of reliving the memories. For the mere process of selecting these photos for part one of these posts – the first year of my Mallorca experience – demonstrated with such potency what an incredible time we had. The colours alone speak of a thousand moments, of all those sunsets and sunny days and spring flowers and autumn leaves. The incredible mountains and the craggy coast, the windmills and the sheep and the little shops of Palma’s Casco Antiguo. All goes in the mix as I reflect on my first of two years in Mallorca – two years which can be very easily labelled the best in my life. So far.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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

Sunset over my time in Mallorca

The sun has set, enriching the sky with its fiery strata, emboldening the clouds with shades of purple and gold like the toga of an enthroned Roman emperor. These photos, taken from the roof of my current building in the centre of Palma de Mallorca, capture one of the stunning sunsets which so often characterise the winter skies over this blissful Mediterranean island, and were taken in this, my last week in Mallorca. For after two and a quarter incredible years living on what can only be described as a paradise land, it is time to follow the path of the sun, as the light sets over my time in Mallorca.

Our decision to leave has been hard indeed, but conflicting priorities often make difficult decisions a necessity. We return now to the splendour of London, although when I consider that city, constantly regenerating, continuously improving, it feels like more of a new adventure than a “return” to a past left behind. Nothing now can take away from me the wealth of memories which have enriched our time on Mallorca, and island which has done more, visually, to inspire me than any other place in the world.

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So although this will be my last post written from this island (at least in my current period of residency!), further reflection upon Mallorca is inevitable and will cover the posts of this blog for weeks to come, I am sure. But in the meantime, I leave Mallorca with these very appropriate photos, which, like the island, demonstrate the incredible colours and wonderful, fleeting transience of Nature at its best.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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

 

Inspired by my surroundings: Paseo Mallorca 4

Those who live on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca count themselves lucky. Winter temperatures rarely drop below 10 degrees, and on days of winter sunshine, when its rays are trapped in a corner away from occasional breezes, you might think that you are living a continuous summer. And in the Paseo Mallorca, the treelined waterway which I currently call my home, the graceful beauty of cypress trees, palms and ancient Arabic city walls continues to inspire, no matter the season. This is never more so than at the close of day, when the drama of winter sunsets add a new element of grace to this verdant avenue.

Having now painted the Paseo Mallorca three times, including views of the bridge of Jaume III and up river towards my apartment I was recently struck with renewed enthusiasm by the angle I originally painted, looking southwards towards the sea and past the Es Baluard museum of art, but this time with the changes brought about by the atmospheric light of dusk. So having previously considered my Paseo Mallorca collection to be complete, I set about embellishing it with this further, darker enhancement, whose sky and light effects add something of a more realistic feel to a collection characterised by flattened colour panes.

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Paseo Mallorca 4 (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

It feels appropriate that I should be presenting this painting now, at the time of dusk, as the sun sets over my time in Mallorca. For all around me, my life in Mallorca is being packed away in boxes as I prepare to leave this paradise, and my beloved Paseo Mallorca, behind. This adventure is now at an end, and London is calling me back into its fold. But long shall the memories of Mallorca prevail in my heart, especially my time spent living on this most inspirational of streets.

© 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

Remembrance of things current (No.2): À la table de Mme Verdurin

Marcel Proust continues to ensnare me with the mellifluous poetry of his prose. Having struggled through the first 50 pages of his epic first novel, Swann’s Way, I found that what had at first been like an exercise in chipping away at solid ice had become the easier removal of slushy semi-melted layers, before the watery manifestation of his literary masterpiece washed over me without any effort on my part. I am now what could be termed Prousted, so easily accustomed to bathing languidly in my daily dose of Proust’s world that it has become less an escape from reality as a natural reacquaintance with a perfected present, from whose elegant embrace I depart unwittingly whenever I happen to put down the book.

Happily, when the time comes to place to one side the irresistible pages of In Search of Lost Time, my departure from Proust’s reality is rarely complete, for now the work is inspiring my artwork too. Just before Christmas, I introduced La Madeleine de Proust, the first instalment of my Remembrance of things current series of paintings. I have now completed the second: À la table de Madame Verdurin.

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Remembrance of times current (No.2): À la table de Madame Verdurin (2017 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Anyone who has read Proust will know Madame Verdurin as the monarchical matriarch of her own exclusive, carefully selected carve out of Parisian society. Gathering together those people who she considered to be sufficiently witty to contribute to what she termed her collection of The Faithful, this little congregation importantly included Odette de Crécy who was later to become the infamous Mme Swann, wife of one of the book’s major protagonists, Charles Swann. The gatherings which Proust describes, ruled over by Mme Verdurin and her obedient husband, and playing host to the witticisms of guests, musical recitals, and even its own in-house artist, make for some of the most enjoyable passages of Swann’s Way. Providing an enthralling insight into the self-imposed societal norms practised by those who are not quite high society but form their own exclusive club in lieu of the better connections to which they secretly aspire, the Verdurin salon says so much of the social climbing and inter-class backbiting which was rife in Paris in the belle epoch.

Importantly for the novel, the house of Mme Verdurin provids the backdrop for Swann’s first encounters with Odette, and the frictions which thereafter developed when the couple dared to live a life beyond the congregation of The Faithful. In my painting, I have tried to capture the friction between Swann and Mme Verdurin in the two figures which dominate the bottom half of the piece. There, Mme Verdurin’s hairstyle is almost halo-like in her self-imposed status as a kind of deity in her home, while the red bar above her head is like the sentencing hat worn by a judge who makes severe judgement on the society around her. Above and below, the chandelier and the black and white floor represent the decorative embellishments which ensured that visitors to the Verdurin household were fully aware of their burgeoning social status, but the black and white also represents the keys of the piano which played out Vinteuil’s musical refrain which was to underpin the force of Swann’s passion for Odette. Yet for all this pomp and ostentation, the table of Madame Verdurin, around which the diners sit, is notably empty. Vacuous and without depth, like the true nature of the party’s rather frivolous conversation.

Now I am on the third novel of Proust, and with 4 still to go, I know that my collection of paintings will grow accordingly.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. 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

Artist in Focus: Frédéric Bazille

Impressionism was not just an artistic movement. It was a way of seeing which radically changed the path of art, paving the way to practically every contemporary creative vision which followed whether it be abstract expressionism or visceral photorealism, or even works of sculpture and photography. Accordingly, as an artistic epoch, its works have become so well known that even the most unknowledgeable could probably associate Monet’s Japaenese bride or a watery vision of waterlilies with the movement. But for all the fuzzy edged Renoir portraits, and the softly lit Monet landscapes, few people ever refer to one of Impressionism’s earliest pioneers: Frédéric Bazille.

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Bazille’s Studio; 9 Rue de la Condamine, 1870

Born in Montpellier in 1841, Bazille was both a contemporary and working companion of  Monet and Renoir whom he met while studying fine art in Paris having given up his parents’ preferred discipline of medicine. Coming from a wealthy family, Bazille was more than just a friend to his budding co-artists, providing them with shared studio space and much needed income during their crucial early years of creation. It was as a trio that the zealous three began to paint en plein air, rejecting the studio-based historical compositions that were in fashion and favouring the recreation of reality, or at least an impression thereof.

However Bazille was not just an early Impressionist. In fact his works were not even included in the first renowned Impressionist exhibitions in which the most iconic artists of the movement were hung. His work was stylistically unique, with a finessed confident line and clear figurative composition which eschewed the feathery brush work of his colleagues and endowed his work with a potent but still poetic atmosphere.

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Family Reunion, 1867

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Aigues-Mortes, 1867

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View of the Village, 1868

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The Pink Dress (View of Castelnau-le-Lez, Hérault), 1864

When the opportunity to see the works of Bazille enmassed arose this winter in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I rushed to the show as quickly as I could get through the enormous queues outside. There, I cherished an encounter with the majority of Bazille’s most famous works, such as his captivating Family Reunion, and his highly homo erotic works, Fisherman with a Net, and Summer Scene. For capturing the male was another way in which Bazille differed from his contemporaries. For unlike the womaniser Renoir and the almost married Monet, Bazille was more of a loaner, said to be drawn to his own sex, and in these beautiful languid portrayals of the male, you can feel both a passionate admiration for the masculine form, and what must have been his frustration at not being able to openly explore it otherwise than in paint.

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Scène d’été, 1869

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Fisherman with a Net, 1868

Sadly for us, the show at the d’Orsay was a short one, for the oeuvre of Bazille was cut tragically short by his early death at the age of only 28 while fighting during the Franco-Prussian war. Thus a needless bullet ended what might have been one of the most prolific careers of the Impressionist age, and who should always be remembered as one of its most promising young stars.

Paris by Night

Having last week commenced the review of my recent Paris trip with a set of photos showcasing the city by day, it is only natural that an accompanying forage into the city by night should follow. For a city widely known by the epithet “The City of Light”, Paris is surprisingly enthralling as darkness falls, not least because it is a city which never truly stops, and which is never ever dark as the city metamorphoses from the romance of its day time elegance to evenings filled with the resonance of haunting jazz and old fashioned cabaret, dazzled by the sparkling lights of the Tour Eiffel, warmed by the glow of cosy brasseries, and bearing the racy red reflection of the turning sails of the Moulin Rouge.

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Paris by night is, in fact, a particularly special time for me, as it was after dark that I was first introduced to the charms of Paris when, her hands covering my eyes, my English teacher led me up the stairs of Montmartre and uncovered them only when the magical Place du Tertre was before me. It is a moment I will forever remember, when darkness offset the glowing interiors of brasseries and gift shops, and in the Square, a string of lanterns illuminated the trees under which artists painted.

But let’s face it, there are few times when Paris is not at its beautiful best, and as the sun descends and the skies fill with red and rose-coloured hues, the stunning sunsets are like a premonition of the beautiful nights that are to come. Nights which were no less wonderful at this time of winter, when Christmas lights still twinkled in the streets and a frosty biting atmosphere lent sharp clarity to the air.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and 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. 

Artist in Focus: Grant Wood

Two weeks over the Christmas period in London and Paris provided the perfect opportunity to play catch-up on some of the incredible exhibitions which have been popping up in both cities, and for which I have been pining from afar. Whether it be Picasso Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London or Bazille at the d’Orsay in Paris, I have been literally itching to get inside the galleries to discover artists both familiar and new, set within the context of a new curatorial manifestation. Out of these exhibitions, I walked away struck by certain paintings and by certain artists whose work I am keen to share on The Daily Norm. For life is a continuing learning curb, and even behind the most famous work lies an entire portfolio of unknown paintings coming from a relatively un-talked of artist.

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American Gothic, Grant Wood (1930)

This is the case with Grant Wood, who is far more famous for his emblematic 1930 painting, American Gothic, than he is for fame in his own name. Usually housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, which recognised the piece for its iconic depiction of life in the rural American midwest in the pre-Depression age and bought the work, American Gothic is one of the most iconic paintings of the 20th Century, and is currently making its first European visit. For me, it was clearly the highlight of the exhibition currently running at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, American Painting in the 1930s (although I gather that the work, and the show built around it, will soon make its way to London’s Royal Academy too).

Highlights of Grant Wood’s oeuvre

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Young Corn (1931)

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Parson Weem’s Fable (1939)

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Spring in the Country (1941)

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The Birthplace of Herbert Hoover (1931)

However, having swooned over my first face-to-face encounter with this iconic work and taken note of the name of its artist, what I wasn’t expecting was to find how prolific an artist lay behind the painting. For as we made our way around the exhibition, exploring its historically captivating theme of art before, during and immediately after the great American Depression, the name Grant Wood kept on popping up under all of the paintings to which I was instantaneously attracted upon entering each exhibition space.

Born in 1891 and painting until his death in the 40s, Wood’s early work shows the clear influence of impressionism and post-impressionism with more hesitant lines and a play on depicting realistic light. However, by the time he reached the 1930s, the artist had fallen upon a truly unique form of naive reality, depicting in beautifully bold colours and sharp, well rounded lines and figurative forms, the rolling rural landscape around his Cedar Rapids home.

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Death on the Ridge Road (1935)

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Fall Plowing (1931)

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The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931)

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Stone City Iowa (1930)

Without a doubt, my favourites of his works are his exquisite landscapes, painted so idyllically as to be charged with a kind of fantasy-land quality, albeit recognising in their carefully executed details the depiction of agriculture and industry. Reducing trees into rounded, wooly forms, and using idealised shadow to round-off the land like the  voluptuous flesh of a Rubens nude, these landscapes are pure works of genius, and why the artist Grant Wood will now remain lodged in my artist consciousness for all time.