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Mallorca Moments: Late afternoon along the Bay of Pollensa

It has to be one of the most sensational spots on the island of Mallorca if not in the Mediterranean: a perfectly tranquil walk along a seaside path; the almost completely still waters of a natural bay gently caressing the shore, and over its surface, pine trees which lean ever closer as though staring narcissistically into their reflection upon the sea.  This is the idyll which is the bay of Pollensa (or Pollença in Mallorquin); a naturally protected beautiful harbour on the Northern coast of Mallorca. It is a bay which benefits from the very best of geography’s creative magic: cerulean blue crystal clear water; a backdrop of mountains making the sea appear more like a lake; and a happily coinciding seaside walk which allows visitors to enjoy the tranquility of the spot directly next to the sensuously shore-lapping sea.

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These photos were taken one tranquil afternoon, when the sun broke free of the clouds up ahead as it began its gentle plummet to the horizon and beyond. The still conditions and the golden light were just perfect for photography, and the result is a set of photos befitting the utmost beauty of the place.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

Sebastiao Salgado Genesis

Being a major artistic proponent of the use of colour, there is nothing I enjoy quite so much as gazing at a gallery full of vibrant paintings, each popping out from the white walls of an exhibition. However there are times in life when there is nothing quite so stunning as the use of black and white to suffuse a work with an atmosphere which could never be obtained through the distractions of colour. And of all the monochrome coloured exhibitions I have seen in my time, none has been quite so successful in black and white as the latest international phenomenon from Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, Genesis. 

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Inspired by Salgado’s horror at seeing his own homeland gradually deforested, its naturally lush habitats cleared away in the process of urbanisation, the Genesis project was conceived from an ambition to capture images of some of the most unspoilt and isolated spots on the planet, serving as a reminder of what rare beauty nature alone can create, and what gems of the natural world are continuously threatened by the activity of man. In the course of bringing together such images, Salgado embarked on an inspirational 8 year journey of discovery which took him on some 32 trips to the most remote places where he founds landscapes, marine environments, ecosystems and even indigenous human communities which have remained relatively untouched and unseen by the majority of humankind. 

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The result is an exhibition  of some of the most stunning photographic landscapes I have ever witnessed. Scenes which appear so biblical and mammoth in their scale that you would swear they were the result of digital manipulation. But these captures are as far from digital as it is possible to get – the pure genius of nature captured by an equally brilliant photographer. And of course, as the exhibition intended, they are deeply thought provoking too. For these environments must not just be conserved in photos, but also in reality, for the sake of us all.

Sebastiao Salgado, Genesis is currently showing at the Caixa Forum in Palma de Mallorca, and the series is also available in large folios and books from Taschen.

All photographs are the copyright of Sebastiao Salgado and Amazonas Images

Discovering Mallorca: Mountaineering in the Cala Sant Vicenç

The Cala Sant Vicenç (or San Vincente as castilian would have it) on the North Western coast of Mallorca has to be one of the most emblematic of cove beaches on the island. With a mountainous backdrop so jagged and geographically awesome that it looks like sharp razors jutting up from the sea, it is no wonder that this beach has inspired countless artists over the years, amongst them one Sorolla, whose iconic paintings of the coastal spot perfectly captures the cerulean blue sea in front of the purple jagged mountain.

When we recently headed along to the cove with our visiting friend Cassandra, the weather was not quite as ideal as it may have been when Sorolla paused to apply the view to canvas. Nonetheless, even in slightly gloomier conditions, it was surprising how beautifully turquoise the crystal clear waters shone, and how dramatic the mountain scenery looked behind it.DSC09047 DSC09069 DSC09057 DSC09092 DSC09075 DSC09073 DSC09054

But not content with merely admiring the view from the beach, we decided to go one step further. Ok, it’s perhaps extreme to call this activity mountaineering, but as we scaled the nearby mound of jagged rocks sitting on the opposite side of the cove, in order to see the view from an even more unusual vantage point, it surely felt as though we were climbing mountains. But what views were to be seen from this height. Not only could the mountains of Sant Vicenç be perfectly captured, but all around us was an utterly wild inhospitable expanse of rugged rock forms, grasses and rough vegetation over which only the odd mountain goat appeared to have previously ventured. With its vast rocky terrain coupled with the occasional sea mist, this landscape looked more like I would imagine the Scottish Highlands than Mallorca, but it was every bit as impressive.

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Sadly such views were not to be gained without their compensation, and days later, my aching legs still bemoan the day I took them mountaineering at the Cala Sant Vicenç. But surely that’s reason enough to at least enjoy these photos I captured in the process…

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

Discovering Mallorca: Valldemossa and its port

Mallorca has been, and continues to be, the home of many notable persons, and chief amongst them were Fédéric Chopin and his lover, the pioneering French writer George Sands, who, in her account of their 1839 stay described the natural beauty which pervades Mallorca. That is no more so than in the stunning hilltop village where Chopin and Sands made their home, Valldemossa, a picture-perfect rural retreat which is every bit the archetypal Mallorcan village, with its stone-built houses, green wooden window shutters, and small shop-lined cobbled streets.

The hilltop village of Valldemossa

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It was to this bucolic idyll that we recently ventured, taking with us our friend visiting from London in order to share with her this most perfect example of a Mallorcan pueblo. Valldemossa is not huge – indeed it comprises of a main shopping street with a few narrow side streets each plied with their fair share of pretty cafes and shops selling local produce. But its best selling point is the grand turquoise-tile-topped Real Cartuja monastery which was itself home to Chopin and Sands. Towering above both the town and the stunning mountain valley which gives the village its name, the monastery is a place of utmost solitude and tranquility, not least on its breathtaking garden terraces, which tickle each of the senses with their bounty of flowers, perfumes and unbeatable vistas, all accompanied by the gently bonging of sheep bells in the distance.

The Real Cartuja monastery and its surroundings

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But Valldemossa does not stand alone, and rather benefits from its own little fishing village; an even more idyllic spot which, while appearing to be close to the upper village on the map, is in fact down a perilous zig zag of hair-pin bends which are enough to put the fear of god into the most experienced of drivers, let alone me. But the views which greet the visitor upon their descent are well worth the effort, for the little port of Valldemossa is surely one of the most beautiful I have seen on the island.

The port of Valldemossa

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In the port itself, a handful of unostentatious fishermen’s cottages make up a tiny settlement which is situated amongst some of the most stunning mountain scenery imaginable. For surrounding the port are steep rocky mountain cliffs plunging directly into the crystal clear seas, while on the odd beaches formed from falling stones, one can find rocks of hugely varying colours, from the most peachy pink to a deep golden ochre.

A rainbow panoply of rocks

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Between these two sites, both the port and village of Valldemossa, there could be no doubting the reasons as to why George Sand had been so inspired to describe the natural beauty of Mallorca, nor the impetus for other visitors, both renowned or otherwise, to make the island their home. But while many of Mallorca’s most beautiful spots have been ravaged by tourism and modernity, both parts of Valldemossa retain a local authentic charm which cannot help but present Mallorca at its very charming best.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

Mallorca Moments: Almond island in bloom

While Mallorca may be famous all around the world for its stunning white sandy beaches, rocky coves and cerulean blue seas, at this time of the year, it is even more notable for the abundant almond blossom which turns the island white. For Mallorca is very much the island of the almond: those sweet little nuts are the basis of much of the island’s cuisine from the nutty picada forming the base of many a meat dish, to the fluffy almond sponge which makes a traditional Gato Mallorquin. So with all of those many thousands of almond trees bursting into bloom at roughly the same time, Mallorca in March is an island transformed and even more dazzling than ever.

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The demands of work have meant that I have somewhat missed the boat in the almond blossom stakes, with much of the floral magnificence already past its best. But when I set out last weekend on a happy voyage into the mountains, my sighting of a few trees left in blossom set against a beautiful Spring blue sky made me slam on the breaks of my car so that photos could be taken and the delicate beauty of these flowers shared for all to see. With their pretty pink interior and pure white petals, it’s hard to think that these stunning flowers become small brown nuts, but luckily for us in Mallorca, it’s a transition which will happen every year so that this magical tree can be enjoyed in all the various stages of its glory.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

A two-hour trip to Valencia

If there was to be a definitive demonstration of the term jet-set, a 2 hour trip from Mallorca to Valencia and back again would surely be it. And today that is exactly what I did. Flying from our sunny isle, over the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean to one of Spain’s sunniest cities, just for a quick work meeting and then back again. Happily, amongst my work responsibilities, I was able to fit in a few minutes to stroll around the city. For Valencia’s old town’s is surely one of the most stunning in all of Spain and well worth a full weekend’s exploration. Nonetheless, with only 20 minutes to spare before my flight, I made the most of the time available to me, shooting these photos which I now share.

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The photos mainly focus on the picture-worthy Plaza de la Reina, and its sister plaza – de la Virgen, both sandwiching the beautifully quasi-baroque Valencia Cathedral between them. While the Plaza de la Reina is very much the bustling centre of the old town, where cafés spill over onto sunny pavements, taxi drivers meet for a chat, and residents wait for the city’s many buses, the Plaza de la Virgen is a grander affair with the Romanesque arches of the cathedral its backdrop and a magnificent fountain with a grandiose Neptune at its centre.

As my photos perhaps suggest, I couldn’t get enough of that stunning fountain which never fails to enchant me, whenever I am lucky enough to visit this marble clad urban space. But also evident from this little selection of photos is the purity and strength of the colours. Just look at those rotund oranges, and that amazing blue sky; that sun dappled yellow wall and those white and blue dazzling fountains of water. They are the colours which made Spain so utterly seductive to me, and the reason why eventually I found myself moving here permanently. Adios for now…

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

Interpretation No. 13 – Ibiza Town

Busy times are upon us in the Spring-awakened island of Mallorca, and with the high season just around the corner, all of the businesses across the Balearics are preparing for the onslaught of tourists in their thousands. For The Daily Norm that means something of a quieter pace of life, as my creativity is diverted and energies exhausted on the multiple requirements of work. Nonetheless, I have happily retained the odd hour for a little personal engagement in private creations, and next off the easel is the 13th gouache in my collection of “interpretations” – landscapes reinterpreted with a simpler finish and flattened matt colours.

I started this little landscape as soon as I came home from the island of Ibiza. My first time on the island left me much enamoured, despite the fact that in low season it was worse than deserted, not least in the historical old town from which this view originates.

Interpretation No. 13 - Ibiza Town (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Interpretation No. 13 – Ibiza Town (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. 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

Orient: Painting the landscape of Mallorca

I have become enchanted, some might even say obsessed, with the landscape of Mallorca. How could I be otherwise? I have the advantage of living in one of the most perfectly compact, incredibly diverse and utterly breathtaking naturally beautiful islands in the world. From crystal clear waters on fine sandy beaches, to mountain ranges so sensational that they have been protected by UNESCO, Mallorca is a pure paradise of landscapes, and a world apart from the beach babe reputation it gained over the years.

Unsurprisingly, as an artist newly arrived in Mallorca, I have an incredible thirst to paint the land around me. No wonder that I have some 5 paintings currently on the go in my light-infused studio which is blissfully big enough to allow so many projects to proceed at any one time. And the latest to achieve completion, and now my second major oil painting of Mallorca since my arrival at the end of last year is this one: Orient.

Orient (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Orient (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Based on the stunning scenery of the Tramantana mountains amidst which I was lucky enough to spend a working week back in January, this painting depicts one of the breathtaking views I encountered. So utterly perfect because of its symmetry and its central view of one such beautiful mountain, this view reminded me of the landscape near Aix-en-Provence which has the Mont Sainte-Victoire at its centre, and which so fascinated Cezanne that he painted countless renditions of it. Similarly enchanted by this view, I never had any doubt that I would apply it to canvas, and here is the finished result. Now I can’t wait to complete another.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. 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

Discovering Palma: Bellver and the Bosque

Palma de Mallorca is a city as diverse as the entire island of Mallorca itself. From stunningly unspoilt medieval and modernista old town to sprawling industrial port and modern suburbs, Mallorca is a city with many faces. But asides from its iconic cathedral, its second most distinctive landmark is surely its castle, the Castell de Bellver, sat majestically upon the most westerly of hills overlooking the city. I never fail to enjoy casting my eyes in a westerly direction on any random afternoon, for always silhouetted against the sinking sun in this most satisfyingly shaped of castles: one of the best remaining examples of a rounded gothic castle left in Europe, and featured in my most recent (and first) of Palma paintings.

Taking time, as we do, to explore this magnificent new city we now call home, my partner and I recently headed to the castle of Bellver, attracted not only by its rich historical heritage, but also by the lush forest or bosque which surrounds it. Extending for acres around the castle and covering the hill like drizzled icing atop a moist victoria sponge, the bosque is by far the greenest expanse available for Palma locals to enjoy, and with its dense vegetation and rocky untouched landscape, it is a bucolic paradise in the midst of a sprawling metropolis.

The bosque

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Having walked through the forest, enjoying dappled sunshine and all number of naturally occurring mediterranean plants, we reached the castle which looked even more stunning close up, with an unbeatable blue sky its harmonious backdrop. Asides from admiring the castle’s unique rounded architecture and the uniquely slim arched bridge which joins its main turret with the main structure of the building, the best aspect of this visit had to be the views afforded from the castle. Bellver indeed – for these are beautiful views of Palma which simply cannot be equalled from down at sea level.

Bellver Castle: inside and out

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Views to write home about

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Collections of Roman sculpture inside Bellver castle

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Nonetheless, down from the hill we eventually trekked, only to find Palma’s old centre every bit as beautiful from up close as it had been from up on that hill. The cathedral’s ocre structure glowed peach like in the dying sun, and before it the blue sea sparkled as it transformed into a steady golden mass. Beautiful Palma – I could carry on admiring you forever. And I hope to do just that.

A city to be admired, from up close, far away and especially at sunset

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 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.

Interpretation No. 12 – Capuchin Monks, Amalfi

The heady days of Amalfi coast indulgence are now too many days behind me to count – it must be at least 250 rather forlorn days since I sampled the paradise of Amalfi, Capri and Positano during a blissful week on the Italian coast last summer. And it has been almost as long since I last thought to paint the place, even though it was on my hotel balcony on the Amalfi Coast that my collection of interpretations began. It was therefore something of a blast from the past when, opening up sketch book the other day in order to start a new gouache project, I discovered a half finished gouache painting based on the Amalfi Coast, left sadly uncompleted.

My feeling with paintings is that each painting has its time, and even when a project goes unworked for some time, it should always be left until the time is again right to continue it. A painting should never be destined for the bin. So when I reopened this hitherto unfinished work, I so enjoyed the breath of fresh Italian air that gushed open my opening it that I decided that the time was right to finish it off, even if it meant completing the Amalfi scene here in my new home of Mallorca.

Interpretation No. 12: Capuchin Monks, Amalfi (2014-15 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Interpretation No. 12: Capuchin Monks, Amalfi (2014-15 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

The painting, which will be the 12th in my collection of gouache interpretative landscapes, was actually based on an old engraving we picked up in Amalfi just before catching a boat back home to Positano. Being a city renowned for its ancient homemade papers, we could not resist buying a print on Amalfi’s finest, and as soon as we found this image, I was captivated. There was something about the alluring tranquil activity of the Capuchin monks depicted, one tying back a vine and the other reading before a view of Amalfi, that made me want to recreate this idyllic scene of the joie de vivre for modern times.

The original engraving we purchased in Amalfi (c. 1880, artist unknown)

The original engraving we purchased in Amalfi (c. 1880, artist unknown)

A gouache interpretation was born and now, thanks to my rediscovery of the image, it is completed. I am pleased with the relative simplification I have achieved by repainting the scene in broad flat gouache colours, and I have to say that the colour has certainly brought this 19th century engraving back to life. It could almost be modern day except that, sadly (or not for those rich enough to stay there), the Capuchin Monastery of Amalfi is today the swish Gran Hotel Convento di Amalfi, a place from which this view can still be very much enjoyed, albeit sadly without the monks.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. 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

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