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London, Rediscovering My City: Richmond Park

What Wimbledon Common offered in richly verdant, tightly packed woodland, Richmond boasted in wildly windswept, delightfully untended moorland, where great swathes of sweeping grasslands were punctuated by biblically ancient twisting oak trees, and occasional rugged rockfalls like something more characteristic of Northeast Scotland than Southwest London. But London is indeed the host to an astonishing array of green spaces, and it never fails to surprise me how bucolic an atmosphere can be found so close to the city.

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Last week’s Wimbledon adventure was followed swiftly by a tromp across the harsher, wilder lands of Richmond Park (indeed, we stumbled upon said park when an end to Wimbledon Common brought us to the somewhat harsh reality of the A3, which we rapidly crossed, eyes blinkered, before escaping back into the rural idyll of Richmond). Through one of the grand gold-gilded gateways which mark the entrance to this ancient recreational space, the magnitude of Richmond Park was immediately tangible. To call it a park is to suggest a mild-mannered patch of urban greenery, but this mighty swathe of natural ruggedness is true testament to nature winning out over the city sprawl. Even the occasional car crossing its vast geographical spread cannot compete with the true king of this space – the mighty stag, one of whom we came into satisfyingly close contact with, so much so that at one point we thought an attack was imminent.

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A few hours crossing Richmond Park was enough time to convince us that in London, this great metropolis, an embrace with the great outdoors need never be too far away. Yet just beyond the perimeter of this rurality, a welcome return to civilisation was manifested in the form of the elegant Richmond Hill, whose Georgian houses and small little pubs were glowing a richly golden yellow as all concerned basked in the setting sun, and visitors sipped on bubbles while overlooking one of the most stunning views of the Thames as it snakes alongs its course towards Kingston and beyond. In this way, green turned to gold as our rediscovery of this truly idyllic suburb of London drew to a satisfying close.

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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. 

Mallorca My Highlights – Part Two: The Second Year

Sometimes I find the thought of Mallorca almost unbearable; that I had such a paradise on my doorstep, that now it feels so far removed from my reality. The ease with which beauty was so readily embraceable; the speed with which it was taken away. The silky smoothness of fresh air as it filled the lungs. The sound of the waves as they nudged gently along the shore.

Yet had I stayed for longer it would have been a paradise lost. A true skill of life is in knowing when the leave the party. Linger too long and the magic is spoilt, and with it the memories are tainted.

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Happily the renewed distance from my beloved Mallorca serves only to enforce the perfection of our two year residency, to allow me the chance to reflect fondly upon a life altering adventure which enabled a level of displacement of which few people can boast. Yes we worked, but we also lived, and the weekends, the evenings, even the mornings in the sun were like an extended holiday. Like we were cheating time.

So in this second collection of Mallorca photos, I look back over our second year on the island, a year in which there was still much to discover and during which the creation of photos went hand in hand with the flurry of artwork I created.

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This may be my final reflection on my two years worth of photos, but it won’t be my last post on Mallorca. For the island has more than earned its place in my heart, and will continue to inspire me. In my reflections, I will relive the turquoise sea and the earthy smell of blood red earth. In my ears I will hear the gentle bells of sheep on a mountainside. And from my hand the palette of Mallorca will play out in my creative output, as the qualities of that great chapter of my life furnish me for the remainder of my story.

© 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. 

London, Rediscovering My City: Wimbledon Common

Knowing that the first weekend of Spring was going to be gloriously sunny, we had one objective in mind: to get outside. After living two years in Mallorca, London can feel claustrophobic by comparison. Life here is more geared up to the inside – cosy corners, candlelight, cushions – and yet ironically it’s one of the world’s greenest cities, so much so that a map of the city remains recognisable, even when the roads are taken away. This past weekend, we were determined to enjoy some of those green swards, and enjoy them we did. After agonising over Wimbledon or Richmond as potential locations, we actually ended up doing both in one. But the photos which resulted from that extensive walk are so ravishing that frankly I’ve felt compelled to split this post in two. Both green gems need their place in the sun!

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A renewed enthusiasm for the great British outdoors definitely comes of my Mallorcan experience. I spent so much time taking inspiration from the island’s impressive landscape that I realised how little I had devoted myself to the equally beautiful countryside back at home. And the English landscape really is beautiful, a point made no better than by artist David Hockney, whose vast multi-coloured canvases pay homage to the Yorkshire countryside in all its wild beauty, a selection of which can currently be enjoyed in a show of his work at London’s Tate Britain.

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It was to Hockney’s ravishing landscapes that my mind turned this weekend as we set out on our outdoors trek across Wimbledon Common. Within metres of entering the Common from the bustle of Wimbledon Village, we felt as though we had been plunged into the middle of the countryside. Here there were no cars, no litter, few people… you could barely even hear planes. But what could be heard was a relentless chorus of chirping birds awoken by the promise of Spring. The further we walked, the deeper the wooded landscape became, and as the trees leaned inwards over a path made from the footsteps of many, the tunnel effect brought to my mind the works of Hockney, as did the twisting complex maze of branches over head, which looked all the more beautiful for the lack of leaves, which, in mere weeks time, will be covered.

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These photos capture, I think, the very elegant beauty which can be found in the simplest patch of the British outdoors. Here there is no topiary, no control. The flowers are far and few between. Instead the trees, wild and tall had been allowed to dominate, and in the twisting unplanned trajectory of their growth, they had created an architectural marvel which is every inch as impressive as the sea of glittering glass skyscrapers comprising the centre of London, mere miles away.

© 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. 

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