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Posts tagged ‘Alhambra’

The Greatness of Granada, Part 3: The Generalife

Of all the treasures that the Alhambra complex holds within its vast stone and green boarders, the Generalife gardens are without a doubt my favourite gem. Set apart, across a ravine which was once linked via a covered walkway to the Nasrid palace, the Generalife was once the summer palace of the Nasrid Emirs of the Emirate of Granada. Today it is preserved as a garden paradise which seems a world apart from the ancient and modern sprawling city which spreads out across the Andalucian planes all around it.

With a multiply arched white palace at its heart, the likes of which appears to have informed all of the most typical Andalucian buildings which have developed in its likeness, as well as a long narrow pool over which arched fountains meet like lovers reaching across a mountain spring, the gardens of the Generalife are the most romantic place of natural contemplation imaginable.

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Strolling between trimmed boxed hedges and flowerbeds abundant with fragrant roses and vivid bourganvilla, a walk around the Generalife is like being lost in the gardens of the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s wonderland. There, the many examples of arabic craftsmanship carved deep into the palace walls are overshadowed by the work of tended nature manifest in the multiply-layered gardens. And even on the hottest of days, there is a cool calm which reflects off the surface of mountain-fed water springs which make a visit to the gardens the most pleasant of contemplative activities.

This was my second visit to the Generalife palace and gardens, and the place is as much of a paradise as I remember. Perambulating through the verdant passages during a late afternoon, when the sun over the Albayzín was turning a caramelised yellow, proved to be the most perfect time to enjoy this reflective space. Not even my photos are able to capture the utmost tranquility of those all too brief moments in paradise. But they surely go someway in reflecting the mood of soulful restfulness which the atmosphere of the Generalife creates.

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. 

My Granada Sketchbook: Patio de Daraxa

Sometimes it can be pretty unnerving sketching in public, especially when to do so means being sat in the heart of a tourist location. Very quickly, the budding artist finds themselves being subsumed into the attraction itself, and becoming every bit the focus of the tourists´gaze. This is the position in which I found myself in the Alhambra when, desperate to sit down in a shady spot after hours of queuing and touring the mammoth complex of the Alhambra, the Alcazaba and the Nazrid Palace, we found a perfect little bench in the Patio de Daraxa, an idyllic little shady garden set at the very heart of the palace complex.

With a direct view onto the patio’s ancient fountain, its water sparkling in the light, and surrounded by the intricately trimmed box-tree hedges, fragrant orange and cypress trees, and agapanthus flowers dancing around in a gentle breeze, I knew that I had to capture the essence of this space in my sketchbook. So reaching more my pen, I started nervously mapping out the space, hoping to do homage to the perfect symmetry which the Moorish inhabitants had executed with such precision. However no sooner had I placed pen to paper, than tourists, without any kind of timid apology, started peering onto the page, beckoning their friends closer, taking my photo and waiting stubbornly for the completion of the piece. That never happened. After only a basic sketch I retired from the spot, unable to bare the intensity of the tourists´gaze any longer.

Granada Garden Alhambra

Patio de Daraxa, Alhambra (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

 

This sketch was finished over coffee in one of my favourite haunts in Marbella. Despite that, I believe it still captures the magical spirit of that perfect Alhambra resting place.

© 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

The Greatness of Granada, Part 2: The Alhambra

Few places in all the world have the power to arrest the eyes and ensnare the heart quite like the Alhambra in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Glowing every shade of ochre, and pale gold through to deep russet and coral red, it is no wonder that in arabic, the name of the fortress like construct means “The Red One”. But the true treasures of the Alhambra lie in wait inside, where room after room of twisting, tangling geometric patterns, forests of marble columns, and incredibly carved honeycomb like domes seem to reach up into infinity. It is a place which offers visitors a vision from paradise, even when it is (as always) hosting its daily quota of tourists, a sensation augmented by the plethora of pools and trickling waterways, magnifying the space with reflection and filling its stone halls with the gentle harmony of trickles and splashes.

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Originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, the complex was constructed into its current state of glory by the Emirate of Granada in the 13th century. Converted into the most lavish royal palace the world had ever seen, it was revered by the reconquering Christians when they took the city in 1492, becoming part of the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and subsequent monarchs. While they embellished the site in turn with Renaissance-style palaces which didn’t quite live up to the beauty of the Moorish offerings, they did so at least in the same glowing gold stone thus creating the complete whole which now permanently characterises the landscape of Granada. Shockingly, the palace was later allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, until it was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, becoming the favourite of Romantic-age travellers and inspiring generations of artists, poets, and writers since.

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Today, unsurprisingly, the site is UNESCO protected and is a ravishing complex of echoing courtyards and colonnaded porticos each enjoying the most incredible views over to the Albayzín below. Lucky then that these hallowed halls should be salvaged for generations to come, where we can but imagine the lives of kings and their hareems languishing in the finest coloured silks by reflective pools and in throne rooms built for the imperial best. Beyond, of course, are the gardens, perhaps the most sensually lavish spectacles of all. But those wonders of nature and man’s creative touch I will leave for another day.

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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. 

My Granada Sketchbook: Alhambra Aniconism

Andalucia, perhaps the most iconic region of Spain – the land of flamenco and polka dots, sun-scarred landscapes and toreros – owes a huge bulk of its entire identity to the cultural and aesthetic character of the Nasrid dynasty of Al Andalus, the islamic rule which gives the area its name. Despite having been flushed out by the reconquering Catholics, the arabic influence lives strong in the region, from the wailing arabesque of the flamenco cry, to the geometric imagery which characterises the multi-coloured ceramic tiles lining the walls of traditional patio gardens in practically every Spanish house.

The predominance of geometric patterns in Arabic art resulted as a cleverly constructed, beautifully executed solution to the rule of aniconism, that is the proscription in Islam against the creation of images of sentient beings. The most absolute proscription is of images of God in Islam, followed by depictions of Muhammad, and then Islamic prophets and the relatives of Muhammad, but the depiction of all humans and non-human animals is likewise discouraged. The result, especially in the times of Al Andalus when the style was still finding its feet, was to decorate palaces not only with geometric patterns, but also with calligraphy and the barely representational foliage patterns of the arabesque.

The palace of the Alhambra in Granada is renowned for boasting some of, if not the best examples of early Islamic wall decoration in the world, and it is the plethora of incredibly intricate wall calligraphy there, surrounded by delicate renderings of foliage patterns, which inspired my next Granada sketch.

Granada Motif Alhambra

Alhambra wall detail (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Spelling out what I believe inscribes the Nasrid motto “There is no victor but Allah” (but correct me if I’m wrong) – this is a pattern which can be found repeated endlessly around the palace as a kind of freeze above and below relentlessly repeated geometric constructs in the most splendid and mind-bogglingly calculated patterns. When I came to sketch just this tiny portion, it made me fully realise the astonishing detail with which the Alhambra decoration has been created. No wonder it is today the most visited of all attractions 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

Our Alhambra Terrace

People take inspiration from holidays in various ways, weather through collating a set of ravishing photos, collecting foodie ideas, or even rounding up the tackiest and most whimsical souvenir. For me, it’s all about art.  There is no better way, in my mind, to look back on a holiday than through the art I great during that time. Because more than just taking a photo, the process of creating a painting or sketch involves time and contemplation, and therefore has the power to instil the final product with the great value of a comprehensive collection of memories and sensations. That is why I always do my best to get a hotel room with a view, in the knowledge that that alone will provide me with much of the inspiration I will need in the place I will feel most comfortable creating.

On our trip to Granada, we stayed in the Hotel Casa 1800, a stunningly quaint property characteristic of the rickety old houses and palazzos crammed into the ancient Albayzín district alongside the banks of the Darro River. Incredibly located just off the Plaza Santa Ana, the hotel boasted an unrivalled view of the Alhambra, but not in every room. In fact very few benefited from the crème de la crème of Granada views, but with ours, we were given the opportunity not just to enjoy the view through a window, but from our very own little terrace.

Alhambra Terrace FINAL

Alhambra Terrace (Hotel Casa 1800 Granada) 2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper

As soon as we saw it, we knew it would be hard to tear ourselves away from the hotel. Such a cosy space and an unbeatable view could not easily be rivalled by a public space after all. With a moment’s glance, I knew the painting I would create that would best befit our experience of this space. And here it is. Making clear reference to the Honeymoon Suite collection created one year ago, this gouache painting continues the trend of painting the view from the hotel rooms enjoyed on our various travels. However with its Alhambra view, painted in a creamy orange with deep green shadows, this is one hotel room it will be hard to beat, no matter how much my future painting needs might demand it.

© 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

The Greatness of Granada, Part 1: Dual Faith, Double Identity

Granada in the heart of Spanish Andalucia is a city deeply characterised by the historical vicissitudes of its religious and political identity. On one street you may confidently conclude that you are in a richly embellished bastion of Catholicism; mere metres away, you feel as though you have been magically relocated to Marrakech. In Granada, you can find shisha pipes being smoked and moroccan mint tea being sipped with baklava right next door to where, in one of Europe’s biggest and most imposing cathedrals, the bells of a campanile call the Catholic faithful to prayer, and incense is swung majestically before a statue of the Virgin Mary. It is a stark contrast which can be noted across the city, recalling the turbulent but glorious history which has made Granada truly unique in the modern world.

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Of course much of what you see today has a ring of Disneyland about it, The tightly packed streets full of arabic wears and shops clustered with so many glittering glass lamps, silks and leather goods that you feel as though you have entered Aladdin’s cave, are all somewhat contrived for the tourists. But they are nonetheless deeply rooted in a past which begun in the early 700s, when the muslims crossed the narrow Straits of Gibraltar and swiftly conquered the Iberian Peninsula, founding Al Andalus, a kingdom of such rich prosperity and harmonious living that it was the nearest any civilisation had come to the Roman Empire before it. But the State’s precarious location encircled by Catholic countries meant that it was never destined to last for ever. One by one, a Catholic reconquista swept through the Iberian Peninsula, reclaiming Spain for the Christian world, until only one citadel of Al Andalus remained, the strongest of all – Granada.

Granada’s magnificent Catholic face

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It took some 250 years of negotiations, wrangling and final all out war before Ferdinand and Isabella, the “Catholic Monarchs” were able to complete the Christian reconquest of Spain, take Granada, and banish the Muslims for good. But they were never able to banish the heritage they had left behind. Spectacular monuments such as the Alhambra Palace remained as a clear testament to the stunning creativity of the artisans of Al Andalus, and remain today because their beauty was such that the Christian’s could not bear to destroy them.

However a visitor to Granada today will likewise note that the city is bounteous in its Christian relics too. Constructions such as the vast Cathedral of the Incarnation are every bit as glorious an architectural gem of the city as the Alhambra, and were no doubt contrived to be all the more beautiful owing to the need for the Christians to show-off their creative prowess in the aftermath of the reconquest.

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Happily, the dual identity of Granada is one which has returned to the city, long after the terrible years when all non-Christians were expelled from Granada. While much of the Arabian shops and bizarres are laid on for the tourists, there is a very evident presence of a renewed muslim population in the city, allowing visitors – us included – to enjoy the wealth of their religious and social culture alongside the distinctive Spanish culture which has emerged from the years of more recent Catholic rule. These photos are testament to our discovery of both cultures.

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. 

My Granada Sketchbook: Alhambra, viewed from the Albayzín

I have just returned from Andalucia in Southern Spain. It’s an annual pilgrimage to a place which inspires me deep from within its passionately romantic soul. While the old town of Marbella, in a house radiated by the fragrant perfume of jasmine, is always my base, each year I try to embellish my trip with a sampling of the region’s rich cultural offerings. This year it was the turn of Granada, a true jewel of the Iberian Peninsula, a city so rich in cultural and religious heritage that from one street to another you find yourself whisked across different centuries and richly divergent cultures.

A combination of 4 nights in Granada followed by 12 in Marbella meant for a trip front-loaded by inspirational madness, and a fortnight which then provided ample opportunity to live out the fruit of those ideas. This meant that my trusty sketchbook went with me not just in Granada, where I would sketch sat in shady plazas, and in the echoing gardens of the Alhambra, but also in Marbella, where every morning I got into the habit of finishing off my Granada sketches over a rich coffee and a slice of spongy bizchoco.

Granada Mirador Alhambra

The Alhambra viewed from the Mirador San Nicolas, Granada (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Today, I considered this sketch to be the best way to start my Granada tales, for it shows perhaps the most famous Granada view – the stunning Alhambra palace as viewed from the Mirador de San Nicolas, with the might of the Sierra mountains behind it. I’m not going to talk too much about the Alhambra for now… that time will surely arise as I share my Granada adventure with you. But for now I hope you enjoy this first of 9 works created on this very inspirational trip. I look forward to sharing them all with you.

© 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