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Posts tagged ‘Basque Country’

My Barcelona, on canvas: Separatism

While last week I shared with you one of my more sedate paintings of Barcelona – an oil landscape of the Port Vell – this week, as the tales of my recent Barcelona travels draw to a close, it’s inevitably time to share the second of my two paintings featuring Barcelona – and this time it’s a far more vibrant affair. Part III of my España Volver series, Separatism, explored the fragmentation and political division which is shared by two autonomous regions of Spain, the Basque Country and Catalunya (Catalonia), both of which have a historically fractious relationship with the Spanish nation to whom they are, for some unwittingly, part of a national whole.

By way of demonstration of the political and social fragmentation which means that these two regions sit so uneasily with the rest of Spain, the symbols painted across my painting are framed in the shapes of a jigsaw puzzle which, rather than fitting together easily, is in part broken and displaced. Emerging out of and contained within the pieces of the puzzle are a series of images representing the shared values and passions of the region – food, wine, art and maritime history, as well as icons that are unique to the regions. So out of the Basque Country comes Frank Gehry’s famous Guggenheim building, while in Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, we have Gehry’s magnificent beachside Peix fish.

Separatism: Catalonia and the Basque Country (2009, Oil on canvas, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Separatism: Catalonia and the Basque Country (2009, Oil on canvas, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Representing the Basque town of Saint Sebastian, I have painted a conch shell pierced by arrows (St. Seb’s bay is known as La Concha because of its curving shape), while Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia takes centre stage in this painting, with a dual purpose as a fork on which a juicy salsa drizzled prawn is poised; symbol of the gastronomic prowess of both regions. Meanwhile, further reference to Catalunya’s artistic prowess is made in the broken egg, representing Catalunya born Salvador Dali, while around the canvas, various symbols of Gaudi are represented, from his Passeig de Gracia paving slabs on the left, to the Casa Mila chimney which emerges atop of a bottle of fine Rioja wine.

Of course there’s violence too, with an illustration of the ETA bombings over on the right; symbol of the violent means which some separatist idealist have gone to to make their point, as well as the spiralling energetic core of the painting – a further demonstration of the plethora of cultural, social and historical influences which have made the regions as richly divergent as they are today.

And for those of you who would like to see this painting closer at hand, it will be on exhibition, along with the rest of my España Volver series at London’s Strand Gallery between 13-18 May. More details can be found here.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. 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

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here

Every Artist needs his teddy bear

The superb Grayson Perry exhibition at London’s British Museum (reviewed on my blog last week) proved an indubitable fact of life: Every Artist needs his teddy bear. Perry was unabashed in making his teddy, Alan Measles, the pivotal focus of his playful, yet sophisticatedly philosophical exhibition, feeding off the time in childhood when every young person’s mind is alive with the kind of imaginative creativity that most of us in our adult life can only dream of. It is only as children, unaware of the true gravity which attaches itself to most issues arising in everyday life, that we are free to run wild in the lush pastures of our imaginings, without responsibility, or worries upon our shoulders. To an extent, every creative Artist continues this spirit of childlike creativity throughout the duration of his career. However very few make their contemporary artwork in retrospective homage to the initial creations of their past. Grayson Perry does this with style, as well as sociological insight. But perhaps more importantly, he is not scared to emphasise the continuing importance of his teddy bear in his life and art at an age when he himself has young children, no doubt with their own cherished bears.

Pupillage: When the Bar took Centre-Stage (detail of Fluffy) (2011 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

I loved Grayson Perry’s exhibition because it embodied much of my attitude to life. I trained as a lawyer, and outwardly, I try, at least, to exude an public face of professionalism. But at home, and therefore as an artist, I indulge utterly and without compromise in the introspective world of my imagination, my desires and my aspirations. Home life for me is all about cosiness, and the loving security of my relationship. And as welcome accessories to that relationship, two very cherished teddies are held dear. Meet Bilbao: a cute knitted puppy, given to me by my partner when I was in hospital, and Fluffy, living up to his namesake – a chirpy little bear with ever enquiring eyes and a sweet inquisitive nature. These two little creatures follow my partner and I when we go on holiday, and they are always close by when I paint. It is no surprise therefore that they have featured in my artwork, and in my photography, and it is in homage to the public outing of Grayson Perry’s teddy bear, that I write this post, showcasing the role of my teddies in my work.

Pupillage: When the Bar took Centre-Stage (Oil on canvas, 2011 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

The first painting to feature one of my teddies is this one, which focuses on my time as a Pupil Barrister in London. For the non-British lawyers amongst you, this is a year specific to the Bar profession, when a young lawyer spends a year in a Barristers chambers undertaking intense training in the run up to full qualification. It is a tiring, arduous and, at times, traumatic year. The pupil is constantly assessed, always on the move, and tirelessly trying to impress his superiors. This painting embodies the pressures, depression and anxiety I felt that year. Pink legal ribbon ties me to the slave-ball emblem of the career. My body has become a marble bust as I have sought to metamorphose into the lawyer expected of the Establishment, while turning my back on myself. The profession has taken centre-stage in my life, while in the bottom left hand corner, my Partner, represented by Fluffy, has been sidelined, although the ribbon around his neck represents the extent to which my Partner too has become enslaved to the repercussions of this hectic career.

Separatism: Catalonia and the Basque Country (2009, Oil on canvas, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Separatism: Catalonia and the Basque Country (detail of Bilbao) (2009, Oil on canvas, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

The next painting to feature a teddy is my work Separatism, based on the fractious political history and continuing stresses persisting in the partly autonomous regions of Catalonia in North-East Spain, and the Basque Country in the North of the country. The work, which formed part of my España Volver collection (2009) focuses on various features of the regions as well as the conflicts which have erupted in the past including the bombings instituted at the hands of terrorist separatist organisation, ETA. The rich diversity of the culture in these regions spins into a central vortex, while all around it, images from the two regions are fragmented like a jigsaw puzzle, except where the pieces are held together demonstrating signs of peace and unity in the regions. The image focuses on the architectural and gastronomic strengths of the regions, as well as famous sights such as La Concha in San Sebastián (Donostia) and Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Meanwhile a spiralling red ribbon curls through the centre of the painting representing political red tape which, over the years, has hindered and complicated political progress. My teddy Bilbao is a small detail of the painting, wandering into the work in the bottom section. He floats in a safety ring in the seas of the rich coastline common to both Spanish reasons, and close to the marine symbolism which represents the maritime history which both regions also hold dear. His inclusion in the painting does not carry any special significance, but as he is named after the Basque Country’s great city of Bilbao, he thought it appropriate that he make an appearance.

Santa Norm (2011, acrylic on canvas) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown

Finally, there is last year’s Christmas painting, Santa Norm, in which, appropriately, Fluffy makes an appearance in Santa’s sack of toys for all the girls and boys. Luckily, Fluffy already has a very loving home to go to.

I leave you with a selection of photographs of Fluffy and Bilbao taken on travels and at home. Enjoy being childish in life. Because we grow up fast and life is too short to take it seriously. Until next time…

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work 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.