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Posts tagged ‘Colour’

Flower burst: Red Amaryllis

Buying fresh flowers is always a pleasure. You watch them open, you breathe deep of their sweet, nuanced perfume, and transform a corner of your home with their splendid colour. But alas, within days, their majesty is at an end, and their delicate structure becomes a vision of faded beauty. Happily, the process of flower growth and nurture can often last longer, and one of my favourite annual rituals is to buy a potted amaryllis bulb and, over the first weeks of the year, watch it grow.


I am always fascinated by the slow progress of the amaryllis flower, as a green shoot emerges from the innocuous brown bulb, and seems to escalate higher and higher until you wonder if it will ever stop. But then suddenly, as though exhausted by the effort of climbing some 40 or even 50 centimetres into the air, the flower shifts its focus to the lateral explosion of its colourful petal-rich head.

This year, I watched on in delight as I saw a very long green stalk open up into the most resplendent array of blood-rich red as my amaryllis burst open into four magnificent floral crowns. Almost swaying in surprise at the bounty of its own offerings, my amaryllis is top heavy with its heady creation, but somehow remains standing for many days of enjoyment. And just as I see the petals turn slowly decrepit with age, a new flower shoot bursts up from the side in reserve.


And so for days ahead, another floral array awaits me, as the newest manifestation of my amaryllis steps into the spotlight.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised 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.

An Autumn Overview

Time is moving fast. I opened my eyes the other day and suddenly realised that Autumn was already being displaced by Winter. The tree opposite our apartment is clinging pathetically to its last remaining leaves which will be jealously snatched away by Winter winds in a matter of days. And the heavy fall of foliage is gradually being reduced to a new layer of mulch as rains and morning frosts start the process of decomposition before Spring.

Of course the light at the end of this cold and windy tunnel is Christmas, and it’s already close at hand. In London, the streets are sparkling with wall to wall lights and glowing shop windows exhibit more and more extravagant festive displays. And in my own home I am giving myself over to plans of how to diversify my customary Christmas decor to match new interior designs.


But before The Daily Norm immerses itself once again in the festive season, I thought it an apt time to review a few photos I took of the stunning autumnal colours which graced London this autumn. My shots are largely collated in Clapham Common, the large expanse of grassy planes and tree-lined paths which we are lucky enough to call our front garden and to enjoy every day of the year. I don’t know whether it was a combination of climatic factors, but something about the colours of autumn really excited me this year. And I didn’t have to go far to find them.

So let us enjoy a little last glimpse of Autumn in these final months of November. Very, very soon the Winter will be upon us…

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

The Colours of Marrakech, Part 6: Sunset Fuchsia

Marrakech is a city so abundant in its palette of colour that I have been able to successfully craft my tale of our trip there by reference to its vastly diverse tonality. Starting with the rose colour which characterises the city walls and the majority of its ancient buildings, and exploring the golden ochre of its crumbling palaces and the stunning blue of the Marjorelle Gardens, my colour-focused posts reached a peak when they entered the multi-coloured world of the Souks which beat at the heart of Marrakech’s ancient medina. But to end the set, it felt appropriate to go back to the pink hues which started it all, not least because this specific shade of pink was cast at the end of the day, when the sun cast a glorious new hue over the city.


While the city is most definitely pink, it was enchanting to watch how that pink developed and transformed as the various stages of the day unfurled. In the morning the pink was dusky and pale as it warmed up gradually with the rising of the sun. At midday the baking sun made the pink luminescent, fiery and peach like. And when the odd cloud came over, the pink was more mauve and moody. But only once did we see the greatest transformation of all. It was after a huge storm ended the day, refreshing us all, but casting a fierce spectacle of rain and lightening across the city. Just as it was nearing its end, the sun plummeted to a level beneath the clouds and as it did so, its refracted light reflected off the clouds and back down onto the city to create a vivid kind of fuchsia pink lighting which literally filled the city. The result was almost eery, as spaces such as our Riad, which were decorated by a very pure white marble, were immersed in a beautiful shade of cherry-blossom. It was almost as though the clouds had rained rosé wine, and we were all swimming in their fruity waters.


The drama and the beauty of the moment was one I will long remember, and is a fitting tribute to this incredible trip, a journey which tantalised each of my senses to a degree never experienced before.


© 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. 

The Colours of Marrakech, Part 5: Majorelle Blue

This post commences with a warning: You are about to be bombarded by blue. An intense, electric, ultramarine blue which defies the senses and energises the mind. And when the more natural colours of citrus and verdant green are set against it, they too become alive, as though infected by the sonic grove to which this blue vibrates. The result is a panoply of vivid colour, a palette so strong that these photos should not be viewed with a hangover. But rather, with a clear head, get ready to revel in this most glorious colour of Marrakech, a shade which has defined the idea of the avant-garde garden paradise, ever since it was first used in the Moroccan garden of French artist, Jacques Majorelle and later the home of one Yves Saint Laurent. This is a post dedicated to the colour so synonymous with its creator and his lavish Marrakech garden that it was named after him: Majorelle Blue.


The Majorelle Garden is one of Marrakech’s most popular sites. No doubt the legacy of YSL –  who recovered the abandoned masterpiece of fellow ex-patriot Majorelle in the 1980s and returned it to its former glory – is a prime attraction. But beyond the YSL gloss, which adds understandable glamour to this secluded, leafy space, this is a garden which packs a punch from its entrance. The blue, a mix of cobalt and ultramarine, is so vivid that it cuts through the plants whose dense foliage attempts to cover it. In the garden, every possible type of prickly cactus and tubular bamboo fights to fill the light afforded by the dappled space, and yet they are a mere chorus to the protagonism of the blue. Yes, it allows the green of the plants to sing like a true maestro, but it does so complacently, knowing itself to be the true star.


While the walls of a waterlily pond (like Monet’s garden on acid) and an adjoining Arabic waterway are given over to this blue, it is the house itself, with its cubic form and intermittent splashes of vivid yellow, which really give the blue its stage, from where its monologue can be radiated throughout a lush garden punctuated with yet more splashes of prominent blue, yellow and orange. Pots and urns do not escape the paint treatment, so that the whole garden becomes unified in colour. It’s as though no plant nor path has been allowed to escape the treatment of a designer intent on creating a cohesive catwalk show. This is a garden choreographed to sing out, to impress. And it does so with aplomb.


Predictably the garden is always awash with visitors. Their backpacks and chattering inject the colour harmony with unwanted clashing tones and a strident cackling which punctuates the calm which ought to dominate this cultural space. For this reason my photographic dedication to the Majorelle Garden concentrates more on the details than the overall space. But in those details you can see the effect of colour and contrast, as that magnificent blue comes face to face with its colour wheel opposites. The result is a true spectacle of colour, rarely dared to be seen in so naturally abundant a green and thriving garden space.


© 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. 

The Colours of Marrakech, Part 1: Rose City

Colour, smell, thunder, stares, snakes, spices, the sound of birdsong, the call to prayer. Morocco is a country of extremes and its dazzling city of Marrakech all the more so. Those extremes began as soon as we entered its airspace, as desert planes and mighty big African clouds overhead gave way to one of the most sparkling fancy airports I have ever set foot in. A further transformation manifested as we took a taxi into town. On the left, a modern city, its roads neatly paved and lined with illuminated orange trees. On the right an old city crumbling, smelly, loud, maze like. Children begged around our legs, women enveloped in veils eyed us suspiciously and the use of donkeys in the place of vehicles marked a return to centuries past. Marrakech is different from any place I have ever visited before, and the next few weeks on The Daily Norm will bear testament to our time there; a trip which tantalised each of the senses and engendered the thrill of the different and astonishment at everything we saw.


A focus on the visual is what will shape my tale of Marrakech, as I take inspiration from the colours which were visible in such extremes across the city. Known as Rose City, by far its most prominent colour is the peachy shade of soft terracotta which characterises its ancient Medina. Stemming from the red tint of local stone and mud, the colour is a naturally occurring bi-product of the city’s quasi-desert location. In fact the rosy hue became so synonymous with the city that when in modern times concrete started to replace traditional mud construction methods, the former French rulers decreed that all such buildings must be painted in the same colour of pink.


The result is a city almost universally sculpted from rose, a place where nature itself provides the rose-tinted glasses through whose sheen Marrakech can be seen to glow a warm shade at all times of the day. But as we will see from later posts, the city’s characteristic hue changes as it reflects the light, and when an intense sunset reigns in the skies, the resulting reflected pink is like nothing I have ever seen before.

But for today, and by way of introducing to this incredible Moroccan city, I give you photos of Marrakech in its most iconic warm terracotta glow, ranging from sunrise in the morning to full sun as the baking semi-desert conditions almost cooked the city streets below. This is Marrakech, Rose City, Daughter of the Desert, and it’s going to be a wonderful Daily Norm ride…


© 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.

From Illyria to Italy, Part 5: The Colours of Rome

Campo dè Fiori, Piazza della Rotonda, the Via del Corso and the Lungotevere. The names of Rome’s russet coloured streets resonate with the same romantic euphony which make the city unique. Uniquely ancient, with the potency of history bleeding from every crack and cobble; uniquely passionate, its tempers flared by the heat and its vivacity for living played out in its food, its art, and in its attitude. Roma. Even the name’s mellifluous voyage across the tongue recalls a thousand stories of Emperors and Popes, Michelangelo and Bernini, pomp and glory, ascent and fall.


Rome has an energy which infects and conquers. It’s tiring for sure, manic in places, rammed full of tourists and trying to cross its roads is frankly a deathly pursuit. But who cannot be seduced by the smell of freshly ground coffee wafting through the streets; by the fashionista ragazzi slowly wafting through the strada of Spagna with their newest accessories on show; by the slowly melting gelati, the magnificent marble fountains and the restaurants spilling out onto Piazzas with their red Vichy tablecloths and mountains of spaghetti.


But perhaps above all things, Rome is a city of art. On every corner, at the centre of every square, and in even the smallest of chapels, there sits a masterpiece whose magnitude marks out an entire chapter in the pages of art history. Rome is for art what Manhattan is for skyscrapers. A living museum with an astonishing collection at every turn.


So when we eventually made it from Croatia to Italy, from Split to Rome, we drunk in the infectious atmosphere of Rome like someone devoid of water after a week in the desert. We went to galleries, we went to cafes, we even endured the coach-party crush of the Vatican Museum. But our favourite pursuit was simply to be in Rome. To wander the streets and let the city wash over us, tantalising each of the senses in turn. Smell: a rich creamy coffee propped up at the bar of the Tazza d’Oro or outside the illustrious Caffe Greco. Taste: dinner by candlelight on the Via Condotti. And for our eyes, the simple feast of colour which adorns every street and building. It is this palette of colour, the terracottas and ochres, deep sanguine red and golden custard, which is the focus of this post. A collection of photos which need say nothing more than narrate the story of a city whose heart is worn so explicitly on its multi-coloured sleeve.

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. 

Yet more praise for Mallorca’s awe-inspiring autumn

Now before your eyes roll upwards as you cast an initial glimpse over yet another post dedicated to Mallorca’s autumn, allow me to excuse my inexhaustible passion for the season as it exists on this island. For coming from England, autumn is an altogether damper affair, and while there are moments when the sun shines and the colours of the trees shine through, by that time, most of the leaves are already sludge on the pavement after the preceding days of rain; and then of course there are the howling winds which have pushed them there.


Here in Mallorca, autumn is a very different story. I’ve often seen pictures of the perfect autumn images – trees totally transformed into shades of orange and red, glowing like fire under a crisp blue sky. But I had never experienced such an idealised season before I came to Mallorca. And here, you benefit not just from the beauty which results from consecutive days of sunshine, but also the little quaint villages whose ochre stone walls and green shutters work alongside the autumn shades as though they had been meticulously selected for the purpose..


This union of natural and manmade autumnal magic was no more obvious than on a recent visit to the stunning little village of Valldemossa; a mountainous retreat whose cluster of houses in a deep mountain valley has become the very picture-postcard image of Mallorca. And with good reason, for it’s one of those villages which is utterly quaint at every turn, and at every time of the year… no more so than in autumn, surely my most beloved season in Mallorca.

The last greens of Summer

The official start of autumn is almost upon us, and although here in Mallorca we still enjoy days of hot humid sunshine, there is a definite sense of autumnal anticipation in the air. Although the trees are not yet brown, the leaves have already metamorphosed from the rich forest green of summer to a lighter almost translucent lime green, and on the occasional tree you can already see the edges of the leaves gradually give in to a golden manifestation.

And while the onset of autumn, and the winter thereafter, is not a prospect which fills me with joy, there is a real beauty to the melancholy which fills the streets of Palma de Mallorca as the high season comes to an end. Businesses, packed all summer, start to breathe a sigh of relief for the rest which is just around the corner; plants re-emerge freshly abundant after months without rain and water; and long dappled shadows dance amongst a decidedly warmer golden sunlight, which streams through the dying leaves like a last embrace before their inexorable descent.

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It is the beauty of this time which I have attempted to capture with this small set of photos, just from strolling around the streets near my home. Here in Palma, we are not quite in autumn, and the colours are not yet that characteristic autumnal auburn and gold. These are the last greens of summer.

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.

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part II: Calder’s Pool

On Wednesday I told you all about the earthly paradise that is La Colombe d’Or, and yesterday I shared my first artwork inspired by this epicentre of the arts. And yet I would do La Colombe an injustice if I stopped there. For combine my relentless enthusiasm for all things Mediterranean, with my love of art, and my complete obsession with the effect of light on water, and ripples, and you will be unsurprised that during our stay at that little Provençal Inn, I fell head over heels in love with the swimming pool which languishes at the centre of the hotel.

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Surrounded on three sides by the old stone residences which make up the charming accommodation of La Colombe, and on the other with a spectacular view of the rolling hills around St-Paul de Vence, the swimming pool benefits from lush planting, cypress trees clipped into perfectly curvaceous almost anthropomorphic forms, ancient ceramic pots overflowing with palms and flowers, and quaint wooden loungers each fitted with a distinctive apricot cushion for the ultimate in comfort.

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But above all of the charms of this magical pool is the original art which surrounds it. On the one side, a dark contemplative piece by contemporary geometric artist Sean Scully sounds all wrong on paper, but the dark colours perfectly complement the zing of orange of the sun loungers lined up against it. Opposite, the bird mosaic by Georges Braque fits perfectly harmoniously with the lush vegetation surrounding it, peeking out from behind the cypress trees as though wary of the tourists taking their places alongside the pool. And best of all – that stunning Alexander Calder mobile, whose fast metal arms swing slowly and silently in the still Riviera air, and whose base stands majestically on the water’s edge.
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All combined like the colours mixed on an artist’s palette in ripples moving across the delicate green waters whose depths were punctuated with light manifested in every shade of cerulean blue and forest green. I became fascinated, dazzled by the interplay of colour on the water, and took so many photos that a post dedicated to this phenomenon of La Colombe d’Or was a must.

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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.

Festival of colour: The Summer Exhibition 2015

There’s nothing quite like the rejuvenating power of bright, unapologetic colour to lift the spirits amidst an atmosphere of grey, and this is no more so than in London where, on a recent visit, the skies were characteristically gloomy and very un-summery. Heading therefore towards this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts therefore brought with it the promise of some element of seasonal rejuvenation, even if it could not improve the weather. But this year’s show, the 247th in the Academy’s history, did not just flush us with the spirit of summer, but with a festival of colour, never before seen at the annual show in such quantities.


The reason for this panoply of colour is surely its chief curator, Michael Craig-Martin RA, whose work is famous for its blocky poster-print colours with exact outlines and pop-art motifs. With such an artist in charge, there was no way this show was going to be boring, and any doubts as to the fact were quickly swept away at the entrance to the RA, whose usually beige monochrome staircase had been transformed into a riot of multicoloured stripes in an installation by Jim Lambie.

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For those who dared climb what felt like a staircase of moving molten colour, a further punch of colour lay in wait in the form of the first three galleries, painted in bold magenta, blue and turquoise as a magnificently energised backdrop to a surprisingly fantastic selection of works. I never saw those lofty galleries look so rejuvenated, nor did I ever enjoy a Summer Exhibition with as much enthusiasm and high praise. For after years of continuous disappointment and what always seemed to be a relentless recycle of the RA cronies, at last we were presented with a show crammed with unapologetically figurative works, with paintings which exhibited actual talent (Tracey Emin’s usual crappy scrawls excepted), where superb print works were given a rightfully more prominent hang, and architectural models were actually interesting.

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Here we had paintings of places and cities, of streets you could walk in, of portraits you could empathise with, and where there was abstract, it was playful and bold – accessible and expertly conceived. In one room, a superb tapestry portrait by Grayson Perry (Julie and Rob) could have stolen the show, but was well accompanied by a gallery of moving, inspirational works such as Elise Ansel’s brilliant take on Bellini and Titian (Feast of the Gods II) – another riot of colour (above, top).


Considering the multiple works in Tom Phillips’ “A Humument”

So many works pronounced that the arrogant age of contemporary art installations and badly conceived “paintings” is dead, from the many offerings of an RA favourite, Stephen Chambers, to the last gallery entirely devoted to the doodles of Tom Phillips, whose work A Humument, involves the almost total recreation of a long lost novel thanks to his reillustration and reinterpretation of every page. And by way of confirmation that this new re-emergence of a classical pictorial style is both correct, and beloved, an already abundant array of red dots was already evident, despite the early days of the exhibition’s season.

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For those disappointed by past Summer Exhibitions, this one is not to be missed – it will change your mind for sure. The Summer Exhibition shows at the Royal Academy, London until 16th August 2015.