As England soaked in an August when early autumn usurped the rightful place of summer, I spent the last two weeks with my head still firmly in the sun-baked sands of Ronda in Southern Spain. Never has a homecoming from Spain proved so hard as the unapologetic plunge by 20 degrees from 35 to 15. And never have the grey dirty streets of London or the impossibly cramped antisocial conditions of the tube proved so unattractive when compared alongside the almost-tangible memories of Andalucia’s rolling golden hills and cerulean blue skies, memories that remain so vividly present behind my minds eye, almost taunting me as I stagnate in my unenviable choice of permanent home.
As always, I have sought to address this mental imbalance by reacquainting myself with the place where I was at my happiest, taking up my paints and paintbrushes and capturing a few spare moments in a weekday evening, to sit down and paint my memories. In so doing, I have completed my third painting of Ronda; another in the “Interpretations” series which sees me reinterpreting the landscape through simplified forms and a refocus on the shapes made by civilisation rather than the detail.
Interpretation No. 10 – Vintage Ronda (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)
This 10th interpretation concentrates on two aspects of “Vintage” Ronda: first the ancient arabic walls which can still be seen on one side of the El Tajo gorge close to the old arab baths; and second a newer but still historic car, the likes of which we happened to find parked in this exact spot when taking photos of the arab ruins. When I saw it there, I could not help but recall my interpretation of the landscape in Italy’s Positano, painted with a yellow vespa in the foreground, and I knew that with this red vintage car, the perfect partner work had been born.
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Many may have empathised with the characters Gil and Adriana in Woody Allen’s 2011 film, Midnight in Paris, who were accused of having suffering from “golden-age nostalgia” – the condition whereby a person believes that a previous era was better than the present. In a way, the purpose of the film was to disprove this way of thinking, since Gil’s obsession with the 1920s led him to meet Adriana who was from the 1920s but who herself thought the golden age was the Belle Epoque, who in turn met the likes of Degas and Manet in the Belle Epoque who in turn thought the golden age was the renaissance…and so it goes on. Which just goes to show that “the grass is always greener” applies to the past as well as a comparison of your own life with other possibilities.
Despite this chord of warning which was espoused in Woody Allen’s film, I have to admit to suffering from a little golden-age nostalgia myself. Who could not pine after the elegance of evening dress in the 20s and before – the Downton Abbey style of dressing for dinner every evening and the top-hatted gentlemen in the Moulin Rouge? True, much of my nostalgia is probably founded in fiction – of course we all know that sanitary conditions and general quality of life was probably much lower then than we are used to now, especially for the poor. But nonetheless, the charm of past years cannot help but seep into my imagination, and fill my days with a warm sense of longing for a time of sophistication and innocence. And that charm is no more embodied than in the multi-coloured art work of vintage advertisements at the start of the great commercial age.
I love old adverts. This passion is directly inherited from my father who collects enamel advertisement signs and various advertising paraphernalia. Sadly I have to make do with reproduction postcards and posters, but the images are no less pleasurable for the reproduction. And following on from my recent series of Italy posts, I thought I would share with you a few classic examples of the vintage advertising age promoting the very cities which I have just visited: Venice, Rome and Naples.
With their bold lettering, romanticised skies, bright colours and simple motifs, it is completely understandable how these posters would have been effective in luring the pre or post-war era of awakening travellers to the charms of Italia. If only adverts today could exude such innate charisma. Oh no… there I go with my golden-age nostalgia again. I think I’d better leave you with the posters. Till next time…