This is the post excerpt.
In 2014, blue appeared in the work I was making in response to John’s letters.
Blue was the colour of the ink in John’s letters: of the delicate writing paper she used: the rich depth hidden inside an envelope addressed to Rodin: the sea she yearned for: the pale blue of her ‘watery eyes’: and the enamel street signs of Paris.
A work by Spencer Finch, ‘Study of Evaporation (Indathrene blue) 2010, is a study of a glass that holds the watercolour material, used in the work. Finch made a daily painting of it using the same glass of watercolour medium until it evaporates whereby the colour becomes more intense eventually drying up.
Various shades of blue saturated into the studio in 2014. Blue became darkest navy.
In Aberystwyth the sea was ever present, on sunny days it sparkled like glass, on stormy days it swelled with a more turbulent greyness. Green envelopes me and I long for the blue of the sea; to swim out far, far, where my feet cannot touch the bottom, for an estuary sea where swimming is only a dream.
Top: Spencer Finch (2010) Study of Evaporation (Indathrene Blue), watercolour on paper, 55.9 x 76.2 cm
Bottom: Anna Falcini (2015) The First Conversation, photocopy, acrylic paint, gouache and collage on cartridge paper mounted on perspex
So excited to find this image of a Gwen John painting ‘Still Life with a Prayer Book, Shawl, Vase of Flowers and Inkwell’, late 1920s, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. I’ve been working with the motif of a blue stripe since I first began this project about Gwen John in 2014 so this is a lovely find.
Borderlines Film Festival – Open Screen
Cheré Julie will be part of an evening of screenings of regional films at the Borderlines Film Festival on Friday 15th March at De Koffie Pot in Hereford from 7:30pm. I’ll be presenting a short extract from the film and talking about the making of the work, in an evening with other talented film makers from the area.
It’s a privilege to be a part of the festival which is so well established in Hereford and presents an excellent programme of films in the city and across rural locations in Herefordshire and on its borders of Shropshire and Wales. This is the 17th festival and it looks to be another year of excellent film. I first showed work in the festival many years ago in its early format, with a group of young filmmakers called Eye Candy where we presented an evening of artists’ and independent films.
I’m delighted to announce that I will be working with the very talented Amercian Soprano, Chanáe Curtis to produce a unique sound work for the exhibitions. I met Chanáe back in Spring this year and proposed the idea of making a sound work that will take some key words and phrases from Gwen John’s letters and diaries. We recently met again in London and I have asked Chanáe to experiment with the material using an intuitive and conceptual approach, to vocalise the words.
I have been intrigued by John’s voice on the written page and have wondered at the physical voice which remains mysterious. As I read the letters, some of the words were fascinating and lingered in my mind, long after the letters were locked away in the darkness of the archive.
Thanks to the curator Anneka French for sending this link to me about painter, Celia Paul’s remarks on Gwen John. She makes some beautiful responses to John’s painting techniques and references the early Self Portrait where John wears a tartan blouse and looks serene yet distant. It’s one of the paintings I’m most fond of, perhaps because I sense John painting it and looking into something that both represents her physical self and is a capsule of embodied time. I spent a long time just being present in front of this painting and it was one of the inspirations for the work I’m making today, Silent Contemplation.
oIn May I visited Paris and Dieppe again to shoot the film about Gwen John’s locations in Paris and Dieppe. A very small team of Mair (translator and all round amazing woman) Sion (camera and photography) and Iain (sound) and myself (producer) had 4 very long but wonderful days in Paris and Dieppe. Sion and Iain were incredibly dedicated during the shoot, capturing some wonderful imagery and sound. Mair, was brilliant, negotiating buildings and locations for us.
In Paris we were able to access 87 Rue du Cherche Midi, the apartment in Montparnasse where Gwen John lived in the attic rooms and painted some of her most well known works of art including ‘Interior of a Room in Paris’. It was truly a moving experience to film there and to know she had lived up in that space. Strangely, the building had been condemned as unsafe at the top spaces so the apartments were empty.
We also went to Meudon, a smart suburb of Paris, where John moved to in her later years. It is an elevated town that has far reaching views back to the city of Paris but is very quiet. We visited the church where John regularly went on Sundays to draw the local orphans and also to Rodin’s house where she used to hover at the perimeter fence in the hope of seeing her Master.
On the final day we went to Dieppe where sadly, John died and is buried. It was an incredibly bright and bracing day, with clear blue skies but a sharp wind. We did some shots on the beach which was pretty deserted, where I embodied Gwen John and walked along a wooden promenade and down towards the sea.
On the final morning before we left, we were able to film inside the Rodin archive where there are over a thousand letters written by John, some to Rodin. To my great delight, was a watercolour of John, a self portrait holding a letter that I had first seen in a book during my original residency in Aberystwyth. I had no idea it was in the archive but apparently Gwen John had gifted it to Rodin.
A recent visit to Tate Britain to view the work of Celia Paul in the painting show ‘All Too Human’, led me to investigate what Gwen John works might be in the main gallery. When I go to cities like Cardiff or London, I seek out her paintings and like her letters, they are objects that propose imaginative meetings with her.
I was delighted to find this painting, ‘A Lady Reading’ which I hadn’t seen before. Firstly, in the typical style of Gwen John’s works, it was probably the smallest work in the room. The intimacy of the scale, seemed to empower the work as I looked at it intensively. What was so engaging for me was the recognition of the room as John’s apartment in 87, Rue du Cherche-Midi in Montparnasse.
Gwen John said that she had tried to make the head of this woman look like a of the Virgin Mary by Albrecht Dürer, suggesting a link with traditional images of the Annunciation. However, she later decided to improve the picture and made a second version, using her own instead of the idealised head shown here; this version can be seen in room 2 of the current exhibition in the Linbury galleries. (Gwen John, A Lady Reading, 1909 -11, Tate Online at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/john-a-lady-reading-n03174)
87 Rue du Cherche-Midi is the apartment that I am currently exploring access to for my film I am making and it is the one place that I am curious to see inside of. Gwen John painted this room with such sensitivity and beauty and she seemed very happy in this place, despite the turbulence of her relationship with Rodin at the time. In her earlier work ‘ A Corner of the Artist’s Room’ (1907-09) which depicts the same space, her biographer Sue Roe describes how Gwen ‘captures the essence of the atmosphere of her attic room in the rue du Cherche -Midi with its sloping ceilings and light falling across the eaves..’ (Roe, 2002: 96). Sadly Gwen was forced to move out when the Concierge’s husband became unwell and wanted to ‘move to a less stuffy room’. Gwen was asked whether she could relinquish her charming, light filled room and move to their ground floor room. She declined and they asked her to leave. Gwen subsequently moved to 29 Rue Terre Neuve in Meudon, a new chapter in her life (Roe, 2002: 107).
Roe, S. (2002) Gwen John: A Life, Vintage, London.