Of Scotland and Speyer

When my partner Anita rang yesterday evening to say that she was back in Irvine and that there was bright sunshine and the garden was looking fabulous it certainly made me think of all the wonderful late spring and early summer days we’ve enjoyed in the Highlands of Scotland over the years. It really is a good time to be walking the hills and wild places. I guess you get a little bit both winter and summer, with the last snow patches often hanging on in the high north facing corries, but with the warmth and long hours of daylight that brings the rush of new growth and the explosion of fresh colours.

In the sculpture garden, Speyer, Germany

Sculpture Garden, Speyer

Here in Speyer it’s been very warm most of the last week, indeed, it was very hot for a few days and being so much further south, all the trees and plants are that much more advanced. I’ve done several short trips out into the surrounding countryside and have been really impressed by the large number of trees and areas of mixed woodland. As such, everywhere seems to be full of birdsong – it’s great. Somewhere in the buildings or trees around the studio we have a Kestrel nesting – it perches high on a chimney and makes a real noise whenever any of the Crows or Rooks do a fly-by.

The light over here is very different too, especially now that the warmer weather has arrived. In the heat it is really intensely bright, especially to me, and while we were walking along the side of the Rhein the other week, the light had a strange blue / yellow quality to it that reminded me of some of the Impressionists paintings. It’s all very different from the light in the Highlands which is very special too. I’ve been told by a number of people here that it gets much hotter as the summer progresses and I have a feeling that my paintings will become less distinct as the heat and light develop.

At the moment then, I’m thinking of two places, the hills of Scotland that I so love to explore and this beautiful city with the gentle countryside of the Phlatz. As such, I’m working initially on two paintings. Both are 80 x 80 cm. One is a re-working of a couple of smaller paintings I did based on walks in the Drumochter Hills. I’ve wanted to develop these into a larger piece, using bolder marks and thicker paint. The other picture I’ve started is based on a small section of the cathedral here in Speyer. It’s an incredible building and the dome and several of the roofs are covered in copper that has oxidized into a subtle pale green / blue colour that really caught my attention from the first moment. This may not have been the most imaginative starting point for my work in Speyer but it has allowed me to start work and get some paint on the board……something that is quite important. It was strange not only to have a large empty white painting board, but also a completely empty studio space too ….panic!

work-in-progress-speyer

Work in Progress: Speyer Cathedral

Yesterday it was the Speyer Cultural Evening – a huge event that involves any organisation, group or individual involved in any aspect of the culture of the city. Everywhere is open from 8pm until around 2am and a single cheap ticket allows entry to all events. The members of the Kunstlerbund put on a fine exhibition of work, (paintings, installations, sculpture, and performance) and the show was titled Blue & Blues. There was some great work and much of the work included blue lighting and so looked particularly good as the evening developed and it became dark. But along with the art works at the Kunstlerhaus there was a fantastic blues band playing in the courtyard and food and a bar too. I was given a leisurely tour around some of the events and it was amazing to see how many people were out …the population of Speyer and most of the surrounding area seemed to be out enjoying themselves and everywhere the events were more than well supported – the main museum had a queue of people waiting to get in that stretched right out of the door – at well gone midnight. The highlight of my tour was a fantastic band playing traditional Jewish music and a great guitar recital at one of the galleries.

work-in-progress

Work In Progress: Drumochter Hills

So then, it was an evening to remember. Things finally came to end some time after 2am and everything was quiet by around 4am. Now of course, it’s the day of the great clear up and as I type there is much activity as work is dismantled, wine glasses washed and floors swept. It was a huge amount of work for the members of the Kunstlerbund but a huge success.

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