Saturday, 20 April 2013

Jessica In Paris

So, Paris!  That's where I went for my Easter break!  I had six wonderful nights with L.H. staying in a hotel near to Montparnasse, exploring a different area of the city each day.  I thought I'd write up a little bit on my favourite moments that were related to the art side of the trip before posting my Paris inspired sketches.
If you've been to Paris, don't be shy, tell me what you loved - or didn't - about your visit!

The whole trip in brief:

DAY 1:  Sacre Coeur > The Espace Dalí > walk around Montmartre > BD Spirit comic book shop > Montmartre Cemetery > Dinner at Chez Marie
DAY 2:  Patisserie on Rue Raymond Losserand > The Eiffel Tower > Champs de Mars > L'Hótel National des Invalides > Lebanese Restaurant
DAY 3:  Ile de la Cité, a walk along La Seine > Notre Dame Cathedral > Gallerie Lafayette > Maison du Miel > Place de la Madeleine, Boutique Maille, Bistro > Musée du Louvre > Champs-Élysées > Arc de Triomphe
DAY 4:  Saint-Germain-des-Prés > Jardin du Luxembourg > Panthéon > 5th Arr. Delis and Markets > Shakespeare and Company Bookshop
DAY 5:  Exploring Le Marais > Food from L'As Du Fallafel > Sitting in Jardin des Francs-Bourgeois > Pompidou Centre

The Espace Dalí
Around Montmarte on the back streets below Sacre Coeur, the museum had a great collection of Salvador Dalí's line drawings, paintings, collages, videos and sculptures.  When looking at his work I read his sense of playfulness and uses of symbolism as being very personal and honest, answering to no one else.
While there a class of Parisian 4-year-olds were shown around with percussion instruments(?!) in hand.  I don't think children so young in England are ever given these types of trips, or at least not to places that aren't aimed at children specifically.

BD Spirit
I didn't buy anything from this comic book shop, because where would I start?  It looks fairly small on the outside but it really packs a wide variety of comics of all genres from over the years from the well-known to the new.  I'd recommend any art and illustration lovers to check it out.

L'Hótel National des Invalides
What a gorgeous place.  It is simply massive; we couldn't get around it all, including Napoleon's tomb.  We managed to see the Napoleon exhibition (and one of his horses stuffed and falling apart) before closing time where we saw the coronation jewellery of Joséphine de Beauharnais, his many tomes, marble busts and then there was this, in person:

Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David

I can't tell you how much I loved standing in front of such a magnificent painting that was so well-known but I had never seen before.  It was one of my highlights!

Day 3...
In one day we saw Notre Dame, Gallerie Lafayette, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and walked by Eglise de la Madeleine and Opera National de Paris.  No photos do any of them justice compared to strolling around with such grandiose historical buildings looming over you at what feels like every turn.  Ugh.  It's all amazing.
We stopped off in a bookshop where we found The Complete Costume History, which is now in my loving possession thanks to an even more loving L.H.  It's a great form of reference for me to get on with bulking up my costume design portfolio and I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in costumes and clothing throughout history.

Winged Victory of Samothrace
Musée du Louvre
Yet another enormous place filled with things we just couldn't see all of!  Entering the glass pyramid in daylight and leaving at night with everywhere around you lit up added to how magical it felt to be there.  One of the first things I stared at for a long time when we arrived was the statue 'The Winged Victory of Samothrace'.  It's such a powerful image, I can hardly believe it's so old, dating back to 190 B.C.

Yeah, of course we saw the Mona Lisa, how could we miss her?  She had a bustling crowd around her eagerly taking photographs.
But I was more enamoured with my new favourite artist, Anne-Louis Girodet, after seeing his painting 'The Deluge'.

The Deluge - Anne-Louis Girodet
Then I saw another painting and another and another, all grabbing my attention, and all happening to be by Girodet.  He uses such dramatic bold lighting with touches of striking colour that made his paintings stand out to me more than any other.  I copied down his name instantly!

I wish I had written down a few other names too, but the paintings rather than the artist are what will stay with me in the end anyway, whether I know their name or not.

There were whole areas of the Louvre we didn't get to explore.  We'll definitely have to go back again.

Le Centre Pompidou
This had to be the most exhausting gallery experience.  More than Louvre.  Firstly, the building is fantastic to see with giant multicoloured piping decorating the outside.  Inside it was wide open spaces, escalators, and 3D moving sculptures.  It was the opposite of everything we'd been to during our stay.  There was just too much to see in one visit, and with work by so many differing artists, we couldn't take it all in.
There were a lot of recognisable pieces: Picassos, Matisses, Kandinskys...
We looked around the Jesus Rafael Soto and Alina Szapocznikow exhibitions.
I found Soto's work was hypnotic and alluring, enjoyable from all angles, whereas I found Alina's too personally expressive for me to respond to.  It was very much her internal expressions and sketches, not final work designed for display, which I always find funny for an exhibition.  It was more of a visual autobiography.  My personal highlight was seeing a few of Yves Klein Blue pieces.  It was like I saw a celebrity.

View from the escalators in Centre Pompidou
I took my sketchbooks with all the best intentions buuuuut, I didn't exactly draw a lot.  And if I'm honest, everything I saw was so spectacular I thought 'how can I do that justice?  What is the point?'.  And I don't mean that in a defeatist way, I mean it in a gob-smack-ingly, awe-inspiring, I-must-accomplish-something way.  When you're looking at building after beautiful building, painting after classical painting, seeing what skills people throughout time have on display I couldn't help feel like needing to be something more.
Obviously I don't think I can design and build a palace that will last through the ages, but I can do more than I am doing now.  I can push myself to be greater, to be the greatest I can be in a way I want with what skills I have and not for any other reason than 'because I can'.  So much of my work is spent in thought before beginning to sketch or paint and more often than not it is all apprehensive thought.  What style should I try to emulate?  What if it's not as good as last time?  Who will like this?  What if today I can't do it?  How can my work reach more people?  And this is all down to the years of pressure thinking ahead to the future.  I forgot to live in the now, and therefore my drawing is neither in the moment.

For my next post I have a few sketches of people that we saw on our wanderings.
It's such a beautiful city with so much to see (and eat) we can't wait to go again.

So, Paris.  It was a much needed get-away; rather than leaving behind everything at home, I most needed a step back from myself and to dive into other creative minds. I realised that the way I've been thinking while I work hasn't been as truthful or as passionate as I had hoped but I still can be.


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