27th of July 2010
We drove from Trevelez to Capileira, on the other side of the valley, on a road hardly safer than the one on which we had arrived. But when the sun is shining and no black clouds are hanging over the gorges, it looks less dangerous.. But still, at many points, great chunks of the mountains had fallen down onto our side of the road, while the other side of the road had collapsed into the gorges. That day I took it with a laugh but only as long as there was enough road left to allow us to pass! The laughing stopped when we suddenly saw a lot of cars and lorries stopped by the roadside, including the Guardia Civil, and all the people somehow looking down into the gorge… I guess a car had gone off the edge as it collapsed… scary stuff, really!
The town Capileira. is certainly less impressive than Trevelez, much smaller and without the ambition to reach the sky! Quite cute though, full of cool shops along the main road, good sketching motifs everywhere. But here again I faced some unexpected problems. In fact it is the problem which many artists face when they start painting Andalusian villages: white houses, red flowers in pots hanging from balconies, green leaves, blue sky… very attractive and refreshing for the eye, but , in my humble opinion, a trap for the artist: kitsch is never far away! Sincerely, I think these villages are not really adequate for good oil or acrylics paintings, except if one can find some kind of abstraction where one is able to artistically reconcile all the basic elements involved. Total realism doesn’t do it for me, not even by the hand of skilled painters.
Here in Capileira I tried myself to ‘fight the kitsch’ using pastel chalks, but pastel is a dangerous tool in itself, easy to fall into triviality., and again, as in Trevelez, I failed!!! In my defence I must add that in my travel set the chalk pieces are all mixed and it is almost impossible to recognise which colour they are.
Eventually I came back to my usual sketching ink and watercolour technique, which at least normally renders the lightness and freshness of the subject quite well.
But still: although it was better than in Trevelez, I didn’t feel comfortable sketching. I felt tense, nervous… perhaps there were again too many people around, and a “snobbish” atmosphere pervading the town. Somehow the feeling that the people here, above all the foreigners, thought they were something better for being here, all wandering around in their expensive climbing outfits with a walking stick in hand! Do they feel so superior because they climb some mountain in the Sierra Nevada? Or is it me, who feels so inferior, just sitting down on the road , in my dusty trousers, my sketch book and my little magic wand in my hand? The times are long gone when being an artist brought you some consideration…
And if somebody does take some notice of you and stops by, it is just to tell you that he paints too, or somebody in the family does. Or a friend. The distance between an artist and a normal person is minimal nowadays.
Like the woman who saw me drawing and stopped by for a while. No interest whatsoever in what I was doing. She simply started telling me that there was a wonderful exhibition in one of the local restaurants..A Japanese painter had arrived once in Capileira and started painting the villages around, just for bread and bed.
Later on I went and had a look. I was extremely curious to see how a Japanese artist dealt with the Andalusian kitsch… well, he didn’t really, the kitsch is there, omnipresent, but at least sometimes he had managed to rescue it, adding some Japanese traditional elements to the paintings like a naked black branch with a bird on it….
But you know, some people love that Andalusian kitsch, Like that woman who sent me to the exhibition. Commenting on my paintings, from which she saw some on the gallery leaflet I gave her, she just said,
“They are very romantic…”
No idea if this was meant as a compliment. But judging from the expression on her face, I guess not. No wonder actually: Spaniards seem to live on the other side of romanticism, as eager as possible to avoid it!