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By: Clare Maynard
This project is based on journeys in Berlin and Wales, supported by the Arts Council of Wales,the final exhibition is to be shown during 2011 at arts centres in Wales and later in a government building central Berlin, Germany.
I was interviewed by Wales based writer and editor -Jane Macnamee.
# 12 [28 October 2009]
This swan was just in the rght place when I took this photo by the side of the river Spree in Berlin.
I went to visit the art gallery space in Cardigan a couple of days ago and was made very welcome, it is obviously well used by the community. There was a fantastic painting exhibition on by Emma Cameron.
I'm looking forward to exhibiting there. Planning how many photographs and paintings to produce and also had a look at their printing facilities.
Meanwhile struggling with the phenomenon that everything happens all at once when trying to do a project...!
# 11 [22 October 2009]
The only remaining piece of the Berlin wall still standing, which is known as East Side Gallery has recently been re-painted by a selected group of international artists. I saw the old version last year with all the layers of images still there, some from when it had fallen, which was interesting, I took this photo of paint peeling away on the surface which looks quite ancient.
# 10 [20 October 2009]
Portrait of the bicycle....
# 9 [14 October 2009]
I don't have an image of the interior of the Ministry building as I didn't want to arrive on first introduction clutching an array of camera equipment. There's an impressive mosaic mural on the exterior wall of the main entrance...
In the meantime here is the larger green version of the eco house by the river after quite a few versions and photographs.
The canvases were the other way around with the trees on the outside- but it looked better with all the trees in the middle as a forest. The windows were black at first but I found this cyan blue when I was starting another painting inspred by the image of the white fern which I've tried to paint blue...
I often don't see the imbalance in a painting until I've photographed it a few times as a digital image so going back and forth from the computer image to the painting has been my activity over the last few days.
There is a reason for the separate canvases - they are a metre square each which means that when I post them to Berlin I won't have to pay a huge difference for them over a certain size. I learnt this with the last big paintings I did where the height which was around 3 metres made each courier and postal service that I rang add on another two or three hundred pounds due to special handling, I'm guessing that meant two people to carry it as it isn't always possible with one.
I'd only do very large work again if I was lving in a city where it could be transported with ease.
# 8 [12 October 2009]
The second visit which happened a few weeks ago, was to meet the exhibition organiser in person.
We decided, as it was warm weather, go by bicycle, so I met Sabine on the following day and I was prepared for a fairly casual cycle through the city following Sabine who is much more used to it than I am, as it's her main form of transport. There are good bike paths alongside the main traffic flow and car drivers are amazingly careful in Berlin - so you really are in the flow of it once you get started but you have to be fairly confident about the whole experience. I had completely underestimated the distance we were going and soon we were flying (or at least Sabine was) over numerous flyovers through the main centre of Berlin and by about the third I had to call out and explain that my bike had no gears and was pretty unwieldy in sensitive manoeuvres around junctions. The bike which I've had for a while and which lives in Berlin is known as a Dutch back pedaller. I bought it second hand on arrival as an easy option to getting around and unfortunately for me it was impossible to back pedal my way out of tricky moments in traffic if I didn't get my balance quickly when the lights changed, the back-pedalling being the brakes! Anyway it meant that I had to keep jumping off - so Sabine was three miles ahead before she realised that I wasn't there anymore.
We arrived in one piece eventually, with a scenario in the courtyard where I took my shoes off to change into some decent shoes and had to fumble about bare foot with Sabine patiently holding each item one at a time while I prepared myself for the meeting.
We were greeted with friendly explanations in broken German and English on both sides and whisked down to a canteen which is in the basement - surprisingly, for a basement, the room had very large windows and huge plants across the whole area which was busy as it was lunchtime.
We decided to do some measuring of the space after coffee and looked at ways of hanging work on the walls which have narrow lengthways gaps. It was explained to me through Sabine’s English skills that they would put some lengths of wood into the gaps so that any type of attachment could support a painting.
It was requested that I do the paintings a fair size in relation to the space and it was suggested they could store some to be able to vary the look of the exhibition while it is there. In the meantime I was offered two standing glass cases situated in the corridor to display small paintings as a lead to the main exhibition..
# 7 [10 October 2009]
early evening was spent in the company of two horses in a field with my work colleague, fending off an over affectionate foal while I took a photo of someones roof with a solar panel on it.
The foal was great but it was standing so close to me that I couldn't step away far enough to take the picture without it following us, eventually it was ok,
foal in welsh is 'ebol'
back to the project...
The first visit to the ministry occured last summer, I arrived on foot, and was slightly daunted by the size of the place and the security 'eye' in the gateway. While in the waiting room I admired some small terracotta sculptures of the human form which were on display. Once Sabine arrived and we were into the internal bit I was introduced to the space which is in a kind of open marble reception area where everybody passes in or out of the building. There is a large alcove to one side for hanging work and a fairly long corridor nearby.
There was is also a grand display of telephones in the waiting area used to contact internal staff for visitors...
I couldn't understand at first how we were going to hang paintings on a marble wall but as is explained later pieces of wood would be pushed into the horizontal gaps in sections of the wall ...
# 6 [7 October 2009]
will I have time for a cup of tea...
# 5 [7 October 2009]
You say that your work reflects or is influenced by film. What would you say was your earliest film influence, and what has inspired you more recently?
The original version of Dr Zhivago stayed in my mind for years - and in one of our first lectures during my degree they showed us the opening few frames of the film 'Witness' about the Amish in America -there were trucks on the highway as you'd expect and then a horse and cart appear. They asked us to deconstruct this opening. Visually both films had a profound effect on me because of the contrast between the settled and shifting environments in rural communities. The landscape in films like this and people’s emotional and economic relationship to it are a strong influence in my painting, it's often the essence which I try to capture. It's not just about landscape through a viewfinder but a very physical interaction with it, and often through circumstance. I watch a lot of films on dvd or at the cinema, and I'm interested in how film makers represent this interaction.
I saw some black and white short films from Eastern Europe and Spain at an art fair in Berlin which held a lot of tension and emotion within them - I think these have influenced the small series of paintings I'm doing now, it’s possible.
How do you see your work developing from here?
It’s changing all the time - I'd like to stay in the public realm with regard to showing my work and I'm interested in developing links between cultures. I wanted to do this when I first graduated, but I thought I'd be doing it with poetry, as writing was part of my degree. As it's turned out it's with visual art. I like the idea of representing rural Wales in an urban setting. There are some similarities to the city of Berlin, large swathes of allotments and some of the communal spaces there. There's a lot of focus on environmental issues in Germany, I'm sure it'll inform the work.
Thanks Clare and good luck with the project
Biography of Jane MacNamee :
Jane is a nature and travel writer based in mid-Wales. She has written for BBC History, The Rough Guide, Time Out, Resurgence, The Great Outdoors and The New Welsh Review. In 2008, she edited In Her Element: Women and the Welsh landscape (Honno), serialised on Radio 4. She is now working on a collection of nature essays on Wales and the changing landscape.
# 4 [6 October 2009]
It’s an interesting choice to exhibit in a government building in Berlin. Can you tell me more about that?
Yes, it's thanks to Sabine Schumann who saw my work in Berlin - she works in one of the museums there. She was able to imagine my work in various settings, and pursued the idea with the exhibition organiser, which was a success, they've mainly exhibited the works of international painters who reflect historical social issues so it's interesting being included in that repertoire.
Will your work reflect the interior of the building ?
I've thought a lot about what to exhibit there. There are light open parts of the building. As the project is called 'Memory of Light', I'm sure I'll be thinking of a way to use that within an urban context. There's also the focus on environmental issues in the city - this has already had an influence with the start of one painting, Eco house, Berlin. The house looks like a spaceship across the river. These were designed by the Finnish architect Suuronen in 1968 and described as FUTURO-a utopian vision of "a new stance for tomorrow".
The travel journal will influence the work and the flow of it through the compositions. It's a busy place so the exhibition needs to catch the eye and be culturally engaging. It’ll be quite a challenge to produce over the next year and I'll document as much as possible.
The futuro I'm painting appears at the end of this video on you tube!
# 3 [5 October 2009]
Can you tell me more about the actual process of your work?
Gathering material for projects is very experiential and often it's in retrospect -sometimes I've already been to a place through circumstance before it becomes a project. I record a lot through photography or by writing, and I rely on my memory so I don't always know what the outcome of the final work will be; it's a constant editing process to do with being in the moment and deciding which parts would form a finished painting. It changes a lot from reference to the final result.
I sketch with paint on the canvas, with two or four at a time laid out, and I do a lot of editing when I put initial layers of paint on. They change a lot and it's fairly chaotic! When I know what I'm doing with a series of paintings I really go into my own world for long periods until the work is finished. My studio days are around two to three full days a week and some evenings as I work part time as well.
So which part of the project engages you the most?
The research stage, especially if it involves a journey somewhere. It's a bit like getting a plot together or a film script, except in a series of paintings - and then the actual painting. Moving the work about and putting the shows up is a different thing all together.
Are these ‘Memories’ – memories held within the landscapes themselves, or your memories of the journey, or both?
Both. I suppose it could be described as social landscape in painting. I like reading history books and historical novels and if I visit a country I think about the people who lived in that landscape and their context in the past . There is also memory of my own journeys and transitions in life. When I'm working on paintings my mind is in that place again.
There is another element for me, that of imagined memory which emerges from my own family history connected with Wales, Ireland and Eastern Europe. There are a lot of roads involved in my own memories and I'm sure it informs my work.
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Clare Maynard is a Wales based artist who is currently exhibiting internationally.
Her previous project Memory of Snow was based on the Czech Republic and Welsh landscape through overland travel during the winter, and was exhibited in mid -Wales and in Berlin.
She has focused mainly on painting with various journeys informing her work over a period of time.