Thursday 6 July

hot hot hot and stormy

borrow the yellow bike
bit like a chopper
to go to the shop
the warm rain
makes my arms wet
and shiny
am dry by the time I return

out on the grass again
it’s like a stage –
I find more objects to arrange
it is harder than yesterday
they don’t quite come together
and transcend their individuality
left to their own devices
not much happens

afternoon in the workshop
making a self supporting
frame –
a need to make something tangible
function – not sure
reason – it’ll come !
making leads to thinking
making helps to make connections
making helps
suspended in thought + deed
here there is
time and space
to be unconstrained

the day is flattened out by heavy cloud
it’s humid
I retreat
flick through loads of photos
and bits of film footage
from the last few days
one or 2 things might lead somewhere
feels like mining – speculative
something is happening
but I can’t quite grasp it

as I cook
a tremendous storm gathers
and disperses all its energies
noisily, windily
everything slams
….and it cools down briefly
then some reading
‘tho not the serious books I brought with me
a novel about a journalist
sent to cover the
Venice Biennale
he’s having a high old time
in a blokey way
you know the mix…
exotic woman (LA gallerist)
old friends (other blokey journalists)
add in bellinis, private views,snogging
middle aged angst
the ‘eat, sex, Tintoretto,
a yacht, risotto, coke,
poncey artists, drunken artists
vaporettos etc
it’s a laugh


warm and sunny

this morning
through tall narrow french windows
light and heat pour in
lozenges of light
ooze across the room
the birds are vociferous
like a number of rusty metal things
needing oil

it seems
both extraordinary and absurd
to be here at all
poking around someone else’s
objects, stories, home
to make a response,riposte,reply
finding ways to make something happen
making sense or not

the Château is an expression
of a ceratin kind of life
rural, nostalgic and timeless-ish
and relentless hard work
there is a sense of history
being lived here

H is present everywhere
she is and has been many things
romantic and bohemian things
but the thing that sticks in mind
an unexpected attribute perhaps
that of un funambule
we agree to record some thoughts and stuff
not knowing where it’ll lead

but oudoors in the bright heat
there are more chairs
a gilded plaster frame
some hollyhocks
they all talk to each other
in a casual kind of way
shrugging off the need
for elucidation

the clam shaped chairs are arranged
on the grass
H likes them, they remind her of the ’70’s
I ask her to talk and I will film

it was at the Tate
with Robert Morris in ’71
where the public were encouraged
to test their bodies
H tested hers on the tightrope
and so she began
her costumes were
inspired by Erte
and made of sausage skins

I sit up late
youtubing tightropers
Philipe Petit
with his purple socks and satin costume
his neat walk between the twin towers
such determination, concentration
and Blondin
carrying people and things on his back
across Niagara Falls
tempting oblivion

but back to Morris a minute
he claimed his objects
in 1971
were not less important
(through their interactivness)
but less self-important
allowing an unfolding in time
this too seems like a thing
to hold onto


Tuesday 4 July
very warm and sunny

only a small bit of state bread for breakfast
so I walk to Grandfresnoy
yesterday’s cycling left tender traces
there and back takes about an hour
I see 6 cars
the shop has a limited selection
which is good enough
am easily undone by too much choice

on the way back I see a woman
une vieille femme, she calls herself
I boldly comment on la fleur dans sa chapeau
she tells me a lot of stuff
with wild gestures
it’s local gossip, I guess
as she points her chin this way and that
she has a bad heart – flatttens both hands against her chest
and is 87
she has a tranfixing dark boil
I try to focus on her gleeful eyes
as she rushes on about the queen
and her hats
tells me to say ‘hello’ to grande-bretagne
I wonder briefly about the grande
in grande-bretagne

I mooch about the sheds and barns
gather up some chairs
acrylic sheet
a strange red metal thing
and arrange them on the lawn
like props on a stage
it is hot, the wrong part of the day
to be moving stuff around
I take some photos
and think how this is
very much H’s place
she is embedded here
each object speaks with
her musical french voice
which echoes round the garden
sometimes laughing and garrulous
sometimes low and earnest

the question of what to do
on an artist’s residency
is in the air
I photograph
I walk and plan some shots for film
I talk to H about her past
the unknown outcomes niggle
and interrupt the process

the builder arrives for an aperatif
he is chatty, en français
I think
I’ve ordered some wood from him –
30m in 2m lengths
hard to be sure
he asked a lot of questions
that I frankly didn’t understand
still it’s in character with the
‘find it and use it’
nature of the project so far

late afternoon dissolves into evening
and I am sitting on the terrace
with assorted woofers, H and the builder
knocking back the kir
and black olives
5 out of 8 of us speak good french
so 3 of us just observe
the builder is makes a joke about
killing pigs
he enacts the knife going into the pigs neck
with snorting sounds and much laughter
we laugh a bit …not sure where this is leading

for supper the 2 Belgian ladies
have made an assortment of quiches
(is there a theme here ?)
cheese & ham, carrot & salmon
quite tasty
followed by tart rhubarb tart
with a curdled something on the top
the latter is met with something
a little like dismay
forks tip tap on plates politely
we all look into the middle distance
willing it to disappear ….


cloudy and cool

day one
feeling very lucky
lying here in my princess bed
listening to the bells ringing in the hour
to know I’ll wake up here
everyday for 4 weeks
I get up, I eat, I run, I walk about
I ride a pink bike
it wobbles all the way
to Grandfresnoy and back
not sure if it’s the bike or me
when I get to the shop,
of course, it’s shut !

trying to slow down
to notice, to pay attention
to listen, to see
H is keen for text on my project
for the Mayor
and to print for the presentation
in 3 weeks

I walk around some more
there are plenty of outbuildings
and gardens with low hedges
and weedy, untidy patches broken up
by lines of tomatoes, rhubarb
lettuces – tended by 2 young
and friendly Woofers from Canada and Taiwan
there are chairs, and logs,
an outhouse for bikes
one for bits of wood,
H and I clear out the old gardener’s workshop
so I have a place to work (no pressure !)
years of iron mongery and sticky spiders webs
5 litre bottle of unidentifiable liquids
croquet mallet bits and wooden balls
previous artists too
have left their traces
a folded mirror screen
at the dark back edge of the barn
lights you up
folds you, and repeats you
into neat long rectangles

in another rustic building
another artist has left a trace
sheets of yellowing A4 paper
line the wall like fish scales
and opposite an impossible
tall and narrow ladder stands
painted cadmium green pale
or as near as
in the upper barn
the roof is held aloft
by hefty square beams
here are the paintings by
this year’s other artist
featuring closely seen purple lilies
and smeared figures
who move across canvases
with patterned grounds

later, a glass of wine, a meal
another list
a slight anxiety and
exhaustion …


warm and cloudy

after much anticipation
j’arrive !
I arrive at the Château de Sacy
with my kind husband/chauffer
it is midday and H serves us lunch
almost immediately
on the terrace,
which is fronted by a balustrade
from a real Château
late last night H arrived from Paris
and made an aromatic quiche
for us all
she has guests
a subdued Australian
and his insouciant and dark haired daughter
the trip to europe
is his gift to her
for reaching 21

the house is long and shuttered
mostly one room deep
upstairs I have my own
a 3 room affair of unforced
and perhaps 19th century charm
a bed in a niche
framed by pink curtains
(fit for a fairytale princess –
I feel like an excited 6 year old)
the associations are painterly
a bed fit for a Fragonard madmoiselle maybe

a bathroom
with sunlight filtering
through uneven glass and nets
warm flecks of light
hit the wall
and ricochet
across the room
like Bonnard’s brushstrokes
and the wooden kitchen table
and rush seat chairs
seem borrowd from Van Gogh

then I am alone
un-hitched now
for a while
from family and work
unpacked and taking in
the ambience
I instagram a bit
to hold on to the newness
and to show my daughter
where I am
knowing she would love it

but I am untethered from
one kind of every day
and about to embark on another
being an artist in residence
is a strange and marvellous thing
in utilitarian times
when everything, elsewhere feels
stretched thin, pinned down
by meanness and fear