I went to the opening of a show on Friday, works by two artists I vaguely know. The first: Doris Schlapfer, a friend of an artist who lives in the village and the second: Patrick Sauze who coincidently owns a barn here in St Louis, but never visits – we met once about ten years ago.

The exhibition was at The Maison des Art at Bages, called ‘Screens:Ecrans’. It was an interesting exhibition – hung well in a decent space. I thought the work was quite powerful and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a cutting-edge new gallery in the East End for example. However, Bages is on the coast in a tiny fishing village, idyllic – next to a lagoon full of flamingoes – really hidden away from anything.

Having entered into a dialogue with Lauren Healey (a-n ed for jobs and opps) on the art ‘system’ here in France I took the opportunity to do some research. At the opening I asked the artists why such a gallery showing decent work isn’t known – they replied that it is known, in the departement of the Aude.

I emailed Patrick to pick his brain a little: You can see what I’m up to on my blog which is on a-n (the artists’ newsletter) a great resource and community for artists and curators and students – check it out, it’s great. Does something like that exist in France? You will also see a link to ‘axis’ – which may be interesting for you; it’s another artist and curator organisation, but more about promotion – they now accept international artists. Both a-n and axis are good for opportunities world-wide.

I think I mentioned to you how surprised I was that the gallery in Bages is little-known outside Aude, if a gallery with exciting contemporary work like that existed in the UK its reputation would be wider spread; maybe it’s a ‘cultural’ thing rather than an ‘art ‘ thing.

I would be interested to hear how you view the situation, i.e. the divide between art practices in the provinces and the cities. That difference doesn’t seem to exist in the UK, rather, art created and shown in obscure places, let alone in small galleries, is celebrated and soon becomes known and held as valid and exciting to the wider art community.

I received this reply which seems to speak volumes about the outlook of artists regarding communities and networks:

I think that unfortunately the artist’s life is difficult in France,
there is a lack of vision. I think there is a saturation of artists, too many artists and not enough quality places.
There may be communities such as “a-n ” and “axis” in France, but I do not know.

So the prospects don’t look good here – if the equivalent of a-n and axis exist in France, there seems to be an unspoken hierarchy of artists, maybe at the top are those who don’t need that system of networking and support. . . the outlook seems to be more dependent upon a gallery structure rather than artists getting together and creating opportunities. It’s another world which doesn’t seem to be changing.

I remember somebody asking me, whilst I studied at the RCA, whether or not she should move to France for the art-scene. I said maybe not, perhaps it’s different in the cities though… I’m beginning to think I was right.

It is heartening when I’m contacted by someone like Jane Boyer though, another a-n-er, she also lives in France and we plan to share experiences – so it’s not so isolated after all.

However, it is about the ‘work’ – sadly due to making applications that has suffered this week, but that’s the life of an artist these days (maybe not for French artists though). The ISBN came through for the ‘Path’ book, so that will be printed as soon as the author has completed the text; a copy will be in the British Library which is good. Also, tonight I’m sending the path video by FTP to Ottica TV (http://www.ottica-tv.com/) for their annual screening at Better Bankside next to Tate Modern – its just started to snow, so hopefully we won’t lose the internet connection.




Usually I cast February off as the month to just get through – the coldest, dullest, quietest. . . isn’t it funny how lots of exciting things seem to happen when you least expect it.

Last week I was contacted by Lauren Healy, Jobs and Opps editor for a-n. She asked for my views and experiences regarding making contacts internationally, social networks, approaches that I’ve used to begin /continue my international practice and for some specific information related to the French arts scene.

I think she plans to write an article for the Jobs and Opps page. My response attempted to sum up my experience living here up a mountain in the middle of the Pyrenees whilst trying to have a foot in a happening art-scene. I outlined the ups and downs of my working practice and concluded:

. . . it seems that my working practice here reflects that of many contemporary artists – it’s about collaborating, creating art events and not relying upon the established gallery system. Where I show isn’t restricted to where I live, which is mostly made possible through online networking.

In an ideal world I would exhibit more in France, but, as yet, the internet is not used in the same way by artists and curators for networking, i.e. they don’t have an equivalent to a-n.

[An hour after I posted this blog-post I was telephoned by a curator in Agen inviting me to have a solo show in a museum. She saw my work during the open studio event I participated in last May. . . so it looks like I’ll be showing in France pretty soon, made possible by old fashioned personal contact, funny how things turn out.]

I went to check the Jobs and Opps pages and stumbled across Nick Kaplony’s selection for the current Choice Blog – I recognised the photo which accompanied it, a photographic scan of my village I made during the summer (I held a flat-bed scanner up and waved it about a bit). That was a nice surprise to be chosen. So people do read my blog, which is a bonus as primarily I write it for myself, it helps make concrete my sometimes vague ideas and acts as a pseudo journal recording any developments regarding my working practice.

He wrote this about the blog:


I checked out his work and it seems we share a common interest in Rorschach ink blots – all fuel and inspiration for this new aspect of my work.

I’ve been working on the book of the images from the video ‘St Louis. Path 1′ – I’ve decided to create it through Blurb.com as a record of the project and give the proceeds to charity. A writer friend who specialises in Surrealism is going to write an introduction for it. Everything seems to be coming together, just one aspect to organise, the ISBN. I contacted a friend, Silvie Turner, who also used Blurb for one of her projects and who has published many books on printmaking – not only did she send me the details for the ISBN, but invited me to show my book at an artists’ book event she is organising. She has a great collection including books by Lanyon, Caulfield, Chadwick, Emin, Long, Paolozzi, Pasmore, Phillips, Tilson,Tyson. . .

So, the dead month of February has sprung into life – no time to let the bitter howling wind get me down.