In June/July 2023 I went on a 2-month self-directed residency to Aragon a region in northeast Spain that borders the Pyrenees, to work in the landscape. My son lives in Banaguas, a tiny ancient village (the church dates from 1100) about 4 kilometers from Jaca, the ancient capital of Aragon. He was traveling this summer so I decided to sublet his studio apartment in Banaguas and take my painting practice on the road.
Working outdoors is an important part of my art practice and I often walk long distances carrying my materials, working in challenging conditions. Because of logistics, weather, and time, working outdoors focuses my approach and I found in Spain that it also focussed my ideas. I plan what I do outdoors, working fast, spontaneously, with limited materials to develop ideas quickly in response to nature and my surroundings. While in Spain, with more time and better weather conditions, my approach become more experimental shifting in an abstract direction.
I took this way of working to the abandoned hilltop village of Bergosa, near Jaca in Aragon where I began to use painted paper to collage colour structure into my paintings, also using stencils and mediated forms of mark making.
Bergosa is an ancient village (the church is dated from 900), that was forcibly depopulated in the 1960’s to make way for a tree plantation that was part of a nearby dam project. . The beauty of this ivy-covered ruin belies its very modern abandonment. However Bergosa remains in local collective memory, with the families of the last inhabitants regularly visiting and creating places for people to sit and enjoy the spectacular view of the Pyrenees and take in the atmosphere of the place. The festival of St Saturnine is celebrated here every year. So in this way Bergosa, despite its sad history remains connected to the land and people and is also a symbol of the continuing protest against the dam – where new developments are planned.
At Bergosa I began connecting to the story of the place and became interested in how romantic ideas or representations of ruin can conceal a more nuanced reality and the role of collective memory and art, (painting in particular) could have in revealing this.
I am prolific outdoors, creating paintings, video, found objects, story. Once I am home it takes time to incorporate this into studio work. This collision of abstract and representational painting approaches and narratives of place and memory (both personal and collective) is something I plan to develop into new work in my studio.