This is slightly different to usual for this blog. The image above isn’t a photo in the normal sense – it’s a piece of laboriously produced artwork I’ve produced. It’s based upon a photograph I took, nevertheless. I used a wet ink technique (that’s all I’ll give away) and have made several landscape and cityscapes this way. I call them “photocolours”, because no one else seems to be using that description. The end result has a lot in common with watercolour painting. Looked at close up, you can even see the brushwork and characteristic pits on the heavyweight paper used.
The image is of a well-known scene. It’s the Mer de Glace as it snakes down from below the Grandes Jorasses and beneath the foot of the Petit Dru, in the French Alps. It’s from a very accessible spot too. A ride on the Montenvers mountain railway from Chamonix and a forty minute walk uphill will get you to the spot, known as “Le Signal” or “Le Signal Forbes”. So will an airy ride in the first section of the Aiguille du Midi cable-car and a walk of about an hour and a half. The two can be combined to make a very scenic day out. Or so I’m told. I’ve been there in October three times now and that’s the month that the Montenvers railway closes for maintenance. It’s a very long walk back down to Chamonix, and seems to kill my feet far more than many routes.
In Chamonix and on the view boards at Montenvers, you’ll see old photos showing the Mer de Glace (literally “Sea of Ice”) as a magnificent river of blue-white. It seems to have been pretty much like that until at least the 1960s, with a glacial snout that spilled over the lip of its hanging valley, and which was visible from Chamonix itself. Not any more. Whether it’s global warming, or just a millennial retreat phase of the glaciers of the Alps, the Mer de Glace these days is still huge, but a much more subdued creature.
But, oh the situation! The trench the glacier struggles to fill today marks the eastern boundary of the chain of peaks known as the Chamonix Aiguilles. Through the window it affords, the viewer at Le Signal gets a magnificent view of the north face of the Grandes Jorasses and much else besides. Due left of the viewpoint for this image, out of sight here, but dominating your attention when you’re there, is the perfect mountain spire of the Aiguille di Dru. And to think that on my last visit, I had this place totally to myself. I’d taken another gamble on the weather forecast (see the previous blog in this series) and it had paid off. I promise I’ll use a shot of the Dru for a future episode of this blog.
I have several versions of this view, as photos or artwork, but this is my favourite. That’s why it’s been chosen as the picture for the flyer and poster for my first ever exhibition.
That’s right: exhibition! For the whole of February 2014, I am taking over all the space in a lovely gallery near to where I live and it will be filled with art-work and photos to showcase the stuff I’ve been doing, mostly in the last three or four years. I’m calling it “The Bigger Picture” partly because some of the pieces are quite large, but mostly because I wanted to challenge the stereotypes that some people who only know part of what I do might have developed.
I even managed to come up with a musical link for the title of this blog. “Hanging in the Gallery” is a Strawbs/Dave Cousins song about the regular anguish of being an artist or a performer. It’s long been one of my very favourite songs. It only just failed to make it to my personal “Desert Island Discs” selection of eight tracks. I have even more affinity with it now I’ve decided to expose a big chunk of my work to public scrutiny:
“Is it the painter or the picture
Hanging in the Gallery?
Admired by countless thousands
Who attempt to read the secrets
Of his vision of his very soul.
Is it the painter or the picture
Hanging in the Gallery?
Or is it but a still life
Of his own interpretation
Of the way that God has made us in the image of His eye?”
(First verse of Hanging in the Gallery © Dave Cousins/Old School Songs)
I found the track on YouTube too. Here.