|La Missonnais – Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany by Neville Carlton
This blog post is slightly different from my usual in that it involves a contemporary, or nearly contemporary, artwork. Normally I am entirely preoccupied by centuries old art, but for this artist, I make an exception.
I met him in a poetry writing group which I joined in 2008. Neville Carlton had become a member of the Borders Group in its very early days. He was also a talented artist, trained at the Slade. He died in January this year in his early 90’s. About three years ago he held an exhibition at the Walls in Oswestry, and this painting was there. I bought it from him, having fallen in love with it on first sight.
I think what attracted me is the way in which it teems with life and colour. Every time I look at it, I see something new. I have always liked paintings of houses, and also very detailed things which one must spend time examining and decoding. And as it combines these two interests, his painting has provided me with a great deal of pleasure.
In addition, it has caused me to think about another, very different, painter who spent some formative time in Brittany: Paul Gauguin. I am familiar with his more famous Breton period paintings, but I did not realise how many landscapes and housescapes he had produced while living there. Perhaps there is something about the Breton houses, with their many shuttered windows, and the light of the fields coming right up to their doors, which calls the painter’s eye.
Farm in Brittany – 1886, Paul Gauguin
Landscape of Brittany, 1888- Paul Gauguin
A blue roof farm, 1890 – Paul Gauguin
(In this later painting, Gauguin is using the instantly recognisable colour palate of his mature work)
One day I will have to go myself, and find out.
La Missonnais – Ille-et-Vilaine – Brittany
The old English painter has come
with his hat, brushes, tubes and stool.
Curious, three hens approach
and cock their heads,
but they must wait their turn.
For, while the light falls to the west,
the house is purple and aureolin
with early evening clouds.
Everything in the garden
has reached the height of its verdure
and the day wilts.
The young greens are dulled to sage.
The chimney is the old blood
of hand-made brick
above azurite doors
and bone-white window.
Each stone has its own potion of umber and gold.
The wattled hens and rusty bucket
are carmine by the pump.
Lime bright stones frame the ashy soil
where a woman bends
to the vegetation of the beds.
She pokes and pulls; he brushes and strokes.
Each sets this day into another;
into the half-life of minerals,
wood dust and dividing seed.
Soon the milked cows will low,
lumbering to the meadow,
as they always have,
and the pigeons will stop clawing
the roof tiles and settle to roost.
The moon will fade in cloud,
then brighten in its night
And the painter will have to go
and take this day into his mind’s eye –
into another place – another sky.