Saturday, March 31, 2007

moulin à vendre

moulin à vendre
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

moulin à vendre [2007] oil on linen, 30 x 60 cm

monsieur B's old mill had been on the market for a few years already... the asking price was 20,000 euros, but he could be persuaded...
we were in the neighborhood one bright spring day and made an appointment to see it for ourselves... it was oddly situated, with a tangle of wild brambles and neglected plum trees in full bloom from one direction, and manicured lawns and suburban homes from the other, all in the midst of walnut orchards
still, it exuded an intriguing and rustic appeal... of a simpler time, slower rhythm, a more primitive disposition...

*more photos of the mill on

Friday, March 30, 2007

rue des solitaires...[part I]

On a refulgent Sunday morning in early April, the streets of Paris are near empty. A few intrepid souls are wandering about, perhaps on their way home from a long night out, or on their way to early mass. Some may be compelled to do both...
Not you, however. Proudly mounted on your brand new wine-colored vélo, you try valiantly to keep up with the even more intrepid ML, who is riding hard on his well-used blue bike. You are not sure where you are going; you can only follow behind, and happily, the only cars on the road are parked ones.
ML indicates a northeasterly direction, towards the 19th arrondissement. But first cutting through the 10th along the Canal Saint-Martin, criss-crossing over its many short bridges to faire du léche-vitrines (really only pressing noses onto the glass!) of an atelier on one side, and then that of a little shop on the other.
The rippling surface of the slim waterway reflects the fresh greening of mature trees lining it on both sides. This shady ambience emphasizes the stillness of the setting, a setting that bespeaks the distinctive and intimate flavor of this particular neighborhood, which seems an era or two behind the grand boulevards and the cosmopolitan crowds of le Paris chic not so far away.
Here, the inhabitants carry on seemingly unaware of the formal dressed up city that the world knows so well. Here, too, life slows to the murmur of the flowing canal...
In the pale green glimmer of the dewy air, a trio of old men sit on a bench dozing off after le petit déjeuner, only to be rudely awakened by a troupe of pre-pubescent boys setting off fire-crackers into the water and then running away amidst shrieks of laughter.
Yelling after them is an artisan with a cigarette dangling from his lips and looking more than a little worse for wear. He has just settled into a sunny spot outside his workshop to nurse his coffee and his hang-over. Two teenage girls walk quickly by arm in arm and giggling loudly, eliciting a friendly leer from the grubby artisan.
These glimpses of la vie populaire in the numerous "villages" of Paris are what impress the most... this perceived dimension that entices and insinuates its essence into your memory.
Only in Paris, it seems, do the ordinary details of street life somehow manage to emote a staged or at times, dream-like quality... surreal, if you will, and you can see how the Surrealist spirit took flight from the vital and immanent reality of this strangely esoteric city.
Having read George Melly's 'Paris and the Surrealists' [1991], you wholeheartedly agree with his observation that "The streets [...] seemed in Paris to be the place where life was lived, friendships and enmities forged, where lovers recognized each other at first sight." And it is this " 'Mystery and melancholy of the street' which lay at the very centre of Surrealist inspiration..." [and] " their haphazard yet deliberate strolls through Paris the Surrealists, when in each other's company, were open to signs and portents concealed behind the banal surface of everyday life..."
Riding eastwards now past the sprawling site of the Hôpital Saint-Louis towards the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, (which Melly had noted as one of the "various 'chosen places' revered by the Surrealists, [...] that astonishing pleasure ground, hallowed by nineteenth-century suicides, which occupies a long section of Louis Aragon's 'Paris Peasant' [1926]...", from which Melly had quoted Aragon's wry comment that "The great Suicides' bridge which, before metal grilles were erected along its sides, claimed victims even from among passers-by who had had no intention whatsoever of killing themselves suddenly tempted by the abyss...")
Hmm... certainly a dangerous provocation worth pondering over before approaching such a disagreeable bridge. You hope that all those hardy joggers and Sunday strollers are well-informed of this assertion and will know to avoid the cursed bridge, come hell or high water!
No riding is allowed within the park, so you walk your bikes for a while, passing a large group of elderly women practicing tai-chi together in an enclosure, like so many awkward flamingos at the ménagerie. Feeling slightly disconcerted by so much determined effort, (and by the thought of all those sad and gullible souls lost in the, well, gully), you head out of the park and wind your way down towards a nearby working class neighborhood around the Place des Fêtes.

[excerpted from 'Rue des wistfully explored by Mme.V" by g. verster, 2004]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

No. 18

No. 18
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

18, rue des solitaires...75019

rue des solitaires [part II] head out of the park and wind your way down towards a nearby working class neighborhood around the Place des Fêtes.
The buildings here are modest in size, the streets are narrower, and worn-out clothes hang to dry outside the upper windows. In a small courtyard, you hear children's voices and cartoon songs echoing from dim interiors, and the smell of cooking wafts out with the sounds. The late morning light is brightening up above the shadowy corners, warming the pale stone walls.
You hear the approaching sound of heels clicking sharply in hurried steps along the cobbled pavers, and then retreating behind the slam of a door. It is a scene that could easily be suffused with Magritte's visual sensibility. Still astride on your bicycle, but balanced on the curb, you take it all in.
This metaphysical tranche de vie that goes on around you while you insert yourself for a brief moment... and then wondering what it would be like to be imbued with it for a while longer, to actually saturate yourself into this vague "surreal-scape" as a sojourner.
Number 18 on the Rue des Solitaires has weathered celadon green walls and grimy white window shutters. Above the front door on the second floor is a large arched niche with a statue of a male nude. His right arm is tucked up behind him while his left arm is raised, with the nicked elbow leaning against the wall and the hand shielding his eyes, as if he is waiting... or searching out for someone.
You feel an immediate pull... un rapprochement...
The latent possibility of "Life itself... summoned into being this poetic deity which thousands will pass blindly by, but which suddenly becomes palpable and terribly haunting for those who have at last caught a confused glimpse of it."
[Louis Aragon in 'Paris Peasant', 1926]
You want to enter his private domain, to behold the lives within... to peruse their solitudes on a street with such an achingly romantic name.
You look up at the three windows on each of the two upper floors, with their shutters now thrown open... and you feel your spirit yearning for a spell in these rooms.
You imagine yourself standing at one of the windows above, breathing in the soft spring morning on the Rue des Solitaires, while tracing the path of a lone cyclist riding by with a warm brioche nestled in the basket of his black vélo... both of you raptly intoxicated by all the nostalgic possibilities that is still Paris...

[excerpted from "Rue des wistfully explored by Mme. V" by g. verster, 2004]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

tuaregs in the gare de lyon

noble desertmen so far removed from their seas of sand,
are, in an instant of transport triumph, deposited into a sea of men
[of such profound dissimilarity]
as in that great disgorging hall of the gare de lyon.

tombouctou - destination - paris

their dark skin still swathed in miles of white cotton,
they push their few soft bundles in high design metalcarts
through indiscriminate pastelpeople
and flashing digital technology.

why this need to leave their saharan vastness and determinacy
for the mediocre madness of western modernicity...

perhaps a onetime shortcircuiting of their ingrained route,
with a wide detour north to the cold tangential eurofall -
they are nomads, after all...

in a jetstream fashion, are we not all nomadically inclined
to follow our own oasis calling,
to find refuge in some distant refulgence,
now and then even meeting tuaregs midway through
our concentricity
as in the humming embrace of the elemental gare de lyon.

'tuaregs in the gare de lyon' by g. verster

Saturday, March 24, 2007

objet volant bienveillant

objet volant bienveillant
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

objet volant bienveillant [2007] oil and acrylic on canvas, 75 x 75 cm

sometimes in the french countryside one will come across the odd homebuilt spaceship, or perhaps it really is an alien "flying object" on a friendly mission from afar...

[as spring arrives and the land is ready to be worked over once again, this one may soon leave its secluded wintering stopover beside a benevolent farmer's field in the charente-maritime region - to be sighted later as another inexplicable hovering object somewhere over the
cornfields of middle america...]

[coincidentally, or mysteriously as the case may be, as this painting was being completed, the french space agency has just released its entire archive of recorded sightings and documented cases of "objet volant non identifie" online... the agency's website has apparently and understandably exploded due to overwhelming interest... or (to the 'twilight zone' soundtrack)...more likely due to the zap guns of little green extra-terrestrials in silver suits!]

Saturday, March 17, 2007

la prunelle du berry

la prunelle du berry
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

heading south on another early spring road trip, the plum orchards had just burst into full bloom...rows upon rows of leafless trees smothered in snowy blossoms...

we stopped for a bag of their famous prunes stuffed with prune was a mouthful of the sweetest decadence to be rivalled only by the most luscious of chocolats...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

père lachaise

père lachaise
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

"...and I am walking with eric satie along the boulevards of paris in the springtime... un orchestre d'oiseaux every so often breaks this map of feelings... drifting through these landscapes of love... watching strays from père lachaise...can you hear the cats purr?...can you hear the master?...stone against their velvet fur..."*

*from 'Walking with Satie' by Malcolm Mclaren on his album "PARIS"

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

le 7 mars...

le 7 mars...
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

fou à lier...!

les sept épées

la première est toute d'argent...

la seconde nommée noubosse...

la troisième bleu féminin...

la quartrième malourène...

la cinquième sainte-fabeau...

la sixième métal de gloire...

et la septième s'exténue
une femme une rose morte
merci que le dernier venue
sur mon amour ferme la porte
je ne vous ai jamais connue

'les sept épées' dans "La chanson du mal-aimé"
Guillaume Apollinaire [1880-1918]

Sunday, March 4, 2007

dans les nues...[IV]

dans les nues...[IV]
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

in brittany, it is easy to lose one's bearings in the constantly shifting cloud formations...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

chez monsieur C

chez monsieur C
Originally uploaded by gverster_artwork.

chez monsieur C [2007] oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm

the portal gates were opened to reveal a grand manoir basking in the morning sun... monsieur C walks slowly up the lane from his village to curious and admiring strangers parked in front of his house... as he kindly engages in conversation with them, the shutters are thrown open on each floor, and from one window, bedlinens hang out to air...

this is cognac country and across the lane from his house, monsieur C's vineyards stretch down the slopes as far as the eye can see... this is "land that has bore centuries of wine to refine the palate of time, to anoint those
who are born, and those who learn to fly, those who never leave the ground, but still look up and search the sky."*

*verse from "monsieur congé's dovecote" by g.verster, 2004