Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spanish thoughts

We are in the small fishing village of Cudillero, on the northern Atlantic coast of Spain, a week into our trip. This region of Galicia is among the rainiest in the country, and its coolish, damp, seaside character contrasts dramatically with the rest of the Iberian peninsula, which is either drier and rockier, or warmer and more Mediterranean. This land is green and gray, with steep ocean cliffs and soft hills covered with grasses, shrubs, and trees reminiscent of the northern California coast. Eucalyptus trees, for example, are everywhere, with their tall straight trunks dripping strips of bark and their pungent, peppery scent. Streams run down to the ocean, and river deltas open out into lovely clean beaches. There is very little population pressure here, and the Atlantic stretches westward into the unknown.

It is hard to imagine a landscape that would provide more contrast to the sandstone cliffs and mesas of the American Southwest. The pinks, oranges, and sages of the latter are completely absent, and there is scarcely a straight line to be seen other than the western horizon, which at home is generally not straight. The smaller patterns and palettes that present themselves are more complex, and somehow more mysterious, than at home: gone is the cleanliness and honesty of the arid desert. Swirls of moss and shadows of pitted granite; nuances of green deepening to black; glossy slate shingles in deep blues, rusts, grays. On a less tangible level, this land has been inhabited since pre-Neolithic times and has a traceable history that reaches much farther back than in the New World. That, plus the strongly Celtic cultural heritage (another contrast to the Latin character of the other side of the country) lend a completely different aura to being here.

Had I time and materials, I would settle in for a week or two of painting, to see what it would be like to transform my reactions to this place onto canvas. I'd like to see what would happen, and what the process would be like; and whether and how it would differ from my work at home. Just the palette and the marks would be so different. I am going to try to retain these nonverbal memories in some mental place where I can access them at home, and see if I can resist the local environment there long enough to record some of these impressions.  Maybe the Colorado Plateau isn't my only muse; perhaps I can use my senses and my skills to record other places and times.

The first photo above was take from the train, and shows a bit of reflection from the window, but it also gives a sense of the coast south of here. The second photo is of some of the ancient rock that is at the base of all the vegetation.

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