Saturday, March 28, 2009

Artists in Tarascon

Just over a year ago, the Artist and I noticed that someone in our street had opened what looked like an atelier, or gallery. There were paintings on the walls and a man could be seen in the back painting on an easle. It was like a reconstructed scene of the life of Van Gogh in a TV documentary (I know I keep going on about Van Gogh, but he was local). We were intrigued, as we have always talked about opening an atelier on the ground floor of our house. Anyway one day, as I walked passed on my daily walk with Molly and Ralph the man came out onto the street and he introduced himself to me as Francis and said that he had heard that my husband was an artist and was wondering if he wanted to join the Artist Association of Tarascon. I passed the message on, and after handing over €50 to Francis, who turned out to be the treasurer of the association, the Artist became a fully signed up member.
The first event that we went to was a dinner at Le Bistrot des Anges, a restaurant in le place de Marie (real name le place de Marche). It started, as all these things do, with aperos (aperitifs, pastis or wine) and speeches. The president introduced himself, his name was Christian, and he welcomed everyone and talked about all the things the association was hoping to accomplish. Various other people also spoke, including the Mayor himself who had popped in on his way home to give the event his blessing. There was a photographer taking photos throughout the speeches and aterwards all the members gathered outside for a group photo. There was a good turn out, maybe 50 people or so. I had no idea there were so many artists living in Tarascon. Most of them were over the age of 60, but there were a few youngsters, (under retirement age) like ourselves. Over dinner we met Fred and Nadine. Fred owns the house where Francis has his gallery and Nadine is his girlfriend. Fred is short with spikey salt and pepper hair and makes teeth, Nadine is slim with short cropped hair and does painting and decorating. After much eating and drinking and making conversation with the other artists about what kind of art they made and what inspired them, Fred invited us back to his house for more drinks. Fred had been married to an English woman and loves all things English (maybe not his ex. but he didn't say). On the top floor of his four storey house, he has a jacuzzi (the French are mad for Jacuzzis and it seems they always want to put them on the top floor of their houses, what happens if they spring a leak?) Opposite the jacuzzi is a mural of a classical landscape which had been painted by Francis in lieu of rent for the gallery space, where he also lived. Francis used to be a builder, but had given it up to paint full time. He was also in something like the French equivalent of the territorial army.
The next artist association event that we took part in was a weekend when all the artists showed their work in Les Halles - the street leading to the Marie with covered arches on either side. There was quite an eclectic mix of work of Provencal landscapes, poppies, lavender, bulls and women in traditional costume. The man next to us specialised in 3D ceramic reproductions of classic cars; they were very detailed and he had been very inventive with what he used for details like a spoked wheel or a steering wheel. Unfortunately not very many people came to look at the work, and even fewer bought anything and other than a cavalcade of classic English cars like 1930's MGs and Daimlers, which happened to be passing through Tarascon that day, sounding their claxons, (the man next to us got very excited) there was very little passing trade.
At some point in the day, Francis turned up. He had a row with the President, (Christian) because he hadn't been told about the weekend and hadn't been asked to participate. The cracks were beginning to show and we feared that the writing was on the wall for the Association.
That was the last we heard about it until The Artist got a call from a woman inviting him to attend a meal at the restaurant Le Provencal last week. Unfortunately I couldn't go, but he related the evening back to me. None of the original members were there, the President is now a woman and Francis, who has since been kicked out of Fred's place for not paying any rent or bills was last seen painting a mural in the Kebab/Sandwich take-away cafe on the main road around Tarascon.

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