Leaving the house in the shadows of winter, the trees bare and bleak rising toward the cold blue blue sky, we emerge from the village into the light, into the sun, along the narrow roads winding through the rusty vines, filled with wellbeing as we soak that wonderful warmth into our bodies. Locked down in Provence in a corner of the planet so beautiful, how could we complain?
Our funny little old house, with its up and down floors and rickety uneven stairways, climbs four floors with thick stone walls and is now so warm and comfortable we find it a wee bit hard to go to our more austere studios. It is an act of immense decision to undress there and get into our old work clothes in those frosty rooms, but we soon warm up, sculpture is so physical and we can light a fire on the top floor if we want to be doing something gentler and less arduous.
Michael is about to start a huge painting. He has been eyeing the canvas for days now, cleaning up his space around it, arranging the enclosure of the space and the heating, messing about, a bit excited and nervous too. He’ll go like a crazy cat when he starts, and I’ll be lucky to get two words from him for days. He has just completed two large sculptures, one of which he intends to be included for the exhibition at the Citadel Museum in St Tropez. He is really happy with his giant ‘Little Bird’ with its joyous face and little raised wing. Perhaps it says something about the feeling we have, like little birds in the nest waiting for our first flight out. We are sort of careful and sort of anxious, not quite sure if we are ready to be ‘out there’, but busting to be free.
In my studio, filled with my sculpted shields, I am inspired by the shield of life, protecting the warrior. I love the shape and form of this shield, it is a bit gothic surrounding the central figure, and it is a bit shell like, with its grooved patterns on one side and worn and pitted on the other. It also has the immensity of a Zulu shield, there to protect the great warrior completely… it feels ceremonial and I think it comes from my Guardian figures, the feeling of protection one creates around oneself in times of crisis.
Just now and once again, we are in lockdown. We have spent nearly the whole year in our little village and with each lockdown we have gotten to know the place more intimately. Some things have not changed, like the old men, sometimes ten or twelve of them gathered closely on the benches outside the Tabac, most of them in their masks, grumbling away as their glasses get foggy. We are so lucky to have the few shops here open, like the Alimentation, Tabac, the Health food shop and Boulangerie. Everything we need is here. We walk in the countryside and gather mushrooms and herbs, it’s beautiful, and the people we pass in the street are very kind and friendly. Our french remains terrible and is especially worse behind our masks but once things normalise I am sure our french will pick up again with the inevitable socialising in this very gregarious village full of music and happenings.