ANTONIA ROLLS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE NEWS. An account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Worthwhile, but exhausting, so pour the tea and make yourself comfortable...(this painting is a family portrait, about 2'x 3', oil on wood. It is the Ross Family, each family member with items that describe them best. And at the front, on the grass on the right hand side, is a photo of Grandma, sadly missed.)
Today we are going to celebrate our release from the Intellectual, the Political and the Furious. With a passionate Hurraah!we are revelling in colour and more colour, and doing so with a jolly but Beastly look in our eye.
Well. These Fauves then. A rather brief movement, from about 1904 to 1908; a loose knit bunch of artists moved on from the painting style of the Impressionists who worked from life exactly as it was, and en plien air (when we were Bognor Impressionists we loved the en plien air idea and were often found gathered behind post boxes in force ten gales out by our Bognor sea, trying to work from nature and muttering to ourselves "Must capture the moment, Must capture the moment."), and became interested in vibrant colour, wild brush stokes and a degree of abstraction and simplification of the subjects. As with all these movements, Fauvism kind of happened, with the two artists who are credited with being the Chief Fauves, putting on an exhibition without any idea that they were a movement, let alone a Fauve one. Henri Matisse was one of these artists, and Andre Derain the other. "I say, Henri," Andre did not say as they painted together one summer before exhibiting with a group of artists in 1905 at the Salon d'Autumne in Paris, "you're a bit of a beast, you know." "Fancy," Henri did not say in reply, " I thought you were a bit of a Wild 'Un too!" This refers to the name "Fauve" which means "wild beast". As you can imagine, the Fauves did not name themselves as such, a deeply unimpressed critic did that in an effort to cut them to the quick with scorn and derision. Instead, he named a movement and everyone could breathe again and concentrate on following it. This is how it happened. In the Salon exhibition of 1905, the critic Louis Vauxcelles said of the collection of wildly, brightly, madly colourfully, seemingly over the top paintings as they hung in the same room as a Renaissance type sculpture, ""Donatello au milieu des fauves!" ("Donatello among the wild beasts"). There is that word. Explained. Fauve. These artists were Fauves. Wild Beasts.
Andre Derain. Wonderful light and atmosphere, and you can see how the splashes of colour and shape must have been hard to take for the general public, after the pain of coming to terms with Impressionist images. "Will it ever end?" they must have murmured to each other. "No." Derain may have replied, his brushes loaded with daglo yellow and crimson, "and now for another Landscape."
I love the Fauves. As the sole conscious member of each Bognor Movement, I am thrilled to be expressing myself this week in vibrant colours in a rather abstracted way. " Flowers?" I growl to my friends as they sit around my kitchen table, "they bring the Animal out in me. Let me at 'em," and I paint huge canvases of greens, vermilion, yellows and oranges and if you look carefully and squint your eyes, you can see, if I tell you, that they could be a vase of flowers. "Roar!" I say.
Matisse painted this picture of me at Aberdeen University. All my friends are just out of sight in this particular work, and as you can see, I am very at home here.
When I was at university in Aberdeen, I and my dearest circle of friends were very inspired by Fauve paintings. We loved the warmth and exaggerated colour of Matisse his figures, his interiors and landscapes - we loved the pictures of views from out of a highly patterned and decorative room through the open windows to the streets below. The gloriously bold and colourful Kees Van Dongen, the wonderful Maurice de Vlaminck and of course, Andre Derain. Somehow, in Aberdeen, we lived in an atmosphere of unconsciously recreated Fauve pictures. We looked like the bold, bright and simplified figures. Our rooms were identical to the images of highly patterned and ornate interiors that we saw and identified with. We felt that these Fauve artists had painted us, and painted our fantastically eccentric digs, and we fitted in perfectly to the whole vision of it all. The had painted our souls.
Madame Matisse by Matisse. Note the green line down the middle of her face to suggest shadow. How fantastic is that? How bold and brave. Note her blue hair. Or maybe Mrs Matisse did have a green line down her face and blue hair. Henri just created the Fauve movement to make her feel better.
Bognor is becoming a wild and abandoned place for artists to be this week. Our Fauvism has forced us to paint green lines down each others faces because we still need to loosen up a little and can't quite paint what we don't see. Paint the green line on, say, my dear friend Eileen Rafferty (the photographer extraordinaire)'s face, then paint her onto the canvas from life, till we get used to seeing such wild and extreme colours. Instinctively. Fauves were also influenced by African art and African masks that were doing the rounds in Paris. Many artists were affected by them, not least the Fauves. We have no African art here, but we have loads of Polish people - with Polish shops - and probably Polish art. We can be strangely drawn to that. We Bognor Fauves need to paint fabulous views from our windows, onto the shopping centres below, in madly loose and free strokes of lime green and blue, wild and energetic sweeps of red and purple, and splashes of lemon yellow. We have no axe to grind at the moment, all our anti-art, all our symbolism and deep seated insecurity about the human condition, all our horror of the bourgeoisie and our fixation on the unconscious, all seem to come to naught, as we leap into action and paint everything red, and wild, and abstract. Our souls glory in the painterliness of it all. Especially me, since I used to think I lived in a Fauve painting with my friends (none of whom are artists and all of whom do not know what I am on about, I expect). In a passionate fit of Fauve, I will arrange the rooms in my house to look like a Matisse painting. Bognor could do with a spot of colour. Maybe the council will give me a grant to make the rest of Bognor into a Matisse painting. That would be good for business, until of course, Bognor moves on and becomes intellectual and anxious again.
This is a view of Bognor Regis Harbour after the council grant has enabled me to make it into a Matisse painting
And here is Bognor High Street, based on the Vlaminck painting that looks very like this. Those figures are shoppers in Wilkinsons, but Wilkinsons has disappeared into colour and abstraction leaving the shoppers wild and confused.