Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Les Amanz

(Les Amanz - final works on my front door)

ONCE UPON A TIME in twelfth century Brittany (and England too, in fact) lived and wrote a poet lady named Marie. Marie de France she is called, though not much is known about her. She rewrote (in a form of Anglo-Norman) Arthurian legends, Aesop's fables and her best known works are probably the Lais de Marie de France. Many moons ago when I studied languages, I read some of these in Old French, and I still have my text with faint spiders of my pencil notes in the margins.


The stories are romances often, or bawdy tales, and one of them, Lanval, is being made into a film by the wonderful Chagford Filmmaking Group. It is part of a joint Shared Legends project with the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien in Brittany and there's to be an art exhibition inspired by the tale in conjunction with it, which will be held both in France and the UK later this year.
Many excellent artists will be taking part, and I seem to have snuck in amongst them!


The story of Lanval is one of love and fairyland, and honour and knighthood. And can be read here {PDF} in English, and (for the keenest linguists!) here in Old French.

I have been working for many many weeks on my two paintings for the exhibition, and they are now at long last over in Brittany making their way with all the other artwork into a book about the project, before they are hung on the walls of the castle.

(Laval paintings unfinished, showing wooden frames before staining)

These works have been a struggle for me. I'm not sure why. I began with two beautiful wooden frames given to me that seemed to suit the purpose perfectly as we were asked to do two works rather than one. And so I embarked on much larger paintings than I would've normally attempted given the constraints of time and other (frankly daunting amount of) work.

(Lanval work just begun - pencil outlines)

But I did it anyway, and chose for my subjects the two lovers central to the tale. Lanval himself: the good and true knight, and Tryamour: the most beautiful fairy who captures his heart. The frames were long and narrow and so seemed to suggest full figure medieval portraits to me. They stand facing each other, and I have dressed them in a version of Breton costume. Of course my romantic characters of fairyland have somehow become beclogged peasant lovers, beautiful in a human way, and more than a little melancholic!






















(above: Tryamour and Lanval close-ups finished)

I took inspiration from the indescribable skill of Rogier Van Der Weyden, Netherlandish master of the emotional medieval portrait. (To be honest, looking through books of his work makes you simultaneously glory in its sheer brilliance and want to give up altogether!)






















(above: Tryamour in progress, with Rogier Van der Weyden & Domenico Ghirlandaio inspiration)

I soldiered on, with time running out, and a large area of hardboard to cover with oil paint.
The figures stand on rhyming couplets of Old French from the original story:

Fais fu d'un mult gentil vassal;
en Bretanz l'apelent Lanval
{Old French}

et dont le héros, un noble chevalier,
a pour nom Lanval en breton.
{Modern French}

It tells of a very nice nobleman,
And it's called Lanval in Breton

{English}
























(above: Lanval finished)


tut a cheval une pucele;
en tut le siecle n'ot si bele.
{Old French}

une jeune fille à cheval,
la plus belle du monde.
{Modern French}

all on horseback rode a young maiden,
in the whole century there was none so beautiful.
{my English translation}
























(above: Tryamour finished)


I had also planned involved scenes charting the story under the words too, but at a certain point in the process I realised I'd have to curb my ambitious and unrealistic plans and keep it much more simple.


The backgrounds I painted blood red in preparation for the gold wax that was to cover it. And the clothing was simple white and red and black. And I stained the wooden frames dark oak with a bit of black boot polish to finish.


Gold dust was in the air for days while I applied the gold wax. I had golden fingers and found smudges of gold all over the place...


And my deadline was overshot by a fair few days... I had become rather stretched out with all my work and had got to that point where you can no longer see what you've done.
But it had to be sent off anyway, and I hope that by the time the exhibition comes round I might have forgotten what my paintings look like and be pleasantly surprised after a helpful hiatus from them! (If not, I shall be hanging my head in shame amid such salubrious artistic company!)
Even my rushed photos of the work are dreadful - I do apologise! The day was sunnier than sunny outside and so glared on the gold, and inside I tried to hang the paintings on my old wooden walls, but couldn't get back far enough to capture the whole works. The photos taken with flash obliterated half of my detail, and, oh! - what an all round frustration!
What I would have done with more time!

(above: hands and paint surface in close up, finished)

We all have our days of creative work-doubt I suppose. And this was brought on for me by having too much to do in too little time. I have learnt from this that breaks and escapes up the hills and into the forests need to be part of my working practice, not postponed until completion! I have breathed sighs of relief amid the green since these works were collected by the courier, and my creative eyes are refreshed anew for the next works.
These pieces are titled Les Amanz ~ which means The Lovers in Old French.
Soon I shall show you summer beginning, bluebells perhaps, new creations and.. well.. who knows what else!

I leave you with the last lines of Marie de France's Lanval:

With her he's gone to Avalon -
Or so say the poets in Breton -

To the fair island far away

She ravished that noble youth;

No-one can say any more with truth,

And I have no more to tell of this lay.



(Les Amanz finished - a better photo by the French exhibition team! - click to enlarge)

87 comments:

Shelley Noble said...

These are magnificent works, Rima. Brava!

Karen said...

Beautiful Rima!

Kickcan and Conkers said...

How gifted you are - beautiful work.

Stacy Wills said...

rima, your work is so beautiful...magical...it speaks of and calls to something very, very deep.

jodi said...

Whee! coifs and sabots -- lovely! We just came across a pair of big wooden sabots in Brittany a couple weeks back -- for in the garden I guess, since they are too big and slippery wooden to wear around really. If you go to the Saturday market in Rennes, you might see a man dressed like your one here selling food at his stall.

Anyway, the portraits are a thing to be proud of, no worries there. I love the eyes of woman!

I have been meaning to write you a letter. I think I said I'd do it in May, but things didn't turn out as I'd supposed. Soon, soon. Oh, but never mind that... congratulations on a job well done!

Vicki's Bit-o-earth said...

C'est tres magnifique Rima! Just gorgeous, and if I could afford it, I would commission such a door by you for my home too. Your style fits so perfectly with mine~ Vicki

Von said...

Beautiful toil! Now on to the next thing!

mermaiden said...

hung on a castle wall; cést parfait.

Artanis said...

Beautiful work!

Line Lorna said...

So inspiring! And so truly beautiful, both the painter and the paintings! a new journey well traveled

Anne-Marie said...

Curious ... Tryamour's face looks exactly like yours, if the photo of yourself on your blog is any thing to go by. Same features, same slightly melancholy expression, same loveliness :-)

Owen said...

Mystically enchanting !

Valerianna said...

Rima, they are lovely... they do feel a bit different, indeed, than your usual faire. For me its challenging to send something off that's different before I've had time to "not see it", but I bet you'll be pleased once the exhibit rolls around ... I love the sculptural quality of her headpiece - and all the fabric- and the way the frames seem to capture the figures in their own space, though they are reaching, leaning towards each other, and, yes, quite melancholily (strange word!). And, yes, hung on a castle wall they will be enchanting!

A mermaid in the attic said...

Magical, absolutely magical Rima...and what's that about 'sneaking' in with the excellent artists?! You're right there with them, no sneaking needed. I love that Tryamor looks like you, did you intend it, or do you just find that your female faces often end up looking like you (I get told this quite often and it's entirely unintentional)? And I do love seeing the close-ups of your works in progress. It doesn't take away any of the magic, but it makes them earthy and real...and gives me the chance to learn from them too!

Leslie said...

My Granpere was born in Brittany and you do great honour to his and therefore my heritage. They are lovely and I hope that they are back in the UK when I come for my visit this fall. Thank you again, for sharing your art and process with us. Both are amazing!

theundergroundrestaurant said...

Beautiful. And the woman looks just like you!

Eliza said...

I do love your art, these are wonderful.

FishStikks said...

These are as wonderful as always dear Rima!

Elva Undine said...

I loved Lanval in college! I read it in the class that made me decide to become an English major. ✩

dinahmow said...

A lovely tale and a lovely work.
Rima, if your maiden looks like you, can I say that your lover looks like Rudolf Nureyev?

mama p said...

These two are truly gorgeous... and maybe you can't see it now, but really there is this lovely growth that has come through your work, this ripening of something really wonderful. Keep on :)

Until We Bead Again, Beth Murr said...

Stunning! SO pretty.

ArtPropelled said...

Beautiful work, beautiful hands. They look wonderful on your front door!

Jessica said...

It is when we are forced to move beyond our usual manner of creative expression that we discover more of who we really are. I think there is an energy urging you to expand and paint larger works. You have done these exquisitely so you must be ready. Many blessings to you and yours.

Claire said...

Hey Rima, so glad you didn't give up.
Stunning paintings, despite your self doubt your talents shines in everything you do.
Enjoy you time in the hills and woods, it's well deserved

pRiyA said...

Rima, these works are super. I looked at them for a long time. Your stylization of the figures is masterful! The sense of accomplishment one feels after finishing a challenging project must be wonderful.
And your hair! What an enormous mass of it sitting behind your head! Thanks for a glimpse of that :)

Lindsey said...

Rima! Hate that awful deadline feeling! It's terrible when it's so sunny and perfect outside as well. Going for a quick walk and feeling guilty! Anyway, as a fresh pair of eyes these are beautiful...The size is just great and I love that long format.

tree shadow moon said...

Oh Rima, these works are really spectacular! Doubt and dissatisfaction always do creep in when deadlines and overworking are concerned, but trust us, as your objective audience - they are truly stunning! And having spent a holiday camping around Brittany the other summer (one of my favourite places, I'd happily uproot and go to live there!) I can say that they will truly fit in with their surroundings too!

Have a little break into the countryside now! :)
Nà x

Cobalt Violet said...

Really amazing work. You have a gift. I have done gold leafing but never wax ... I didn't know it even existed. It's lovely ... the faces and hands too...

Penny said...

These are stunningly beautiful Rima, would love to see them in real life.I will read more when I have time. Thank you for giving this informatin.

Crafty Green Poet said...

these are such wonderful paintings!

Snippety Giblets said...

I agree with Mama P; your work seems to be going from strength to strength and broadening horizons all the time. I have never read Sir Lanval but will do so now :0) Your paintings are truly wonderful. I LOVE the fact that they are peasants rather than Lord & Lady. Beautiful !!

Tonia said...

Given what you managed to achieve with the time you did have, I can only say that I think they are glorious now - I love the way their faces remind me of some of the beatific smiles I've seen on medieval russian saints.

Griffin said...

Doubt? But screw your courage to the sticking place and you'll not fail... Stiffen up the sinews, summon up the blood - imitate the action o' the tiger!

These are fabulous and now I want to read the Lais... I still have Christine de Pisan to read too.

La plus belle du monde... your work is just that m'dear.

Carolyn said...

Modern masterpieces. You put so much of yourself in your work and it shines for all to seel

Jericho said...

This is so amazing, Rima! :) It has this flemish sort of atmosphere, but still has the Rimanesque. I qish I could also have this beautiful door someday.

Jericho said...

And yes, Rogier Van der Weyden is a glorious painter, as well as his incredible works. :)

Half-heard in the Stillness said...

They are wonderful Rima!!

dellamarinis said...

These are indeed masterful. I see the Netherlandish inspiration, but your style is very much centered in their heart. These paintings will be a big success for you I think.

Sonia ;) said...

Rima they are amazing. I would give anything to be able to paint like that. Old worls masters painted like no other and u have their talent. WOW...LOVE them....if u had more time omg...

Have a great week xoxoxox

dogcatchicken said...

I loved reading the poetry and think the art work very apt..when I first saw it I thought Botticelli - but that might be because I am a nincumpoop/ or perhaps Botticelli was influenced by Rogier Van der Weyden? The gold dust on wax was an inspiration and very illuminating.
I am sure it will sit well in the exhibition - will there be some music from the period - breton pipes?
Oh such joy and wonderments!! -> am off to search on Old French and Occitan language

catvibe said...

Rima, you are my latest greatest inspiration. These are fabulous. You have such a wonderful ability to capture the medieval style and expression, the subtleties of color and line, and some wonderful magic to boot. Marvelous.

Enelya said...

Ooh fabulous! So very very striking =)

tinsel said...

This is wonderfull.I make these clothes here in Norway.Her headdress,it gives her power.With the key to the food chamber hanging in athred from her waist she had it all.I will come to one of your exhibitions .

Coeur de cerise said...

Dear Rima,
Again, your work is exceptionnal. I wish I could go to visit that exibition. Your are an inspiration for me. Your perseverance and the love you put in your work.
Monique

Sue J said...

WOW! They are amazing. I love the fabrics. Thanks for sharing.

joana soares said...

Congratulations for the exibition and for your work which is extremely beautiful and very well conveys the feelings between the two lovers.
The frames are also beautiful.
Fantastic work!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wow.
They are amazing.
This show is such a perfect place for you to be.

William said...

I so thank you for sharing your art work, and your world.

It is such a beautiful, magical place.

It brings a smile to my face every time I visit.

Brilliant!

Melanie said...

Well done Rima. I'm sure the pair will fit right in with the other artists' works- you are up there with them.

Now go have a ramble in the fields and get refreshed.

jamjar said...

Two beautiful rich paintings, so so lovely.

Julianna said...

They may have been a struggle but they turned out SO beautiful. The definitely have the feel of a Rogier Van Der Weyden about them, and he is one of my favorites!

The Flying Dragon Bookshop said...

a lovely post, I've printed out LANVAL to enjoy with my tea.
Thank you, Rima.

Heather said...

These paintings are marvellous Rima and you need have no qualms about them. Your work would sit well among illustrious company. I have just returned from a week in Avalon (Glastonbury actually). It was so lovely and I am totally consumed by medievalitis.

Anaïs said...

OH MY !!! I can't believe I will actually see your work in real ! The mid-summer exhibition in the Chateau de Comper has become something of a ritual for me, and this year it will be even more amazing and beautiful than ever ! Will you be there too ?

rossichka said...

What a hard work, what a long process of creating and the result is wonderful! There's no place for doubts or fears... France will admire your "Les Amants", I'm sure!
Thank you, Rima, for admitting us into your studio, close to the miracle of painting!
They both look so well on your front door! I like their hands reaching for each other and the frames that don't allow them touch. There's some kind of an impasse!
Good luck with the exhibition!!
(... Did you read my answer to your last comment in my blog?:O )

Vita said...

Rima, this is AMAZING, and if I did not know that it is your work, it could be easily be mistaken my a painting by some old Master . What a wonderful wonderful piece of work!

April said...

I so enjoyed reading the story of Lanval! Thank-you! Your paintings are beautiful...and I think you are right in that you will have forgotten how stunning they are and be so delighted once you see them agin on the castle walls!

Sian Thomas said...

What wonderful lovers, Rima, and how strange that we should both have been thinking about things Breton recently. Another ripple on the web of wyrd, perhaps?

S x

Emerald Window said...

Absolutely Enchanting!
Cenya

Allegra Smith said...

Oh, but they are so stunning! For a moment looking at her I saw you, your eyes downcast, a touch of melancholy like a drop of perfume, so evocative, so exquisite, so ephemeral.

You are right of course about your journeys out of the atelier. One must, must find the time to commune with the "other". Work can wait, life cannot. Take care of yourself, be well within.

hls said...

Thank you for sharing your recent work, Rima. I think you will find that absence will make you appreciate your work when you lay eyes upon these two again. All will have been so worth the effort.

A good lesson learned as well, to take time out, clear the must in your head and go outside. It does become as important as any deadline, yes?

Thank you again for such an interesting post. - heidi

Chris said...

Rima, Spectacular works! I so enjoy your stories as well.

heather said...

Brilliant! what you say about
Rogier Van Der Weyden is how I feel every time I visit here.....you are such an inspiration Rima and as hard as the work load has been for you, I am in awe of everything that you have achieved. Love the final verse, and how that delightful little glimpse of her white slip in your painting, tells us all of the ravishing that her downcast eyes try to hide! Lucky Lanval.
I truly appreciate all the knowledge that you share and being able to come here and feast on your wonderful works.
Thank you x

Lydia said...

Your humility is as stunning as your paintings are glorious!

Rima, I had to catch my breath when I first scrolled down to the larger view of Tryamour. I see my own mother's face there, as I remember her when I was a child. It leaves me quite speechless......and grateful.

Bramblewood Bears said...

Rima, I have followed your blog for quite some time now, and have never left you a comment, though I have desired to do so on many occasions. You have been so incredibly an inspiration to me and my own art. You also were part of the driving force that encouraged me to start my own blog :) Our lives are so different, yet our artistic spirits are intertwined. I don't know if you accept blog awards or have time for that, but I wanted to gift you with an award. Please forgive me if you don't take part in that, but please visit my blog to read why you so inspire me! Thank you for your lovely wanderings and painted oddities! Your blog is like a vacation to me :)
Hugs and Blessings,
Tomi Marie

steven said...

rima thankyou for this rich invitation into your painting and living life. the two paintings are simply beautiful and carry the weight of worldly joy and suffering well. i appreciate the links as well especially having come across philip de croy who through his image spoke to me across the centuries. i'll be spending time trying to understand that connection! i'm excited to see bluebells. they have sustained my deep heart connection to my english home for forty four years now. steven

Graceful Moments said...

They are exquisite and with the perfect amount of humanness conveyed to keep them honest and true. The couplets are so beautifully lettered. You are rightfully included in that list of artists. They, in fact, should feel honored to be included with you. Wonderful, wonderful work!

Ben Hatke said...

Wow what a lovely project, Miss Rima! I know something about time constraints and missed deadlines, but this all came together beautifully nonetheless.

Keep painting. Our world is brighter for it.

Cathy Cullis said...

so exceptionally beautiful Rima, yes indeed, I will return and see these pictures again when I have more time for they deserve attention.... I love the woman's face especially, best wishes Cathy

Ciara said...

Oh, yet again, stunning, Rima. And so wonderfully, completely Rima-ish! I love them, and yes the melancholic loveliness only adds to their beguiling.

I do know that feeling of rushed overwhelming-ness, and gasping for more Time, and every time, afterwards, the feeling of regret. If only I had planned better...

You did wonderfully!! C x

Rowan said...

A beautiful pair of paintings, I'm sure they will be much admired when they hang on the castle walls. You should be proud of your work, I wish i could go and see the exhibition and admire them in reality.

Cat (darklingwoods) said...

What a beautiful and wistful pair Rima, and thank you for sharing your process and adventures!

Debbie Miller of Onion Patch said...

You do such beautiful work!!!!
Blessings,
Debbie

Dixie Sargent Redmond said...

Amazing! Beautiful job. :-)

Cathy said...

What a luscious, gorgeous, evocative blog, Rima! I love it!

CIELO said...

This is gorgeous... awesome job! The beautiful young maiden of your painting reminds me of you for some reason... I see the same hidden melancholy in her face and features that I see on your photograph on the right of your blog.... perhaps you secretly decided to add some personal traits onto your maiden so it will remain forever secreted buried in her for whoever want to see it??? ;) I love your blog and personality... is a pleasure coming here...

Cielo

Kim said...

These are simply stunning, Rima! Quite beyond words...

moonbindery said...

I remember reading (and loving) Marie de France when I was at university. Your paintings are lovely--such a good fit for Marie's writing.

mademoiselle G said...

Wow these paintings are just amazing! Ah..such a pleasure to visit your blog ^^

acornmoon said...

I can't believe that I nearly missed this, your talent amazes me, you go from strength to strength.

doro said...

so mistic!

Sandy said...

These paintings are FANTASTIC!! I love your blog.

lakeviewer said...

Such a treat to read about this project, to see your work in progress, to appreciate the interpretive quality of all your strokes. Amazingly beautiful!

Yoli said...

Rima absolutely stunning and exquisite in it's depth and simplicity.

arianie said...

whaou ! there is a unexplained force and mystery in your works ! they are just wonderful

aafke7 said...

Very familiar with the Dutch and Flemish painters I am amazed by your artwork! Lovely and l'ésprit is excellent caught.