Sunday 1 December 2013

Catacombes de Paris

The Paris catacombs are yet another morbid landmark which I had become eager to experience. And this experience was wholly unlike any other.
The vast network of winding tunnels which snake within the belly of subterranean Paris were originally created during the quarrying of limestone. The tunnels took on an entirely different life when the cities largest cemetery 'Cimetière des Saints-Innocents' was closed due to unsanitary conditions in 1780. The remains from within the cemetery were exhumed and bought to rest in the quarries, creating the labyrinth of the dead which can be seen today.

Upon leaving the quarries and entering the ossuary, one is greeted by the words 'Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort.' (Stop! Here lies the empire of death') carved above a pillared doorway, and the tunnels change dramatically. Suddenly, one is face to face with a skull. Staring with hollow gloom in greeting to the morbidly curious. I fully confess that I was left breathless with the shock of being face to face with death so instantly, and the full reality of the catacombs is, there is no escaping the countless hollow stares. Nothing can prepare anyone for the actuality of seeing the bones of six million people.

The chill of the subterranean took on an entirely new level in the 'Empire of the Dead'. My body and heart seemed to ache with the cold and terror of this incredible place. The experience of the catacombs was, for me, almost two hours of entirely silent reflective thinking. Slowly walking through mile upon mile of what were, people, was indescribable. The catacombs generated a mixture of emotions; terror, disbelief, horror and largely sorrow. My heart ached for these poor long dead, long forgotten people. And of course the inescapable thought that the fate of these people is the fate of us all.
In a sense the catacombs were very beautiful. Delicate, often artistic displays of remains carefully arranged with love and care. A wonderful, awe-inspiring monument to the people who rest there. The inscriptions which appeared in some parts of the ossuary were appropriately reflective and thought provoking, maintaining the atmosphere of solemn sorrow.

Upon my ascent to the surface I found myself shaken and weak. The experience had been incredibly overwhelming and had chilled me to the bone, both physically and mentally. I toiled wearily upwards until eventually I stumbled forth into the bright sunlight of a gai Parisian street, where life continued as normal.

'Ainsi tout passe sur la terre. Esprit, Beauté, Grâce, Talent. Telle est une fleur éphémère. Que renverse le moindre vent.'

Monday 11 November 2013

Gala Dali

One beautiful aspect of the Teatre-Museu in Figueres was Dali's evident total devotion to his wife Gala.
During his lifetime Dali created many pieces focusing around Gala, she was not only used as a muse, but was often the entire meaning and subject of the art in which she featured. Dali described Gala as his 'basket of bread', she was his very life, soul and artistic direction.

The works on display in the Treasure Room in particular represented a tender, delicate portrait of a wife utterly adored. These passionate pieces are some of the most beautiful, detailed masterpieces I have ever seen and perfectly reflect Dali's love for Gala, and his unabashed desire to 'devour' her in equal measure.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Dali Teatre-Museu: A surrealist experience

I have long been an admirer of the work of Salvador Dali. His surrealist, symbolic works first began to interest me during school art projects as a young impressionable artist, and ever since his wonderful work has delighted me. For many years I have desired to see Dali's work up close and personal, and you cant get much more personal than the Teatre-Museu in Figueres. 

The Teatre-Museu, situated in Dali's home town of Figueres, originally began its life in 1849 as the Municipal Theatre. In 1919 Dali held the first ever public showing of his works at the Theatre, which was later reduced to a sketetal shell during the Spanish civil war. In 1961 Dali was gifted the ruinous Theatre to develop into his great Museum, and in turn Dali gifted the city with his wonderful art, infectious personality and a subsequent stream of visitors.

The Teatre-Museu is unlike any place I have ever visited. It is not merely a Museum, Art Gallery or elaborate homage. It IS Dali. The entire place and experience is deeply ingrained with Dali's character, personality, obsessions and his bizarre surrealist genius. The entire building is a strange labyrinth of elaborately themed rooms filled with a whole host of odd objects, sculptures and masterpieces.
Some of the most famed and recognizable of Dali's artworks are housed at the Teatre-Museu, and I can think of no finer setting than surrounded by items and objects which epitomize Dali. The optical illusions for instance, which are pure genius and thoroughly fascinating, can only truly be appreciated once one sees their great scale, and grand setting. Dali continued to expand and develop the museum until his death in 1989, when, at his request, he was buried in the Teatre-Museu, united forever with his last great achievement.

It was an absolute pleasure and a total privilege to get the chance to visit the Teatre-Museu on the drive to Barcelona, and for a few hours experience the eccentric and incredible world of Salvador Dali.

Saturday 19 October 2013


A curious sight in the Cathar village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert interested me greatly; a sunflower nailed to a front door was something Id never witnessed before, and sparked a great degree of intrigue. After extensive research I discovered that these were called 'Eguzkilore'.

Derived from an ancient tradition, the custom is scarcely mentioned or explained in texts, however it appears to have come from the Basque region, and is deeply rooted in French and Spanish folklore. 'Eguzki' (sun) and 'lore' (flower), (literally 'Sunflower' in Basque language), are actually dried silver thistles, and are traditionally believed to bring good fortune to the house which they adorn. In folklore it is believed that the Eguzkilore represents the sun and its power, which includes protecting a house during the hours of darkness, and warding off evil spirits, devils and witches. This tradition appears to be born out of Basque paganism, which existed in the Western Pyrenees before the arrival of Christianity in the region.
It is wonderful to see this old custom, which is clearly deeply rooted in Pyrenees tradition, survived today through the people of Saint Guillem la Desert.

Saturday 5 October 2013

La Sagrada Família: Exterior

La Sagrada Família, or to use its full name; La Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, is by far the most incredible building I have ever, or will ever be lucky enough to visit.
Originally begun in 1882 the Sagrada Família was a church on the outskirts of Barcelona with the grand ambition of replacing the Cathedral, located in Barri Gotic, as the focal point of faith in Barcelona. The original architect Francisco de Paula del Villar resigned after just one year, and his boots were filled by Antoni Gaudí, who replaced the Gothic revival designs with something altogether different. The museum below the Sagrada Família provides a detailed insight into Gaudi's architectural designs and how these developed with time, becoming less traditional and far more visionary, unique and other worldly.

The Sagrada Família has an organic quality which is unlike any other I have ever seen in a building. The entire vast structure appears to have erupted out of the earth, and is continuing to do so. The sheer scale of the structure is one which is simply impossible to absorb and digest. An eternity could be spent dwarfed in awe of the lofty towers protruding high into the sky, but not until you have journeyed to the top of one of these towers can you truly appreciate the grand scale on which everything at the Sagrada Família operates. Journeying 65 metres to the top of the Passion facade tower and walking the 400 spiraling steps back to earth was certainly a knee knocking experience, but an incredible one.

With an estimated completion date of 2026 (just in time for the centenary of Gaudi's death) the Church is a hive of activity. Watching the Sagrada Família grow before your eyes is a curious experience. This is by far the most impressive and complex construction project I have ever seen, and watching the construction workers and skilled craftsmen working tirelessly to complete this vast monument gives a glimpse into the past and how people watching the construction of monumental buildings such as Barcelona Cathedral, York Minster or The Notre Dame must have felt.

I urge anyone who has the opportunity to visit the Sagrada Família to do so, it is an experience you will never forget.

Friday 4 October 2013

Gargoyles and Grotesques

Gargoyles and Grotesques were in great abundance in both France and Catalunya, but Barri Gòtic offered some of the finest and most unique grotesques I have ever seen.

I had long looked forward to visiting the Barcelona district, and wasn't disappointed! Barri Gòtic's narrow maze of streets and alleys were packed with churches, restaurants and antique dealers. The districts beautiful architecture is wonderfully intricate and seemingly endless. The detailed fantastical figures which adorn most of the buildings are full of character, and seem to carry an entirely unique personality which is utterly delightful.

Friday 6 September 2013

Norwich Cathedral

A spontaneous visit to Norwich Cathedral this week provided me with the opportunity to view some incredibly interesting and inspirational ecclesiastical architecture. Norwich's cathedral is famed for its beauty, however having never visited East Anglia before I was keen to experience the charms of the city.

The Cathedral certainly has an eventful history. Began in 1046, the Cathedral was built on the site of two Saxon churches, but after completion it was struck by lightening, damaged in riots, lost its spire to high winds, had works halted by the arrival of the Black Death and was defaced and partly demolished by a Puritan mob.

The building which stands today is certainly an impressive piece of ecclesiastical architecture, with the second tallest spire and second largest cloisters in England the scale of the Cathedral is as grand and pompous as its decorative details.
My favourite part of the Cathedral was its moody cloisters encircling a grassy courtyard. The beautiful stained glass windows look out to the insular labyrinth, while the graves of the dead pave the floor and their coat of arms line the walls, faded and forgotten.

Sunday 21 July 2013


Crows have long been an artistic obsession of mine and are amongst my favourite subjects to draw. I have always felt a certain affinity towards crows. I admire their intelligence, their role in history and folklore and sympathize with their undeserved historical reputation as a bad omen and sign of evil.

In an attempt to capture the wonderful characters and personalities of my favourite bird I am currently working on a series crow portraits, in which each crow represents a different emotion or character trait. There is something about this bird which I find absolutely delightful, and I never fail to smile whenever I see a crow, and I never tire of drawing these incredibly beautiful creatures.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Plague and Pestillence

Plague and pestilence are aplenty at Eyam museum, so its only natural that my enduring morbid curiosity bore me to Eyam, the 'plague village'.

The Derbyshire village of Eyam was famously infected with the plague in 1665 when plague bearing fleas arrived concealed in a bundle of cloth from London. The village, which quarantined itself from the outside world in an effort to prevent infection, is steeped in the history of the plague and ideals surrounding it, including Danse Macabre.
Outbreaks of plague historically have far reaching social, religious and economical consequences, all of which can be observed at Eyam museum.

Eyam museum details the scientific aspects of the plague, and chronicles its spread across Europe. However the most interesting side of the devastation of the plague is the human story, which is highlighted and focused upon in the Museums exhibits.
The plague provides an insight into how humans typically react to the extreme and sudden devastation of natural disasters, events such as this often bring out the best, and worst of human nature. Religion often becomes important, either as a ray of hope or an explanation for the catastrophe.

The images below detail some of my favourite exhibits of the museum, including morbid, god fearing woodcuts, taxidermy rats showing the differences between the common brown rat and the plague rat, and an iconic symbol which has become synonymous with the the great morality; The Plague Doctor.

At the Graves

Saint Lawrence Church in Eyam is a fairly typical English church, with most of the features you would expect to see in a modern Anglican church. However Eyams plague history means that among the hundreds of graves are a rare few of those who lost their lives to the plague. The graveyard is one of the most charming I have visited in England, with many beautiful old headstones, long forgotten and untended. The churchyard is dominated by an 8th Century Saxon Cross, which combines a mixture of Pagan and Christian imagery in its carvings and the tomb of Catherine Mompesson, wife of the Churches Reverend, whom died of the plague in 1666.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Gothic Grandeur

Deciding to utilize a Bank Holiday we planned a peaceful day out at Bolsover Castle, to explore and soak up some history. However, upon arrival we were greeted by the sight of a Medieval encampment, hoards of armour clad warriors, and hundreds of spectators. So a relaxing walk around the castle grounds was slightly more hectic than originally planned!

The architecture of the Castle is incredibly eclectic, and largely ruinous. Various parts of the castle reflect its colourful past and differing uses throughout history. Beginning life in the 12th century as a  genuine battlement, it later became a 'stately home castle', as is so often the case, meaning the additional mixture of classical, baroque and Norman architecture could wrongly fool one into thinking Bolsover Castle is all style and no substance.
My favourite part of Bolsover was the Little Castle. The small building, designed to emulate a Norman keep in appearance, was infact a lavish house. Now part in decay, part restored, there is an eerie charm about the place with its many maze like rooms, nothing more than an empty shell hinting at former grandeur.

And yours truly ready for battle!

Monday 11 March 2013

Scelestus Sanctis

Scelestus Sanctis (Wicked Saints) are a collection of my bizarre, grotesque imaginings, blurring the boundaries between human and animalistic traits.

The characters of Scelestus Sanctis form a Bastard version of history where human superiority is non-exsistant and animals rule the roost. The good, the bad and the incredibly ugly of society are all creatures from the darkest corners of imagination, forming a sinister world of monstrous nightmares which can never be unseen.

Below are a few of my strange Scelestus Sanctis, each with its own name and personality of entirely unique weirdness.

Padre Edgar Corvus
Sir John Crawford