Museum studies

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The week I came to Tarn-et-Garonne, I visited the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle Victor Brun, in Montauban. It gave me some quiet time to think and sketch and practice looking again. It was also a beautiful sunny day in a lovely town, and helped settle me into my new environment a bit. It let my bones settle for a few hours in a space somewhere between the tiny quiet village of Caylus, and the busy city of Paris.

It was one of those rare old fashioned museum experiences. I never made it to the natural history museum in Paris (which is now on the list for “next time”). I had however gone to Deyrolle in my last week. Photos were not allowed, so I can’t share with you the images of taxidermy rabbits twirling plates, or adorned with dove wings. Nor can I impress upon you the feeling of having stepped into a dream, expecting a surrealist to pounce at me from behind the baby elephant, or to open a drawer of butterflies and find them alive.

Though not as dream-like in its display—nor as expert in the taxidermy itself—the museum in Montauban was an inspiring trip. I sketched for a while, and took some photos of feathers, which will help in my new drawings. Late 19th century trends were evident. Predators were presented mid-attack, birds in flight, and fauns with subtle noblesse. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the displays. There were visible stitches where a lion’s hind leg had been torn at some point. There was a cougar whose eyes had been strangely fitted, giving it a slightly cross-eyed stare which limited the impact of its drawn teeth. Squirrels scampered across branches that also acted as playthings for sloths.

There is something so fascinating about museums and how they change over time. This (and the Deyrolle shop) was the closest I’ve come to stepping into a cabinet of curiosity.

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After some travelling (Belfast to London to Paris), I’ve arrived and have started to settle into Caylus. I’m here for three months at DRAWinternational. This medieval french village has already been an inspiration to me, though who knows how and when it will work it’s way into my art. The variety of textures are fascinating to me. The worn stones of ancient buildings, the patchwork of century-old additions, soft moss and slick water pathways down the city’s old walls. It has been alternately cold and snowing and sunny. The studio is rough and romantic and ready to use. The rest of the space in this residency is finished with care and nicely furnished.

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This week has been slow, but not a surprise to me. I’ve slept long and well on a big comfortable bed, sat with tea by the fire, and had a few demis at the pub. I’ve already started to get my feet under me in terms of the practices that usually help me to get drawing. I’ve been voraciously reading both fiction and philosophy. I’ve gone for runs on highways lined with plane trees, and along river banks piled high with moss. I’ve even visited the Natural History museum in Montauban (which deserves its own post).

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Paris taught me so much about my process. The slow grind eventually propelled my work forward in a strong direction. I’ve learned that guilt can be paralyzing, and so, to avoid it. Paris was also a time to research and collect inspiration for future projects. I’m not sure whether that will filter through quickly or take a few years. In Belfast, I got straight to work and the result was a dramatic one. I’m not yet sure what to expect from this totally different residency environment, but I have a feeling it will be productive. It has already been inspiring.

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