Casa Tagumerche La Gomera Artist Residency Canary Islands 1st Nov - 21st 2023
Wow what an experience , what a place.
La Gomera, is the second-smallest of the main islands in Spain’s Canary Island chain. What it lacks in size it far makes up for in earth colours for my palette .
This is an island of small village communities perched amongst craggy volcanic mountains. With abundant hillside terraces for crop growing and a vast and dense forest at higher altitudes known as Garajonay National Park. The climate here almost comes in two parts and it's fascinating.
Alojera is our home for the next three weeks and it is strewn with lush palms and the glaucus hue of many a hardy cacti plant. From the house we look down towards the village , the sight is a joyful view of Terracotta roof tiles and painted houses hugged by the cliffs and framed by the ever changing backdrop of the wide ocean.
From day one of my residency at Casa Tagumerche I am mesmerised by this lush and varied landscape bathed in sunshine and surrounded by the drama of the Atlantic .My skin warmed , my heart aglow , eyes desperate to capture all there is to see I feel immediately inspired but I wait . I am patient with myself , I allow a couple of days to settle , this I learnt from my previous residency experience where I began to try and capture a landscape too soon which resulted in struggle , here I will allow my surroundings to sink in before I even begin to sketch.
I take time to watch the lizards scurry through the gardens , be-friend the house cat Petri and take in the sunset view from the terrace. This is the first time I have attended a residency with other creatives and what a joy it is to learn of each-others loves , lives and art practices. Each evening we share a meal together and converse with an open-ness so often avoided it makes me feel very privileged to be here , in this place at this time and with these wonderful people.
A day of collecting samples of fallen earths from many sites on a drive towards the hills is the catalyst for action. The earths here are a dream to handle , dry to the touch and crumbling with the minimum of effort . Hands in the ground I begin to feel the urge to create and with my pre-posted parcel of art supplies still un-traceable by post the earths and an egg yolk become my principle tools - and I love it .
Best find of the trip - a perfect half moon lava bowl from the garden and a smoothed oval grinding rock , my pestle and mortar work to process the most gorgeous array of colours and much to my delight the mid-day sunshine makes drying out levigated pigments a doddle. I now have a La Gomera earths palette and the painting begins.
The mix of warm and cool here is important. I have spent many long painting hours trying to capture the cool tones of the far North and here I find my task is to get to the warmth .There are cool colours present too , in the foliage , in the forest and in the mist that frequently rolls across the mountain tops but the land is warm , the climate is warm , the glow cast over the island is warm and I find that the combination of the two tones is key to portraying the impression of this light.
A visit to the forest delights the senses. An important and UNESCO recognised relic eco-system, Garajonay national park is a refuge for several endemic species , most notably the twisted ,curved and prevalent Laurel trees that cover almost 11% of the island. It is cold here and regularly clouded in an essential moisture giving sea fog that creates the most magical atmosphere. The smell , the taste and feel of the earth , I know I will be required paint this.
By day eighteen when my parcel of art equipment arrives at the house I have already made over thirty drawings and paintings. Using the foraged earths and some kindly donated paints from my fellow artists it's somewhat of an anticlimax and a reminder that making art is never a known process , it's a constant lesson and an evolution of process. I am glad it turned out this way.
I come away from the island with a deepened sense of connection. La Gomera is far from my home but for three weeks the land, its people and my fellow artists sheltered and embraced and inspired me.
I was very fortunate to witness the festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe during our trip , the most important religious event of the Canary Islands. Celebrated every five years islanders welcomed the glittering icon through song , music and celebration. The village of Alojera was alive with a touching level of devotion and a generous carnival spirit .Whisked across the town square by an enthusiastic local and fuelled on paella ,we all enjoyed a wonderful night of celebration . The rousing sound of the Chácaras still clattering in my ears I am now back in the UK in my studio and ready to begin painting the portraits of a snatch in time when I was lucky enough to have resided on a beautiful island.
Thank you Casa Tagumerche and thank you La Gomera you were unforgettable