Everyday I walk down the mostly deserted street from le gite where we are staying to la filature. I pass rows of windows and doors, which are closed and shuttered. Sometimes the shutters are open and you can catch a snatch of muffled conversation. Exterior shutters are a particular phenomenon of southern Europe, which is to do with the keeping out the summer sun, but it could equally apply to the northern Brittany storms and sea winds.
These windows fascinate me. The shutters are painted all shades of different colours. The other day on the way to the river I saw for the first time, pale lavender purple shutters. Très jolie. I’ve seen assortments of colours from dirty white or green, to rust red and bright blue. But the purple ones were my favourite so far. Sometimes there are flower boxes high up, but not often. No verandahs either so in the midday sun there is no relief from the glare, you have to wait till the late afternoon for the sun to come around and throw shadows from the houses across the road.
I’m interested in this streetscape. It reminds me of the winding streets in that classic 1920s German expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It’s the only thing I remember about the film, the crooked streets. You never know what is around the corner. When I arrived in the studio this morning I was faced with many weaving panels still to finish before I could pack up my space tomorrow. But once I started work, ideas started to flow.
Some vintage sewing patterns I picked up the other day from the charity shop provided the blocking up effect of women at work. I was actually thinking of the local dressmaker (one of many) who runs My Beautiful Laundrette, and how French women always look très chic. Then I remembered that these were only patterns for making clothes which in turn made me think of dressmakers dummy mannequins. This referenced the silent women at work in the silk factory who could sing psalms but not talk. I moved that ‘page’ next to the silk factory ‘page’ and proceeded to work on the other blank pages.
I wanted to make a streetscape so I started with shuttered windows. One set open the other closed. Over lunch I was gazing out the window of the studio looking at other people’s windows and saw the Tibetan prayer flags flying. Ah, I’ll move my paper bag flags to the metaphoric windows, and cut them all to size. I was happy with that and added in some soundlines of people talking and of course, the church balls soundline. I didn’t know what to do on the reverse of the window page but thought I’d trust in the process and let that evolve tomorrow. Then walking down the street coming home tonight I realised the back page to the windows will be doors! It falls into place.
This project was assisted by a grant from Create NSW, an agency of the New South WalesGovernment. The NSW Artists' Grant is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).