The Parisian Flâneur
I had the good fortune to be an artist in residence in a studio apartment in the centre of Paris from May to June this year. The Cité Internationale des Artes is a large complex of around 150 studios in a cluster of buildings surrounding the core structure, a huge five-level 1960s building which occupies a city block on the right bank in the fourth arrondissement. Managed by the cultural affairs department of the City of Paris, visual artists and musicians can apply for residencies for two months or longer, some staying for up to a year. There are a number of studios offered by Australian universities and the Australia Council for the Arts, but I was accepted via a direct application and selection process. Artists visit from all parts of the world to live and work in the studio apartments and experience the treasures that this great city offers. Although there is no requirement for artists to exhibit their work, opportunities are available within the studio complex to present large shows or alternatively present an open studio to show works resulting from the residency. I decided to take the latter option.
There is a staggering amount of museums and galleries to visit in the centre of Paris, numbering in the hundreds, and despite my best efforts there was too much to see in such a relatively short time. My daily routine involved a morning’s work and research in the studio and then the afternoon and evening was spent flâneuring1 around the city, looking at historical or contemporary art or some other place of interest.
Of particular interest was locating and documenting different types of patterns located in buildings around Paris – museums, cathedrals, mosques, palaces and also details of apartments and shops. From these sources I made a series of painted studies utilising selected patterns to produce an inventory of my discoveries, as well as a window installation and a video work.
One of my more memorable experiences was visiting the medieval Notre Dame Cathedral in the regional city of Amiens, a sister cathedral to the famous one in Paris, which had an amazing array of architectural decoration, including a stunning array of patterned geometric black and white stone floors. I am sure that my visit there will be inspiration for future projects back in Fremantle.
I had a stimulating and fruitful residency in Paris, one which will stay with me for a long time.
This magnificent city certainly lived up to its reputation, grand in scale and revealing wondrous discoveries on a daily basis and even after eight weeks I had barely scratched the surface. The locals I encountered were friendly, happy to overlook my limited language skills and solved any communication problems with typical French efficiency.
I would like to end by saying how much I appreciated the generous support of the Artsource Go Anywhere grant, which made it possible to undertake this residency.
1 The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. It carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street (Wikipedia).
Trevor Richards was the recipient of a 2013 Artsource Go Anywhere residency, generously funded by the Artsource Patrons.
This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Summer 2013/2014.
Artsource supports the practice of professional artists with the Global City Residencies.