John Slavin

Artist Painter

Early French Landscapes

Landscapes of the Pyrenees, from Summer 2009

This collection of oils on canvas is the culmination of five years in the mountains, painting and drawing the Pyrenees Orientales, 2007-2012.

     In my art I have tried to capture the soul of the mountain.  On one particular mountain which was victim to the most unpaintable sunsets and undrawably detailed cloud moonrises, I met a mole.  So great was the feeling of envy which I as a painter bathing in the most vivid of colours felt for this blackest subterranean creature that I felt I had met the seed of my opposite.  And that the mole without eyes in his chamber of soil was the one who could see forever the sun and the moon and all the exploding nebulae.  Whereas I with my blankest paper to confront was an artificial construct of my own brain.

     On another mountain I saw the eagle wheel and his presence raised up the rocks but did not form them into a defense for the refugees of crusade.  One gesture of an eagle’s wing has the power to lift the greatest of boulders from a lower level to a higher, just as a conductor’s wand may induce from an orchestra the most beautiful of notions.  On yet another mountain I heard in the autumn the baying of the hounds and the sounding of the hunter’s horn.  The crash of the wild boar climbing at a run away from his pursuit was power enough to suggest that I who would climb snows to blind cloud would be lucky enough to escape with a few tattered drawings.  And so the years turned to their wheel and gradually I revisited places separated from themselves by the seasons.  Nature spoke truth in contradictions.  I saw red beech leaves in the spring because storm and snow had turned the newborn instantly to the ancient with one withering breath.  Where there had been snow and mist now shone rock and mirage.  Rivers dried as they do in the old ballads when love is forsaken.  I bathed in hot springs that flowed from the earth’s side.  I discovered a river whose water was four times saltier than the sea.  Shunning always the constructs of man I was showered by the mystery of nature.  From the sand of the seashore across the baking expanse of Mediterranean coastline, it was difficult to distinguish radiant thundercloud from highest mountain top.  Drawing continuously the very rocks became transparent and the solid nature which the boot sole expects under the pen became fluidly insubstantial.  Now the dragon of vision had caught up with me and I was in its claws.  Yet there is little profit in being destroyed no matter how beautiful one’s destroyer.  Using the humble donkey as an example I managed to stop dead and let the whole circus proceed as it would without my humble artistry.

     The response of a castle builder to a mountain is legitimate.  The response of a painter to a mountain no less so.  Had it not been for the transmutation of energy, the Cathars would not have walked into the pyre, the troubadour would not have been inspired to wander.   The song, the mountain, the painting fall into death if regarded as inert matter.  They cannot stay.  Even we whose souls inhabit them cannot stay.  Like the river, like the cloud, like the mountain, our nature will change given astronomical measures in which to play.

      Join with me on this pilgrimage, through mountain, gorge, across fierce rock, deep forest and eternal snow to arrive at the place above precipices.  The way is familiar -- through enchanted story, through song, through the sonority of truth.  The dangers are immense and the rewards only as we ourselves evaluate them, but there are exceptional human beings and there is love which has no capacity.  From the wilderness then, fuelled by song and spirit, the pilgrim arrives never at anything other than the vision of his own heart.


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The Road to Montsegur
Nocturne Pic de Fourcat, River Lasset
Pic de Bugarach
Cascade de la Moulin, Fourtou
Bugarach:  The Upside Down Mountain
Canigou above Valmanya
Cascade on the Tech before Amelie
Cascade Rennes-les-Bains
Cascade Orbieu
Cascade des Mathieux at Bugarach
Catalan Snow -- Tarerach
Dent d'Orlu
Forest Cascade Vallespir
Low Sun over Montsegur
View Southwest from Bugarach
Terrace of Cardou
Bugarach from the Devil's Armchair
Cherry and Pine Montagne de Taube
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