Sunday, 10 June 2012

SEVENTH WEEK - Accidental Corners

Every quarter seems to have its Open Studio event.

I left M and her friend beneath the enormous stained and naked wenches of the Gare de Lyon and walked.  Randomly my feet took me down one curving street and up another.  I find it intriguing that even in this massive city, with no conscious effort at all, my feet still seem to take me down the same streets as often as not.   Why does this happen I wonder?  Anyway,  it was a Sunday – early afternoon and the sky was a heavy, dark and roiling impasto above me.  The streets were all but deserted, a handful of children racing scooters in the pre-storm gloom. Then suddenly, a dayglo orange sign advertising an Open Studio.  Inside the dark entrance, an ancient, mouldy staircase spiralling into the heights.   A young man butted his cigarette out and in a combination of broken English and my shattered French, he led me up to the atelier.
A low ceilinged room inhabited by half a dozen jewellers and this young man who repaired antique and classic guitars.  Bhutane torches quietly hissing, ancient oak desks scarred by a thousand little accidents.  I learnt the whole process of ring-making from a little Indian man, blackened teeth incongruous above his neatly-pressed beige collar. To be honest, he spoke quickly and I probably only caught one word in twenty.  I got a map though – the whole district was open, so I got to peek into more studios and galleries.
One gallery, the walls hung with enormous semi-abstracts in a really effective mix of deep earthy maroon-reds and glaring fluorescents.  The dealer gave me a whole explanation about the artist’s interest in Soviet culture and also Renaissance imagery.  I couldn’t really see it in the work but I’d asked for the explanation in French and so, although I felt elated at having understood something, it’s entirely possible she was talking about baking classes and Evangelicanism.
More walking, the sky still sitting on us.  A pair of patent leather two tone wingtips (I think that’s what they’re called) appear around the corner. Then the feet and body arrive, and before me stands a dapper old rocker with silver trident beard, silver linen suit, the shoes and pork pie hat and beside him a similarly awesome Red Dwarf Cat – mirrorshades over his midnight skin, multicoloured silk shirt, braces holding up his immaculately pressed slacks and a plethora of rings on his arms, fingers and ears.  The three of us formed a triangle of mutual-appreciation, exclaiming ‘super!’, ‘formidable!’ and such.  I was grateful I’d worn some of my cooler clothes this day and that my hair was an unruly mane.  But none of us wanted to get rained on and we all had places to be so we saluted and walked on.
Later, in the stretch of concrete between the Metro entrance and grey mass of the Mayor’s office, two wedding parties celebrate.   In their red fez and curiously-hip Ottoman trousers (they’re so HipHop – with the crotch between the calves) a traditional Arabic band bashes out joyous music whilst a mixed crowd of beautiful satin-wrapped brides, shrunken matriarchs, grizzled and be-suited men and the rag tag crowd of metro passengers smile and dance, even under the threat of rain.
Eventually, the skies couldn’t hold it in any longer and it rained most of the week.  We got caught in a number of torrential downpours – one minute the sky indecisive the next, pluie, pluie, pluie and then soon after the sun bakes through and your clothes start to steam on your back.
Arm-in-arm in this fleeting Spring sun we hear music wafting up the hillside and we turn a corner.  From an open window in a mass-produced beige factory soars the most beautiful orchestral music.  An entire orchestra and choir rehearse for an upcoming performance; strings hum, drums pound, pipes trill and angels sing.  We perch on the graffited windowsill, Paris unrolling below us and we imagine all the tragic glory of the stories the music creates in our minds
The music drowns the traffic and everyone who passes this non-descript corner, that you can only find accidentally, smiles.
Also, I bought some high-quality technical drawing paper but more on that later...

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