Bonaire is an island municipality of the Netherlands which lies off Venezuela’s coast in the southern Caribbean. Referred to as part of the ABC islands; Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao. Bonaire is the smallest and least developed allowing it all it's charm.
What nicer a welcome message to this sun filled island than "Bon Bini (Welcome to) Bonaire" its tourism slogan; "Once a visitor always a friend!!" https://www.tourismbonaire.com/about-bonaire
On first arriving, one can feel this island is bursting full of good vibes. It has managed to escape the saga of mass tourism, offering a haven to those conscientious few who look for clean blue seas, varied and colourful landscape and that ultimate happy holiday feeling!
Bonaire is best known as a diving haven which probably explains why there is very little tourism on the island. The visitors who come to Bonaire are keen to explore Bonaire underwater and therefore create very little damage to the environment as consequence.
The rest of my troop on this trip are keen scuba divers, but snorkelling is more my thing and I enjoyed learning how to take a few shots underwater on this trip. These shots are an inspiration towards some work I am doing right now on acetate as part of my Atelier Experimental practical course at the Sociedade de Belas Artes in Lisbon.
The first stop, where I immediately felt the urge to paint was at Spice Beach, the place where the dive boat leaves to cross opposite to the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. This tiny island is part of Bonaire's National Marine Parks and full of coral reefs and home to so many different sea turtles and brightly coloured fish constantly feeding.
While my team were busy getting themselves ready sorting out all their underwater equipment I managed to do a couple of quick acrylic paintings on paper from the dock. The temperature in Bonaire is perfect for drawing & painting outdoors in the shade. I could not get enough of mixing all the various turquoise hues while contrasting it with a little gold paint and touches of orange. This was definitely my Bonaire palette!
Driving down south from the centre Kralendijk, one comes to Bonaire's salt pans. I was immediately taken by this huge dark metal structure rising up from the sea. Salt Pier is Bonaire's salt refinery and a well known location for divers. I was impressed by the incredible variety of landscape in the area but particularly the pink salt lakes created by the algae. I learnt that apparently this is why Flamingo's are so beautifully pink in colour!
Exploring further towards the windward part of the island was where the kite boarding and windsurfing happens, as there is a constant blow. Here the landscape is sparse with only a few white beaches just enough to be able to get your surfing gear set up.
The area of Sorobon is full of windsurfers zipping through it's clear bright blue sea, quite a spectacle for us at the surf shack sipping a cold beer! We did think about hiring a windsurfer but were scared we might be crashing into quite a few others as it was chockablock full.
One afternoon while scouting for more dive sites on the East Coast; out of Kralendijk towards Karpata we came across this wonderful mural in such vibrant colours. Similarly to Mexico, many Bonaire homes are brightly coloured and mural paintings can be found indoors and out. This gives the island a unique feel just like a good dose of "joie de vivre!"
The north of the island is raw, dry and rugged, well known for more diving sites around Karpata where there is a special trail that leads to Lake Goto. This picturesque salt water lagoon is known as the meeting and nesting area of the flamingo, such fascinating birds!
On our penultimate day, we spent our time exploring the various trails of the Washington Slagbaai National Park, an area that spans over 5 hectares, known as a home to many wild birds and reptile lizards & iguanas. It is a part of Bonaire's National Marine Parks and is dedicated to the conservation of Bonaire's natural and historical heritage through the sustainable use of its resources.
Visiting Bonaire left me feeling very refreshed and motivated for our end of year Caribbean experience. We plan to cross the Atlantic as part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, and we will spend a few months exploring the Caribbean which I look forward to documenting! So watch this space...
On hearing from so many people while in Mexico City that the Oaxaca is so well known for it's culture, we could not wait to explore as many aspects of it's art, food and mezcal heritage! Oaxaca "centro" comprises of colourful quaint streets full of people buzzing around soaking up its culture, and embellished with beautiful churches.
Up and around 'Plaza de la Danza' in Oaxaca, we came across a series of 30 watermelon shaped paintings on stands that had been created by 30 contemporary Mexican artists. A 30th anniversary homage to the legendary Rufino Tamajo, an artist of great reverence in Mexico!
In my opinion, the most impressive selection of contemporary Oaxacan art was to be found at the Museo of Painters from Oaxaca just off the 'the Zocalo'. Apparently this museum was given many of the works by the local artists as a form of payment scheme to cover their tax obligations. Bartering is still something that happens in modern daily life in Oaxaca amongst communities.
These mixed paintings above by local artists Miguel Carrillo Lara and Augustin Castro immediately struck me as being very rigorous and demonstrating a high level of technique.
In the room opposite there was also a show by some well recognised "Maestros Oaxaquenos" including the master Tamayo, all exhibiting in honour of the 30th anniversary.
The museum downstairs featured artist Jonathan Barbieri, who was born in Washington, America and later moved to Oaxaca where he chose to learn how to distill alcohol. He started out distilling Mezcal, before moving onto gin and whisky. Knowing this, one might say his work must have been created under the influence of what he liked to distill, reminding me a lot of work by Francis Bacon. His depiction of despair made his work very moving, leaving me intrigued to know more.
Heading upstairs into the smaller exhibition rooms, I came across an exhibition named KUYU; which comprised of ink on paper and sculptural lettering under ultra violet light. The multi sensory effect it created was very unique and brought about a strong sense of silence but only really to be understood by being there in person.
The room next door showed an installation by another American artist Franz Klainsek, a display which featured a room full of gold painted nails balanced, one next to the other and lit up to create an intriguing effect.
After spending a few days roaming around the town, a local Oaxacan artist called Saul Castro fascinated me. Saul's work inspired by nature, is a response to the world around him and he is conveys this through a vibrant palette, choosing a balance of abstract and figurative art. I felt there was a lot I could learn from this particular artist with my own artistic development.
On the last day of our trip in Oaxaca, we joined a guide to visit the 'Mezcal Artisan Communities', half an hour outside the centre, in the region of San Baltazar de Chichicapam and Santa Catarina Minas. It was fascinating to learn how the farmers in these communities have worked so hard together to build this mezcal artisan tradition. In one "palanque" (mezcal distillery) we visited, our guide introduced us to the Mezcal Mural Festival through the work of Fernando Cordovas Albores seen in the mural above. The combination of mezcal distilleries or "palanques" featuring mural paintings by contemporary local artists is the ultimate cultural experience. Definitely a reason to return to Oaxaca again!
Mexico City Art Tour
Our first adventure in Mexico began with a sunrise hot-air balloon trip over the Mayan remains of Teotihuacan. An ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of Mexico, which is located 40 kilometers northeast of modern-day Mexico City. Teotihuacan is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
Day 1 - Museo Soumaya & Museo Jumex
Within the vastly stark shiny white interior, a selection of exquisite art pieces from all around the world reside. I found myself drawn to a copy of Rodin's sculpture " The Thinker", which seems to outshine the impressive pieces but of course very confusing because it is definitely not the original. This surprised me rather as the room upstairs was full of originals. Not as famous as the sculpture of The Thinker but why would one exhibit a replica of such magnitude in such a prominent place in the museum? After all isn't owning an original art piece just the best thing ever!
One of my highlights were the two murals back to back on the left hand side, which form a part of a 4-piece mural design in venetian mosaic. These represent the first portable mural program conceived and executed entirely by Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist himself.
On the right hand side, I was immediately enchanted by the immense mural painting by my new found favourite Mexican painter and muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Siqueiros was a Mexican Social Realist painter, best known for his large public murals using the latest in equipment, materials and techniques. Along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco , he established "Mexican Muralism".
The "piece de resistance" that impressed me the most was the painting featured below by Siqueiros. It immediately stood out as the most powerful piece; its size, subject matter and choice of colour palette with similarities to a chiaroscuro painting by Caravaggio . Here, Siqueiros depicts Emiliano Zapata the revolutionary leader of native ancestry and champion agrarian reform who fought in the Mexican revolution from 1911-17. I was intrigued that the foundation has chosen to exhibit this piece, as it is not a part of its collection but a part of the National Art Patrimony. It is under restoration by strict guidelines, set by the National Centre of Conservation and local Patrimony which falls under the Fine Arts & Literature Institute Cultural Department.
We chose to begin on the top floor, fifth floor, of the museum which is dedicated to the Slim family and houses the largest private collection of original Rodin sculptures outside of France. In my opinion this floor feels far too crammed with so many sculptures and even mixes in some impressionist paintings by Renoir & Degas (see image below). It feels like visitors get very little chance to admire the value of each piece, being placed so close to the other in such a haphazard display style.
The 4th floor is where the Mexican painters are housed. Here I enjoyed viewing the different approaches and styles of local artists and below I have gathered a few of my favourites. The Mexican realism, the choice of bold colour, religious, political, social or historical subject themes sparked my interest. These are examples of using art to communicate messages, as opposed to Bajo's Flower by Wilhelmy (the first image in this blog) which instead simply depicts local beauty.
One of my favourite areas in the museum was the part where the mural by Siqueiros' "Coal Miners" was placed along with a few other smaller paintings as seen below. Siqueiros was a member of the Mexican Communist Party, a Stalinist and supporter of the Soviet Union who led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky in 1940.
The third floor hosted some of my all time favourites such as Chagall, Vlamick, Dufy, Nolde, Dali and Sorolla. It was very interesting to see which paintings the Foundation chose to invest in. The museum had a painting by my favourite German Expressionist artist, Emil Nolde, part of his Sea Series paintings I absolutely love. I recently saw another from the same series at the Amsterdam Stedlijk Museum as part of the Kirchner & Nolde: Colonialism Expressionism exhibition only a couple of months ago!
The wonderful Rosa Portugalo marble sculpture featured below is by Manzoni and really was my all time favourite! We rushed through the last two floors as by now we really had quite a dose of this fabulous and varied art collection and wanted to leave a little energy for visiting the Museo Jumex opposite.
To the side of Plaza Carso, where Museo Soumaya is, one can find the Museo Jumex showing contemporary installations, photography and paintings. To be truly honest with you, I couldn't really resonate with the works in this museum and therefore just scooted around to get a feel about what was on exhibition throughout the 5 floors. So here's a little snippet of some of the pieces that really stood out for me.
On the 3rd floor there was some installation work by a Mexican artist Sofia Taboas. Her practice includes a range of approaches and materials to create sculptures, installations, architectural interventions and paintings that speak to the relationship of the body and culture to the natural world and the lives of others.
Museo Jumex has Latin America's largest private contemporary art collections including artists such as Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly & Damien Hirst but unfortunately the Museum was in the process of doing works on that floor, so I was unable to view these collections.
Day 2 - Museo Frida Kahlo - Casa Azul
Museo Frida Kahlo known as Casa Azul was next on our bucket list. Here is where the legendary Frida who is known for her portrait art works was born, raised, lived and died. As a child Frida, contracted polio and she later was involved in a bus accident that left her disabled. Unfortunately she struggled with her health for the rest of her life but this did not stop her with her art. She was also married to the famous painter and muralist Diego Rivera, and during their time travelling around Mexico and the USA she developed her own artistic style drawing from Mexican folk culture.
On Friday 28th January, we visited Casa Azul and followed the entrance from the courtyard towards the two main rooms. Here 10 or so self portraits of Frida resided, along with some photos taken by her father who also had an artistic streak with his photography.
Museo Frida showed many aspects of Frida's life and some very macabre ones like the bed she was bound to where her mother fixed a mirror directly above to allow her to paint portraits. There was also another whole area of the house dedicated to the dresses she wore and the straps she needed to wear to assist with her disability.
Day 3 - Museo Mural Diego Rivera and more
On Saturday 29th January, we ventured into the city centre, the Zocalo as it is called, was definitely the highlight of our Mexico City trip. The Mexican muralists!
We started at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera on the west side of Almeda Central Park and then walked across to the Palacio de Bellas Artes on the opposite side.
A walk across Almeda park towards the imposing Palacio de Bellas Artes was wonderful and really offered a good feel of Mexico City. The Palacio is definitely the most beautiful building in the centre! It's art deco interior was very grand with a unique blend of marbles. A good place to expose this incredible selection of murals over 3 floors.
Starting from the third floor, the first mural that caught our eye by Diego Rivera, was the "Man at Crossroads", controller of the Universe. This piece depicts a variety of technological and societal themes, and unarguably rather controversial at the time for its inclusion of Lenin and Soviet May Day, originally commissioned for the New York Rockerfeller Center in 1933. The Rockfellers were not happy with it and it was eventually destroyed before Rivera recreated it a year later.
On the north side of the third floor an incredible 3 part mural "The New Democracy" by Siqueiros which was created in 1934, it depicts democracy breaking her chains! The mural "Catharsis" by Jose Clement Orozco is another symbolic painting depicting the state of the society at that time, being full of conflict, decay and destruction. Highlighting a world consumed by industrialisation and war.
In contrast a 4 part mural where Diego Rivera conveys "Carnaval de la Vida Mexicana", offering a more playful vision into Mexican life at the time. On the 2nd Floor are two early 1950's works by the famous muralist Rufino Tamayo, "Mexico Today" & "Birth of Nationality" which symbolically depicts the creation of the 'mestizo' identity (a person of mixed indigenous & Spanish ancestry).
Getting to know the Mexican Muralists was really the highlight of our trip to Mexico City. Understanding the magnitude of the murals, their compositions & subject matter has really helped me towards planning my Lisbon mural that is about to take place in the neighbourhood of Principe Real this May. I have decided i will be doing the project in stages, dividing the 25 metre outdoor wall into 2/3 parts, creating a duology/trilogy depicting the different aspects of Lisbon life. It's lazy beach life complemented by its colourful city vibe in a lyrical story like style.
I look forward to keeping you updated as this develops but before that I'll be updating you shortly on our trip to the historic cultural city of Oaxaca part of the state of Oaxaca.