Alia Zaal in Vetheuil
Maison Oscar-Claude Monet
Autumn: October- November 2021
When I first arrived to Vetheuil, I was taken away by the serenity and tranquility of this little town. I arrived at night, the road was completely empty and dark but made me curious and more excited to see the town in daylight. I started the first day with some supply shopping, a walk on the Seine and some studio preparation. I then went to paint ‘en plein air’. It strikes me that it was not easy to select what you want to paint without adding in a way or another some elements from your extended periphery of vision. The eye can focus on a spot, but the mind must be very focused in order to depict exactly what you see. For this reason, I decided to select elements which I wanted to depict like a lot of artists who paint from real life as opposed to a reference photograph or a sketch.
This this liberated me from the details and gave me more space to explore the atmosphere. To my surprise, I found that the way I framed my first plein air painting of this residency was quite unconventional as opposed to what I had imagined. I took an unconventional angle and focused on a tree that was on the edge of the river, the river was behind me while I turned to paint it. I depicted 200 degrees of the landscape on a relatively small canvas. I got neck cramps because I was painting on a slope, sitting backwards, and holding the painting with one hand and painting with another. So, I decided to go back to the residence which is only a couple of minutes away.
I then had a discussion with Fouzy and Clement and they told me the story of a master who had told his pupil/student something along the lines of “when looking at a scene, memorize what you see and then paint what you remember”. Now, not a student anymore, Fabienne Verdier continues to paint abstract impressions the way the Chinese master had taught her decades ago. I liked the advice that this Chinese master gave the artist and I decided to paint the rest of the landscape from my memory, and I did. I was surprised and in awe of my visual memory even if it was somehow fantasized. It surprised me that I painted the tree so well, (the weeping tree, is it called?) I painted this tree from memory and succeeded in depicting it quite closely because I remember thinking to myself, it looks like a woman’s body, and I immediately remembered the posture of that tree/woman.