Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A stroll through Chartres, France

After visiting the great Cathedrale Notre Dame des Chartres, we had an opportunity to stroll through the town itself. Actually, by this point we were on the search for food. Pia, Yogi's daughter, a serious foodie who is forever in search of the best french macaron asked the advice the storekeeper at the first souvenir store we came across. That led us walking through the narrow streets of Chartres. Many stores were closed, I was unsure if it was because it's too early or because it's a Sunday; Yogi said it may be because it's summer holiday season. Apparently, most restaurants and stores in France close in August - a break from the summer heat. As we walked further, we spotted this candy store filled with colorful and delicious goodies. Just breathing the air in there, I believe I gained at least 5 1/2 pounds.

We forced ourselves to partake in the stores tempting offerings,
marzipan, candied fruit, buttery cookies as well as caramels, chocolates and nougats
in a myriad of flavors.

Our next stop was the patisserie recommended by the storekeeper. Now, we are getting serious. We ordered all the different varieties of macarons. I really love them. They ranked up there with Pierre Hermes in Paris. I also love La Duree's macarons, which after one bite quickly found a place among the top macarons I have had. There's one more on my list of top ranking macarons, Martin Lambert, also in Paris, makes macarons filled with ice cream. Macarons filled with ice cream. Hot summer day. Need I say more. Ok, ok... I digress.....

I got a chocolate croissant which, in honor of it being a favorite of my husband who could not join me on this trip, I was obliged to try. It was buttery, flaky and the chocolate filling rich and creamy. Yum!

We are finally ready for the main event. After going back and forth between several restaurants looking at their menus, we decided on the charming Creps'Salads which mainly serves crepes. Pia also philosophized about the decor and concluded that based on it, the toilettes will pass muster. There was so many ways of filling crepes, which made it difficult to select what to order. I opted for Flambees (their version of crepe suzettes) and some coffee. Yogi and Pia chose to have savory crepes or galettes. You would think that we no longer had any space in our stomachs after all those sweets just minutes earlier, but we were still able to pack those crepes in.

After lunch, we looked around the town a bit more to walk off some off the calories.

The French love their dogs/ Hotel de Ville
Evian Poster/ Public Art

Ten calories expended later, after the gazillions we consumed, we rolled ourselves back to the Gare to catch the next train back to Paris. Now don't tell me you did not find the artistry in all that food. Oh yeah, and the sights. All those who agree, say 'Oui, Est-ce que vous porriez me passe la fourchette, s'il vous plait.'

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In Chartres Cathedral, France

From Paris, we took the first train out at Gare Montparnasse to the town of Chartres, about 80 kilometers southwest of Paris. This train station is larger and more modern one than the more aesthetically pleasing Gare Saint-Lazare. We were trying to catch the 9 am Gregorian mass at the cathedral. The hour long train ride took us into Chartres at 9:10am. As we exited the station, we looked up to find the twin spires of the cathedral. It was easily sighted towering over the town. Walking in the direction of the spires, we were at the church in less than 10 minutes (including quick snapshots of the scenery-we just couldn't resist).

I can still hear my high school art teacher say that Chartres Cathedral is one of the best example in France of Gothic architecture and medieval art. Pilgrims have come to worship in Chartres for centuries and now I am among the hundreds of thousands. Virgin Mary reigns here. We quickly found seats up front. The first reading was underway, in French so I had no idea what was being said. I see my friend Yogi fiddling with her blackberry and thought, what is she doing Facebooking in the middle of mass. A few minutes later, she hands me the blackberry and on it were the readings and gospel in English! Yeah! The more than 120 feet ceiling of this high Gothic cathedral dwarfed the congregation of less than 150. The church choir sang in the Gregorian chant style - not exactly the caliber of the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de los Silos but passable. Beneath our seats you see portions of the medieval maze that was used for meditation by pilgrims. I would have loved to walk the maze but alas! the chairs for the service were in the way. Dominating the nave was a 18th century marble sculpture of the Assumption.- very Bernini like.

After mass, we had a chance to explore the cathedral fully. Photography was allowed inside as long as you did not use your flash. The large stained glass windows were impressive. Look at the vivid blue color in the glass used. I am told it is unique to Chartres and is particularly impressive in the window depicting the Virgin and Child. As always, inspiration strikes me who is gaga about medieval and renaissance art especially if the Virgin and Child is in it. My first project from this trip is a paper mosaic inspired by this window. I will feature it later once it is completed. If it turns out, it may just be what I'll use for my Christmas card this year.

There are a total of 3 rose windows which added lightness and airiness to the otherwise dark, candle lit interior. Imagine yourself as one of the pilgrims from the middle ages coming through the cathedral doors from bright sunlight and then there's darkness and as your eyes grow accustomed to the dim, you spot a shot of color coming through the windows across on the far-off nave. As you walk in further, an explosion of color envelops you from the more than 180 stained glass windows. Your eyes slowly focusing, you see the life of Christ, Virgin Mary and the saints depicted. The whole atmosphere of the cathedral in no uncertain terms inspires awe, devotion and faith.
In one of the chapels the Sancta Camisa is housed. The relic is believed to be from a dress worn by the Virgin Mary. It inspired even more devotion and ordinary town folk to come together and rebuild the church when the relic survived a fire that destroyed the entire church. I love this relic, to me it ranks up there with the shroud of Turin.
Another subject of devotion of the pilgrims that come to Chartres is Our Lady of the Pillar or the Black Madonna.
A most distinctive feature in the interior of the cathedral is the Chancel Screen with sculptures depicting the life of Mary and Jesus by 16th century artist. Here again the sculptors of the time were showcased. I could not fathom the number of man-hours that went into making this chancel screen alone.
As we walked outside, we are witness to the grandeur of the construction of the cathedral. This cathedral which was dedicated in 1260 stands in the same spot where preceding cathedrals stood (and burnt down). Some of the many noteworthy features of the exteriors are:
  • The Flying Buttresses supporting the high nave, anchored by columns and abutments, were used as structural element in this cathedral for the first time. It is made to feel lighter by the addition of niches filled sculptures.
  • The South Portal depicting scenes from the New Testament

  • The North Portal depicting scenes from the Old Testament. Restored, notice how much whiter the facade is compared to the South portal.
  • The Royal (Front) Portal was under restoration during our visit. The garden in front of the church is a bit unusual and looked like one you would find in the 13th century. Raised gardens boxed in by intertwined twigs were arranged in rows and filled with colorful flowers.
Yogi and I in front of the Cathedral The raised flower garden

The cathedral sits on a hill towering over the medieval village pictured below. Imagine this town when this church was being built. It must be a veritable metropolis of artisans, painters, architects, mason, wood workers, sculptors, iron smiths, silversmith, etc. And then there are the people who provide the workers with housing, food, clothing and other basic services. There had to be folks coming in from all over because there is literally tons of work to do. Many of the folks, though working for their livelihood are also doing it for the glory of God. It excited me to walk around this town. It was still early on a Sunday morning, and the tourist buses are still to come, so there were very few people milling about and it was very quiet. But in spite of that, in my mind's eye, I heard the sights and sounds, the hustle and bustle of the time when this great cathedral was being built. It is very rare when I get transported to another time when I visit a place and this is one of those occasions.

It seems a miracle that such a structure, as this cathedral, can be built at all, but there are so many more examples of these cathedrals throughout Europe. It is truly a testament to the saying, "Faith can move mountains."

One can not visit Cathedrale Notre -Dame des Chartres without feeling God's presence. How lucky are those who have had a hand in building it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Paris - Cite de l'architecture et du patrimoine (City of Architecture and Heritage) Museum

A surprising find during my recent visit to Paris is the vast Cite de l'architecture et du patrimoine (City of Architecture and Heritage) museum which is housed in a wing of the Palais Chaillot in the Trocadero area.

There were three distinct galleries. The first one we experienced is a shrine to 12 centuries of France’s architecture — with exhibitions that range from the reproduction of a stained-glass window in the gothic cathedral at Chartres. The soaring, glass-roofed main gallery gave light and airiness to the plaster-cast reproductions of the most important examples of medieval, Gothic and Renaissance church architecture: cathedral facades, gargoyles, pillars, statues, crypts. Also featured are scale models of churches and various buildings of the period. I love that they used red walls as the backdrop since they showcased the objects so that you can appreciate them better than in situ.

A plaster cast of one of the many Notre Dame (Our Lady) sculptures found in Catholic churces all over France.

Scale Model of Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris

Actual size plaster cast of one of the portals at the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

We took the elevator to the upper level and found another gallery devoted to modern architecture, with maquettes from the mid-19th through the 21st centuries, including London's Crystal Palace and one of Renzo Piano’s 1998 cultural center in the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. In this gallery, you can see the plans for the Eiffel Tower and then look out the window to a great view of one of the most famous architectural symbols of Paris.

View of Eiffel Tower from the Modern Architecture Gallery

We were about to leave and decided to stop by the toilette first. As we walked out of the toilette, I spotted a narrow corridor I thought we had not been in before. It opened up into another gallery of paintings, niches, domes and frescoes from the 12th to 16th centuries that have been faithfully reproduced. Here we experienced what it felt like to be inside the actual places these works in this gallery realistically replicated and we were literally lost in the many nooks and crannies, so much so that the guards had to come and find us at closing time.

12th to 16th Century Church Niche with Frescoes

Given my love affair with Medieval and Renaissance art and with architecture, in general, this museum was a feast for my eyes, I wish we had more time to explore. I'm glad my friend, Yogi took me there. I found so much inspiration in this place. It is a must see for all students and admirers of architecture.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In Giverny

My friend Yogi and I took the SNCF train from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris to the town of Vernon. The train was extremely fast, and travelled the 75 kms (50 mi) distance, with stops, in less than an hour. From Vernon, we boarded a bus that took us to the town of Giverny. By the time we got to the entrance to Claude Monet's house and gardens, a long line has formed. As you entered the gardens, you are assaulted by a riot of color which immediately conjured the paintings of Claude Monet. The gardens were carefully cultivated by Monet with an artist eye and served both as his inspiration and a representation of his painting style. Even though there were patches of color everywhere, there was balance.

Monet's House

We entered Monet's house (no pictures allowed) and I was struck by the bright yellow and blue walls. He also had an extensive collection of Japanese woodblocks which in one way or another influenced him and other Impressionists painters. I love his country kitchen. Most of all, I admired the gardens. It is as if, Monet's painting have come to life. I just couldn't believe that I was walking where Monet puttered around, set up his paints, brushes, canvas and easel.

I particularly liked the Japanese inspired gardens, with the pond filled with blooming water lilies, the boat, the green Japanese bridge and the willow branches brushing the pond, that were featured in many of Monet's paintings. This is where you feel Monet's presence the most.
Pond in Japanese Garden

After our visit, we had lunch at Les Nympheaus Restaurant which is located just outside Monet's home and gardens. It was a typical Normandy-style beamed building with gardens. We had french omelettes, bottled water and salad.

Influenced by Monet's vision, the little town of Giverny transformed itself into a colorful oasis. Every little corner is an inspiration. Artists, mostly Americans. flocked to Giverny attracted by most of the same things which attracted Monet and stayed at Hotel Baudy, whose registry features a veritable Who's Who of the artist world at the time.
Hotel Baudy

We were also able to visit Monet's tomb by the old church. His family is buried there, too. On the way, we passed by a number of local galleries.
Monet's Tomb
One of the many small galleries in Giverny

We also visited the Musee des Impressionismes Giverny which featured an exhibition by Maximilien Luce, a neo-impressionist. The gardens of the museum were spectacular and were done up in rooms in various color schemes, I like the yellow garden room the best.
The yellow garden room at Musee des Impressionismes Giverny
Maximilien Luce's Exhibition Poster

Giverny is worth the visit for artist, gardeners, horticulturist and art lovers alike.

From Wikipedia:
Claude Monet (French pronunciation: [klod mɔnɛ]), born Oscar Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926), was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting.[1] [2] The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant).