Wednesday 1 February 2012

The strange calm of snow

          Snow took hold of the skeletal structures of the garden, coating seed heads and stalks. Soon the alliums and globe artichoke were extravagantly plumed in winter's coat. Life slowed into strange calm as disarray and decay was covered over, thickly smothered, hour by hour. 
                                                                                 From The Lantern

Winters can often be harsh in Provence, for all the luminous skies. When the snows come they can be heavy. In our village they still talk of a winter in the 1930s when the paths up to the village from the outlying hamlets were impassable for several weeks. The school was half-empty and so cold that the violet ink froze solid in the wells set in the wooden desks.

The isolating effect of snow in these hilltop villages is captured by artist Rahim Najfar in this painting, Bonnieux sous la Neige. The beautiful desolation of the winter sky holds pale reflections of spring colours. The exposed trees at the summit are clogged full of snow and wind. And you can almost feel the frozen stillness of the orchard trees lower down, the quiet closing down of life.

Rahim Najfar is an Iranian-born artist works in the picturesque village of Bonnieux, above. I’ve already blogged (here) about the masterly way understands the sizzling colours of summer in Provence. His studio and exhibition space in Place Carnot burst with big powerful landscapes, some completely abstract and always engaging of the senses. Some have Persian-influenced borders which seem to tell his journey here, from his birthplace in Teheran, an academic career as professor of art and drawing at the universities of  Farabi and Teheran, to teaching at Aix-Marseille, and becoming an artist who has lived for many years in Provence and exhibited widely abroad.

But this painting is the exception: the winter scene that tells a more subtle story of life year-round in Provence, the contrasts and the cold.

 For Rahim Najfar’s website, click here.


Elizabeth Young said...

Dear Deborah, I don't know if it's Provence, the way you describe it, or both, that bring me back to your blog time and again, but I am never disappointed.
I absolutely loved the detail about the lavender ink freezing in the ink wells, and am determined to purchase some at a little store I know that carries it. This will encourage me to fulfill one of my New Years Resolutions of writing more letters with a fountain pen. I think we should start a new Society called: The Lavender Ink Sisters!

Sacha said...

Hi Deborah
I love the title of your post The strange calm of snow is so true
Thank you for making this painter I know a lot of fun to meet her painting on my next trip to Bonnieux
I hope you're not too cold!
good week

Unknown said...

Beautiful post :-)

I've nominated you for a cheeky blogger award Deborah, I hope you don't mind!

KalpanaS said...

The contrast between ' skeletal structures of the garden' and extravagantly plumed in winter's coat' - wonderfully tactile!

Loved the painting - the hot red/browns slabs - smothered with icing white!

KalpanaS @

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