Sunday, March 29, 2015

Roussillon : Everything about the Ochres...

It has been on my check list for a long time so when I got the invite, I jumped on it.

I attended on Friday a special visit of the Ochre Mine of Bruoux and the Usine Mathieu, known as the conservatory of the Ochres for an afternoon in a world of coulours in Roussillon...

Ochre was mined in the region of Roussillon since the paleolithic time and industrialised from the mid 19th Century until the mid 20th C.
Its pigment has and is still used as a dye for paint but its industrilisation came for its clay that was used as a "skeleton" for the rubber industry.
Decline in the mid 20thC is explained by the discovery of the use of petrol  waste for the rubber, a cheap and easy to find material.

Our visit started at the Mines de Bruoux.
Guided visit only in an amazing maze of 40km... (about 25 miles).
We grabbed our yellow building site hat, our little "tag number" (to check that noone go lost in the cave...) and followed the guide.
You'll walk with your guide in the moutain. The galleries are 15m (50ft) and were all carved naturally in the sandy cliff. At some point you'll feel like entering a colourfull cathedral.
You'll understand how man would carve the cliff from ground level to the top, using only small tools.
Visit lasts about 50mn, check the schedule for visit in English

- Visit only in group of Max 25 people ==> Wise to book in advance
- Dont forget your sweater as temperature in the mine is of 10°C all year round (50F)

 Then on we went to the Conservatoire des Ocres / Usine Mathieu
At the begininng  of the 20th C, Roussillon has over 20 factories employing more than a 1 000 persons to extract the pigment from the Ochres.
Today, the usine Mathieu is the only place that has been kept alive to tell the story.
A nice little path with signs explains you the journey of the extracted rock....
1 -  The colouring :
The rock is yellow to red in colour. Naturally yellow, the ochre turn red by oxydation. So if you extract yellow rock and want it turned into red, you have  2 solutions. One: wait a few hundred years, or two: warm it up to speed the oxydation.
The first stop shows the "ochres bakery" were you would heat up your rocks until you hear a little "crack" that would advise you that red is ready... If you dont heat it up enough, the outside will turn red when the inside will remain yellow. Mix yellow and red and you'll get an orange....

2 - you crush the stone, like you would when doing Olive oil.

3 - You mix the powder with plenty of water. The flow will go into a filtration maze. Sand will progressivly be separated from the pigment.

4 - In the final filtration stage, the ochre pigment will be left to dry in a pond, and broken into 25kg stones that will dry under our summer sun.

5 - The pigment will be again crushed, and go through the last filtration system using silk fabric filter.
Just shove it in a bad and mail it...

Mining and filtration and final preparation would happen in the winter when water was around, letting the local plenty of time in Spring and Summer to deal with farming works.

At the Conservatory of the Ochres, you may also follow a workshop around Ochre paint. Whether you want to repaint your house (as the local have to do because of  a town hall law that forbid them from using any other type of paint for the outside of their house), or reproduce a Van Gogh...

The Ochres Mines of Bruoux

40km of maze in the Ochres Mine..... 

Conservatory of the Ochres / Usine Mathieu

Turning from Yellow to Red

Crushing and washing the Ochres

First stage of filtration, the sand will stay at the bottom of the tank
Last filtration and drying of the ochre

Separation of the Yellow pigment

Ochres workshop room


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Celebrating Van Gogh... La suite...

Fun and busy week on my side !
On Fiday I was in Mons (Culture Capital for 2015) attending a meeting with our partners of  Van Gogh Europe (site in maintenance, should reopen any days from now).

I had the chance to visit the great exhibition "Van Gogh in the Borinage", with nearly 90 works from Vincent (drawing, painting, etc) and including some of the Saint Remy ones....
The exhibition is split by theme around Van Gogh's work (people, reproduction, men at work, etc) and I found it most interesting.
Exhibition last until May 17th.
For more details

And on Saturday morning I was back to my Saint Remy attending the opening of the exhibition "In the foot steps of Van Gogh".
Much smaller but so nice and revigorating.
Organised by our local art "association" La cour des Arts with the University of Arts of Avignon, the project involved 7 students.
The timing was split in 4 weeks. One weeks of hike in the steps of Van Gogh from Avignon to Arles, les Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer and Saint Remy taking photos, making skectches, meeting people, experiencing the scenery and the landscape. The second week with a writer to compose text with a professional writer. And then they compiled a nice exhibition mixing skectches, video, drawing,etc...
Exhibition is on until April 7th.
Free entrance
La cour des arts - 13 Rue Michelet - Saint Remy de Provence

Van Gogh in the Borinage  - Mons 2015

In the foot steps of Van Gogh - Saint Remy de Provence

Ok, it is silly but I couldnt resist.... Loved the project. Van Gogh Room in Arles with Philippe

In the foot step on Van Gogh - La Cour des Arts Saint Remy

Saint Remy last wednesday morning

Montmajour Abbey

Guess this is the Arles cloister where Van Gogh was following his treatment.

Saint Remy streets are still getting a beauty treatment to welcome you.

La Cour des Arts - located in the former Chapel of the Blue Penitent.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saint Remy de Provence 2015 What's new....

As we say in French Spring is pointing its nose.....

Almond trees were in bloom last week and we now can see the apple trees blossoming.... Soon the region will all be pink!

We can also see the season is coming with the reopening and the new attraction for the coming season.

Festivities started on Thursday March 5th with the opening of the Carrières de lumières (located in nearby Les Baux de Provence).
I've tried for years to explain what to expect when going to Carrières de lumières and never succeeded. All I know is that all the people I took there were amazed when leaving the place.
Picture this : You walk into an enclosed former limestone quarry.

- 5 000 m² (about 54 000 sq ft) total
- 14meters high  ceilings (46 ft),
- Projection on 7 000m² (75 000 sq ft) on walls, ceilings and floor.
- 100 videoprojectors

Once there, you are literally "walking in the picture" but mostly trying a unique and brand new experience.
The theme change every year and exhibition will go from Early March to Early January.
This year's theme is around the Italian Renaissance with Michel Ange, Léonard de Vinci and Raphaël.

More on info on the Carrières de Lumières site
Photos of the opening night bellow
Tips :
- You can walk in when you want,
- Dont forget to bring a sweater as it is always far cooler than the outside (in the 70s max in mid summer), come to the worth, you can always buy a blanket from the till,
- Do visit the outside part of the quarry (large corridor to your left) That's where the restrooms are,
- Go early morning to avoid the crowd.

Saturday March 7th  was the opening night of our Saint Remy Musée Estrine

Our brand new Musée Estrine also known as the "Van Gogh Centre" who reopened last year after 24 months of remodelling just reveiled its new exhibition VUES.
Part of the program "VAN GOGH 2015" comemorating Vincent Van Gogh 125th death anniversary, the show is dedicated to painting about our Alpilles moutain range seen by painters of the 20th Century.
Whether from local kids or reknown artists, the museum covers a wide range of approach of the nature discovered and made famous by Van Gogh.

More information on Musée Estrine
Photos of the opening night bellow.
From March 7th to May 24th.

Soon to reopen : The Hôtel de Sade
After being closed for 10 years the Hotel de Sade is about to reopen next June (21st to be confirmed).
Most magnificient Mansion, built on the very birth place of the modern village of St Remy, the visit will take you through a journey in time:
- The Renaissance building,
- The roman ruins of the former spa (heating system),
- The ruins of the Saint Pierre Church, our local church in the middle ages.

More info about Hôtel de Sade (site not yet functionning on March 14th 2015)
or on my previous post
Tickets will not be available on site but will need to be bought from the Tourist Office, the Musée des Alpilles or The roman site of Glanum

Almond Tree Saint Remy de Provence
Sunday March 8th

Les Carrières de Lumières - Les Baux de Provence
The Quarries of light in Les Baux

The outside part

One of the producer of this year's program

Musee Estrine 
Opening night of "VUES" 
Saturday March 7th

The main stair case.

Ground floor Gallery

First floor Gallery

Van Gogh seen by Saint Remy school kids

Work from Mario Prassinos

The Van Gogh Interpretation Centre.