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“Homage to a farmhouse”

"Etxalde baten omenez", the title in Basque of this exhibition, means “Homage to a farmhouse”. It refers to a farm called Berrautia which was home to my cousin Mayie and her husband Jean-Louis.

Berrautia, just outside the village of Ostabat in Lower Navarre where I have my home, is a typical traditional Basque farmhouse with white-washed walls, red-painted shutters, flagstone floors and oak beams inside. I used to go there frequently to chat with Mayie, soak up the farmyard atmosphere, and paint.

Two years prior to this exhibition, Jean-Louis died of leukaemia. For Mayie, the loss was devastating. She felt unable to go on living in Berrautia and set about planning to move to a small flat in Saint Jean Pied de Port. When I was invited to earlier this year to exhibit my paintings in the cloister of the parish church of Deba, a port town on the Basque coast, this loss was very much on my mind.

I haven't exhibited any paintings of Berrautia, even though I have done many. Instead, I chose to exhibit a recent series of abstract paintings inspired by my love of the forests and mountains of the Basque countryside. Against the grey stone walls, their bright colours light up the medieval cloister. It is an epitaph, not just for Jean-Louis but for the passing of an era that was a key part of my life.


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