Friday, March 28

Meet the Artist: Cynthia Grow

We are pleased to introduce Cynthia Grow, March Artist-in-Residence at Can Serrat. Cynthia Grow is a multi-media artist and painter. She received a diploma in Contemporary Painting and Ancient Painting Techniques from Accademia d’Arte in Florence, Italy and has completed projects and residencies throughout Italy and Spain, as well as New York Studio School, National Academy School of Fine Art, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to studio training, she completed a program in Modern Art, Connoisseurship & History of the Art Market at Christie's Education New York and holds a Master of Arts degree from University of South Florida. 

When she's not working on her painting, Cynthia is part of the great team here at Can Serrat, acting as Artist Coordinator, Blogger, and the nightly Maestra del Fuego - Fire Mistress, where she trys to practice her elementary Catalan and Spanish, albeit quite poorly. Here´s a bit of what she´s been working on this month, in-between all the rest.


This series of works is based upon the poetry of Salvador Espriu, acknowledged as the great poet of post-Civil War Spain. Espriu was born in Santa Coloma de Farners in 1913. His literary opus soon became a symbol of the peaceful resistance and the hopes of post-war Catalonia. He had been the great hope of the short story in Catalan before the Civil War. But after that event, he chose to go into an 'internal exile' in which he decided to contribute towards 'saving our words' so that for him it was necessary to start anew. 

Espriu turned to poetry because among other reasons it allowed him to elude the uncultured Spanish censorship of the time. His mission was to make his language sing and survive the years when Franco insisted that a unified Spain required a single tongue and forbade the use of other national languages – i.e. Catalan. Espriu’s work is a long meditation on death and on the passing of the time that leads us to that end.


These mixed media, multi-layered works on paper consist of words and images of varying themes clipped from the Catalan language magazine Serra d’Or, a Catalan literary magazine established in October 1959. It was promoted by a group of university students, and was published by Montserrat Abbey Press. From the beginning, this magazine became a platform for the Catalan intellectuals of the second half of the 20th century, taking profit from the possibilities of cultural and political activity that existed in the Francoist regime, if the censorship could be avoided. 

The pieces of text clipped from a copy of the magazine (November 1988) have been covered with thin washes of paint and various words and images I have scraped away with a blade. Excerpts of Salvador Espriu’s poetry in some way relate to the words and images hidden below the surface.

I utilize poetry as a means to disseminate ideas. And, here Catalan poetry, which helps me to learn the language, a language which I find earthy, complex, and beautiful in its construction. In my painting, somehow, I always return to language. For me, poetry and painting are essentially the same thing, only expressed in a different way.

These pieces have dual meaning. First, they are a celebration of the survival of the Catalan language after years of censorship and repression, and the Republican struggle against the brutal Franco regime. And, more specifically, how Catalunya, a country with a rich literary culture and heritage and the Catalan language managed to survive and thrive. Particular pieces are a direct reminder of the Spanish Civil War – and the bodies in mass graves that are still being uncovered throughout Spain to this day – hinted at from the scraping and peeling layers of paint, uncovering and discovering the obscured words and images.  

Secondly, they are about Memory - the passing of time, the marking of time – memories both conscious and sub-conscious. As the words and images rise, ghost-like to the surface, the pieces become a palimpsest of sorts, secret images as metaphor for the hidden ghosts that exist in all of us. They are deliberately ambiguous, offering subtle suggestion. They hint at sex, or more explicitly, desire, exploring this in both my use of image and in the excerpts of Espriu’s poetry. My idea is to focus on our most hidden selves, the ghosts within.

In my work, ambiguity is always the theme I seem to return to. Searching for something haunting in the work, or perhaps in a place, but mostly, I imagine, in myself.

To see more of Cynthia's work, see her blog here

Wednesday, March 26

Introducing Viktoria Ikkonen, March Artist-in-Residence

Viktoria Ikkonen

We are pleased to share with you work and information about our March Artist-in-Residence, Viktoria Ikkonen. Viktoria comes to us from St. Petersburg, Russia and has been busy most days, diligently working in her studio. It has been a pleasure to know her and share a serious and insightful dialogue about art. And, more importanly, to see how her work is evolving in such a short period of time. A result, which she describes below, of the inspiration that she found here at Can Serrat. Thank you Viktoria!

Artist Statment

The idea of showing a fleeting moment came to me during my time at the previous residence in Istanbul,or even earlier when I decided to show the contrast and interaction between natural and industrial characters in my work about grey sea and two yellow lines. Later this idea turned into the underlying concept in my works which I've created in Can Serrat.

Some think about slowness and identity, transience and perpetuity: when you live near by mountains millions of years old, you start to think about your own insignificance, near-by their greatness, you recognize how everything in our usual life is transient; and everything is so elusive and we like illusion. But my attempt to show this theme in my own art isn't an impression of the present moment, but philosophical research about what our life is in comparison with this universe.

It's amusing how after I discovered this metaphor, my artistic approach has changed too: from being a painter of forms to being a painter of shapes. It's a great step for me, and that awareness happened here, in Can Serrat.  And the reason is "why" lays in this place, because being here is a long-term meditation, an opportunity to have a dialogue with yourself. And then, and maybe even more important, the possibility to share your ideas with other artists, to receive some attitude of your own result, and clarity what to do after.

Thank you CanSerrat for support and believing in me; thanks to all March residents for a great time together!

--Viktoria Ikkonen

Viktoria Ikkonen
Bonart painting exhibition, group exhibition, Bonart art gallery, April 2014, Istanbul, Turkey
Haihatus international, group exhibition, Haihatus art centre and residence, April 2014, Joutsa, Finland
The sea inside is always deep blue, art project and exhibition,
Halka art gallery, February 2014, Istanbul, Turkey
Hope, art project and group exhibition, Holy cafe, January 2014, Istanbul, Turkey
Vistavkom, group exhibition of young artists,
Exhibition Hall of the Artists' Union, December 2013, St.Petersburg, Russia
Dark romanticism. Lenore
Private gallery, November 2013, Tsarskoe selo, Russia
400 years of Romanovs family, Cultural center of Elena Obrazcova,
October/november 2013 St.Petersburg, Russia
Saint-Petersburg`s space, group exhibition of finalists of competition
in honor of 400th anniversary of Romanovs family, 
Smolnii cathedral exhibition hall, September 2013 St.Petersburg, Russia
Muu maa/ other country, Haihatus summer exhibition 2013,
Joutsa, Finland
Group exhibition in contest in honor of 400th anniversary 
of Romanovs family, Exhibition Hall of the Artists' Union, June 2013
St.Petersburg, Russia
Selected group exhibitions in Saint-Petersburg, 2010-2012
St.Petersburg, Russia
Group exhibition of young artist in MART gallery, 2009
St.Petersburg, Russia

To see more of Viktoria´s work, please check out her blog here

Tuesday, March 25

Morning walk through El Bruc

Just a little visual inspiration for you today. A quiet walk through our (even quieter) village sometimes helps to clear the mind and contemplate both art and life. Have a great day!

Thank you March Resident Harsha Jagasia for the photos!

Saturday, March 22

Ruminations on Goodbye

Here at Can Serrat we share many things. Today, we share with you a bit of our heart. Or, at least I will share with you a bit of mine, from the perspective of a resident artist, member of the team who helps to keep this place functioning, and of course, your trusty blogger. Each day I am immersed in Spanish and Catalan, speaking more and more, and often find myself “thinking” in the language. Alas, writing in English grows more difficult each day. Forgive me if this doesn’t flow so well.

Most of our residents come to stay with us for a month. During the weeks, we share intellectual and sometimes passionate discussions about art, literature, politics, religion, and of course our common stories about love, life, and loss. Whether over leisurely meals, or more contemplative moments in front of the fire, we find both differences of opinion and mutual ground. We laugh a million laughs, and sometimes, we shed a few tears. 

As artists and writers, creative souls, I think we all feel things a bit more deeply, which can be both a burden and a blessing. And, for some reason, every sense seems to be heightened here, both joy and pain. Perhaps it’s the mountain and a certain spirit that seems to flow, unseen, through this special place. Today, a bit of a grey day, it might rain, and Montserrat is shrouded in a misty haze. I find myself thinking about loss and pain, and having to say goodbye. 

The goodbyes are always difficult. For me. For all of us.  Here, we never like to say goodbye, only “Hasta Pronto,” “Fins Aviat,” or “See you Soon.”  On that note, I will share with you a poem that I hastily wrote when I first came to Can Serrat as an Artist Resident in 2010. After a month filled with emotion – joy and love, and even a little pain, came the inevitable “Goodbye.” This is dedicated to all the special people who have passed through this place, through Can Serrat. And one very special person close to our hearts, who left us today. Not a “Goodbye.” Merely a “Fins Aviat.” 

Fantasmas de Cosas Recordadas

Adiós, pero estarás conmigo
 irás adentro 
una gota de sangre, que circule en mis venas
o afuera, un beso que me quema el rostro.

He vuelto a donde empecé,
Una caminata, donde me pierdo en mi propio centro.
Mis pensamientos se extienden como un puente
de aquellos días cuando no pasa nada.
Recuerdos - un balcón sobre el vacío.
Esto no es un lugar. Es un pasaje.

Entre los soles del verano y el otoño,
en la sombra de una montaña mágica,
bajo un cielo sin fin, y la luz de la luna catalana.
Entre los espacios, en medio de una pausa,
compartimos el pan y la risa, compartimos las lágrimas.

Los niños de Marte, hablamos de ambos,
la bendición y la maldición de haber nacido
bajo el planeta de la guerra y de la pasión,
el perfume de determinados cuerpos,
conductos de la sangre ardiente,
y nuestros pozos de dolor sin fin.

Tú eres mis hermanos. Mis hermanas. Compatriotas. Mis amigos.
Somos todos como historias, que van y vienen,
sin principio ni fin
Cruzando caminos, como reflejos,
como los fantasmas ocultos, que habitan esta casa
que se disuelven lentamente, como un viento
que sopla desde la montaña.

Las ideas se dispersan. Los fantasmas se quedan aquí.
Tú, el hombre que sabe ser pequeño.
El niño que camina por este poema,
es la mujer que lo escribe.

Y así esta carta se termina
sin ninguna tristeza:
Mis pies están firmes sobre la tierra,
mi mano escribe esta carta en el camino,
y en medio de la vida estaré
al lado de mis amigos, frente al enemigo,
con sus nombres en la boca,
y un beso que jamás
se apartó del tuyo.*

*Este último verso es de Pablo Neruda poema

Ghosts of Things Remembered

Farewell, but you will be
with me, you will go within –
a drop of blood, circulating in my veins
or outside, a kiss that burns my face.

I have gone back to where I began,
I walk, lost in my own center.
My thoughts stretch a bridge
to days when nothing happens.
Memories – a balcony over the void.
This is not a place. But a passage.

Between summer and autumn suns,
in the shadow of a magic mountain,
under an endless sky, and the light of a Catalan moon.
In between the spaces, in between a pause,
we shared bread and laughter, we shared tears.

Children of Mars, we talked about both
the blessing, and the curse of being born
under the planet of war and passion,
the perfume of certain bodies,
conduits of fiery blood,
and our endless wells of sorrow.

You are my brothers. My sisters. Compatriots. My friends.
We are histories, coming and going,
without beginning or end,
crossing paths like reflections,
like the hidden ghosts, that dwell in this house
then slowly dissolve, like a wind
that blows down from the mountain.
Ideas scatter. Ghosts remain.
You, the man who knows how to be small.
The boy who walks through this poem,
is the woman who writes it.

And so this letter ends
with no sadness:
my feet are firmly upon the earth
my hand writes this letter on the road,
and in the midst of life shall be,
beside my friends, facing the enemy,
with your names on my mouth,
and a kiss that never
broke away from yours.*

*the final verse is from a Pablo Neruda poem

With love, Cyntia

Thursday, March 20

Calçotada! In Action.

We spent a glorious spring day under a cloudless sky with Montserrat as our backdrop. We shared a thousand laughs and returned to Can Serrat like dirty children covered in wine, charcoal, and salvitxada sauce. Thank you Karine, Harri, and Mertxe for the lesson in Catalan tradition!

Thank you to resident Ann Kristin Jørgensen for the photos.