Ochre Tiger. 114×146 cm. 1997. Oil and raw pigment on canvas.
Close to where I live there is an ochre pit which has been famous from olden times for its rich seams of ochre – a material whose use as a colour pigment goes right back to the Ice Age cave paintings in the south of France and north of Spain.
I am always inspired by ochre in my painting. The strong sunlight which falls on the yellow or reddish-yellow slopes makes them light up so one imagines that they consist of cadmium yellow or orange. The slopes make a vivid contrast to the cerulean blue of the sky. Dark green pine trees grow all over the ochre pits, and they are covered in a fine layer of ochre dust which is whirled up constantly by the wind, so that the natural colourings of the vegetation are almost lost.
But first and foremost it is the richness of nuances in the ochre material itself that makes such a strong impression. I have found at least 15 different yellow and red nuances.
One day I found a specially shining yellow colour and as there was enough of it, I decided to use it to plaster the walls of the house with.
I got hold of a shovel and drove my estate car into the ochre pits. Here I shovelled as much of the ochre as possible into the car and started the trip home. However I hadn’t got very far before the car gave out a scrunching noise and dropped down on its springs.
At my next trip to the mechanic I was told that the rear shock absorbers were completely shot – “You must have been carrying something very heavy,” he said.
In future I will only collect enough ochre for my painting.
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