Dark Angels, the creative writing for business collective, trialled an
experimental new course at Matisse’s former home in the south of France. 26
member Rob Self-Pierson was lucky enough to attend, and is generous enough to
tell us all about it.
There’s a sailing
boat out at sea.
It’s made of two
triangles and an oblong.
Every shade of blue, from violet to sky to turquoise,
dappled with diamonds of white light, decorates the scene around it.
A black dog slips on the chalky pebbles and eventually
lays out flat to bask in the sun. The dog is round like the pebbles but ten
times bigger than the biggest I can see, and far more restless.
At the end of April, I took part in an experiment.
Dark Angels, the creative writing for business collective, invited me to spend
four days with them in Vence, in the south of France, in the house where artist
Henri Matisse cut out his final years following a battle with cancer.
On the course, new exercises, or ‘experiments’, would
encourage us to absorb our surroundings, and challenge us to see them through
different lenses. We’d breathe them
in, make sense of them in our own way, and express them through our words.
Some of us, inspired by the writing and blue nudes of
Matisse that say hello from the walls at Villa le Reve, chose to draw and paint
in response, as well as to write. As the first Dark Angels course of its kind,
the organisers were keen to see what emerged.
And what emerged was beauty—vignettes of little town
life in the south of France. And poignancy—sketches of first-borns and lost
loves. And connections—lines of prose and verse that spoke to us each as
individuals and spoke to us all as a group of human beings, made vulnerable by
kindness and the collective spirit.
We, the lucky dozen, laughed yellow laughs and cried
mist-blue tears. We chanted to the rain, we glowed in the sun, we listened to
the moon, and we saluted those no longer with us. As we paid attention to
everything and everyone, as we existed there, in the moment, together, we
captured scenes as artists do.
The dog’s leaving the
beach now. The sailing boat is bobbing further out to sea. The father of the
little girl collecting copper-coloured stones beside my head is calling her
over. My time in France has come to an end. But I feel something has changed.
As I stand to leave for the airport, I notice that—like
the dog and the boat and the sea and the pebbles—everything is made of shapes
and shades. The rain, hills and bridge back in Vence. The wine bottle from last
night’s meal in Nice
old town. The girl, her father. My fellow Angels. My memories, my feelings, my
dreams, the stories I share. Our lives are made of shapes and shades, and it’s courses like
Dark Angels that help us to explore and express them.
Thank you to my fellow Angels for a very special few