From Zuheors to Cuckmere, Jan 2020

From Zuheros to Cuckmere was produced as the outcome of the first unit of my study in Camberwell College of Art. The project consists of two parts: the realistic and luxury landscapes of southern Spain, Un Verano en Andalucía; and the playful, elegent scenes of Southdowns, England. Paintings were composited in two versions of illustration books. They were structured by a creative writing which documented the artist’s travel in these landscapes, and discussed his distinctive perspectives which established on these two regions respectively. The novel was written symmetrically in non-linear structure, which means it can be read in random order and random strat point. Two parts of the project merged in the middle, as the artist himself, is the integration of two different world view and aesthetic preference. The writing believe landscapes decide the perspective of evaluating the observable world for those individuals who live within; it urged people to try understand each other respectfully. The artist maintained that people can equally love and respect others; thus the part of the project was constructed on the idea of archiving unobserved moments to demonstrate how a foreign traveller reflects his enthusiasm towards landscapes that locals already barely cared about.

Please be advised the symposium of the project is not included in this post.

Book Final

Book Final56

Since I am pretty sure that this book cannot be sold the pdf file was pasted below as well:

Book Final

And the writing as well:

The writing actually, was based on a very interesting structure. I spent weeks to design it using a non-linear structure. It will be detailily talked about in the next post. Please find the writing below if interested:

From Zuheros to Cuckmere

Spanish Part/

Para Antonio Manuel Lastres Espejo

Eva Montalvo del Valle

y mi familia en España

Art can be easily looked down to in a prejudiced society. Unfortunately, bias does have a point. The output of art is generally not proportional to its cost, years of training and practice could easily result in null when the artist lacks appreciation; it is unfeasible to standardise the procedure for evaluating artworks or assign them with material value. Instead of scenarios in which valid outcomes can be revealed immediately, the instability of artworks output substantially narrowed art to research theories relatively more abstract.

Comparing to building a bridge utilising leverage, or constructing a ground-breaking perspective via Schrödinger’s cat, I imagine art should be considered as the tool for sharpening practitioners of our society. It stimulates audiences to think, provide brand new perspectives for others; It teaches noble qualities to children, trains them to establish a honourable value so they could treat the world with kindness and honesty. As for me, an artist who took this path, but sadly devoted in producing boring landscape paintings, once something I produced actually contributed to the history of human, I would consider my social responsibility as an artist is fulfilled. I document not only the beauty of landscapes, but also invisible communications beyond time and space; generations of people shines through the beauty they loved, and I am passing their love to you.

Un verano en Andalucía

Ce Chen

In the dry weather of August, olive fruits swung with branches in the breathing of Andalucía.

I pushed the window open, the odour of soil in the breezing air brought me a touch of pleasant coolness. The temperature was not high, azury sky matches the green and lush field of Southern Spain. The refreshing scene cannot last long; heat of the day would quickly grill everything brown, then decorate its work with little glitters of gold.

Surrounded by white cottages, gently projected shadows dyed stone paths with blue. I leant on the windowsill, sketching absently with a pencil. The effort didn’t last long, I was soon attracted by fluttering bees in clusters of jasmine.

Everything was exuding a sweet smell — the taste that a summer should have.

Ladies were talking, carrying baskets of cheese and freshly baked bread; men were often commanded to took sweaty labour under the regularly scorching sun of the Spanish summer. They drove to vegetable fields in groups, weeding spices, harvesting tomatoes and moving scarecrows around. Some of them walked straightly into olive groves to hunt rabbits. The screams of children’s sports have not yet sounded, it pleased figs on low branches a lot. Everything went on smoothly and peacefully as if such scene only exists in theatres and literature.

I took a jasmine flower from the white porcelain placed on the bedside table, and clipped it into my sketchbook.

The village is enclosed by hills with only a looping road knifes through. It has several excellent watching platforms for experiencing the breath-taking mountain view. On one side, the depth of the canyon was covered with luxuriant trees that shelter birds in the Southern summer; on the other, vast groves, of course, expanding to the horizon with two other towns located within. The highway meanders through the Andalusian plain with barely a fork. Cordoba is in the North, and Granada is in the South. Sometimes there was a tiny spot moving alongside the road, that might just be a farmer heading nowhere. The farmer rode on a horse, the scene was occasionally blocked by olives trees. And eventually, he rode in the woods, disappeared.

A lot of time has been spent on travelling today. It can hardly be judged that I used them in a productive way. Mostly, the driver would caught me staring outside the window, watching endless fields flew by. Their shapes were always gentle, curving like the body of a lovely lady. But hills have introduced themselves several times by breaking into the composition; they were usually covered with what Spanish called Cardo Borriquero, a plant similar to Milk Thistle, but considerably exceeds its size with serried thorns. If there was a castle on the hill, a settlement would be likely to appear around the establishment.

Rarely I can see other vehicles on the highway, it has brought me great convenience in examining the fields. Sometimes I found it challenging to appreciate human figures or artificial objects in landscapes. They always appeared in a manner which severely damaged the composition. Contradictorily, if the absence of human maintained for a considerable length, I would surely miss the companionship of others. Being annexed by loneliness is undoubtedly going to hurt the efficiency of my work.

The height of the sun gradually heated up the environment. As I suffered the absence of the moisture as well as the wind, I realised the importance of being sheltered in a house. The heat fixed the movement of clouds on the blue canvas, and silent birds that have been singing in the olive grove. Under the scorch that other parts of the Europe can hardly experience, every movement was seized. Andalusians usually choose to stay indoors from noon to dusk. It is also a reasonable Spanish characteristic: If you cannot solve the problem immediately, dropping the task until it can be done is smarter than waiting in anxiety.

The regional feature would often leave people an exaggeration regarding the laziness in Spanish culture. More than once, small cottages on wheat fields broke into my observation. Clouds cast massive shadows around them, reflecting the vastness of the plain. Hills rolling like smooth folds on a velvet. These farmhouses frequently located at the centre of the picture. I enjoyed imagining living in one. Surrounding by charming landscapes, owing a farm that I can grow anything as I please, and the most important thing is, living without disturbance. When I feel like to connect with the world, the highway will look strangely close.

People are always on their way of seeking, while not every one of them has an objective; it may takes an eternity to clarify what they are looking for, we just cannot stop the obsession.

The heavy raincloud with overwhelming thickness stayed still, while our car drove underneath. The sun was blocked, but seldom a lessening of light; little by little, the whole sight started dimming. The last bit of sky between the horizon and the inky cloud was dyed into the purest blue due to the high contrast. A river loomed behind layers of canopies, reflecting lights to an unbelievable level as if it was luminous.

The storm interrupted the music from the radio. the rain has been expected, but its density was beyond my imagination. The tempest formed a curtain of water, making it difficult for me to judge whether it was a mountain or an enormous rock that was being rendered in the distant field. Our planet has a magical power and by which things can be twisted into illusions. Even a natural scene can be processed into something weirdly unnatural, substantially exceeding all imagination. We often say worldview decides how artists shape their works. Through water carpets of mysteries, artists never hesitate to go for the essence of things; or conversely, they create their own filters to express radical ideas that failed to be presented nakedly. If I were born upon this field, what would my art look like? What people have aware is a foreign understanding of Andalusian field reproduced on selected mediums with an exotic style. On thin layers of watercolour paint, the observable Iberian peninsula was arguably photographically-realistic. But take a step further, whether there is another landscape by which long ago the painter’s worldview was shaped exists underneath? Or depite any resonance, these Spanish landscapes were entirely shaped and polished by a distinctive world view?

In my opinion, our world only exists through word of mouth. As observers, we use various media to shape and to spread unique archives of observations that established on different perspectives. Every out-putter would have a distinctive worldview, angle and observation duration; and infinite versions of cognitions will be produced. Through exchange of information based on the observable world, an unconsciously manipulated world has been established. Yet Unobserved moments exist objectively, unawareness has been blocking it to be the hatchery from which ideas can be extracted and developed.

Being unobserved is a concept quite subjectively. An immersion experience which lasts sufficiently long would result in selective blindness. It can be developed by people who have been living in the same environment for a considerable amount of time. Through talks and interviews about my confusions regarding how locals failed to see the beauty of surrounding landscapes that people like me cannot attend but only rely on a precious opportunity. I have develop interest in this regularity and responded with my creations. I aimed to project a frame of a specific point-in-time on every piece of painting, combing personal cognition and objective reality. I stimulate reevaluation of fixed cognition or a specific environment for locals, and expand observable world for people who currently have no capability to attend.

I would consider myself work like an archivist in the most insignificant area of a library, faithfully recording my observations. It may take a long time for someone to be attracted, wiping the dust off the cover, and read the content so that my work can stand a chance to contribute to Art and Humanity. May these work encourage my audiences to develop a universal fraternity to a totally strange individual when they found out that both of them are in love with a same element; and may they can encourage people to walk outside, to see beautiful people cultivated by different landscapes. Talk to each other, putting aside bias and arrogance.

Now understand me well,

it is provided in the essence of things

that from any fruition of success,

no matter what,

shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.

—Walt Wittmann, The Song of Open Road.

Apart from wheat and olive, vast sunflower cropland is also a scenic pleasant on the field of Cordoba. Although I imagine I would have seen miles of vibrant sunflowers as they were pictured by Van Gogh’s, I actually saw brown branches dried out by the scorching the most. It is also why I joked with my friend that the flag of Andalucía should be brown-white-brown instead of matching white with vivid green. I rarely saw farmers harvesting these mummified plants as if they overly trust the summer weather of Iberian Peninsula. When driving underneath the rainclouds, I felt a little concerned for the left-over sunflowers. Moisture did not water crops gently but struck them instead cannot to bring them back to life. A torrential storm is capable to flood the plain, lodging plants then cover them with thick mud. On second thoughts — at least high temperature and dryness should not make decay a big problem.

The south of the barren mountain which appeared in front of us introduced a steeper terrain. The town is nothing similar to those settlements shaped like a waterdrop splash in the rural area of Cordoba. Retails and diners were built alongside the highway while residence area was arranged in the high ground with relatively inconvenient transportation. Traffic merged together from forks, heading north towards Cordoba, or moving south to Granada.

Driving through the border of Granada felt like an endless uphill. Streets were narrowed that we had to squeeze through crowds of cars. Buildings oppressed the atmosphere significantly with their increasing heights and density. It was almost breathless queuing in small lanes while calculating if enough space was left for trams. The street view improved as we struggled further. Soon the road was widened, greenery returned as decorations; pavements with public benches and fancy sculptures were built in the middle of the road. Overgrown street trees even hooded some paths into avenues.

Finally, at the foot of a hill full of white houses, I showered in the odour of bitter orange and pomegranate.

Stone flooring around the Albaicín has been polished by years of tourism. I have to walk extremely careful to prevent slipping on the smoothness. Shadows of architectures carried a refreshing, dusty smell in the afternoon. As long as you walk in shades, sunburnt and the temperature would not be a concern. I bought a can of local beer as a decent snack, lit a Fortuna cigarette, started to climb the hill. Granada is magical; whenever a coolness breezes through alleys between buildings, the joy will unload your depression, and you can’t help to smile, to dance a circle rhythmically with the music in your brain. I wandered through the maze of ancient residence. From time to time I have to bow through waterfalls of Bougainvillea. Every new height I reached would seduce me a looking back to the city. When visiting Granada, if you stand high enough, you will find the town established in the middle of a broad plain that guarded by mountains. Entrances of the urban area are gaps between hills, made this city a fortress in ancient time. My eyes were attracted by the spires of the Cathedral. Used it as a reference, I have found the hotel where I live. Then I tried hard to recollect the route towards Cordoba just for entertainment, although it soon turned serious. By which road did I come? And before that, where I came from?

The sun often appeared right in front of me while I climb. The light shines mightily that I can barely open my eyes. It was hard to maintain strength in such circumstance. I picked a bush of jasmine which was hanging to the ground then sat behind its curtain. A cat approached me with a pleasant humming. She nibbling slightly on my socks, swiftly rubbed my legs, then settled beside my backpack. I patted her, tickling her jaw while trying to figure out which path should I take next. Maybe I am lost, I cannot recall the trail I took previously. Where exactly, La Alhambra smiled at me from above?

Once, the furthest place I walked seemed to be the very end of the land. In many cases, life pushed me in the opposite direction, betray my belief and trust. In those darkest moments, these views were treated as the only candle in the darkness, which brings strength and warmth. With a single bit of light, I will never be afraid. I know all my effort will support a reunion to the beauty; they have already become a part of me, paying back my love with their everlasting inspiration. I work as an archiver, aimed for document love and hope for everyone walked within these landscapes, or dreamers that will eventually reach there. Generations of people shines through the beauty they loved, and I am passing their love to you.

Once, the furthest place I walked seemed to be the very end of the land. In many cases, life pushed me in the opposite direction, betray my belief and trust. In those darkest moments, these views were treated as the only candle in the darkness, which brings strength and warmth. With a single bit of light, I will never be afraid. I know all my effort will support a reunion to the beauty; they have already become a part of me, paying back my love with their everlasting inspiration. I work as an archiver, aimed for document love and hope for everyone walked within these landscapes, or dreamers that will eventually reach there. Generations of people shines through the beauty they loved, and I am passing their love to you.

Memory always fades with time. The scene immediately projected in our minds when you thought about a place, is always our most private understanding of a landscape. Like an archive of time.

As I opened the gate at the border of the meadow, walked to the other side of the marsh, I thought white cliffs were left behind. But at another perspective, they are always ahead, calling to me.

I walked back to the wetland where cliffs were divided into two, graceful waves were blown on the looping river of Cuckmere.

Fishes, even their scales were visible through the clear water. A wigeon quickly dived into the water, after a while a tiny butt with shaking feathers floated up, accompanied with two petite flippers. A golden retriever stuck out its tongue, gratefully enjoying its outdoor time.

When I started with watercolour years ago, my tutor told me a rather complicated word, which refers to the fog that rising from the sea surface. The instruct came from his observation to one of my painting of Cuckmere Valley years ago, thus essentially it is also an explanation of my observation. I did enjoy watching storms approach across the channel, mist engulfing the coastal horizon. When clouds were so low that you can nearly feel its coldness with your fingertip, it stacked to a certain thickness that a gentle wind could easily move it. A cloud of white was filtered out of the dimness, like the snowy top on boundless mountains in Bayanbulak. Landscapes suddenly share familiarity. They somehow were overlayed with sealed memories, landscapes I missed, scenarios that I would give in everything to live once more.

Snowy clouds outlined the boundary of the sea, and water with a border would be a lake. A sealed scenery, a glasshouse of natural beauty. Sails were hoisted, heading to the foot of snow-capped mountains opposite white cliffs, shortly they have merged into whiteness. Suddenly countless canvas was lifted above a floating sea of clouds as if snow strikes a wildland bloomed with chrysanthemums.

I often follow the animal’s trail to find an effortless downhill path. It has a similar view to the cliffs on the left, except there is a moderate area of trees that twisted by the wind. Their trunks are mostly covered with a kind of gold-grown moss that very common in England. Tiny red fruits fall beaches between narrow leaves and spikes, feasting wood pigeons. Cattle idle within the forest, sleepily wagging tails, driving away insects that probably not exist.

Most livestock doesn’t seem to bother. From time to time, I saw sheep wander passes me, bleating, then disappeared into a sea of pale yellow flowers.

Red fescue grass habitated in small valleys between peaks of cliffs. They undulate dramatically as wind breezing through the valley. When deep trails were stamped out, the vegetation tends to cover them with its growth. Mother nature is like a kind and patient grannny, quietly wiping graffitis of her children off the wall. There are several parts of the valleys where grass have been trimmed, leaving patterns similar to harvested wheat field. The fence next to me reminded me that this is a private territory. I dare not to trespass for views deep in the field.

It is irresponsible to explain the work of Regionalism paintings from a political perspective entirely. Especially comments of critics who are keen to link regional paintings to political propaganda, such behaviour sometimes can be very irritating. These rustic ideas are similar to Hudson River School but more obsessed with landscapes that can be seen from their porches. They try to project their love into graphic-based mediums, with a hint of personal understanding of the scene. Otherwise, according to those radical logic circuits, does the seldom selected hometwon of mine means I chose to deny my background completely, simply because my creative direction had not been determined until I found my second hometown? All my pieces, landscape paintings, in particular, are expressing the equality to love: every individual has the right to love the same object, or a theme equally; every foreigner can be judged that they love and respect a place and a culture as much as a local does.

I travelled half of the continent, I set foot to on these cliffs bedded for floras and grass. It was destined at the moment that my ancestors chose not to give up obtaining heat. This travel is in my gene, as well as the trace of love for the fields of Sussex, is pure and without maliciousness. After countless efforts I have put, I returned to the land where the four best years of my age were spent under the guardianship of cliffs. White cliffs dotted with creamy yellow flowers have been indicating the direction of home for many sails, and this time, for me as well. The love towards this landscape finally earned me a chance to be with such charm again.

Prejudice does not exist when people are connected by the nature. They just keep stamping out paths that point the direction of their love to landscapes.

Those who dance are considered insane

by those who can’t hear the music.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

I have not yet walked to the end of the Sevensisters; usually, I return at the third or fourth peak. All kinds of people could be found here. They would head in my direction to Birling Gap which locates at the east end of white cliffs; or to the opposite direction, walk right back to the swamp in the valley. They would also sit on the ground, take a little break; outlook the edge of the cliff, throw rocks into the sea. They are often friendly and willing to greet strangers. We all are here because of a pure fondness to landscapes and the nature, and the idyllic scenarios of the English countryside.

Exploring into the distance is always a nature of human. Fernweh, or as a writer once wrote, “Sehusucht nach der Ferne”. Human beings long for seeing the scenery that not yet be seen by others. They tend to feel strange lands, learn from them, being supported by their experiences on them. When there is a direction or a tiny bit of hope, human will march. They may not advance in a straight line or without hesitation, but after all, they move forward.

Debris of weathered limestones spread over every corner of the grassland on cliffs, like when a naughty kid has threw confetti overhead. They piled in collapsed dens, stairs formed by footsteps, and traces of streams. Sometimes they attracted tourists to pick them up, and placed in various creative patterns. Debris is light, a strong wind could easily blow them away, until they were picked up, then being scattered by the breeze again.

Until turning around, and to give a proper gaze at rolling cliffs ahead.

On a gloomy day, when the clouds are grey but reflected by the sea, brightness filtered by the rain clouds would blend the colour of clouds and the sea into ivory white as well. A little fated, however with precisely decorated highlights, the all within the field of sight — cliffs, water and sky, just like reliefs carved on an exquisite Greek columns.

To rephrase it romantically, it is a pursuit of breaking physical restrictions and maintain one’s presence in a landscape. Looking down, the most challenging part of this walk has already passed. The shore which wides hundreds of metres lies quietly in the guardianship of white cliffs. Everyone who would step on them cannot help to turn back at different heights for different views, and each of the new heights will break their estimation of the magnificence of the Cuckmere Valley.

Two sinuous paths grow from the beach to the first peak of Seven Sister Cliff. As if the cliffs are watching for what is behind the coastline, some writers review the scene as a reflection of heroism. The top of the first hill is where the sight can pass Seaford into the wild of South Downs. Fields that surround Newhaven are separated into different geometric figures by the unique English hedges. I can feel an urge from the scenery that pushes me to blend in nature, perhaps that is also one of the reasons that make this landmark being mostly considered for suiciders.

Cobblestone beach is feature of East Sussex county. Sometimes I wonder, if pebbles gradually transit to sand somewhere, or it just suddenly becomes a sandy shore and forms a clear boundary between each other? Regardless, so wide this cobble beach is! It is already one hour’s drive from Brighton, and it’s still cold shingles on Cuckmere Haven. Some old, artificial channels reforged by timbers are still struggling to survive weathering; dark moss has been growing on wooden planks during the invasion of waves. I am afraid the only role of Cuckmere Haven is to divide the way to the cliffs for both sides. On its left end is a steep cliff that tens of meters high, overlooking the shore from the top; on its right end, the terrain is slightly gentle, which made it easier to climb. This is a detail which cannot be observed from a distance, and it often influences tourists to reevaluate the plan they have made on the bus. I chose the left side like I always do. Even if this is the fifth year of my living in England, I still have not stepped on Cuckmere’s western cliffs. But it is trivial. It’s like something I will never choose to do, but somehow decided it will be done eventually.

It is hard for a salt marsh to be vegetated, not to mention plants need to drilling out pebbles that oppressed the land. But there are still an abundant amount of sea kales with lovely white blossoms scattered on the coastline. They are slightly sparse at the middle of the pebble beach, then gradually merge with the grass that covering the cliffs. The meadow is somewhat below sea level, which means the beach barriers the wind for vegetations in the marsh.


I Walked through clusters of olive green thrones and their berries, then opened the gate by which sheep are hedged, a path formed with mud and little cubes of chalks replaces the concrete walk. A signpost at their cross indicated the direction to the coast and the way return. Sheep hid in nearby shades in groups, chewing weeds and staring at tourists blankly.

Sometimes I would complain about the concrete road, which was roughly built separates people from the earth. The thought seized when I saw elder couples holding hands, slowly walked to the direction where birds are nesting. Indeed, they have the rights to enjoy the view as they are not physically inconvenient. Without them, Cuckmere Valley could be an undiscovered and unpopulated wild land, just like those unknown moments but known to God himself, that made up 98% of our world.

Hedge heights more than two people can be seen continuously along the road from Peacehaven to Cuckmere Valley. Its consistency, however, becomes intermittent at the bound of Seaford. The bus passed the Cuckmere inn, rubbed some flowers off a blooming tree. At the moment the last tiny hill of Seaford town was climbed, ivory white cliffs sheen within the sunshine in the distance. Cuckmere River crosses the landscape with several curves while forming a very iconic marsh of South Downs. This little wetland divides chalk cliffs into two parts. Cliff on the righthand side begins on cottages of coastguards, reaching the direction towards Newhaven. Its edge is clearly observable from Brighton Marina in ideal weather. On the opposite, there are Seven Sisters, a natural wonder formed by seven beautiful cliffs in a roll. Wild ducks and seagulls usually sport on water ponds of the swamp between this magnificence. Sometimes there are hares, jumping out of collapsing pits, quickly quivering their noses, then drilling into bushes, vanished.

White Cliffs.

Ce Chen

Art can be easily looked down to in a prejudiced society. Unfortunately, bias does have a point. The output of art is generally not proportional to its cost, years of training and practice could easily result in null when the artist lacks appreciation; it is unfeasible to standardise the procedure for evaluating artworks or assign them with material value. Instead of scenarios in which valid outcomes can be revealed immediately, the instability of artworks output substantially narrowed art to research theories relatively more abstract.

Comparing to building a bridge utilising leverage, or constructing a ground-breaking perspective via Schrödinger’s cat, I imagine art should be considered as the tool for sharpening practitioners of our society. It stimulates audiences to think, provide brand new perspectives for others; It teaches noble qualities to children, trains them to establish a honourable value so they could treat the world with kindness and honesty. As for me, an artist who took this path, but sadly devoted in producing boring landscape paintings, once something I produced actually contributed to the history of human, I would consider my social responsibility as an artist is fulfilled. I document not only the beauty of landscapes, but also invisible communications beyond time and space; generations of people shines through the beauty they loved, and I am passing their love to you.

For those days past,

and for those days to come.

The final outcome of the project are two illustration books, one artist book from the concept design stage, printed postcards and nearly 60 individual paintings.

book-design-cucoIMG_6810 copyIMG_6818IMG_6816IMG_6808EFtuhIMG_6824

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.