“Sketches in Aix” gallery reveals unity in blank spaces
By Emma Shaw, Contributing Writer
On Wednesday, September 16 I curiously attended the reception for Professor Mark Warwick’s most recent showcase, titled “Sketches in Aix,” in The West Gallery. I had spotted a poster for the event a few days earlier and immediately took notice. Having recently returned from a semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence myself, the exhibit could not have come at a more appropriate time. As I resumed my studies here at Gettysburg College for the fall semester, I realized that I was longing for the time I had spent wandering around the South of France this past spring. Like Professor Warwick, I studied at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts while I was in Aix. Keeping this is mind, I stepped into Professor Warwick’s gallery that Wednesday afternoon in hopes of catching a glimpse of the city that I had grown so fond of during my experience abroad.
“Sketches in Aix” featured eleven captivating sketches. I immediately recognized many of the locations depicted: le Cours Mirabeau, the city’s most popular street, is lined with cafés and, on the weekends, market stands that sell a variety of paintings, clothing and olive-scented soaps. At the end of the Cours Mirabeau is the Fontaine de la Rotonde, one of Aix’s most famous attractions. Aix-en-Provence is populated with dozens of fountains; it always excited me when I stumbled across one that I had not seen before. As I gazed at the trees that Professor Warwick depicted, I remembered how different the trees in France seemed from the ones that I was used to at home. Observing these sketches allowed me to think more critically about my experience studying art in the city that Professor Warwick had so beautifully captured.
While in France, my classmates and I spent hours upon hours painting the landscape. I recall how my professors at Marchutz constantly encouraged me to focus on the entirety of the image–the “whole.” I had a tendency to obsess over details and, in doing so, lose sight of the image that I sought to capture. “As you look out into the landscape,” my professors would explain, “Certain things jump forward. Other things fall backwards. The whole emerges when you paint what you see.” I struggled to understand this at first, but Professor Warwick’s sketches have allowed me to fully appreciate what my professors were talking about. I was struck by how Professor Warwick left portions of the page blank in every piece, yet I very quickly observed how the white informed the various tones of grey. Certain forms jumped forward. Other forms fell into the background. Yet each piece possessed an indisputable sense of unity. The whole had been depicted, and I was transported. I also realized how the notion of the whole related to my abroad experience overall. When I think back to my time in France, certain memories stick out, while others have fallen out of my mind. Some of the details have become irrelevant, yet my experience is no less valid or complete. When I consider the moments that have stuck with me, I can assuredly say that they constitute my experience. I like to think of my semester abroad as a whole, much like the sketches.
Ultimately, it is impossible to truly relay an experience that demands to be lived. That being said, I can confidently conclude that “Sketches in Aix” illustrated how I remember my time in Aix-en-Provence.