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From L’Aquitaine to the Pays Basque
By Jane Gavan
16 September 2010

In my work I look for patterns, characteristics visual and textural and material.

For some reason I have always been visually drawn to the idea of the Basque region, and I realized my dream to visit there this week.

Allan and I plug the Hotel Arce address into our GPS, and we sail through fields of sunflowers towards the Pyrenees. It is on the western side, near Bayonne, so quite tropical vegetation in places, a curious addition to this area that is so unique in culture, climate and politics.

I have booked the Hotel from home and its more beautiful than the website images, (so just go). I wandered around and searched with my camera for “things Basque”.

The Basque language is unique, but the letters and how they are applied to objects also seem to have a different almost Celtic feel about them. The script is carved into furniture and stones and most interestingly above the lintels of most of the doorways in the little town of St-Etienne-de-Baigorry, where the hotel is located.

There is also an emphasis on a few geometric and curvilinear shapes that are repeated in the wooden furniture, even in the cupboard in our room. These are simple and strong, like to forms they adorn, thick dark wood made to last here in this place, forever. They seem to be a political statement for the Basque nation in themselves.

The paintings have a restrained simplicity and the whole environment, is considered carefully, well looked after and this control makes a stark foil to the huge mountains that loom over your should every where you look in this town.

The region is known for the sport of Pelote, which is played on a trinquet court. The restaurant of the hotel has been converted from one of these courts and the art work around the room includes relics from the past, leather scoops, hand made and worn, and wooden paddles. Don’t ask me how to play it…it’s a secret.

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