On the market square there is a large B&B containing a gallery. There the proprietor Jean-Lin and his friends show and sell paintings of unicorns and rainbows and dolphins, popular with New Age art lovers. Take a look at http://espacejeanlin.uphero.com/
You are made very welcome should you care to visit and as a bonus you might be shown how Leonardo da Vinci’s signature can be read in the mountains round Bugarach.
Off the square in the Rue de la Republique is the Boulangerie pâtisserie de l’Art (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boulangerie-p%C3%A2tisserie-de-lArt/213012672044856?sk=info) A little gallery run by Katrina Head, it also gives a friendly welcome and offers an eclectic collection of art for sale. English spoken.
For the next month Katrina has an exhibition of a local group who work together in the MJC, the cultural centre of Esperaza. The show is entirely of nudes since the reason this group are together is to share the costs of a model every week.
They work without tuition in silence for two hours on a Monday morning; once a month after the session they talk about their work, invite criticism and offer ideas to each other. It has been in existence since 2003 when artists Vanilla Beer and Victoria Milroy contacted the artists from the first Chemin des Artists, (a local event that publicized open studios to the public, now known as Artises a Suivre – http://www.artistesasuivre.org/) and invited them to participate. Many artists, professional and amateur, have been involved since then – all are welcomed.
What is the function and purpose of life drawing in this age? It’s a practice rarely observed among contemporary artists. This is a disparate group united only by their use of a live model – for some, to continue their art school objectives of looking and keeping the hand/eye coordination required for their profession, for others as a vehicle of learning, for others for the pleasure of working in a studio environment with other artists and so on. Each has their own reason to be there. Check out http://www.artists.name/sessions_dessins_esperaza_languedoc.html. (though I fear this is an old site.)
Leaving the Rue de la Republique, heading to the top of the road away from the market, a left turn and a hop to the other side of the road will bring you to Galerie K. – 1, Rue Victor Hugo. Galerie K is named for its founder, Karim Guerguer, an artist rather celebrated for his use of art as therapy. He did time in prison in his youth and a cell-mate taught him to paint. Fortunately his oeuvre is far better than simply therapeutic work; he is clearly an inspired painter. There is a you- tube film of him talking rather seriously during his first big show; see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bUQILGpflM&context=C4bd913dADvjVQa1PpcFOWbD5iIp2j-r1vvwc7rDAdR8Y3BldiK9I
At Galerie K he is always happy to talk and be interesting about art. There is an association of artists who exhibit there and it’s a good mix of little sculptures and paintings, juried in by the members. You’ll see some of the artists who showed in the Boulangerie pâtisserie de l’Art and many others.
Now you can turn to the left or to the right. Left will lead you to the Normandy Frites, where Stèphane Gilet is showing several large paintings. He is working on a project using old family photos to paint his family retrospectively, using a painting technique of mark-making that unites the collection and gives a distinctive style and presence. It successfully marries the formality of old portraits with a contemporary sense. Worth a look and you can get moules frites while you’re at it –
Should you turn right from Galerie K you will see Le Creperie opposite. This began life as a pottery and still shows the founder Edith Guillumot’s work; her studio is at the back of the (excellent) restaurant. She gives workshops if you need to learn to throw.
Carry on down towards the Dinosaur museum. Just before you reach it you’ll find the bar l’Orygynal which is studded with paintings. Some names you will recognize from the previous venues; some will be new. The work ranges from copies of black and white press cuttings, strong images done with passion, to the coolly decorative. Karim Guerguer always has a picture or two up, as do Vanilla Beer and Katrina Head. It’s an odd venue as artists and the rugby club, all of whom rub along fine together, use it.
There is another gallery which shows the work of Chantal Thomas on the way out of Esperaza, but Chantal has trouble staffing it and it’s often closed. If you like the work you see in the window there go on to nearby Antugnac – home of this years Toques et Clochers – and catch her there. Her site is good – http://www.chantalthomas.com/index.html – her studio is obvious as you reach Antugnac. She paints glassware which is her bread-and-butter. Her large abstracts have won some serious prizes over the last few years.
There are other artists who are of interest who were not showing when I was there but have homes in Esperaza. Beatrijis Lauwaert of Ghent, trained and exhibited with Louise Bourgeoise; Peter Dunn of London worked with Joseph Beuys and has recently shown at the V&A; there are other luminaries. I expect the town to flower into an ‘art destination’ before long – you will be able to say you went there before it was famous☺