I have two different kinds of artwork aboard Honfleur. For the cabins and the loft lounge I made some abstract photographic seascapes using long exposures and natural colours. They're from a series of mine called ‘Even Tides’, and they're pictures of places where the sea comes together with sky and land at dusk or ‘eventide’. My other photographs appear in the lounges on deck 7, and are inspired by the contemplative photography movement. When I take these pictures - maybe details of boats in the harbour at Honfleur, for example - I try to be open to simply seeing and reacting to the moments that we usually rush past, like a ray of sunlight hitting something in a particular way. I think that really fits with the whole vision of what Brittany Ferries is trying to give people going on holiday. It’s the space to just to pause and take a breath, have your mind clear and not have to think about anything. It’s about suspended moments, just like you have this moment of peace in the middle of the Channel between the UK and France.
Mark Van Wagner
I'm not the first artist to ‘paint’ with sand. Since the early 1900s, Picasso and Jackson Pollock and others were using sand, but they were throwing it in with their paint. I pour it onto liquid adhesives to create these abstract images. I’ve made six studies for the deluxe cabins, and two for the corridors outside. Of course the material has a natural association with the coast and with holidays and childhood: I remember being fascinated with the material as I played in my sandbox as a kid in New York, and I loved the beaches there and in Hawaii, where I lived later. I hope these works evoke those same associations for passengers on Honfleur, and that they have a calming effect. I hope that the longer they look at them, the more they see. If they can get lost in the work and then go back into the ‘real’ world and start seeing things differently, that's mission accomplished for an artist. Our job is to have people look at the world afresh.
I think most people recognise the echoes of Claude Monet and Impressionism in my work but close up it's very contemporary. So that attracts the viewer and makes them linger, and I hope appreciate the work. The commission for the Giverny restaurant is just a pure continuation of how I’ve been painting over the past six years. I've loved Monet's work since I was a kid, and I first visited Giverny, where he painted so much, about 30 years ago as a young lad and then as an art student. I've lived in France for 19 years now, and with this commission I must have visited five times this year. It's a fascinating place. The waterlily pond and gardens are quite small, but there’s this aura of Monet around. I painted a little there, and then finished the pieces back in the studio, just as Monet did. There's a lot of snobbishness about art, but it shouldn’t be an exclusive thing. It should be universal, and I really like the idea that with these commissions we can bring original new work to a wider public.