August 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
Rover Thomas in the desert making art that is of the earth, simple, iconic masterpieces, representing deeply the land he was, he not separate, but a part of a whole intimately felt universe. Traveling overhead in planes, peering from tiny windows many times over the years, looking down into the land of Australia, seeing the red earth in a different way, became the first step for me to see life differently. To stop trying to see the earth with only one sense, the eyes, in a two dimensional pictorial way.
Lying on thick dewy grass in the night, looking up into the velvety blackness, light twinkling from distant planets and stars, but part of it, in it, not separate and observing, but deeply within the great night sky, deeply held by the deep dark earth. How to express this inner knowledge of life. Maybe the ancients have always expressed this and it is we who are now the primitive ones. Modernization and technology seem to have ultimately divided us from each other, our voracious consumerism has meant we are neglecting the earth, and our knowledge comes from others, not ourselves who have separated our senses from their essential connectivity. We are often alone with only the companions of things that have no life.
For months I have been in my studio drawing, trying to feel the earth, be the earth. I have scoured books of ancient art including the art of our Australian aboriginals, sinking into their work, meditating on it, trying to redraw in my own way their sense of the world, because instinctively I know they are deeply connected to all of life and I, too, want to belong.
My sculptures have been going this way for years, looking for the elemental, the spiritual essence of the human being. My drawings have lagged behind, perhaps out of habit in the way I see two dimensionally, I have seen only pictorially with that one visual sense and not all. My challenge was to ‘become’ everything I was trying to express. Recently, I put big slabs of paper on the floor and crawled all over them, black everywhere, a mess, losing perspective. Out of it came the message of Rover Thomas. I have been shamelessly influenced by him and so grateful. I have fallen in love with the rich earth colours that are here just the same in Italy. I feel the earth colour in my whole being, I can smell in its dark smoky browns its woodiness, its mustiness, in the reds I feel the abundant bloody fertility, in the ochres I feel the sun and warmth and light. I have let my figures fall on the paper, anywhere. The spaces between them as vibrant as their own energy that is part of the sky and part of the earth.
Some of these drawings and sculptures were in an exhibition recently at La Rondine Gallery along with the photos and sculptures of Sarah Danays.
August 2, 2013 § 5 Comments
The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival has brought into our wee beautiful town some of the most amazing international talent that it has seen for many years. Bagni di Lucca is known for its many famous personages. It is known for all the incredible writers and musicians and visual artists that have come here through history, seduced by its unspoilt beauty, resting and walking in the deep greens and aquas of the verdant mountains rolling over each other, mystical visions of villages perching on the hilly spines, torrents racing coldly through ravines and crevices emerging into still ponds where children play, leaping onwards and down into the river Lima, through the great devil’s bridge of Ponte di Maddalena and into the Serchio before reaching Lucca.
The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival has brought together today’s wonderful artists. A couple of weeks ago we had two concerts in consecutive nights in the old casino in Ponte a Serraglio. Both concerts blew us away. The first concert was by Ronald Farren-Price playing piano.
Ronald Farren-Price, a virtuoso and one of Australia’s foremost concert pianists, now retired from concert life at eighty something, is an inspiration of daunting precocity. An artist of meticulous self discipline, he has practiced every day for 78 years and sometimes on programs he will never play professionally.
“When students ask me why I’m working on a big program that I may never even perform, I say that I am working on it for the next world, and that nothing in life is lost. Eventually everything has a meaning.”
He himself believes in the interpretation of the music rather than the technical brilliance of the performance. He believes in memorising his pieces in preparation before a performance for the inner ear and the mind so that that the only thing he has to do when performing is to interpret the knowledge.
“I always tell my students to strive for something that is beautiful rather than something only brilliant. Brilliance alone can lead to something blatant in no time if one is not careful.”
His body, bent permanently in its accustomed posture at the piano, reminded me of what it was to be a great artist, a vocation of intense pursuit, undistracted by the frills of life and desires for luxury, just the wish for all needs met. This night he arrived in the old casino where Liszt played over a hundred years ago at its opening ceremonies, the beautiful old chandeliers glistening in the gilt age marked mirrors, the piano raised on a stage, the chairs fanning out around it, people eager in their seats. Gentle gentle his hands barely lifted off the keys as he opened his performance with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. So tender his face, his eyes softly closed like a child’s, as though he was just feeling the music as it left the tips of his fingers, so exquisitely almost silent those opening notes that broke away the day and placed our minds in open readiness. It was a truly amazing performance. It was the performance of a master. It was an hour and a half of music laced with passion and tenderness, a meditation so perfectly controlled, yet so ‘felt’, so perfectly in harmony with the essence of every note. I rave, but I loved it. So did we all. We clapped so hard we ached.
I am inspired for my own life as an artist. Ronald Farren-Price gave us everything that night. I am inspired by a man who, though frail and vulnerable in his advancing age, has not allowed frailty and a hurting body to interfere with his spiritual connection to his creativity. His will to control the extremities of body to allow himself to ‘speak’ was really something to be seen and heard.
He was always revered, being one of those children with incredible talent that eventually took his studies to London and New York, feted and lauded wherever he went and here today. Most of his professional life has been cocooned in the Music Faculty of the University of Melbourne with concert forays each year into some of the most amazing concert halls of the world. How incredibly lucky were we to have seen this, his last public performance. He promises to return next year with a master class of gifted students who in turn will take the stage to create another night for the soul to remember.
July 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
The sculpture symposium is over. The artists, one by one are leaving. Sad to see them go. They became like family, bonded by big family meals, heart to hearts and animated discussion. Their works were exhibited in ‘La Cantina’ and garden in Ponte a Serraglio on the weekend in the golden ambience of a summer’s evening.
The artists are being very generous to the Art Festival if they are to sell, which is likely that some of them will. They are respectively offering between 30 and 50% of their sales to next year’s sculpture symposium. If anyone is interested in any of these works please feel free to contact the artists directly on their websites which I have included or contact Jacob Cartwright who is president of the Bagni di Lucca Art Festival association and manager of the sculpture symposium. email@example.com
July 23, 2013 § 17 Comments
Every day since the first of July you wander over the passerella to the Villa Fiori gardens and you hear the musical tapping of metal on stone. The sculpture symposium, one of the many wonderful events of the Bagni di Lucca Art Festival, has seen the works of five sculptors evolving and ‘becoming’ over the month; Doug Robinson, Sarah Danays, Ryoichi Suzuki, Petra Boshart and Michael Cartwright. Visitors to the gardens have been delighted by the progress and information on how each artist develops their language, using only hand tools on various types of marble, statuario and normale from Carrara, red travertine from Iran, nut brown from Turkey.
Every day the local people have provided lunch for the artists in their homes. It has been an enormous discovery for the hosts and the artists alike to see how the other lives life. There have been lunches in tiny kitchens and under vines with magnificent vistas, every lunch generous and fundamentally Italian, with pasta and wine and home done olives, good vegetables from the fields and heavy rustic breads and cheeses.
The kindness of Hotel Pio in Bagni Caldi, donating rooms to three of the artists for the full month along with the Bridge Hotel in Ponte a Serraglio hosting Doug, has been a huge act and earns them the name of the ‘art hotels’ and maybe next year with funding they will be well recompensed.
Doug Robinson is a Canadian sculptor who has been coming to Pietrasanta for the past thirty years to carve marble. He has been a wonderful joy in the party, his enthusiasm for the whole culture of Bagni di Lucca with all its hilltop villages, his eyes turning into childlike buttons of wonder have made us laugh and enjoy being here even more. He has been working in the brown travertine and his work, organic, figurative, animistic and landscape, all, are a beautiful testament to his surroundings that he has eagerly absorbed.
Sarah Danays, a UK artist living and creating in L.A. and renovating a house in a little hilltop village here in Bagni, is a petite and gentle woman. She has carved the smallest piece of marble to carefully and delicately create a bust to wear the adornment of an antique necklet which will then be melded into her own artistic expression of a photographic installation. Her lovely kind presence, always caring about us all and deeply concerned for her sponsors that they are properly acknowledged, has been significant to the warmth and friendship of the group.
Ryoichi Suzuki is a Japanese artist who has lived since his student days in Utah, USA, where he now lectures as a teacher in sculpture at the university. He has been used, as a marble sculptor, to the machines of the trade so has encountered a learning curve with the hand chiseling as has nearly everyone in the group. His process has been very methodical and at the end of his stay here he has created an abstracted silken torso in the white Carrara marble. People in town have loved his open interest in them and enjoyed his jovial company in the bar.
Petra Boshart, an artist from the Netherlands, comes from a long respected family line of marble carvers. She has willingly shared lots of tips from her memories of her grandfather and father and has delighted in the hand carving process which has eliminated lots of the aches that sculptors acquire from constant use of machines when carving. Carving on the edge of the Lima River inspired her sculpture in the Iranian red travertine, an organic coil of rolling form reflecting the flow of water.
Michael Cartwright, has loved being in the field every day creating. Life has been incredibly busy, because living in the same place you are working in, means many distractions, including hosting his sculpting friends every evening after work. But Mike’s energy is huge and he attacked his cube of stone with velocity before it took its shape into an abstract quirky bird form with what he calls the nest. People walking in the gardens each day got to know it and delight in it which was lovely for him because it usually takes a while for people to know his work. He is working on his second piece now, a promise of a gentle fluid form that feels womanly.
The artists will be showing their work on May 26th, when hopefully the road in Ponte a Serraglio will be closed again and all the shops reopened with the next exhibitions.
July 3, 2013 § 2 Comments
Colour must be the story of India. I wanted to see more. I wanted to be overpowered by it as you are when you go to India. The taste of it was yummy, a glow in the light, exotic fabrics edged in gold, the haze of dust, the flamboyant twists and turns of architecture, crumbling…The opening night to Ella Haller Zwierzchowska’s exhibition of photography, ‘India, The Extraordinary Everyday’ at La Rondine Gallery, was a beautiful celebration on a fine early summer’s evening. People came and went all night, really looking at and enjoying the work and sampling the tastes of Indian cuisine and chai; wine secondary to the pallet that night.
We have been watching Ella’s work over the past couple of years as she is a prolific photographer with a very good eye and she keeps her friends informed of her work on Facebook. Although she is only twenty one, she has been doing photography with a passion since she was ten when she inherited her first camera from her grandfather. The hours are certainly growing in her work and there is a suggestion now that she will take a decisive direction. Around the walls there are little stories connected to the photographs she took and for many people, they are brought in close to the experience of subjectivity with her work. For Michael and I, being visual artists, the impact for us is in the visuals not the story. I found that what interested me was her quirkiness, her ability to create an abstraction or ambiguity from a fleeting moment, like in the image, unnamed, of the taxi driver in his open cab glancing sideways at her taking the shot, while the cartoon poster in the passing background reflects the driver’s glance and abstracts the whole image with its play on the real and the comic. She has a camera constantly in her hand so it seems that these brilliant moments are caught by her prolificity and accustomed eye. The primary colours of the identical taxis, yellow, red, yellow, blue, on the road before her on one of the shots; in another, the horses in the background drawing an unseen cart that look like they are pulling a little motor driven taxi, that is actually in front of her vision. Then there is a lovely found moment in the four taxi drivers in red, sitting in front of four green doors elegantly sipping their chai, a vivid capture of contrasts. Her two portraits of brides were gorgeous. The portrait was in the beauty and glow of the colourful silk costumes and the henna tattoos on the gently clasped hands reflecting the magic of the moment and the importance of the event. And the Taj Mahal, unseen, sheathed in mist as luminous as the Taj Mahal itself.
I sense in Ella’s photography, delight in the capture of the moment. Her photographs are of exquisite magical and ambiguous moments rarely captured and remembered in life and her dedication to materializing them through her work seems to be where her artistry lies.
We are so glad Ella took the opportunity to show her work at La Rondine Gallery. We love seeing young artists take the leap of commitment and faith to their art and Ella has taken it with arms out wide.
June 25, 2013 § 4 Comments
May 24, 2013 § 7 Comments
Hong Kong Basel Art Fair opening on Wednesday 22nd May was an event heralding a lot of great art. We felt so happy to have seen so much work that was worthy of a museum, even though a lot of the art is no longer contemporary. The fair seemed to create a historical context for art today.
One of the first exhibitions we saw, and this is contemporary, was Kara Walker’s black cutout silhouettes spread out over the walls. She is known to explore race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in her work and this series is no different. You have a sense of the comical when you first see it before it reveals its dark underbelly, unemotionally rendered.
A lovely exhibition at Delhi Art Gallery. The colours drew us in, rich and earthy, the masters of India, most of them dead. Ganesh Pyne, his skeletal figure under a pyre in the moonlight, a feeling of alienation and mystery. Anjolie Ela Menon, her female figure in a brown world almost European medieval and mythical. Tyeb Mehta, a colorist, could be a cross influence of Matisse and Picasso. Jogen Chowdhury, his pen and ink and pastel drawing, intricately incised and veined, his reclining woman, tensely twisted on her coverlet.
Motherwell would have to be one our favourite artists. It is interesting that as an artist he was very influenced by his early studies of philosophy leaving him with the idea that abstraction was the process of pairing away all that was not essential and revealing only the necessary. Abstraction became his spiritual direction in his art and also in his own words, ”to end up with a canvas that is no less beautiful than the empty canvas to begin with.” ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Brush Elegy’ in the Bernard Jacobson Gallery booth, were two beautiful works, essential and with the artist’s complete integrity – he never succumbed to fame and potboiling. He was one of the lucky ones of the abstract expressionists who didn’t die young and in despair, and actually received the acclaim he deserved.
Atlas Gallery exhibited photography. Two iconic photos of elephants by Nick Brandt totally mesmerised us, making us believe heart and soul that we were right there before them. ‘Elephant Drinking, Amboseli’ was like a Lucien Freud portrait, only incredibly beautiful, all its deeply gouged weathered hide rising from the earth like an ancient tree. There is a feeling of the personality in the animal, and you have the feeling you are seeing something you will never tire from, it is the true expression of life. Research on Nick Brandt shows his love and idealism for the wilds of Africa. He goes out with a simple Pentax camera and gets really close to the animals so that he has their true story, not one taken from a long distance away through a zoom. This is probably why you ‘feel’ so close to the animal before you. Absolutely beautiful. He writes about some of the methods he uses in his book ‘On This Earth’: “I’m not interested in creating work that is simply documentary or filled with action and drama, which has been the norm in the photography of animals in the wild. What I am interested in is showing the animals simply in the state of Being. In the state of Being before they are no longer are. Before, in the wild at least, they cease to exist. This world is under terrible threat, all of it caused by us. To me, every creature, human or nonhuman, has an equal right to live, and this feeling, this belief that every animal and I are equal, affects me every time I frame an animal in my camera. The photos are my elegy to these beautiful creatures, to this wrenchingly beautiful world that is steadily, tragically vanishing before our eyes.”
Italian neo-expressionist, Mimmo Palladino, has several of his great works in the booth for Galleria d’Arte Maggiore. Lovely evocative works, rich in colour and texture, of figures imbued with symbology, religious and spiritual.
Lots and lots of ‘art’ leaves you exhausted but great art truly energizes you. I have to say that when we were walking out of the fair I felt ebullient with the works that stayed with me. I am truly grateful that there are artists ‘out there’ being true and real to their inner story – they are life givers and life reminders, and this is what great cultures are built on.