Ronald Farren-Price plays Liszt at the Bagni di Lucca Casino

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 at the Bagni di Lucca Casino

Ronald Farren-Price at the Bagni di Lucca Casino

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.”

Ronald Farren-Price and Jaqueline Varela interpreting into Italian

Ronald Farren-Price and Jaqueline Varela interpreting into Italian

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.”

Ronald Farren-Price

Ronald Farren-Price

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.DSC01116

DSC01117I 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.

Chandeliers in old casino, Bagni di Lucca

Chandeliers in old casino, Bagni di Lucca

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.

A magical night

A magical night

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Exhibition of Marble sculptures from Bagni di Lucca Sculpture Symposium

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.             info@jacobcartwright.com

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DSC01382Douglas Robinson

DSC01363Petra Boshart 

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Ryoichi Suzuki

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DSC01371Michael Cartwright

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Sarah Danays

Sculpture Symposium in Bagni di Lucca

July 23, 2013 § 17 Comments

998031_421943887922199_955588846_nEvery 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.

Early days, Ryoichi and Mike discussing marble

Early days, Ryoichi and Mike discussing marble

lunch at Shona and Mike's

lunch at Shona and Mike’s

lunch at Maureen and Kevan Halson's La Balconata

lunch at Maureen and Kevan Halson’s La Balconata

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.

Doug sampling the Caprese at Candido's home in Montegegatesi

Doug sampling the Caprese at Candido’s home in Montegegatesi

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.

Pizza night at Hotel Pio - sponsor for the artists

Pizza night at Hotel Pio – sponsor for the artists

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.

Doug's sculpture

Doug’s sculpture

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.

Sarah carving her bust

Sarah carving her bust

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.

Ryoichi carving

Ryoichi carving

close to completion

close to completion

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.

Petra carving

Petra carving

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.

Mike carving

Mike carving

Michael carving the bird and nest

Michael carving the bird and nest

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.

The Photography of Ella Haller Zwierzchowska at La Rondine Gallery

July 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

Ella

Ella

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.

Opening night

Opening 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.DSC00726   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.  DSC00730Her 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.  DSC00724And the Taj Mahal, unseen, sheathed in mist as luminous as the Taj Mahal itself.DSC00721

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.DSC00733

First exhibition of the season in Bagni di Lucca

June 25, 2013 § 4 Comments

The first exhibition of the season at La Rondine Gallery opens next Friday night, 28th June, with the photographic works of Ella Haller Zwierzchowska.  If you are nearby or in town, come and celebrate!

Exhibition invitation

 

Creating an Art Festival in Bagni di Lucca

April 17, 2013 § 6 Comments

Bagni di Lucca ~ Ponte a Serraglio

Bagni di Lucca ~ Ponte a Serraglio

On a late summer’s day last year, under a pergola dripping in wisteria and overlooking splendid vistas, a thought was born to a philanthropist and his friends, to have an art festival in Ponte a Serraglio.  For years we had all been coming here, and every year another one or two shops would close down.  It seemed unbelievably sad that such a beautiful and elegant town with such a salubrious history should disappear, becoming shabbier over the years and less and less inviting to visit.

Artists walking in the mountains above Bagni di Lucca

Artists walking in the mountains above Bagni di Lucca

As with all intrinsically beautiful places, artists are already attracted to this town with its gracious old buildings and surrounding mountains and walks up to the ancient spas.  An artist group got together on the bridge, taking over two shops some years ago, Artisti Uniti, of around ten artists.  It was shortlived but quickly followed by the Borgo degli Artisti, whose initial group had a dream to create a hamlet of artists, inspired by Greenwich village in New York!   The Borgo degli Artisti took the initative to fix up the derelict garden of Villa Fiori, making it a gorgeous place to have a painting event in mid July, attracting nearly 100 artists for the day to paint all along the river and now they also have sagras on that day and other days throughout the year and have a little gallery on the bridge that displays their members’ works year around.

Borgo degli Artisti festival in the gardens of Villa Fiori

Borgo degli Artisti festival in the gardens of Villa Fiori

Since the Borgo degli Artisti started, La Rondine Gallery, an artist run space, showing international artists throughout the summer months has opened in two beautiful shops on one of the small piazzas. To add to the general feeling of excitement, a photography gallery directed by Kevan Halson is opening a few doors up from La Rondine and will feature the works of international photographers.

Exhibtion opening at La Rondine Gallery

Exhibtion opening at La Rondine Gallery

After our informal ideas meetings with our philanthropist friend who donated a substantial offering to the cause, the enormous job of putting together the Bagni di lucca Art Festival, was placed in Jaqueline’s hands.  Jaqueline is our daughter-in-law married to our eldest son, Jacob.  Her mother has a smile that would light the sun, while her father is a politician in Cape Verde, and we’ve decided upon this knowledge that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  She is extremely talented dealing with so many artists and cajoling so many people to donate their empty shops, encouraging everyone in the town to get out and work at cleaning them up.   The feeling of anticipation is palpable.  Already the festival, even in its first year, has legs that are running for success.  Of course she is greatly supported by Jake, and the two of them have become a wonderful team.

Jake and Jaqueline

Jake and Jaqueline

In generous collaboration, the Borgo degli Artisti are delighted to have the art Festival take place throughout the Villa Fiori gardens. Starting at the beginning of July, there will be a marble hand carving sculpture symposium with international sculptors; music performances; opera; acrobatics; dancing.  Plus, there are 7 or 8 empty shops that have been seconded and they will be artists’ studios/exhibition spaces/installations. These shops will rotate with artists over the entire summer, June through till September.  The scrumptious old casino will be transformed in the summer for a piano recital of Lizst by one of Australia’s foremost pianists, Ronald Farren-Price, also for an opera from London and an opera from Lucca as well as a performance by Italy’s Al Maranca. It’s a growing happening and already people on the other side of the world are booking to come over to be here, enticed by beauty and culture and delightful traditions.

Casino, Ponte a Serraglio

Casino, Ponte a Serraglio

Ronald Farren-Price

Ronald Farren-Price

The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival is the manifestation of many dreams in the little town to see it thrive once more. After all, its historical interest has always been through the amazing artists and personages who have visited this town in the summer.

Bagni di Lucca’s Art Festival

April 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

Bella Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca is set to host a brand new Art Festival this summer. In the sunny months of July, August and September Ponte a Seraglio will be filled with performance artists, painters, sculptors and photographers.

Meet part of the organizing team.

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From the left…Jaqueline, Ira, our Sindaco Dottore Betti and Jake.

With the help of our Sindaco (mayor), our beautiful venues, such as the TeatroAccademico, the Casino, the Sala Parrocchiale and others will be filled with exciting performance artists. Click here to see more on the Casino and here for the Teatro Accademico.

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As well as this, artists will be able to display their collections of art work in some of the unused shops in the main street of Ponte a Serraglio at no cost. One of the best aspects of this is that the local people are getting involved in the clean…

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