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.
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.
May 23, 2013 § 1 Comment
This is Art week in Hong Kong. It is huge and it is really wonderful. There is so much good art out there and I am happy to say, the La Rondine exhibition stands up to all of it, albeit a small show, in the confines of Gallery ZZHK in Wa Lane.
Monday night rocked off with a great exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Shi Jindian in Hollywood Rd at Angela Li Contemporary Gallery. Shi Jindian is a lovely shy artist whose work probably reflects well his introverted nature. With exquisite attention to detail he twists stainless steel wire around bicycles and a motor bike, before extracting them and leaving their outer wire shape. Hanging on the wall is the remnants of an old door that he wired up and then burnt, the remains of charcoal trapped in the outer wire frame. While I appreciated the work and craftsmanship of his sculptures, I was probably more taken with his paintings that were similar to his wire work through painstakingly etched biro into paint revealing beautiful abstract forms. The works were subtle and haunting.
Tuesday night held the openings of the big galleries, the Gagosian, White Cube, Ben Brown, Hanart, and Pearl Lam. We loved the Basquiat exhibition at Gagosian. How lucky are we to see it. There were huge crowds making their way up to the seventh floor exhibition in Pedder Building, but there was no alcohol so people didn’t stay to hang in their groups talking with their backs to the artwork and therefore obscuring the vision. A clever move, because truly this was worth seeing. Basquiat is such an explorative artist. The passion and volatility of his work, scratched and scribbled and stuck and slapped on any debris or available matter, made the work excitingly free, connected to the moment, unconcerned with outcome and anyone’s opinion. Sad he died, a bit of a Jimmy Hendrix, lost in the alienation of drugs and fame, yet so much more to give – or does everything become a rehash – how many artists can re-invent themselves, once they’ve ‘made it’.
Ben Brown had two artists showing. Sculptural landscapes by Swiss artist, Vital, and portraits by Frank Auerbach. It was a good show. The sculptural landscapes are marble images found in China. We often see these little marble images in the antique markets, as this is a recognized Chinese art form, the appreciation of a found piece of marble or stone that reflects the landscape. They are like beautiful little pen and ink washes and Vital mounted his finds on the wall in strong plaster sculpted reliefs. The Frank Auerbach portraits are great. They are rich in texture and honesty, and he is an artist who deserves to be recognized for his unrelenting dedication to his art and love for the human condition. The paint is tough and dirty and the portraits are essential rather than revealing.
We also went to Hanart on the 4th Level of Pedder Building and saw the installation paintings by Qiu Zhijie. They were a lovely exploration of Chinese landscape manifested in a contemporary context along with maps, historical and geographical.
I am afraid we didn’t get off much on Pearl Lam’s exhibition of ‘The Reality of Paint’ by Zhu Jinshi. Big slabs of thick textural colour paint on canvas. It felt contrived and without love for itself. hmmm. But it is a beautiful space and we have seen some great shows here.
In the meantime, we are sitting in our exhibition and we meet a spaniard who collects African art and Chinese ceramics. A quietly passionate man, after an hour perusing our work, proclaimed our exhibition as the best he had seen in HK. He said with sincerity that we were all ‘real’ artists not concerned with gimickry and slickness, but all of us were truly expressing our truths and he felt deeply moved by the show. He thanked us for giving so much. Lovely!! I wonder sometimes why any artist who chooses such a hard road in life would compromise their work to be ‘untrue’, to be fashionable, to care what anyone thinks, when what the world truly values is the artist’s freedom to create – and they pay a lot for it as seen in the Basel Art Fair in HK this year….
May 16, 2013 § 3 Comments
I am sitting in the corner looking over a beautiful exhibition of art work by the La Rondine artists in ZZHK Gallery in Hong Kong. We have secured this lovely space over an incredibly busy period in the art month of Hong Kong. Art Basel is next week and so are a number of subsidiary art fairs, all vying for attention, to say nothing of the many galleries, all with their openings every night of the week and even mornings of next week.
Our openings, (we had two, one was a special collector’s evening and the other was an open celebration), were in the lull before the storm. How lucky are we to have had such great attendance. Sandra Walters, art consultant and art dealer, hosted the collectors evening on Monday night. We were sponsored by Absolut vodka so Marc Danays, a master mixologist and partner to one of our artists, Sarah Danays, created the beautiful La Rondine cocktail, using vodka, lychee liqueur, curacao, guava juice, lemon juice and basil – yummo, it was much appreciated on a very warm evening.
As my eye roves the gallery space, I pick up on a powerful photograph by Jacob Cartwright, of a blue naked woman bowed under the chains of industry. Jacob’s technique is really interesting, using photography without computer manipulation, he takes photographs of environments, in this case, HK, and projects them onto his model, then photographs her under special lighting and the projection. The effect is an abstraction of form that creates his emotional connection to life without the seeming objectivity of photography. Jacob lives on the side of a sunny hill in Tuscany, overlooking the plains of Lucca. He tends an olive grove and imports its oil, one of the finest in the world, to America. He was born and bred in the arts and was a gifted child in music. Today he is a composer and photographer. His photography is a visual reflection of his lyrical soul. The story of his four photographs represent the earth mother. The mother reflecting life upon herself, as in ‘Flower’, where she rises like an innocent child from a garden, herself the garden. ‘Chained in Blue’ is industry, ‘Construct’ is the city, ‘Tape’ is man’s creativity. Much of Jacob’s work is about life reflecting on its essence. He loves the reflection.
Interspersed throughout the room are the small photographic portraits of people, many now gone from life, from the village of Montefegatesi. Candido Martinelli is an Italian New Yorker. He lives now, back in his beloved Tuscany, high in the mountains in a picturesque village that was witness to ancient battles between the Ligurians and Romans, and earlier still to the passage of Hannibal and his elephants… The stories in these tiny village top mountains abound and the early days of Candido, were the war years. He was shot through the leg as a young child by German SS hunting down the partisans in his village, Montefegatesi. The people he grew up with in these years are the people in these photographs, scarred and beaten and toughened, like the wild unpredictable mountains they inhabit. Candido’s photographic love is portraiture. He loves the stories of human beings and with great tenderness he expresses this in these works.
Kevan Halson is a meticulous man. Everything he does is with particular attention to detail and knowledge. He lives in an ancient villa in a little village, Granaiola, in the Tuscan Appenine mountains, overlooking Bagni di Lucca, with stupendous views of valleys and rivers and multitudinous layers of mountains on mountains. Despite the grandness of his vistas, he focuses on the intricate details of life and it is perhaps this insight that has inspired his ‘Atrophy’ series. In this area of great natural and manmade beauty, there is a sense of atrophy as the life cycle of the area depletes itself. The young people have left for the cities and the old people have died, leaving behind their old homes that slowly decay as the weather gets in and the floors rot away and the voracious forests eat away the walls. Kevan captures the decay of life with beauty and acceptance. It is simply the phase before new life.
Sarah Danays, mystical and beautiful, her photograph of her created sculpture and installation, is set in a box that makes the image feel like it is floating in the night. A lot of her work comes from specially found objects and antiquities that she amalgamates with her gentle carvings of limbs in alabaster. Her story of ‘The diviner’ has significance as it was created for a beloved friend and fellow artist who died. The sacred Taoist mid-nineteenth century Chinese divination rod was joined into a carved alabaster hand. “I chose to use it, with its dragon head and Yin and Yang symbol, as protection for Mei’s spirit.” The guest photographer for this sculpture is Sinisha Nisevic – a famous fashion photographer. He was personally invited by Donatella Versace to be her Director of Photography in Milan, and has worked for everyone from Prada to Gucci, to Dior…
On a low table beneath ‘Flower’ by Jacob Cartwright, are two abstract organic forms in marble and alabaster, sculptures, by Sollai Cartwright. ‘Snow’ and ‘Twirl’. People have loved them, coming regularly to touch and fondle them, also his ‘Black Bird’ sold to his best collector. Sollai is a young and impassioned carver who lives spasmodically in Tuscany, renting studios in Pietrasanta and sometimes working on the hillside of his friend, Kevan Halson’s land. Currently he is carving black marble imported from Italy on the land of one of his collector’s in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales. “I am an artist because I believe it is the purest form of evolution and, gifted with an eye for beauty, I feel it is my responsibility and my greatest joy to bring new visions of beauty to the universe…..I carve stone because I am a man of the earth. Marble resonates with my soul and I feel that while I carve, I am giving new life to the soul within the stone….” Lovely! We have a beautiful new artist on the earth giving art back to its people.
I have known Michael’s work for many years and always I am challenged with the language of his work and always I am delighted, though my understanding can sometimes take years in formation. Michael Cartwright’s creativity is spontaneous and draws inspiration from his free interpretation of life, he is free without compromise, and it is this freedom that is ultimately human though sometimes forgotten in the rules we place around ourselves. From freedom comes the Bird form. Michael loves the story and his work can be ‘read’ and it is perhaps the bird in his work, for there are many, that reflects the state his spirit is in. Some birds he has created have lain down, ‘Reclining bird’, and seem to have come from a period when he had to rest and wait. He likes contrast with his work, so you will often find the tough and the tender within the same work. Sometimes it is expressed through texture, soft and smooth and rough and lumpy. Sometimes it is through organized, beautifully finished forms and their adhoc arrangement, irreverent of proportion. This exhibition with his work has several beautiful bird forms, ‘Reclining Bird’, Portrait of a Bird’ and ‘Nest’. He also has a large night painting of ‘Whale’ and the ‘Net’, a little gold leaf on bronze sculpture from his fishing series and the woodcut print of the ‘Fish Trap’. Definitely a nature boy!
Finally there is me! I have loved putting together this series of work from the last 20 years of my ‘Woman’ series. The ‘Woman’ series slips in and out of my creative life as I seem to go through life’s different lessons and gifts. I associate the ‘Woman’ with life’s abundance and power, its cycles, its source of creativity. I have a couple of pieces that have just been cast that I am so happy to have in the show. ‘Dance’ and ‘Woman Form’. I love seeing them in bronze, they are finished! They have been in my studio for a couple of years now, adding to the influences of my latest work. I also had two of the three sculptures I created at the CIS Artist Residency this year in the show. They are in plaster, painted to resemble bronze and they will be cast when we get back to Italy. I love the strength of one and the joy in the other. What a great period of creativity and endeavour this has been. In the meantime, Italy is calling. It is late Spring and I can only imagine the untainted blue skies and swooping swallows in all that delicious new bright green…..And a whole season of new exhibitions on at our La Rondine Gallery in Bagni di Lucca…..
April 26, 2013 § 4 Comments
La Rondine Gallery is in Hong Kong! Flying like swallows to warmer climes, the nomadic artists of La Rondine Gallery have sent their art to Hong Kong. Seven of us will be represented here, at Gallery ZZHK, a lovely space with an eclectic, almost Parisian character, in a small laneway, Wu Lane, just off Hollywood Rd in Central. The exhibition is from 14th till 28th May. We are really excited. In celebration of our inaugural flight and for the opening night, Marc Danays, a high profile master mixologist, has created the artists’ cocktail and called it La Rondine. Absolut Vodka is sponsoring us and has supplied the vodka for the drink. It’s amazing to have been offered this opportunity to show our work at this high time of the HK Basel Art Fair, when collectors are everywhere about town and all the galleries are pumping.
Our artists are great!! Jacob Cartwright, Kevan Halson, Sarah Danays, Sollai Cartwright, Candido Martinelli, Michael Cartwright, Shona Nunan. They range from 74 years of experience and love for the arts to 24 years of age, the youngest no less for his age. They are photographers, sculptors, painters, drawers; creating marble sculpture and bronzes from the famed studios of Michaelangelo’s Pietrasanta; photography of mountain people, reflections and exquisite atrophy; themes of ancient myth, the human journey, the balance of life; the artist’s hand representing the spiritual beauty of our world culture.
Michael and I have been here in Hong Kong for the last three weeks. We brought over in our luggage huge frames and photographs, lugged them up fifty million stairs to our little room on Hollywood Rd. We also sent over a box of marble and bronze sculptures which have arrived and surround us on every available space in our room. Our room would make a great gallery at the moment, one person at a time to view an amazing selection of art. I love lying in bed at night with the art perched up all around us, the energy huge, and it will be strange to be without it when finally the work goes down into the gallery.
We have been so busy since we arrived here. We have an Artist in Residence at the Chinese International School in North Point. It has been great to be here, in our studios everyday, working . We have heaps of lovely visitors, young students, teachers, parents, cleaners – it has been really beautiful. Every night we almost fall into bed but not before doing all the funny bits and pieces you have to do to get an exhibition ready; press releases, invitations, meetings with sponsors, hunting supermarkets and drink places for ingredients for our La Rondine cocktail, invitation lists….. Our energy gets expanded to the max when we come here.
October 14, 2012 § 5 Comments
Blood red, dripping, over the canvas, through the net, into the royal blue black sea. The boat incandescent against a golden, almost a dirty gold, luminous light. ‘The Catch’, huge and slaughtered, in the depths of the sea. The colours are exquisitely beautiful and the subject poignantly ‘triste’, sad. It’s an amazing painting in its full expression, that yet holds a poetic beauty and is able to be felt on all levels. It is hung in the centre of the gallery space, dividing two enormous paintings of such peace and tranquility it seems at odds that they can all be shown together. These two painting are water pieces too, one of a river in spring and the other of a pond with lilly pads. This is Michael’s calling card. ‘Eclectic’. It is the name of his exhibition and and is a reflection of Michael the artist; many varying elements coming together to make up the whole. His painting and his sculpture is brave and inventive, he always remains true to the freshness of his vision, never resting for long in a new discovery of language, moving always with his bright curious awareness of everything he sees. In his painting, his work is energetic, with big slashing strokes, and colour is his strength. I would say light interests him less than the importance of colour playing against one another.
His freshness is also in his sculpture and this ‘inconsistency’ has puzzled and infuriated many people over the years, as he has defied the rules of constancy and yet remained a completely dedicated artist. I have lived with Michael for 31 years and I can say, coming from my own experience that I have sometimes taken years to catch up and appreciate a new work. His language is playful and joyful and quirky, so he is irreverent to style, material or representation. It’s more important to him that he captures the essence of the life force itself and to him this energy is always moving, always growing, always changing. Saying this, it does not mean that Michael is not serious. He is deeply idealistic and his sense of responsibility for life is precious to him, so he often notes in his work, the environment and its balance, challenging without fear the greed of industry. Hence ‘The Catch‘ series and his factory series.
Michael’s exhibition in Ponte a Serraglio at La Rondine Gallery, is a powerful representation of his work. He wanted to express himself fully in this show, curated only by himself. His painting, prints and drawings are bold and beautiful. His sculptures are an ‘eclectic’ mix, expressing his gentle meditative side, as with ‘The Animal who loves itself’ and ‘Portrait of a Bird’, but also his sense of fun, with his ’Portrait of the emotional artist’ and also his ‘Walking Man’, works that while being found objects, still are fully considered aesthetically.
September 20, 2012 § 5 Comments
I am lying on the sand in a little cove just below Livorno. The water is gently lapping nearby and a child plucks delightedly at each gush of wave. The sun is warm and low in the sky and the big gulls swoop and swarm over a dark patch in the water. I feel deeply deeply at rest and feel each breath, full, filling me completely. Next to me, Mike is asleep. We are here to only be here, nowhere else, and it feels lovely to think of nothing but food and wine and beauty.
We have been so busy, the summer has flown away, its golden days filled with happy hours in the studio, working in the new gallery, La Rondine, catching up with friends and family from overseas, cleaning up our properties for sale, setting up exhibitions….. And then as one more set of friends arrived, and an appointment where we had to meet some clients in Basel was cancelled, we realized it was time for nothing. I had just opened up my exhibition, ‘From Out of the Studio’, and off we went down to Castiglioncello, south of Livorno, to capture the last of the summer. Such a beautiful place, all those big old umbrella pines set in the narrow picturesque streets and gardens of gracious old holiday homes. We are staying in a whacky hotel, Villa Parisi, that apparently we are getting for a very cheap price because there are no tourists around, but there is no internet or very limited service, and it all feels a little bit like Fawlty Towers. Nevertheless, the bathroom is large and spacious and the views overlooking a moody sea are gorgeous.
It was great doing my exhibition. I had finished modelling the ‘Guardian Figures’ for the Warnambool Art Museum in June and so it was wonderful to somehow be in my studio nearly every day over a very busy summer progressing with my work because I was working towards my own show. It was also great because my studio is so close to the gallery, I could take the plaster originals down to the gallery instead of having to have them all cast in bronze. It gave a real element of freshness to the show and I have to admit that sometimes the plaster originals have something really special in them in their all white, pure, raw surfaces. They feel tougher, scratchier than their eventual softening into the bronze. By the skin of my teeth I just finished my horse and rider. Maybe there is a little more to do on the head of the rider, I’d like more time with it, and in some ways I am sad that it is over with this piece. I love the process and in this piece it could go on forever, around and around tweaking and adjusting, it is a real love relationship and the in-loveness makes you never want to leave it. I love the horse, its head pulled in tight to its chest, its complete trust in the rider, unable to see, uncomfortable in its fidgeting stance. The rider, semi relaxed but aware, gazing outward, one of his feet holding tightly to the chest of the horse, in control, but with time to see the whole surrounding picture…. I also framed some drawings that I did years ago, in 1997-1998, when we rented a cottage in Ballinskelligs, Ireland, after we had done an art residency at Cill Rialiag there. This is a series I call my Monk series based on the skellig monks who lived out in beehive huts on a rock in the sea in the early days of christianity, they were refugees from the African desert and guarded the priceless texts that were at that period of time being burnt and savaged by the northern tribes and newly formed apostolic church. I did a series of portraits of the monks using the quiet contemplative faces of the young and older single men we came across in the area. We would often see them alone on their farms, without women, solitary figures in a harsh lonely land that dropped into the sea. Their serene stoic faces seemed right for my picture of the monks.
The opening night of the exhibition and the following night was wonderful, along with our friends and supporters of art came Italians we hadn’t seen before. It felt like we were integrating with the whole picture of us being here, foreigners in this blessed land of ‘milk and honey’.