December 18, 2015

Event at the Sangalli Institute

The other night we attended an event at the Sangalli Institute in Piazza San Firenze, one of the oldest squares in Firenze. Beneath our feet though no longer visible, once stood the Roman Amphitheatre and Temple of Isis, among other things.

The event was to mark the first anniversary of the Sangalli Institute, whose mandate it is to promote interfaith dialogue, and included brief talks by spiritual leaders of the three monotheistic religions, an interfaith dinner, and presentations by research grant recipients, including our own spirited and hardworking Aitana Guia, fellow extraordinaire at the Robert Schuman Centre, European University Institute.

With a few of my paintings placed strategically around the venue, I played the opportunist and wallflower, hanging off to the sides and taking it all in.

This shot made it into the Corriere Fiorentino. Get out the magnifying glass and you may be able to see one of my paintings on the wall behind everyone.

At one point, I looked up at the frescoed ceiling and spotted this detail, which got my mind racing about the artist, the chemicals that were in their system and the air they were breathing at that time.

This detail was even trippier.

I don't know how old the fresco is but old enough it was professionally restored.

At the end of the evening someone complimented me on my paintings but said Tuscany was a hard sell for contemporary art. Who would figure from this ceiling.

The proud paintings will remain up for one more event, the Premio Boccaccio, a literary prize that was awarded last year to the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.

December 15, 2015

Together No. 2 and No. 3

Here are two more smaller pieces on the theme of urban convergence and the reclamation of public space.

They're painted with a restricted palette of white, black, and the artificial cyan, magenta, and yellow, or CMYK, the colours used in the modern printing process. They give the work to me an almost pop feel, though I'm holding on to the painterly quality.

These with a few others will be hanging for a few weeks at the Istituto Sangalli in Florence, Italy.

Insieme (No. 2)
20" x 15" (51cm x 38cm)
Acryclic on panel

Insieme (No. 3)
16" x 20" (40cm x 51cm)
Acryclic on panel

December 9, 2015

The Quiet Story

"The Quiet Story"
Acrylic mixed media on panel
48" x 35" (122cm x 89cm)

The inspiration for this painting comes from the 60 million humans - almost twice the population of Canada - that have been forced out of their homes because of conflict or persecution.

Over half are children under 18.

The vast majority (nine out of ten) aren't in Europe or North America as the media or fear-mongers might have us believe, but in neighbouring countries, also unstable nations and some of the world's poorest.

Many languish in camps, such as Dadaab in Kenya, Al Zaatari in Jordan, or closer to home for me right now, the "jungle" in Calais, France, which was cruelly, quietly "set on fire" hours after the attack on Paris in November. Sadly, the Calais region recently voted overwhelmingly for the far-right Front National in regional elections.

I painted the painting listening to the Bersarin Quartett's III album, music that cranks the "film score quality" to the max without, I think, tipping over into kitsch.

Have a listen to "Bedingungslos" or "Ist es das, was Du willst" and tell me whether the pairing of the music and the painting - not to mention the scary facts on the ground - makes the same impact on you as it did me.

December 5, 2015

Together (No. 1)

"Together (No. 1)"
Acrylic on panel
20" x 30"

"L'Italia è lunga, bella, strana. Certo non siamo il Canada, natura pura e ripetitiva. Da noi è paesaggio antropizzato, lavorato dall’uomo in due millenni di storia."

My rough translation: Italy is long, beautiful, mysterious. Obviously the peninsula is not Canada with its pure and repetitive wilderness. Our landscape is anthropicized, that is transformed by men over two millennia of work.

That comes from a recent issue of L'Espresso magazine in an essay on how Italy's remaining agricultural and historic lands are being "eaten" by concrete and development. It's annoying in the way the author generalizes Canada with the old cliche but there's a grain of truth to it also.

What's struck me about moving from Ontario to Tuscany is the human activity.

In Italy, outdoors, it's impossible to go a few minutes without seeing someone. You're squeezed together on the narrow streets, rub shoulders on the bus and even if you drive, you have a lot more traffic to contend with, people rolling down their windows and shouting, people to negotiate with as you park. Go to a cafe, cinema, supermarket, school, post office, restaurant, or government building and there are always people, lots of them, of all sorts.

Even if you hole yourself indoors you hear human voices through the walls, or someone comes around asking for something, or a repairman sniffs around the windows. And they're actually flesh-and-blood humans, not representations of them on a screen. They're impossible to escape.

For a Canadian used to a lot of space and solitude it can be jarring, like being plucked off a lake and dropped into a classroom. But the way to survive it with some kind of grace is to roll with it, indulge in it even, be civil, shrug it off, and laugh - as Italians generally do.

This latest painting, the first of a new series I hope to launch, is about people being together, about density and mutual reliance rather than self-sufficiency.