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.