…and so I listened to my heart – looking for some truth and connection to what I was exploring with the Roman glass as a subject (see my previous blog “home is where the art is”). I worked through all sorts of imagery and textural qualities in an attempt to capture the essence of history and contrast of materials (glass and stone/earth). Venturing around the area helped me connect more with history, colours, and textures – especially a trip to Otranto, and the Puglanese stone of the city walls and architecture. Upon returning to the studio, I tried to add this into the paintings, with some success.
The paintings still have my 'stamp' (style) and interesting cropping but there seems to be something missing – that certain personal emotional connection that I get with my other work. There is no point for me in doing these paintings if they are only just colour and texture. This is when I trusted that it would solve itself. I shouldn’t think about it too much – just let the natural process of exploration happen…
Trying to instill emotion into inanimate objects is difficult enough and something I recalled that Matisse had written when I saw his work in Nice,
“(the object) only says what one makes it say” XXe siecle #2 Janvier 1952
encouraged me to keep up the challenge. Then one morning it struck me – these objects don’t have to be still – I can give them a life, and retain a connection to my previous work through movement!
But the objects themselves are so removed from the museum settings that now they seem to have lost the characteristics of ancient Roman glass pieces that I was seduced by on the first place. Does it matter??
Now they have become something else and taken on a new life – now they have become personal and reflecting my life in many ways – a truth that I didn’t expect, but welcome. A nice realisation and opening up more doors for possibilities… the challenge continues – at least for a while
Life at an artist residency end of Week 2
I am certain this is not an original title, but it suits me for the moment. And this moment is a realisation that, where I have been the tourist for the larger part of the past 2 years that the chance to stop for a moment is providing a flood of connections and helping me to focus on my painting with a renewed energy and insight. After taking in the south of Europe stretching from Spain to Croatia for the past two months, I now find myself in the south of Italy, and the small town of Martignano at MIRA (Martignano International Residency for Artists) for another two months. I have had 2 years without a real “home base” and exposed to the various cultures, languages, history, and places - collecting these moments in photographs. And of course I have had sporadic moments of painting, but the results have been disjointed because of this. It has been too easy for me to be bombarded and seduced by so many potential subjects – I am now faced with where to start. Do I pick up where I left off or challenge myself with something new? So the actual (painting) journey begins… and what I am faced with are three major considerations: myself, being here, and my work – and the order of their surfacing for attention changes from day to day. I had decided a few months back to take up the challenge of a new subject – well not entirely new for me – but the idea of bringing the beautiful roman glass museum pieces I had seen since Barcelona back to “life” appealed to me, and it seemed fitting as a place to start being here on Italian soil! I had collected hundreds of photos from the museums along the way of exquisitely ancient, crude, and fragile glass objects – once functional, uncovered from their burial places, and now preserved further, behind museum glass. A miniature world of history, texture, colour, time, culture, wrapped up in a miraculously tentative combination of sand (earth), fire, water and air! How did such a fragile material survive two millenniums under the pressure of being buried metres underground? What a potentially ‘juicy’ subject! I was seduced by the potential I saw to try and capture all of these recent experiences and visual qualities – and I had collected so much to work with - and so I began… I had to stop being the tourist and plant myself firmly in my work. This is not an easy thing to do – the only familiar things to hold on to are me, and my history. Everything else is different and new and always attracting my attention. I need to ‘break through’ all the newness of this place and get back to me - and the first 2 weeks at MIRA have given me this necessary journey. I have poured out eight paintings - exploring texture, colour, and trying to capture time and history and still try to be true to me – and the contant struggle with “is it working?”. At this point in time I feel like I am torn between returning to the familiar or journeying forth. As as dear friend reminds me, I hear the words, “listen to your heart”…
week 1 in Martignano, Italy @ MIRA (Martignano International Residency for Artists) and although it's been a whirlwind of meeting the locals and getting to know the town itself and some of the surrounding area, I've managed to get down to business in the beautiful new studio.
I will talk about the studio "journey" in successive blogs - but for now I want to describe what it's like to be here - in Solento, in the south of Italy (the "heel" of Italy) - and for me, so much more "real".
Whenever one travels, adjustment to new places and customs is a given, and you have to expect that as much as you might like to make plans, keep to a schedule, or depend on a "system", that these things are often completely out of your hands. The rhythm of each new place is what you grow into and the new experiences gained in learning this rhythm are so much fun! (I say "are" here, rather than "can be" as even the most seemingly disastrous events can provide an unexpected turn - the beauty of the synchronicity that change provides - and in my case at this point in my life, it's good and necessary change, and fun!)
As I have been travelling for some time now (almost 2 years!), I am used to adjusting to this rhythm - the last two months have required an adjustment every 5 days on average with each new place - and I am constantly being challenged to adapt. These challenges are also helping me understand myself better.
Language (or lack of) is one big problem, but it is possible to move around and connect with your surroundings with broken moments of communication. Somehow I make myself understood - or at least I think I do! - and find the information I need.
On day 5 of my 2 month residency, after exhausting the supplies I had with me, I needed to find an art supply store to replenish and stock up for the next few weeks. I was told there was a bus from Martignano to Lecce that made several trips every day and there was a large art store there where I would find everything I needed.
Bus schedule in hand and my return tickets from the local tabacci shop, I stood below the "FERMATA" sign across from the local (caffe) bar in the hot sun of midday and waited (10 minutes early) for the 12:25 bus. It is easy to be entertained while waiting - watching the locals drive past, dodging the cars that jump out from the side streets; or waiting for one of the local street dogs to get hit as they cross back and forth along the one main street whenever a potential new person or "handout" appeared; or listening to the casual chatting either on the street corner, or from passing cars, or the men sitting in front of the bar watching the lady who was definitely not from here (because they hadn't seen me before), waiting for the bus. And so, when 12:45 arrived and no bus, I was no longer finding it entertaining - so I walked back to the studio and bought some milk on the way back to have a coffee, and then return for the 13:25 bus to Lecce...
And return I did - this time I had some company in another young lady who was obviously also waiting for the bus. But by this time the bus stop was no longer in shade and even the dogs had relocated to the park for a cool spot under the trees. One came to say hello briefly - already I had understood that these dogs are like the ones in Mexico or the cats in Greece, and have a very rough life, but it was heartening that the locals let them roam the town.
When the time was 13:40, I knew something must be up with the buses that day, as the other lady called for reinforcements. She got picked up by a friend and off they went to Lecce (perhaps) leaving me behind with the dogs, the heat and the same boys at the bar. So I walked back to the house to have some lunch.
My last chance was the 14:25 as I needed to be back at Martignano by 18:00. Three times lucky?? I walked back the stop - by this time I felt there must be bets being placed in the bar as to whether I would make it or not!
Looking across the street to the church square I noticed the clock was 15 minutes early than the time on my watch. A digital sign in the square announcing local events had a time of 14:15. Was I actually too late for the other busses? When the time rolled around to 14:25 on my watch - and my phone - I really wasn't sure whether to give up for the day or not. The precise moment I decided to head home and give up for the day, a large blue bus appeared from out of nowhere! He was on (my) time! So - they do exist and when I showed him the schedule and tried with very good hand movements to ask about what happened to the other buses - he seemed to be telling me emphatically that they had met their earlier schedule.
So - here I was several hours later but now finally and happily on the bus to Lecce. The quest for art supplies was on!
I had a map of Lecce and a rough idea where the shop was located. I did have the choice to take a local bus from where I got off the regional bus, but I chose to walk as I find it is a better way to get to know a new place. As I walked north to the centre of this much larger town, I soon realised that it was awfully quiet. I knew everything shuts on Sundays and Thursdays, but it was Saturday... but.... it was now 3pm, and of course - things shut down between 1 and 4.
I smiled to myself, loving the fact that I hadn't caught the first bus after all!
I had a lovely lunch waiting for the shop to open. At 4pm, they were ready for business with others already in the shop. they had everything I needed (including some very expensive Italian oil paint - which I treated myself to), they gave me a discount because I was at MIRA, and they had their shop assistant deliver my supplies - and me - back to the studio in Martignano - by 17:30! Everything worked out just fine and has since then in lovely synchronistic ways.
More from me @ MIRA here soon! Ciao for now and happy travels to you also!