Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trasteverie ,Rome

Rooftops Rome
pen & ink 1961
Trasteverie was the very heart of working class Rome, with it's very strong communist leanings.
I loved living there in the early 60s' with it's cheap resturants, cafes and vibrant street life.
Each evening half the population would spill out onto the street, set up tables and chairs ready for the nightly meal. Among the shouting ,agitated mothers would call their wayward sons, "Michaelangelo, Raphaelo, come here at once". This nightly performance was highly amuseing to the foreign student population.

"Evening Relaxation Trasteverie"
Pencil sketch 1962

Every Sunday across Viale di Trasteverie Rome's popular flea market would come to life drawing thousands of Romans and tourests alike.This regular search for hided treasures became a weekly ritual, generally most "treasures" were still covered in dirt having only just been dug up a few hours before. The owners no doubt believing such an appearance greatly enhanced their value! Many of these items are "aged" in some vacant plot or flower box..It reminded me of the council truck with S.P.Q.R. brazenly displayed on the side unloading a variety of broken columns and the odd arm or leg onto the ground of some newly created park so tourests woud have photo opportunitoies.

I had taken over an American's studio who had found himself in Rome instead of Barcelonia, due to "problems" with Franco's henchmen. Rome was not to his liking either so he was going to eat French Fries in Paris instead. The studo window overlooked a convent courtyard, complete with chickens, date palms and vegitable patch. I took great delight in observing the daily routine of the nuns as they went about their work.Every morning I would be woken by the convent bell calling everyone to prayer

My apartment building was just down the road from a lovely little church called Santa Cecilia, according to historical records Cecilia had been condemed to death by the Roman authorities. At first the had tried to scald her in her own bath of boiling water,when this failed they were ordered to decapitate her. This also failed after three attempts [apparently the swards were not very sharp], she lived a further three days in her house, the site of the church today.

Another lovely church near by was Santa Maria, one of the oldest in Rome. It contains a number of fine old Byzantine mosaics, this greatly influenced my interest in religious art, an interest that I was to develop further in London, were I studied the art of stained glass at the London Central School of Art. At the time this seemed to be a possible career path, but unfortunately the cost of windows in today's world proved too much for most patrons.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Burn your Tie. A discourse on life.

The continual suicide of young men and others in this country should be of great concern to everyone. Why we should be asking does Tasmania in 2006 have the highest rate of suicide in Australia? The question needs to be asked, have men in general become enslaved? Have they became removed from nature, which kept them connected to feeling? Zorba the Greek would not be easily found among contemporary men. They seem to be enslaved and somewhat castrated.

Traditionally men would get up in the morning and go off to work, often menial, but still they felt there was a purpose. Today there seems to be little prospect of employment. Many men today feel that they do not have much of a chance to make their way in the world. Historically men had to be tough and weren't allowed decenting feelings. This I think has suited a lot of women to some extent. As feminism has progressed western women seemed to be throwing off the role that was allotted to them, this I think has yet to happen to men. They are still carry so much expectation and misunderstanding. It hasn't been easy to be male through the feminist years.Nearly ever week one is constantly told all men are rapists, pedefiles and exploitative in the media or verbally. All men are pigs, blah, blah, blah!

While we must recognises the truth of some of that, this is not good enough, it doesn't help men to adjust at all, it has made them retreat into themselves. Many men have lost their nerve, but I hope  not all, they need to raise up against these assertion, not against women, because they need to love women and care for women, so women aren't the enemy. Maybe it's consumerism, the ethic of everyone for themselves, we have forgotten to respect and help one another. Maybe it's all of these things, that the system has enslaved not only men but everyone.We have been turned into work units; an economic unit that must just keep earning all this money to keep the system on track. Most men don't have the option of working part time, not if the want a job and don't want to be looked down upon.

It's not as if our current system is serving us well, if we had marvelous schools, hospitals and life was humanistic and fulfilling, then lets all work hard. But what we have is all this work and distress and debt for what? So you can watch some cheap video, eat junk food and watch your neighbourhood fall apart.To visit shopping centres full of plastic junk, noise and carelessness. Both men and women need to define themselves anew. Men often define themselves in some way or feel connected to this world by their skill, their dexterity, the way they make things, do things. But they are becoming more useless it seems, more enslaved, more trapped. Many sit at desks, they have to look good, neat, pressed and their hair's got to look just right along with their age just to stare at screen all day. Beyond a certain age they are not even offered a chair. This regimentation is appalling, so what does this do to the human spirit?

When do you get the full sense of being who you are? Many men like being in the dirt a  bit, getting their hands dirty or something like that. Then what about sex? I mean why does no one mention sex when asked what they most like to do? That's  an important thing, I like sex, I like eating, I like going to bed at night , these are fundamental things to being human. They are central and important to our lives. I like gardening, digging holes. I like to build and construct something. I like to paint and create things, to leave some mark of my existence in the world. I think these things are sacred and common to all of us.I think people have become deprived somewhat by modern life: the chance to be of some clear value to society or to another person.

Men generally don't have friends, at least in countries cursed by Anglo-Saxon traditions in the way women do.In Australia we have what is called mates with whom we share straight jacket agreement on which subjects we never discuss. So one is really only left with women to whom you discuss subject concerning the heart or soul. This is a major problem. Could this be why men outnumber women in suicide? What we want are men able to shift gears when needed, which is a  considerable skill. Men who are intimate and sensitive on the one hand, but are able to go to war if need be. Such toughness for some reason is still needed in this life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

European Abstract Expressionism

Watercolour & ink on paper

My first introduction to abstraction was through the European School, particularly the work of Jean Dubuffet , Antonino Tapies and Pierre Soulages. Although they were very different artist, each in some way influenced my move towards abstraction. The Post-War European  art movement arose independently of North America, not an uncommon phenomena as both school were the inheritors of Cubism and Surrealism.
The major difference being that the European vision was less radical, more refined . The early exponents of abstraction though excited by new materials and techniques, did not abandon the easel and often concerned themselves with paint quality.

"Childhood Joy"
Watercolour & ink on paper

"Red Eye"
Watercolour & ink on paper

Every morning as I walked to the art school, I would pass several commercial galleries who specialised in modern European painting. I was fortunate to be able at first hand not only to view the above mentioned artists, but also Lucio Fontana and Karel Appel. This was a great introduction to modernism.

Brush & ink on paper

Like most young artist I was searching for a voice for a vocabulary to express my own view of the world. Like many artists in the 60's I became interested in Zen Buddhism and Oriental Calligraphy in an aesthetic sense independent of their literal or religious meaning. As I was doing a lot realistic brush drawing , I decided to try unpremeditated gestural painting, of which I have included a few samples here. Later these sketches were developed as painting.

"Bull Fight"
Plaster on canvas
First attempt at abstract painting.

My first attempt was the "Bull Fight" were I attempted to convey the "feeling "of both the drama and death of the bullring, in some abstract way. At this time I was reading a lot of Pablo Neruda and Federico Garcia Lorca poetry. Their imagery great influenced the "bull Fight", particularly Lorca "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias" based on the death of a young bullfighter at five in the afternoon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Life Class Roman sketch Book

Seated Nude Study
Pen & Ink.
 People have all sorts of ideas about what takes place in a life drawing class. Often equating it to some form of debauchery. When in fact students are so intent on trying to understand the structure, anatomy and rhythm of their subject  that they are totally  unaware of any nudity. The emphases in Rome was a long way from the anatomical analyse at Julian Ashton School in Sydney'. The contrast was very refreshing as the 19th cent. academic approach to drawing  unless you were a highly gifted draftsman often led to tight lifeless work.

Nude sitting in front of mirror
Pen & Ink

Each day we would arrive at nine and spend the next three hours drawing what ever model had been hired.
Most sessions would start with some quick sketch of half to one minute before the class would settle down to fifteen and half hour poses. The longer poses would have a short break between them. The model would sit or lie on a central platform with the students drawing her from different angles. The assistant professor [everyone in Italy with some sort of tertiary training was called professor] would walk around offering advise. This respect for professional people was very wide with nearly every educated person addressed as Doctor.  Our class consisted of thirty students from every corner of the globe.

Reclining Nude
Pen & Ink

Roman Nude Study
Pen & Ink

The drawings below were executed at Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney, as you can observe the approach to drawing was very academic and exacting. We were expected to develop the work from rough block out to a finished piece of work, generally we were not encouraged to develop original approaches.

Charcoal drawing with an abstract directional diagram of the poses movement

Pencil study

Conti crayon tonal sketch

Blocked out nude study

Charcoal anatomical study.

Generally at about ten to twelve our Professor would arrive from some fresco he was painting in a church near by.
The whole approach to teaching, if you could call it that was very laid back and there was no expectation that you would be taught a great deal. Many American students were fairly upset by this system ,while Europeans accepted it as normal. It is not uncommon for a young person to pay a master just to work in their studio or workshop.