I’ve talked about my practice in terms of my interest in surface, and in mark making. Where to from here?
Earlier this year I lived and worked in Venice for a month where I made some large format prints of those crumbling Venetian walls. I have plenty of photographic material for new work about surfaces. I’ll let the images speak for themselves…
I suspect that leaving Venice is always difficult. Difficult because you need to haul your luggage, and you may have a lot if you’ve hit those fabulous shops, down stairs, up and down bridges, along narrow crowded streets, onto the vaporetto, and either out to the airport or across to Ferrovia to catch the train. Difficult because you regret having to leave. Just one more week…..or a few more days…..might reveal some magical secret, some idea, some image that you have been searching for. Difficult because you were just on the verge of feeling you ‘know’ something about the city. Difficult because you feel you’ve just begun with Venice.
Angela, Nicki and I left Venice on the same day, but by different routes. We took Angela down to the Alilaguna boat to the airport, where she was catching a plane to Manchester in England.
Nicki and I muscled our way with four bags and a large tube of prints over to Ferrovia to catch the overnight train to Vienna, and then to travel by car to Prague.
We went to the studio for the last time to sign the prints, collect our materials and package up the work to take home with us. We also had to decide which work to leave with GianFranco.
On the way to Murano, we called in at Cimitero to visit the graves of Nijinsky and Stravinsky. The citizens of Venice can be buried here for a maximum of ten years only, unless they happen to be famous. After that, the graves are relocated to somewhere on the mainland, where it is less crowded. The cemetery has its own island, half way between Murano and Fondamenta Nove. The dark shapes of the many cypresses which dot this island pierce the skyline.
The great signing ceremony.
We made two related large format prints in small editions of three. We will make a book together of our Venice experience, and one of each edition will be cut up and incorporated in the book, together with photographs and other materials we gathered while we were there.
Angela has only cried twice since she arrived in Venice: once over lunch, and once over breakfast, neither of which I cooked. I don’t think it was anything to do with disappointment over the quality of the meal. I think it was an excess of emotion, perhaps related to the beauty of Venice, and the effects of jetlag and Prosecco. Yes, at breakfast.
She has shot lots of photographs, but as yet her efforts at shopping have been, to be frank, a bit underwhelming. Mainly food, alcohol, and gifts for her children.
Nicki and I had an encounter with the Italian John Cleese, who runs the only cafe on Isola de San Giorgio Maggiore. We decided to call him Basilico. He could barely contain his rage at the stupidity of his clientele. Enquiries as to the nature of the Primo Piatti on the menu were greeted with incredulity. There was toast on the menu. Nicki asked what this was, meaning what came with the toast. ‘Square pieces of sliced grilled bread,’ he said.
We had gone to the island to ascend the campanile, which has a wonderful view of the whole of Venice. You can see how small it actually is. We recommend that you go after midday. The bell tolls the hour, and if you are not prepared, you may find your ears ring with the sound of the bells for days afterwards – best to have only one or two, not eleven or twelve.
This afternoon, we went to Ca’ Rezzonico, a beautiful museum of seventeenth century Venice. the walls are covered with damask and velvet in beautiful patterns and colors. Many of the ceilings were painted by Tiepolo. There was an extensive gallery of paintings by early Venetian artists, furniture, mirrors and curtains. Together these things gave a real sense of how life might have been for the rich and powerful in Venice.
Angela Noble from Bega arrived to stay with us, which makes five women in the house. She bought us a whole kilo of Aussie Uncle Toby’s Oats, some home made candied cumquat and Cointreau and some Ferrero Rocher chocolates. I think she must have an innate understanding that living in Venice and walking everywhere, the body needs constant refuelling to maintain stasis.
Together, the five of us have pledged to support the ailing Italian economy as best we can. We have been pretty tireless in our efforts so far, though some of us have worked harder than others.
Angela hasn’t even begun, but then she’s barely just arrived.
I found a small children’s press, Editions Du Dromedaire,
which has just published a two year calendar containing hand printed linocuts of camels.
I woke early today to find that the canal was clouded with fog. I grabbed my camera and went out onto the street. Nearly every second person I saw was a photographer.
I hope it’s foggy again soon!
The work at the studio went well, too. Here’s me with the blues/greens/greys print just off the press.
And here’s our inky gloves lined up on the bench.
And then, this evening coming home from the studio, we were caught in a rainstorm. The streets were darkly beautiful wet with rain, (as Van Morrison might have said.) I will go out tonight again when it is completely dark, and shoot some more.
Various minor disasters befell us yesterday:
1. Daphne washed her knickers, and in pegging them, Venetian style, to the washing line outside her window, saw two pairs flutter down like white doves to the children’s playground four floors below. Would her language skills be up to retrieving them while maintaining her dignity? Answer: Yes. Always. She is a woman of style.
2. We returned from the studio exhausted from a full day of printing to find the power had failed. No electric light, no hot water. Non Fontionna. ( The very first sentence we heard in Italian on our arrival in Venice! Was it a sign? ) Appeals to have it fixed seemed to go nowhere. It would be OK tomorrow. It is what you should expect in a seventeenth century building. We were being a bit precious. Look at the view of the canal! How to respond? We dined by candlelight and awaited the morning. Pollo con limone e aglio and ratatouille followed by panforte, accompanied by prosecco.
Late today, as promised, power was restored, and with it, communications.
3. Nicki and I got lost. Again.
4. Nicki has been bitten on the thigh several times, but not by a gondolier.
However, we had some success in the studio. We made two prints from the plates we had prepared. The plates are made from found materials sourced in Venice, including a bit of our building which had fallen off onto the balcony. Non Fontionna. So theres a little piece of the seventeenth century in our print.
The inked plates on the press bed.
Our finished print : The Textures of Venice. The colors are the reds and browns of the city. The next one will be in jade green, aqua and blue and we have begun to make the plates for it. Conditions in the studio make it very difficult to make work to the standard one would achieve at home, but we are pleased with what we have achieved so far.