3 February 2013

Surreal and beautiful – from Tuskany

I spent my last birthday in Tuscany. It was the perfect environment for my spirit and my turbulent brain which has lost confidence and hope in contemporary art. After seeing all the amazing mediaeval art in the Uffizi in Florence and in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Siena I came to a conclusion that can be seen as a controversial one. My conclusion is that contemporary art has lost connection to beauty and the sacred. Another very important aspect is the craftsmanship. A huge percentage of contemporary art colleges' students can’t draw or paint. They are missing the talent and the techniques. The only thing that they are able to do is to express their own ideas or feelings. There is no beauty and the sacred element is missing. On the other hand art is an act of expression, so perhaps I am wrong. Maybe contemporary art is the expression of contemporary people/artists who have lost any connection with the beautiful and the sacred?! Mass culture, popular culture, deception, profit and popularity. The flow of information is so overwhelming - we don't have time for deep study or reflection. It is about sloppiness and dullness. That is a good characterisation of XXI century art: asexual and shallow. Sometimes I think that one of the last bastions of excellent technique, beauty and the sacred are the surreal artists, and of course the practitioners of traditional fine art, too. 
While in Tuscany we did of course visit San Gimignano. What an enchanted and magical place. One of the museums that we went to was the Museum Archeologico and Spezieria Di Santa Fina. The Museo Archeologico is a relatively new attraction in San Gimignano and home to an array of artefacts from the town's past. The Spezieria di Santa Fina - Apothecary of Santa Fina - includes a reconstruction of a pharmacy from the 16th century and is filled with fragrant herbs and spices. There is also a planted herb garden and an additional modern art gallery. In that gallery I found two (actually more) very interesting surreal paintings. The first is entitled 'La Finestra Sull'Arno' from 2011 by Renzo Galardini. According Google translate La Finestra Sull'Arno means 'The window on the Arno'. I think the better translation is 'The window over the Arno'. (The Arno is a river in the Tuscany/Florence. It is the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber). I had never heard about this artist before. Thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web and the internet I found some information about him.

Renzo Galardini was born in Pisa, January 14, 1946, and now lives in Cecina near there today in a restored 15th century building. He studied at the Art Institute of Lucca, graduating in 1962. He accepted a teaching position there, and at the same time, he studied scenography at the Fine Art Academy in Florence. During these years, he conducted research and restoration of medieval ceramics. Galardini's work as an artist encompasses oil paintings, ceramics and graphics. The Italian masters influence his painting technique. He applies oil pigments meticulously, harmonizing the colours, creating works of great elegance. Having earned privileged access to Tuscan museums and archival collections, Galardini often incorporates images of ancient armaments, clothing, tools, weaponry and special implements in his works. The richness of his execution and the depiction of his unique subjects in their highly theatrical settings create his unique and highly identifiable style. His graphic work, considered by various critics to be the best in today's Italy, is featured in a number of international publications and in a recent monograph by Nicola Miceli - Renzo Galardini: Incisioni.
I think what really attracted me to this painting was the richness of the subjects, the colours, the excellent technique and the great elegance. An absolutely fabulous painting with a hint of the surreal about it. I also see in it associations with and reminiscences from the late mediaeval/ early renaissance. I do see also a hint of Breughel the Elder. It is a very captivating image; there are so many questions and so few answers. Who are the bizarre soldiers climbing and struggling by the bridge? Who is this weird fat, naked creature sitting on the edge of the parapet or platform? Is this Florence? What about the puppet without a head and the rocking horse? 
Here is the image, see for yourself:
La Finestra Sull'Arno' from 2011 by Renzo Galardini.
La Finestra Sull'Arno' from 2011 by Renzo Galardini-detail

The second painting is more in the style of the German artists: Otto Dix and George Grosz. The work's title is almost unreadable, but seems to say 'La statuaire'. I hope that the name of the artist is correct - Stefano Cacchi. Maybe not. My photo of the text is really poor, but it is my fault. I should check the quality of the image immediately after taking it. Here is the image. Isn't it wonderful? The flying protectives, the French president (De Gaulle?), the mad cartoon like bunnies alias political puppets, the British Queen, the unstable world political arena and the fire of war. I really love it. 

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