Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

The Cathedral of Monreal and Saint Eldrado are two churches from the same era, on opposite ends of the Italian peninsula, that share much in common and have some important differences.
Monreal, Sicily is located 15 km outside of Palermo and it’s cathedral is one of the most beautiful Christian churches in existence. Commissioned by William II (1154-89), the Norman ruler of Sicily, in 1174 the church is 102m long, 40m wide, 35m high. Its simple exterior hides the rich interior, covered with golden Byzantine mosaics illustrating bible stories. Over 2000 kilos of pure gold were used as the ground for these mosaics. Over looking the entire interior is the beautiful image of Christ Pantocrator (above).

Saint Eldrado is located in the Susa valley, one hour outside of Torino, a part of the Novalesa Abbey. Built on the ruins of an older church, Saint Eldrado was begun in the early 11th century and frescoed at the end of the century. As such, it's frescoes bear a resemblance to the images in Monreale, most notable the image of Christ Pantocrator(above). The fresco cycles themselves, which illustrate scenes from the lives of Saint Eldrado and Saint Nicola, are in beautiful condition. The Normans too, used this church, most likely before they sent out to cross the Appenines, as the abbey lies at the mouth of the passage. It is a tiny church no more than 4 meters wide by 20 long and continues to be used by the monks to this day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thanks to Annigoni

I have four paintings in an upcoming show, Annigoni's Legacy, at the Villa Bardini in Florence in May. The occasion is the centenary of the birth of the painter Pietro Annigoni.

Annigoni kept alive the classic tradition in the dark days of 20th century painting. The painter I studied with, Micheal John Angel, studied with Annigoni in the 1960's.

Below is Annigoni's Manifesto of “Modern Painters of Reality”:

(Pittori moderni della realtà) Milan, Italy, November 1947

We, “The Modern Painters of Reality” are gathered in a brotherly group to show our works to the public.

The favor and understanding with which the public has accompanied and supported our efforts over the last few years, our certainty to be in the right and that the others are wrong, have convinced us of the advisability and necessity of this exhibition.

We stand united with our strength, our faith, our ideals and our absolute mutual esteem. As opposed to the Ecole de Paris, born in France, but representative of a universal tendency of decadence, our art born in Italy represents an event of hope and salvation for art and this exhibition is meant to be a first effective contribution to the fight that is about to blaze.

We are neither interested nor moved by the so-called “abstract” or “pure” painting, procreated by a decaying society, which is empty of any human contents and has retreated into itself, in the vain hope of finding a substance in itself.

We disavow all contemporary painting from post-impressionism till today, regarding it as the expression of an age of false progress and a reflection of the dangerous threat that looms over mankind. On the contrary we reaffirm those spiritual and moral values without which painting would become the most fruitless exercise.

We want painting to be moral in its most intimate essence, in its style itself, a painting that in one of the dimmest moments of human history should be filled with the same faith in man and his destiny, that had made the greatness of art in times past.

We recreate the art of illusion of reality, the eternal and primeval seed of figurative arts.

We do not lend ourselves to any comeback, we simply keep on with our mission of true painting, which is the image of a universal feeling, which we want to be understood by many, not just by few “sophisticated ones”.

Long before gathering, each one of us had deeply felt the need to research in nature the leading thread that would allow us to find our true nature in the labyrinth of schools that have multiplied over the last half a century.

Each one of us has spontaneously addressed himself to reality, the first and eternal source of painting, confident to find his own expression in it.

In the face of a new academism or conventionalism, made up of the remnants of cubist formulas and of a standardised impressionistic sensuality, we have exhibited a way of painting that, mindless of fashions or aesthetic theories, is striving to express our feelings through the language that each one of us, according to one’s temperament, has found by looking directly at reality.