Our painting workshops in Tuscany
Kangaroos, Beavers and Gorgonzola is certainly among icscis/Walk the Arts’ best publications. It is a small catalogue of an art exhibition that took place in Ottawa in 2011 featuring works by 42 former participants of Studio Italia, our painting workshop in Tuscany offered every June and October since 1997. Our painters came from Australia, Canada and Italy, hence the title of the show. The catalogue is available to purchase online at blurb.com
We have been very pleased to confirm that a Canadian firm buying books for many libraries in Canada keeps ordering copies on behalf of its clients. But what it was most astonishing is that the last five orders were placed by Canadian universities! We believe that it is the approach and quality of our art workshops which convinced the academic world to purchase our humble catalogue. Indeed, Studio Italia is among the best (if not the best) Italian painting workshop being offered today, since its main goal is to help participants discover their own personal artistic path. For this reason, we offer a unique combination of plein air painting instruction in beautiful historic villages, art theory, art history lectures, so participants may fully enjoy our museum visits, discussions around gastronomic meals and fun! What follows are excerpts of the curatorial text written by Prof. Yves M. Larocque (Ph. D.), Studio Italia’s main instructor:
In our era of the Internet, digitized art and installations, what is it that compels an individual to repeat this gesture known since time immemorial, this act of setting up an easel, mounting a blank canvas and applying colour? Deemed dead and gone thirty years ago with the emergence of the pop, kinetic, twelve-note and conceptual arts of every shape and stripe, this gesture lives on. And the question too lives on, and will live on. In the context of this exhibit, what were the painters thinking to pour their hearts and souls—not to mention their time, energy and money—into a Studio Italia painting workshop in the centre of Tuscany? 10 days of painting? […]
Italy, like the canvas, is a meeting place, a sort of Champ de Mars battleground on which fears, joys, loves and happy and unhappy memories confront head-on. Going there, stepping out geographically, allows us to step back from our own story, from our own history; it give us permission to know another space, another time, with which we can compare. This ‘stepping back’ also affords a time-out from our daily duties and religious, familial and societal limitations so we can at last focus solely on the self […], let go, recognize the here and now, and live in the moment! […] Italy will always be the perfect place for this convergence on self, for it was Italy that gave birth to the one-point perspective, whose vanishing point on the horizon at last enabled us to enter life through the great “open window” (Alberti’s fenestra aperta).
[…] It is in “the act of painting” that a painter is fulfilled and learns to know, if not recognize, the self as a different being and thus deeply root a self-owned individuality. Unlike children given paper on which to paint, adults intellectualize too much. A 10-day stepping-back in Italy is seldom long enough for us to let go of the many decades separating us from our five-year-old selves and to stop dwelling on the “what to do.” Yet we still have an intense craving to paint, an intense yearning to make, this intense desire for justice, for bettering the world offered to us.
Italy opens itself to our painters and asks only to be perfect, to be perfected: cypress, hills, palazzi, hay stacks, […].Most of them ‘make appear,’ and this conjuring trick points to an underlying power to make appear for others, to perform a shamanic act that is both physically and mentally satisfying. Their paintings give something to see, and this means, as Mikel Dufrenne writes, that their canvases “teach us to see not what they are looking at but what they saw”; in other words, “what was for them.” These canvases have a hint of “veni, vidi, vici,” a brief moment of victorious conquest much admired by the public. But is a landscape in a painting to be like a conquered people walking in chains behind the Caesar’s chariot to the clamour of the crowds? Does, in fact, such conquering of the landscape respect its nature? That is an entirely different issue worthy of its own discussion. For now we can only smile and set it aside!
Few never cross the threshold of reality, but it takes time. Some of our painters have done so. Reaching these new geographies of the soul cannot be done in ten days; these painters have been journeying with us for several years, and Studio Italia is little more than a punctuation mark in their pictorial vocabulary development. Their works show an Italy that could be, its new dimension, as in their works they try to experience a New World. […] Now this transfiguration of the world requires an effective contact with both the world and the self. To draw from Nature’s “pre-real” requires an internal, if not physical, preparation which is almost impossible to achieve in a few days. It takes many, many paintings to get there. Cezanne’s last Mont Sainte-Victoire is totally unlike his first, and the same can be said for Monet’s lily ponds, Kandinsky’s hills and Malevitch’s souls. Perspective ceases to be!
This exhibition not only offers the spectator something to look at and to experience, but also hopes to ignite a desire to see, to search into what was seen. Italy, where these canvases were born, provided a starting point, a first time, a vanishing point—vanishing in the two directions of space and self. The beauty of this country—for only beauty can transport—made it possible to target on both the imagery and this spiritual quest. These are the kinds of thoughts we raise in the workshops of icscis/walkthearts.