We are honoured to announce the family, Nunan-Cartwright,have been invited by the High Commissioner, The Honourable Alexander Downer, to exhibit our sculptures at the Centenary celebrations of Australia House in London, 2018.
We are so proud to be showing our art in the iconic Australia House, with our two beautiful boys, both men now, and esteemed artists in their own right, Jacob and Sollai. Amazing to be showing as a family and to feel the history of ourselves and the language we have each built up in our art, emerging into this exhibition. Michael and I have been dedicated since we met in 1981 to our path as artists, always allowing our dreams to be our guiding light in our uncertain world. I guess the family lineage of artists on both sides has made it easier to ignore conventional boundaries and we have all pursued a path suited to our own creativity and joy of being.
Our pathways have led us overseas to many beautiful countries where we have been influenced by the ancient cultures and traditions that peek through modern living and also an abundant natural world that connects us to the earth we live on. Currently, Michael and I live between Italy, France and Australia, while Jacob lives in Tuscany, Italy and Sollai lives in Berlin, Germany. As recent Australians, we have somehow emerged artistically free, without attachment to the cultural mores of the civilizations our families left behind from Europe. The culture we had to observe in Australia was the one belonging to the original people and this we have been deeply influenced by, though it is not our own. The source of this culture, its earthiness and honouring of earth, water and sky, has given each of us our strength in our own work, referring always to it and adding to it the significant archetypal meanings of life discovered throughout the world in all the great ancient civilizations.
Thus, with our connection to Australia deeply held in our work, the themes of our sculptures for this exhibition at Australia House honour the elements of earth, sky and water, the essence of living in a contemporary world.
I am sitting in the corner looking over a beautiful exhibition of art work by the La Rondine artists in ZZHK Gallery in Hong Kong. We have secured this lovely space over an incredibly busy period in the art month of Hong Kong. Art Basel is next week and so are a number of subsidiary art fairs, all vying for attention, to say nothing of the many galleries, all with their openings every night of the week and even mornings of next week.
Our openings, (we had two, one was a special collector’s evening and the other was an open celebration), were in the lull before the storm. How lucky are we to have had such great attendance. Sandra Walters, art consultant and art dealer, hosted the collectors evening on Monday night. We were sponsored by Absolut vodka so Marc Danays, a master mixologist and partner to one of our artists, Sarah Danays, created the beautiful La Rondine cocktail, using vodka, lychee liqueur, curacao, guava juice, lemon juice and basil – yummo, it was much appreciated on a very warm evening.
As my eye roves the gallery space, I pick up on a powerful photograph by Jacob Cartwright, of a blue naked woman bowed under the chains of industry. Jacob’s technique is really interesting, using photography without computer manipulation, he takes photographs of environments, in this case, HK, and projects them onto his model, then photographs her under special lighting and the projection. The effect is an abstraction of form that creates his emotional connection to life without the seeming objectivity of photography. Jacob lives on the side of a sunny hill in Tuscany, overlooking the plains of Lucca. He tends an olive grove and imports its oil, one of the finest in the world, to America. He was born and bred in the arts and was a gifted child in music. Today he is a composer and photographer. His photography is a visual reflection of his lyrical soul. The story of his four photographs represent the earth mother. The mother reflecting life upon herself, as in ‘Flower’, where she rises like an innocent child from a garden, herself the garden. ‘Chained in Blue’ is industry, ‘Construct’ is the city, ‘Tape’ is man’s creativity. Much of Jacob’s work is about life reflecting on its essence. He loves the reflection.
Interspersed throughout the room are the small photographic portraits of people, many now gone from life, from the village of Montefegatesi. Candido Martinelli is an Italian New Yorker. He lives now, back in his beloved Tuscany, high in the mountains in a picturesque village that was witness to ancient battles between the Ligurians and Romans, and earlier still to the passage of Hannibal and his elephants… The stories in these tiny village top mountains abound and the early days of Candido, were the war years. He was shot through the leg as a young child by German SS hunting down the partisans in his village, Montefegatesi. The people he grew up with in these years are the people in these photographs, scarred and beaten and toughened, like the wild unpredictable mountains they inhabit. Candido’s photographic love is portraiture. He loves the stories of human beings and with great tenderness he expresses this in these works.
Kevan Halson is a meticulous man. Everything he does is with particular attention to detail and knowledge. He lives in an ancient villa in a little village, Granaiola, in the Tuscan Appenine mountains, overlooking Bagni di Lucca, with stupendous views of valleys and rivers and multitudinous layers of mountains on mountains. Despite the grandness of his vistas, he focuses on the intricate details of life and it is perhaps this insight that has inspired his ‘Atrophy’ series. In this area of great natural and manmade beauty, there is a sense of atrophy as the life cycle of the area depletes itself. The young people have left for the cities and the old people have died, leaving behind their old homes that slowly decay as the weather gets in and the floors rot away and the voracious forests eat away the walls. Kevan captures the decay of life with beauty and acceptance. It is simply the phase before new life.
Sarah Danays, mystical and beautiful, her photograph of her created sculpture and installation, is set in a box that makes the image feel like it is floating in the night. A lot of her work comes from specially found objects and antiquities that she amalgamates with her gentle carvings of limbs in alabaster. Her story of ‘The diviner’ has significance as it was created for a beloved friend and fellow artist who died. The sacred Taoist mid-nineteenth century Chinese divination rod was joined into a carved alabaster hand. “I chose to use it, with its dragon head and Yin and Yang symbol, as protection for Mei’s spirit.” The guest photographer for this sculpture is Sinisha Nisevic – a famous fashion photographer. He was personally invited by Donatella Versace to be her Director of Photography in Milan, and has worked for everyone from Prada to Gucci, to Dior…
On a low table beneath ‘Flower’ by Jacob Cartwright, are two abstract organic forms in marble and alabaster, sculptures, by Sollai Cartwright. ‘Snow’ and ‘Twirl’. People have loved them, coming regularly to touch and fondle them, also his ‘Black Bird’ sold to his best collector. Sollai is a young and impassioned carver who lives spasmodically in Tuscany, renting studios in Pietrasanta and sometimes working on the hillside of his friend, Kevan Halson’s land. Currently he is carving black marble imported from Italy on the land of one of his collector’s in Byron Bay, northern New South Wales. “I am an artist because I believe it is the purest form of evolution and, gifted with an eye for beauty, I feel it is my responsibility and my greatest joy to bring new visions of beauty to the universe…..I carve stone because I am a man of the earth. Marble resonates with my soul and I feel that while I carve, I am giving new life to the soul within the stone….” Lovely! We have a beautiful new artist on the earth giving art back to its people.
I have known Michael’s work for many years and always I am challenged with the language of his work and always I am delighted, though my understanding can sometimes take years in formation. Michael Cartwright’s creativity is spontaneous and draws inspiration from his free interpretation of life, he is free without compromise, and it is this freedom that is ultimately human though sometimes forgotten in the rules we place around ourselves. From freedom comes the Bird form. Michael loves the story and his work can be ‘read’ and it is perhaps the bird in his work, for there are many, that reflects the state his spirit is in. Some birds he has created have lain down, ‘Reclining bird’, and seem to have come from a period when he had to rest and wait. He likes contrast with his work, so you will often find the tough and the tender within the same work. Sometimes it is expressed through texture, soft and smooth and rough and lumpy. Sometimes it is through organized, beautifully finished forms and their adhoc arrangement, irreverent of proportion. This exhibition with his work has several beautiful bird forms, ‘Reclining Bird’, Portrait of a Bird’ and ‘Nest’. He also has a large night painting of ‘Whale’ and the ‘Net’, a little gold leaf on bronze sculpture from his fishing series and the woodcut print of the ‘Fish Trap’. Definitely a nature boy!
Finally there is me! I have loved putting together this series of work from the last 20 years of my ‘Woman’ series. The ‘Woman’ series slips in and out of my creative life as I seem to go through life’s different lessons and gifts. I associate the ‘Woman’ with life’s abundance and power, its cycles, its source of creativity. I have a couple of pieces that have just been cast that I am so happy to have in the show. ‘Dance’ and ‘Woman Form’. I love seeing them in bronze, they are finished! They have been in my studio for a couple of years now, adding to the influences of my latest work. I also had two of the three sculptures I created at the CIS Artist Residency this year in the show. They are in plaster, painted to resemble bronze and they will be cast when we get back to Italy. I love the strength of one and the joy in the other. What a great period of creativity and endeavour this has been. In the meantime, Italy is calling. It is late Spring and I can only imagine the untainted blue skies and swooping swallows in all that delicious new bright green…..And a whole season of new exhibitions on at our La Rondine Gallery in Bagni di Lucca…..
La Rondine Gallery is in Hong Kong! Flying like swallows to warmer climes, the nomadic artists of La Rondine Gallery have sent their art to Hong Kong. Seven of us will be represented here, at Gallery ZZHK, a lovely space with an eclectic, almost Parisian character, in a small laneway, Wu Lane, just off Hollywood Rd in Central. The exhibition is from 14th till 28th May. We are really excited. In celebration of our inaugural flight and for the opening night, Marc Danays, a high profile master mixologist, has created the artists’ cocktail and called it La Rondine. Absolut Vodka is sponsoring us and has supplied the vodka for the drink. It’s amazing to have been offered this opportunity to show our work at this high time of the HK Basel Art Fair, when collectors are everywhere about town and all the galleries are pumping.
Our artists are great!! Jacob Cartwright, Kevan Halson, Sarah Danays, Sollai Cartwright, Candido Martinelli, Michael Cartwright, Shona Nunan. They range from 74 years of experience and love for the arts to 24 years of age, the youngest no less for his age. They are photographers, sculptors, painters, drawers; creating marble sculpture and bronzes from the famed studios of Michaelangelo’s Pietrasanta; photography of mountain people, reflections and exquisite atrophy; themes of ancient myth, the human journey, the balance of life; the artist’s hand representing the spiritual beauty of our world culture.
Michael and I have been here in Hong Kong for the last three weeks. We brought over in our luggage huge frames and photographs, lugged them up fifty million stairs to our little room on Hollywood Rd. We also sent over a box of marble and bronze sculptures which have arrived and surround us on every available space in our room. Our room would make a great gallery at the moment, one person at a time to view an amazing selection of art. I love lying in bed at night with the art perched up all around us, the energy huge, and it will be strange to be without it when finally the work goes down into the gallery.
We have been so busy since we arrived here. We have an Artist in Residence at the Chinese International School in North Point. It has been great to be here, in our studios everyday, working . We have heaps of lovely visitors, young students, teachers, parents, cleaners – it has been really beautiful. Every night we almost fall into bed but not before doing all the funny bits and pieces you have to do to get an exhibition ready; press releases, invitations, meetings with sponsors, hunting supermarkets and drink places for ingredients for our La Rondine cocktail, invitation lists….. Our energy gets expanded to the max when we come here.
Sollai, our youngest son, arrived in Bagni di Lucca just before Christmas last year after a year in Montreal with his acrobat girlfriend, Danica. He had spent the year working on log cabins, stone chimneys and gardens up around the lakes and creating his sculpture carving alabaster and marble, in his city studio. Even though the experience was wonderful, bringing him in contact with an abundant wild life and contributing to the language of his art, trying to make money to live and still do his artwork frustrated him enormously. Then, to his enormous good fortune a lovely collector was encouraged to sponsor him in Italy to carve in one of the most renowned marble carving studios, La Cooperativa, in Pietrasanta for three months over the winter. Lucky Sollai! He was given accommodation, studio, stone, allowance and tools in exchange for artwork created there. More importantly, he was in the mecca of marble carving and had access to the knowledge and advice of some of the most experienced artisans in Pietrasanta – or in the world.
Michael, at the same time, took the opportunity to be with Sollai and rented a studio space in Studio Shakti in Pietrasanta for a couple of days a week. They’d meet up for lunch in the Croce Verde where they would devour a huge three course lunch with wine, water and coffee for ten euros each. After work they’d find a little bar to hang out and relax in, warming up after a long day in the cold. Mike got some great work done. I think he was a bit rapturous to be carving in marble again after so many years since the car accident when he was unable to do any heavy work. He actually forgot in his enthusiasm, the weights of stone. An average size piece, 90 x 90 cm, weighed about 180 kilos, fully realized when it came time to move it.
On one of the days returning to the studios to work after a weekend in Bagni di Lucca, Mike took Sollai up over the mountain pass from Castlenuovo to Pietrasanta. On the way they detoured up another mountain to buy carving tools from the ancient Milani factory in Pomezzana. This factory has been in the family for either 900 years or 9 generations – hmmm – our Italian is not that good! Nevertheless it is believed this same factory was making tools when Michaelangelo was in Pietrasanta. We visited this factory 30 years ago when we first went to Carrarra. In those days the factory was above the village and it is still there but now it has expanded and its extension is down on the road below the village. Its a wonderful experience seeing how these tools that have never changed continue to be made, though in slightly better conditions.
In the meantime, Sollai created a beautiful carving for his collector. Its size came to about a 100 x 100 x 40 cm in a a beautiful soft dusty pink Portuguese Rose marble. Sollai’s influences for his art are very organic and natural forms often found on one of his roving walks. This piece is also organic but is also reminiscent of the Ligurian figure heads and they must have lain dormant in his head because he has seen them on his journeys back and forth to Italy since he was a teenager.
‘My most loved expression is in the carving of stone. For me it is my prayer. Hours and hours listening to the rhythm of chisel and hammer bring me to a place of no return. The creation of form, the seeking of light within marble, its voice is the spirit of the earth and its poetry is infinite.‘ Sollai
Sollai’s adventures learning to carve in Pietrasanta have led to more studio time up in the mountains on a friend’s farm looking out over magnificent vistas and finally down on the river where he has a small studio. Here he was able to complete the sculptures he had started in Pietrasanta. It is no easy task finishing an artwork. Once you have resolved the idea and the forms it seems tedious to finish the work when all you want to do is get onto the next work, the next act of creation. The labouring in polishing marble is huge, hours and hours going through the grades of honing stone and papers, but herein lie the rewards. There is something about polishing marble and bringing out that special luminosity that brings you more and more in love with it. It seems that the marble is living, light twinkling in all the tiny crystals below the surface. The final result is joyous and feels like a massive achievement, no matter how small the work.
Sollai has completed four really lovely works. They are abstract versions of nature and seem to spring from his own sensitive earthiness. He found inspiration on his treks in the summer through the mountains of the Orrido di Botri, adding little organic finds to his collection of studio ideas. He is a good drawer and his sketches are often the foundation of his work, a part of a long process of a sculpture’s evolution. I have put up three of the sculptures and am waiting on a photo of the fourth.
Sunday evening we went down to Pietrasanta to deliver Sollai back to his studio after he had a weekend walking in the mountains. Sollai in his usual generous and egalitarian way, invited us for dinner and extended the invitation to friends of ours as well as to Jacob and Jaqueline and her sister who were playing on the beach that day. So 10 of us for a picnic dinner under a canopy of cool vines, around a great long marble table, thousands of mosquitos, citronella burning and the dusk, warm and balmy.
We wandered around the studio and delighted in Sollai’s new work. First time carving and he is natural with stone carving, throwing himself into it and quickly learning the tools, having finished his first small piece in Portuguese Rose marble in three days. His sculpture is a lovely pod like form folding into itself. The colour is beautiful and he is gratified to be told that for a first piece, the Portuguese Rose is very hard.
He spends his days waking up at 6.00, heading down to the beach on his pushbike for a swim before breakfast, a brioche and cappuccino, then hard at it till lunch time, when he stops and makes a pasta that will last all day long for nibbles as well. A bit of a snooze in the hammock, then onto it again till dusk, when he cleans up and heads into Pietrasanta to cruise the galleries and enjoy the long night time passegiata throughout the town.
We think we too will enjoy a passegiata through Pietrasanta that beautiful summer’s evening. The streets are full and the shops are still open even though it is nearly 10.00. It feels wonderful to be in here amongst twirling running children, performers surrounded by dense crowds, the outdoor cafes full in the great piazza, overlooked from above by the arcing town walls. Sculpture everywhere. Exhibitions still with the doors open at 12.00 when we slowly make our way back through the streets to the car to take our young bare foot bohemian back to his pad under the giant Mediterranean pines. Such a spectacle and such a promenade and such a lovely accompaniment to art.
Today is the 21st June and the weather is unseasonably cold and wet. People have lost their lives in the floods in Provence. We were just there picking up our youngest son, Sollai, from the airport in Nice. It rained so hard that we were completely drenched in seconds while walking on the Boulevard Des Anglais. Back here in Italy the weather followed us and for a week we are back in winter dreaming again of the sun and light summer clothes.
But still dreams are made. On the way back from France, Sollai ventured forth his dream of working in a marble studio in Pietrasanta or Cararra. We stopped at Pietrasanta enroute to inspect a bronze coming out of the foundry and casually asked the owner if he knew of a good marble carving yard for Sollai to start off in. They gave him their introduction to a carving yard they knew of, ‘Shakti’, situated under beautiful mediterranean pines, with accommodation as well, albeit an aluminium shed. He is so excited. Now he is back in Bagni di Lucca working his tail off so that he can afford the rates for his one month sojourn in Pietrasanta from mid July to mid August. Michael will happily go with him for a week to teach him some pointers on carving and set him on his way, as well as to enjoy some carving of his own. Summer carving in Pietrasanta, home to the great quarries that Michaelangelo discovered, beautiful stone tools, a city romantic and ancient, its walls climbing the hills above its centre, overlooked by great craggy mountains, olive groves, below it on the flats, mad industry and the sea, every day in summer a pushbike ride to the beach – the sculptors life.
Today this sculptor is back in her studio. A week away is sometimes a long time and today was joy itself. Its like coming home. This beautiful space under the old vaulted ceilings, bricks black with age, a cave to indulge in one’s fantasies, surrounding yourself with nothing but yourself. I love it when I come here. I come back to myself. And today I started a new series of horse and riders. I have been going regularly to my friend’s ranch where I have been drawing and touching and loving her beautiful horses. At last I am sculpting – from a Shona perspective – these noble creatures that for me express a freedom and at oneness with life.