I am lying on the sand in a little cove just below Livorno. The water is gently lapping nearby and a child plucks delightedly at each gush of wave. The sun is warm and low in the sky and the big gulls swoop and swarm over a dark patch in the water. I feel deeply deeply at rest and feel each breath, full, filling me completely. Next to me, Mike is asleep. We are here to only be here, nowhere else, and it feels lovely to think of nothing but food and wine and beauty.
We have been so busy, the summer has flown away, its golden days filled with happy hours in the studio, working in the new gallery, La Rondine, catching up with friends and family from overseas, cleaning up our properties for sale, setting up exhibitions….. And then as one more set of friends arrived, and an appointment where we had to meet some clients in Basel was cancelled, we realized it was time for nothing. I had just opened up my exhibition, ‘From Out of the Studio’, and off we went down to Castiglioncello, south of Livorno, to capture the last of the summer. Such a beautiful place, all those big old umbrella pines set in the narrow picturesque streets and gardens of gracious old holiday homes. We are staying in a whacky hotel, Villa Parisi, that apparently we are getting for a very cheap price because there are no tourists around, but there is no internet or very limited service, and it all feels a little bit like Fawlty Towers. Nevertheless, the bathroom is large and spacious and the views overlooking a moody sea are gorgeous.
It was great doing my exhibition. I had finished modelling the ‘Guardian Figures’ for the Warnambool Art Museum in June and so it was wonderful to somehow be in my studio nearly every day over a very busy summer progressing with my work because I was working towards my own show. It was also great because my studio is so close to the gallery, I could take the plaster originals down to the gallery instead of having to have them all cast in bronze. It gave a real element of freshness to the show and I have to admit that sometimes the plaster originals have something really special in them in their all white, pure, raw surfaces. They feel tougher, scratchier than their eventual softening into the bronze. By the skin of my teeth I just finished my horse and rider. Maybe there is a little more to do on the head of the rider, I’d like more time with it, and in some ways I am sad that it is over with this piece. I love the process and in this piece it could go on forever, around and around tweaking and adjusting, it is a real love relationship and the in-loveness makes you never want to leave it. I love the horse, its head pulled in tight to its chest, its complete trust in the rider, unable to see, uncomfortable in its fidgeting stance. The rider, semi relaxed but aware, gazing outward, one of his feet holding tightly to the chest of the horse, in control, but with time to see the whole surrounding picture…. I also framed some drawings that I did years ago, in 1997-1998, when we rented a cottage in Ballinskelligs, Ireland, after we had done an art residency at Cill Rialiag there. This is a series I call my Monk series based on the skellig monks who lived out in beehive huts on a rock in the sea in the early days of christianity, they were refugees from the African desert and guarded the priceless texts that were at that period of time being burnt and savaged by the northern tribes and newly formed apostolic church. I did a series of portraits of the monks using the quiet contemplative faces of the young and older single men we came across in the area. We would often see them alone on their farms, without women, solitary figures in a harsh lonely land that dropped into the sea. Their serene stoic faces seemed right for my picture of the monks.
The opening night of the exhibition and the following night was wonderful, along with our friends and supporters of art came Italians we hadn’t seen before. It felt like we were integrating with the whole picture of us being here, foreigners in this blessed land of ‘milk and honey’.Tags: bagni di lucca., Livorno. Castiglioncello. Exhibition sculpture by Shona Nunan. La Rondine Gallery