This is Art week in Hong Kong. It is huge and it is really wonderful. There is so much good art out there and I am happy to say, the La Rondine exhibition stands up to all of it, albeit a small show, in the confines of Gallery ZZHK in Wa Lane.
Monday night rocked off with a great exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Shi Jindian in Hollywood Rd at Angela Li Contemporary Gallery. Shi Jindian is a lovely shy artist whose work probably reflects well his introverted nature. With exquisite attention to detail he twists stainless steel wire around bicycles and a motor bike, before extracting them and leaving their outer wire shape. Hanging on the wall is the remnants of an old door that he wired up and then burnt, the remains of charcoal trapped in the outer wire frame. While I appreciated the work and craftsmanship of his sculptures, I was probably more taken with his paintings that were similar to his wire work through painstakingly etched biro into paint revealing beautiful abstract forms. The works were subtle and haunting.
Tuesday night held the openings of the big galleries, the Gagosian, White Cube, Ben Brown, Hanart, and Pearl Lam. We loved the Basquiat exhibition at Gagosian. How lucky are we to see it. There were huge crowds making their way up to the seventh floor exhibition in Pedder Building, but there was no alcohol so people didn’t stay to hang in their groups talking with their backs to the artwork and therefore obscuring the vision. A clever move, because truly this was worth seeing. Basquiat is such an explorative artist. The passion and volatility of his work, scratched and scribbled and stuck and slapped on any debris or available matter, made the work excitingly free, connected to the moment, unconcerned with outcome and anyone’s opinion. Sad he died, a bit of a Jimmy Hendrix, lost in the alienation of drugs and fame, yet so much more to give – or does everything become a rehash – how many artists can re-invent themselves, once they’ve ‘made it’.
Ben Brown had two artists showing. Sculptural landscapes by Swiss artist, Vital, and portraits by Frank Auerbach. It was a good show. The sculptural landscapes are marble images found in China. We often see these little marble images in the antique markets, as this is a recognized Chinese art form, the appreciation of a found piece of marble or stone that reflects the landscape. They are like beautiful little pen and ink washes and Vital mounted his finds on the wall in strong plaster sculpted reliefs. The Frank Auerbach portraits are great. They are rich in texture and honesty, and he is an artist who deserves to be recognized for his unrelenting dedication to his art and love for the human condition. The paint is tough and dirty and the portraits are essential rather than revealing.
We also went to Hanart on the 4th Level of Pedder Building and saw the installation paintings by Qiu Zhijie. They were a lovely exploration of Chinese landscape manifested in a contemporary context along with maps, historical and geographical.
I am afraid we didn’t get off much on Pearl Lam’s exhibition of ‘The Reality of Paint’ by Zhu Jinshi. Big slabs of thick textural colour paint on canvas. It felt contrived and without love for itself. hmmm. But it is a beautiful space and we have seen some great shows here.
In the meantime, we are sitting in our exhibition and we meet a spaniard who collects African art and Chinese ceramics. A quietly passionate man, after an hour perusing our work, proclaimed our exhibition as the best he had seen in HK. He said with sincerity that we were all ‘real’ artists not concerned with gimickry and slickness, but all of us were truly expressing our truths and he felt deeply moved by the show. He thanked us for giving so much. Lovely!! I wonder sometimes why any artist who chooses such a hard road in life would compromise their work to be ‘untrue’, to be fashionable, to care what anyone thinks, when what the world truly values is the artist’s freedom to create – and they pay a lot for it as seen in the Basel Art Fair in HK this year….
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.
On a late summer’s day last year, under a pergola dripping in wisteria and overlooking splendid vistas, a thought was born to a philanthropist and his friends, to have an art festival in Ponte a Serraglio. For years we had all been coming here, and every year another one or two shops would close down. It seemed unbelievably sad that such a beautiful and elegant town with such a salubrious history should disappear, becoming shabbier over the years and less and less inviting to visit.
As with all intrinsically beautiful places, artists are already attracted to this town with its gracious old buildings and surrounding mountains and walks up to the ancient spas. An artist group got together on the bridge, taking over two shops some years ago, Artisti Uniti, of around ten artists. It was shortlived but quickly followed by the Borgo degli Artisti, whose initial group had a dream to create a hamlet of artists, inspired by Greenwich village in New York! The Borgo degli Artisti took the initative to fix up the derelict garden of Villa Fiori, making it a gorgeous place to have a painting event in mid July, attracting nearly 100 artists for the day to paint all along the river and now they also have sagras on that day and other days throughout the year and have a little gallery on the bridge that displays their members’ works year around.
Since the Borgo degli Artisti started, La Rondine Gallery, an artist run space, showing international artists throughout the summer months has opened in two beautiful shops on one of the small piazzas. To add to the general feeling of excitement, a photography gallery directed by Kevan Halson is opening a few doors up from La Rondine and will feature the works of international photographers.
After our informal ideas meetings with our philanthropist friend who donated a substantial offering to the cause, the enormous job of putting together the Bagni di lucca Art Festival, was placed in Jaqueline’s hands. Jaqueline is our daughter-in-law married to our eldest son, Jacob. Her mother has a smile that would light the sun, while her father is a politician in Cape Verde, and we’ve decided upon this knowledge that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She is extremely talented dealing with so many artists and cajoling so many people to donate their empty shops, encouraging everyone in the town to get out and work at cleaning them up. The feeling of anticipation is palpable. Already the festival, even in its first year, has legs that are running for success. Of course she is greatly supported by Jake, and the two of them have become a wonderful team.
In generous collaboration, the Borgo degli Artisti are delighted to have the art Festival take place throughout the Villa Fiori gardens. Starting at the beginning of July, there will be a marble hand carving sculpture symposium with international sculptors; music performances; opera; acrobatics; dancing. Plus, there are 7 or 8 empty shops that have been seconded and they will be artists’ studios/exhibition spaces/installations. These shops will rotate with artists over the entire summer, June through till September. The scrumptious old casino will be transformed in the summer for a piano recital of Lizst by one of Australia’s foremost pianists, Ronald Farren-Price, also for an opera from London and an opera from Lucca as well as a performance by Italy’s Al Maranca. It’s a growing happening and already people on the other side of the world are booking to come over to be here, enticed by beauty and culture and delightful traditions.
The Bagni di Lucca Art Festival is the manifestation of many dreams in the little town to see it thrive once more. After all, its historical interest has always been through the amazing artists and personages who have visited this town in the summer.
Blood red, dripping, over the canvas, through the net, into the royal blue black sea. The boat incandescent against a golden, almost a dirty gold, luminous light. ‘The Catch’, huge and slaughtered, in the depths of the sea. The colours are exquisitely beautiful and the subject poignantly ‘triste’, sad. It’s an amazing painting in its full expression, that yet holds a poetic beauty and is able to be felt on all levels. It is hung in the centre of the gallery space, dividing two enormous paintings of such peace and tranquility it seems at odds that they can all be shown together. These two painting are water pieces too, one of a river in spring and the other of a pond with lilly pads. This is Michael’s calling card. ‘Eclectic’. It is the name of his exhibition and and is a reflection of Michael the artist; many varying elements coming together to make up the whole. His painting and his sculpture is brave and inventive, he always remains true to the freshness of his vision, never resting for long in a new discovery of language, moving always with his bright curious awareness of everything he sees. In his painting, his work is energetic, with big slashing strokes, and colour is his strength. I would say light interests him less than the importance of colour playing against one another.
His freshness is also in his sculpture and this ‘inconsistency’ has puzzled and infuriated many people over the years, as he has defied the rules of constancy and yet remained a completely dedicated artist. I have lived with Michael for 31 years and I can say, coming from my own experience that I have sometimes taken years to catch up and appreciate a new work. His language is playful and joyful and quirky, so he is irreverent to style, material or representation. It’s more important to him that he captures the essence of the life force itself and to him this energy is always moving, always growing, always changing. Saying this, it does not mean that Michael is not serious. He is deeply idealistic and his sense of responsibility for life is precious to him, so he often notes in his work, the environment and its balance, challenging without fear the greed of industry. Hence ‘The Catch‘ series and his factory series.
Michael’s exhibition in Ponte a Serraglio at La Rondine Gallery, is a powerful representation of his work. He wanted to express himself fully in this show, curated only by himself. His painting, prints and drawings are bold and beautiful. His sculptures are an ‘eclectic’ mix, expressing his gentle meditative side, as with ‘The Animal who loves itself’ and ‘Portrait of a Bird’, but also his sense of fun, with his ’Portrait of the emotional artist’ and also his ‘Walking Man’, works that while being found objects, still are fully considered aesthetically.
Water. Reflections of strength and beauty, transparent layering of leaves and stone, transposed by light immersing itself in the thousand crystals of marble and lying in wait in the luminous pond below. A feeling of quiet meditation in the whole exhibition. Jacob Cartwright has drawn inspiration for this series of photographs from his excursions walking through the marble mountains and disused quarries of Carrara and Pietrasanta.
The opening night at La Rondine, on 24th August, was hot and full to the brim with art lovers and friends, sipping on prosecco. It was an exhibition that constantly drew attention to itself, with guests engaging in the work, delighting in the painterly abstraction of stone and water despite it being the ‘first night’ when people are usually more happy to engage with one another.
Jacob’s photographs are large format and their subject benefits from the sense of space they create. In ‘Quarry Reflection 2’, the work feels ‘inky’, like an abstract etching, luscious thick black lines criss crossing each other over soft dark grey and deep forest green, white dashes, alleviating the heaviness. ‘Quarry Pond’ is a truly beautiful work of just the reflection without its life mirror. This piece is full of light and the colour is delicious in its painterly turquoise greens and blues. All the works in the series feel special, but I especially enjoy the more undefined and elemental works that keep you uncertain of whether they are a photograph, a drawing, a painting or an etching – it is only the art that matters.
Swooping through the air, their forked tails and pointed wings in silhouette against brilliant blue skies, they arrive in spring and leave in autumn, busy all summer long, tending their babies and devouring the myriad of insects floating over the fields and waterways, chirping socially through the balmy twilight evenings on top of their nests under the eaves or on the boughs of leafy old trees. The swallows. Joyous and free they still observe the rituals of season as do we artists, out and about in this bountiful haven in the warm seasons and gone to other warmer climes as the winters grow cold. We have called our gallery in Ponte a Serraglio, La Rondine – The Swallow.
One week ago the mayor of Bagni di Lucca, Massimo Betti, opened the first exhibition of La Rondine Gallery, ‘Atrophy’, a series of photographs by Kevan Halson. Living in the hills above Bagni di Lucca, in a lovingly restored old villa, Kevan, talented in many fields, includes photography and printing in his repertoire of gifts. He is often to be seen, laden with his camera equipment and a bunch of keys loaned to him by the commune, as he enters old buildings owned by the commune who have not the money available to them to restore or keep the buildings intact. Bagni di Lucca with all its history and all its potential, is one of those special towns that needs a great patron to preserve it.
‘Atrophy’ is a series of small intimate photographs of the forgotten story of the Bagni di Lucca area, interior shots of tumbling villas and houses, old and decaying, snippets of another life, long gone, bits of rubbish left on old shelving, rubble up a staircase from a fallen roof, old tiles. The colour of each of these works is beautiful. Each photograph is almost a burnt black and white with one extreme colour standing out abstractly, a delicious turquoise, an apricot pink, patterns created by the lighting that create another level of resonance above the story of decay. It’s a strange insight into Bagni di Lucca, but it is a true one. Bagni di Lucca, so rich in history and patrons and beautiful buildings, has declined sadly and graciously; one by one the great old villas falling into themselves, relinquishing the life of the past, not much to remember them by except for a little wallpaper snippet or delicate engraved and broken glass, elegant staircases strewn with rubble from the toppling floors above. Kevan’s photographs record the vision of a broken past, yet are poignantly beautiful art works in their own right.
La Rondine is manned by the exhibiting artists, so the opening hours are operated individually according to the exhibitor. The casual nature of our agreements has allowed us to open the gallery doors.