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 our Journeys.
Every day since the first of July you wander over the passerella to the Villa Fiori gardens and you hear the musical tapping of metal on stone. The sculpture symposium, one of the many wonderful events of the Bagni di Lucca Art Festival, has seen the works of five sculptors evolving and ‘becoming’ over the month; Doug Robinson, Sarah Danays, Ryoichi Suzuki, Petra Boshart and Michael Cartwright. Visitors to the gardens have been delighted by the progress and information on how each artist develops their language, using only hand tools on various types of marble, statuario and normale from Carrara, red travertine from Iran, nut brown from Turkey.
Every day the local people have provided lunch for the artists in their homes. It has been an enormous discovery for the hosts and the artists alike to see how the other lives life. There have been lunches in tiny kitchens and under vines with magnificent vistas, every lunch generous and fundamentally Italian, with pasta and wine and home done olives, good vegetables from the fields and heavy rustic breads and cheeses.
The kindness of Hotel Pio in Bagni Caldi, donating rooms to three of the artists for the full month along with the Bridge Hotel in Ponte a Serraglio hosting Doug, has been a huge act and earns them the name of the ‘art hotels’ and maybe next year with funding they will be well recompensed.
Doug Robinson is a Canadian sculptor who has been coming to Pietrasanta for the past thirty years to carve marble. He has been a wonderful joy in the party, his enthusiasm for the whole culture of Bagni di Lucca with all its hilltop villages, his eyes turning into childlike buttons of wonder have made us laugh and enjoy being here even more. He has been working in the brown travertine and his work, organic, figurative, animistic and landscape, all, are a beautiful testament to his surroundings that he has eagerly absorbed.
Sarah Danays, a UK artist living and creating in L.A. and renovating a house in a little hilltop village here in Bagni, is a petite and gentle woman. She has carved the smallest piece of marble to carefully and delicately create a bust to wear the adornment of an antique necklet which will then be melded into her own artistic expression of a photographic installation. Her lovely kind presence, always caring about us all and deeply concerned for her sponsors that they are properly acknowledged, has been significant to the warmth and friendship of the group.
Ryoichi Suzuki is a Japanese artist who has lived since his student days in Utah, USA, where he now lectures as a teacher in sculpture at the university. He has been used, as a marble sculptor, to the machines of the trade so has encountered a learning curve with the hand chiseling as has nearly everyone in the group. His process has been very methodical and at the end of his stay here he has created an abstracted silken torso in the white Carrara marble. People in town have loved his open interest in them and enjoyed his jovial company in the bar.
Petra Boshart, an artist from the Netherlands, comes from a long respected family line of marble carvers. She has willingly shared lots of tips from her memories of her grandfather and father and has delighted in the hand carving process which has eliminated lots of the aches that sculptors acquire from constant use of machines when carving. Carving on the edge of the Lima River inspired her sculpture in the Iranian red travertine, an organic coil of rolling form reflecting the flow of water.
Michael Cartwright, has loved being in the field every day creating. Life has been incredibly busy, because living in the same place you are working in, means many distractions, including hosting his sculpting friends every evening after work. But Mike’s energy is huge and he attacked his cube of stone with velocity before it took its shape into an abstract quirky bird form with what he calls the nest. People walking in the gardens each day got to know it and delight in it which was lovely for him because it usually takes a while for people to know his work. He is working on his second piece now, a promise of a gentle fluid form that feels womanly.
The artists will be showing their work on May 26th, when hopefully the road in Ponte a Serraglio will be closed again and all the shops reopened with the next exhibitions.
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.
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.
Beijing is monumental. Masculine, strong and tough, some of the finest buildings in the world are here. Just arriving at Beijing airport is an amazing experience. Designed by Foster and Partners, the airport is massive and looks like it has just lifted itself gently from the earth, the roof line soft and undulating, but in its underworld, it vaults and soars effortlessly, like billowing material, pinned on towering white pillars.
One enters the city, vast as it spreads out over the plain and dotted with some fantastic contemporary buildings, to see the Forbidden City and its colossal walls and gateways, the great Tiananmen Square stretching before it towards the Temple of Heaven, broad strokes of rich colour and repeated pattern work, lifting the grey stonework from the earth.
Food is not all that makes the restaurant, and this is never more clear than at Capital M Beijing Restaurant. Situated on a corner of Tiananmen Square overlooking the monumental Gates to the Forbidden City, Capital M Beijing has not only a unique and rarified position but an ambience from design that makes the experience romantic and memorable and `the place to be’. The terraces outside are set up like little gardens, roses and ivy dripping and complementing teacups in pink rose and turquoise colours, pebble pathways and twirly iron chairs, the flower pots are hand designed and incised with Chinese cloud images and the views of the old city are wonderful, especially as sunset adds grace to the iron grey of Tiannamen. Inside, the restaurant is even more spectacular.
The designers, Debra Little and Roger Hackworth, (Dialogue ltd and Collaborate ltd) were faced with a huge task to transform a great ugly low ceilinged concrete space into what is today a wonderfully eclectic mix of mirrors and brass and geometric terrazzo black and white flooring, crazy fireplaces and designed furniture lifted from the forties. Michael Cartwright was commissioned to create a fifty metre mural on canvas, to be inspired by an old Chinese tapestry, to feature along the spinal wall of the restaurant. Red swirling Chinese clouds, giant blossoms and tortured trees, a rushing turquoise river sometimes burning from the sky above, wildflowers, grasses and rushes, thick fresh paint, all of it reflecting and double reflecting in mirrors and brass. It brings a lushness to the eating places whose colours are otherwise subdued and revives the hues of the Forbidden City, the rich reds and greens and yellows and provencal blues. The toilets are an absolute delight. The floors and walls in white terrazzo are incised in brass with a lovely old Chinese pattern. The cubicle doors are blood red and the outer doors in brass are adorned with blood red handles like old vines, these also commissioned from Michael. The bar is beautiful in brass and luminous green resin, the glasses rimmed in red, twinkling against the mirror ceiling. The place is sensuous. Attention to detail even in the etched metal pillars and the carved wood ceiling in the one high space of the restaurant. Absolutely gorgeous – and the food was pretty good too!
It was great going back this time to see the restaurant and Mike’s painting. When we were here before, setting up the painting, caught in the frazzle of tempers and undoing and redoing the installation of the painting, it was hard to put aside the emotions of two years of work finally going into its resting place. The anxiety at rest when finally we saw it all up, complete and beautiful and giving something truly magical to the space, working bountifully with the richness of design around it. But still, to arrive as a customer several years later, and to be greeted by its warm presence in the foyer and into the restaurant which had worn in a little and had acquired a personality through the maitre’d, was to see it with clear eyes. And we had heard such a lot about it from our own collectors and friends who had been in to dine, all declaring it to be a really special restaurant and the one they frequented always for special events.
Every day Mike would go down to the studio from six o’clock in the morning to paint this painting. He felt urgent about it. Anxious to catch the season as it awoke to greet the summer. He’d go out to the river to examine the new buds comparing them to his finds and sketches in the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Michelle Garnaut, the creator of the M restaurants, prepared him for the painting, taking the time to show him the colours and the special trees in the walls and gardens of the palaces. On a wintry Easter she arrived at the studios with Debra Little, the designer, to inspect the painting so far. Michael was really nervous. He loved the painting and didn’t want to have to tell them that this is the way it had to be if they didn’t like it. They loved it. Michelle declared, ‘He knows what he’s doing – lets leave him alone’ and they did – just a few small objections from time to time to trees a little too stark for their liking. As things go with design, the wall measurements changed, especially after one of the big bureaucratic delays in working in the space, and some of his painting got discarded and others grew taller. One space grew to 5 metres high and Mike was forced to hand stitch new canvas to the original. At this time he rented an old theatre that had the height for his work and for several months he was up on scaffolding before he could see it whole again.
Its a great thing to create. In something like a restaurant or a building, there is such a lot of collaboration to be considered. It is not the master work of one – somehow the master has to be awoken individually in each collaborator so that the whole can be a masterpiece. And Capital M Beijing is a masterpiece. It is the collaboration of the dreamer, the designers, the artists, the artisans, the workers, the managers, the chefs and waiters and all in all it comes together to create a feeling of deep pleasure for the diner who remarks, the meal was fantastic!
Overhead, on the verandah, Sollai is cementing the patch work of canals made for recent wires and plumbing, cheerful and gung ho, cement is flying from his flailing spatula. The garden is water ridden and the river is swollen and brown, but today the sun is shining and we pull the geraniums back out onto the walls – they had become so water logged we thought they’d drown. Glorious to see the swallows swoop and glide over the river, gobbling insects in the fresh glowing light.
Michael is standing back absorbing the triptych he has just completed for Morgon Stanley in Hong Kong. Its beautiful. A river scene. The bank full and pulsating with wildflowers and lush green herbs. The river gushing past, and on the canvas it looks fast, the colours almost tripping over themselves, glinting and dashing with that special light at sunset. The energy of the paint is fantastic and you feel part of early summer and its bountiful delights. He’s a mad man in the studio. How can he work so fast? At the end of every session he’s exhausted but emerges victorious, eyes shining, and then dumps on the couch and naps as quickly and intensely as he works. He says he doesn’t think about it – just does – complete trust.