Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring comes to Florence

Spring has come to Florence, with a trip back to Fiesole, in the hills above Florence, to see the Etruscan and Roman ruins, and the lovely monastery of San Francesco. The views of the city laid out before you are perhaps even more beautiful, with the fresh green and spring flowers carpeting the hills.

This brings us full circle, with the trip that our students took to Fiesole in September with Professor Peter Sramek, as an orientation to Florence.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Year End Exhibition and Farewells

Upon request, a follow-up to the exhibition… Here are a few photos I’ve gathered of the Peraurim Exhibition, the Annual Florence Program Year-End Show held on Friday April 15th-16th 2008. This includes only a few photos of some of the work each of us created this past semester (due to slow internet connection at my place, they’ll be slowly but definitely coming!).

Nevena Niagolova, a 5th year student in the program (with the help of photos taken by Rob Palmer and cover photo by Melissa Espina) has so kindly dedicated her time and unique creativity to compiling a book for us that will be published in recognition and as a commemoration to some of the artwork we created this year in the program.

Shortly after the exhibit, we had a full intense (and also very inspiring) week of final critiques, with a panel that included our 2nd semester professor Martha Ladly, our history professor Peter Portical, and two visiting guests by professor Colette Laliberte and OCAD President Sara Diamond. And I can’t forget, also the critique, support, and encouragement from each of the fellow classmates in the program.

We ended the program with a full day of packing our work folio sopra folio di bubble wrap… now resting in a tall tube or box that are currently being shipped to Canada as I type!

We said our farewells and returned each of our set of keys to the studio in hopes that they will open doors to new experiences and inspirations for those who will be given the opportunity to delve into its nooks, corners, and crannies next school year. OCAD has been offering the Florence Off-Campus Studies to students and the opportunity to live and study abroad for almost 33 years now and it was truly an honor to be a part of it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Church of Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The Church of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has been the main source of my last three paintings this semester. Last month, I had the opportunity to visit this church, which is still under construction. Antoni Gaudi, my favourite architect, originally designed this church and worked on it until his death in 1926. Under the church is a museum dedicated to the original plaster models, sketches, and floor plans for the church's construction. One sketch in particular interested me. It was of the geometric shapes made by the columns and vaulted ceilings in the central nave. Being fascinated by patterns and also architectural drawings, I used these shapes to make three paintings. I see architectural drawings as beautiful art pieces which are decorative and precious already.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The stories of Florence and Santa Maria del Fiore and their influence on my work

Most of us studying in Florence this year have seen a change in our work compared to earlier years. For me, there have changes in style and in the ideas I'm interested in showing. The main cathedral in Florence, and other buildings that i have seen with intricate facades and colour patterns, has influenced the colours and sorts of lines that I've been using. I find myself drawing small detailed work, and using alot of negative space with delicate colours. Conceptually, Florence has influenced my work because I have found myself fascinated with the idea of stories. this city is so full of history and narratives, that I feel I can never understand the full stories, but rather small snapshots, which is an idea I have begun to explore this year in my work.

A Different Sunrise


Walter Benjamin writes about the aura of the work of art, and how it is withered by mechanical reproduction. This is most relevant for the world's most famous artworks, what Peter Porçal calls the 'inflated images'. In the past seven months, I've seen a lot of them- The David, The Parthenon, and the Mona Lisa are the most iconic examples. When I saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, I was most deeply affected not by the beautiful painting, but by the gaping mob trying to get snapshots of the beautiful painting. So I took out my digital camera, too, and captured a video of them.
Want to see them?
Notice the utter and complete lack of aura, and the damaging flashes going off every couple of seconds.

La Laine des Moutons, cest nous qui la...

Florence made an impact in the textile market in the Renaissance. The guild responsible for the import, processing and export of wool was of the most profitable of the guilds. I expected to see more textiles when I arrived here in Florence and although I was disappointed not to, I was inspired to elaborate on my knowledge of the material and the processes that go along with it. My work has been impacted by the history of wool and by the people here in Florence. I feel that I am crossing cultures, my own with the one here in Florence. My mother used to sing a song about how to make wool into yarn. That song has inspired me to find the original process of my materials and to connect with the people who processed the wool for my project that I may not have met. Those people became the aura of my afghan to me. Passing through so many hands to become the final product.

La Specola; a dissection of the romantic epoch

La Specola is the only place in town where one can see a 3oo year old hippopotamus right alongside realistic human wax anatomical models with their internal organs spewing forth. Yes, la specola has it all. My body of work this semester has been centered around human anatomy and anatomical diagrams, so it was only natural that I would gravitate towards Europe's largest collection of anatomical waxes. Not only are the figures frighteningly lifelike, but seem to be from some long lost romantic horror story. To mirror the complex and fanciful way their organs are spilling out of their abdomens, the female waxes have equally intricate braided hair, intertwined with delicate strings of pearls across their throats. La Specola is a true mix of the 18th century quest for truth and romantic ideals.

Florence is the Influence

I could not choose one particular site, monument, artist or artwork in Florence that has some resonance or meaning to my work because Florence the city as a whole; the streets, museums, artwork, culture and people have all influenced my work and have left a lasting impression on me. Without coming to Florence I would not have had the need to use maps and probably wouldn’t have developed such an interest in them. I wouldn’t have realized how interesting and timeless they are and I would not have produced any of the work I did this year. Without coming to Florence I would not have gained so many memories which in themselves were a big part of my artwork. Coming to Italy has changed my work, my process and it has changed me. Due to this program I have grown in so many ways and have added to my character and for that I am grateful.

Frescos and Sweet Jumps

The abundance of figure painting in the Italian Renaissance has deeply inspired my work by making me aware of the versatility of the body, with its foreshortening and curves, skin tones and proportions. The ceiling frescos of Raphael’s Rooms in the Vatican were what inspired my series of people tumbling throught the canvasses. This series was an exploration of drapery, bold colour, and contorted bodily positions. On the left, is part of Raphael's fresco, while on the right, Mike is doing a jump off of a tree stump as warm-up for the trampoline photo shoot... thanks Mike and Rachy for being gorgeous models!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Change, anyone?

It is easy to judge a time-period by the haircuts. If Florence had a haircut, it would be a page-boy, probably with some sort of feathered hat perched at a jaunty angle, and certainly someone would be asking it for a few ducats.

8 months as a tourist

I’ve realized that Florence, although unique with its own history is like any other city; growing, becoming more modernized and being shaped by different cultures. Florence has become a city built upon spectacles. Once rich for its artisans that lived and worked here, Florence is now only recognized for the reputations of those people and their marks on history they have left behind. No longer is their economy built upon their wool merchants, guilds and exports to other cities and countries, but on the spectacle and the tourists that flock in to see it.

“Tourism, human circulation considered as consumption is fundamentally nothing more than the leisure of going to see what has become banal.” -Guy Debord-
-photo: Alan Lee

As the end of the semester approaches so does our time here in Florence. While unfortunate that our time here will end, the prospect of returning home to friends and family is also exciting. However the influence that Florence has had on my work is undeniable. By pulling colours from the various cities that I have visited I developed a colour palette based on my surroundings. Each piece is based on a wall from somewhere in Italy. This is the background stain that begins each piece. I continue working using a combination of maps and freehand drawings a building details to create the finale esthetic. Several of the buildings in Florence have stood since the Renaissance, reclaimed and re purposed to continue the life of the city instead of tearing down and rebuilding. Combined with using locally sourced building materials such as sandstone and local marbles as well as imposing a strict colour code a cohesive style within urban development through was achieved in Florence. While this was done with the intent to preserve the integrity of the Florentine atmosphere, it also keeps the city separated from perceptive modern development. When new structures are developed they now tend to stick out like sore thumbs and creates a strong divide between the historical city center and the surrounding neighborhoods.