We arrived back in Christchurch on Wednesday morning at 12 am. We left the airport and walked 10 minutes down the road to Jucy Snooze, where we spent the next five hours attempting sleep in a pod. A pod is a one person sleeping compartment in a shared dorm room. It would have been great had it not been for the gorilla snorer who drove us prematurely back to the airport to where we waited to catch our 8:30 am flight to Dunedin. We had most of Wednesday to recover at home before starting work on Thursday.
It’s now Sunday Evening, I’ve got a pot of pumpkin soup on the stove and I’m sitting down to finish off this post in the lounge, in-front of the fire, with a glass of syrah. Mitch is noodling away on the guitar in the background. Yes I must admit it’s great to be home!!!!!
All up we spent a scant three nights and two days in Rome. Although brief, Mitch and I both felt like we got a taste of the real Rome, not the glamourised one, which the travel brochure sells you, you know the pictures of ancient ruins without the crowds of tourists.
We got to see and experience a slice of everyday Rome – dinner cooked at home with our host, graffiti, supermarkets, riding the yellow tram (which no one paid to ride), the local trattoria (casual restaurant), Italian family life and get togethers/celebrations.
Our home in Rome
Mitch and I walked the streets of Rome in Search of Pigneto, a small neighbouring suburb which our host recommended we visit.
When in Rome, buy paint!!!!!! I use Maimeri’s Brera and Acrillico acrylic paint. These paints are Italian made and I used to be able to buy them in New Zealand but the year before last the supplier closed shop. So while in Italy I was determined to find some and bring them home. I managed to find a small art store in Poggi, two short tram rides from where we were staying. I spent up large as the paints were only 6.70 Euro each.
We are heading south of Carrara, on a series of trains bound for Perugia in Umbria.
Mitch found and booked the accomodation for three nights in Perugia on booking.com. It was an absolute treat to be picked up from the train station on arrival, and dropped at the door of the accommodation by the women who managed our booking.
Fascinating peek into the past
The old town of Perugia is a mix of Etruscan, Roman and papal architecture and as such has lots of hidden treasures to find and explore. We stumbled across the 3000 year old Etruscan well, which we payed 6 Euro each to visit. I felt very vulnerable standing on the foot bridge above the water looking up at the travertine truss beams and the opening of the top of the well. Click on the link below for further info
Perugia’s Old Town sits on top of a hill. We could see it from the window of our accomodation. Once you are up in the old town you can enjoy the beautiful view of the valley below.
The Mini Metro Perugia
This is what we need in Dunedin! It would be a really practical way for people to get around, especially up and down the hills which seems to put a lot of people off biking and walking. Let’ s build a mini metro system to ease congestion in the inner city and solve Dunedin’s parking problems.
“The Mini Metro in Perugia, is a family of cable propelled automated people mover systems. “A 3,027 m stretch with seven stations opened in February 2008 to relieve the inner city of car traffic. It consists of more than 25 vehicles of 5 m each, with a capacity of 25 passengers and a speed of up to 25 km per hour. The interval between successive vehicles is around 1.5 minutes. In 2013 the system carried 10,000 passengers per day. Plans exist for a second line.”
Carrara is a Tuscan city on the Mediterranean Coast and is known for the quarries of white and blue-grey marble – the stuff Michelangelo carved his famous sculpture David from.
On our 3rd night in Carrara we were on the hunt for something to eat (being Easter most places were shut) and came across your average Pizzeria that was thankfully open. While waiting outside we were approached by a young lady who asked in Italian if we knew of any good restaurants???? She must have read the bamboozled looks on our faces, and quickly switched to English. We had a great chat and it turned out she was from the Chezch Republic, but based in Germany and studying sculpture in Carrara. We got talking about Carrara, these were the words she used to describe it “it’s like the Chezch Republic under communism – everything is falling apart”. She also shared the following observations ” German’s pay money for good housing and cars while Italians, they spend their money on clothes”.
While in Carrara, we had more of an opportunity to learn and employ a few Italian words. I got into the habit of taking photos of messages in windows, hand written signs etc. Then when home we would attempt to decipher them ourselves before translating them into english via google translate. Unfortunately you cant make it out in the photo, but the paper handwritten message taped to the back of this motorcycle read “merde di pasqua”. Translated It said “easter shits”. Perhaps the real meaning was lost in Google translation either way it had us in hysterics. And we learnt ‘merde’ our first Italian slang word.
I didn’t manage to see David, the masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created in marble between 1501 and 1504 by the Italian artist Michelangelo. David is a 5.17-metre marble statue of the Biblical hero David. You can see the Sculpture in Florence at the Academy Gallery. I did however study the replica which is situated in the original’s position in the Piazza della Signoria.
Seeing the sculpture in the flesh (even if it was the copy) then finding more examples of Michelangelo’s work online did give me a greater appreciation for his work. From then on every other representational stone sculpture I saw on the streets, in churches, museums never quite compared to that of Micheangelo’s.
Over Easter Mitch and made a day trip by train to Riomaggiore, a village in the province of La Spezia, situated in a small valley in the Liguria region of Italy. It is the first of the Chinque Terre one meets when travelling north from La Spezia.
Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colourful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas.
Riomaggiore inspired paintings by Telemaco signorini (1835–1901), one of the artists of the Macchiaioli group.
How do you to get into the right frame of mind for visiting a crowded, gallery? Being one of many, many other gallery goers all jostling for a view of this and that can be seriously draining not to mention uninspiring!!! Your frame of mind influences your mood which in turn influences your attitude towards something.
The following three factors all helped me to stay in a good frame of mind during my visit to the Uffizi.
Being by myself and having the whole day to cruise through the collection at my leisure.
Having a purpose and a goal, helped me get over the crowd related discomforts.
Having an audio guide of some sort – I used American travel writer Rick Steve’s mobile app, his Uffizi Gallery Tour lasts 50 min and you can download it for free online. Wearing headphones and listening to a guided presentation helps tune out all of the busy activity.
Photographic series of the ‘Statue of a woman’
I found an advantage to being in a space full of people. I could take photos of strangers without being creepy or imposing. I set up the camera to photograph an early 2nd century CE Roman ‘Statue of a woman,’ displayed in the Sculpture Hall (a busy thoroughfare.) I only managed one photo before people started to walk in-front of me seemingly oblivious. Instead of getting frustrated I just continued to take photos as no one seemed the least bit bothered by it.
I liked the photos, especially the contrast between human and statue. When compared to the unchanging, solid statue form in the background, the foreground human figures blurred with movement, appear temporary and fleeting.
The Uffizi Gallery
Before visiting the Uffizi, I installed Rick Steve’s mobile app on my Iphone. The app provides individual guided tours of some of the world’s most visited galleries. I used this app on my Iphone with headphones to navigate the collection. Not only was it free It was also very very helpful.
The tour takes you on a chronological journey of Italian Renaissance art. You get a clear insight into a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. You also get to see the ancient world stone sculptures that inspired the Renaissance painters.
Bellow are some pictures of a few of the artworks, in the order of which they featured on the self guided audio app.
Walking in Florence
Miró, an artist whose work I saw and loved in Venice, says he gets inspiration for his painting’s from his daily walks.
” I find the the most favourable atmosphere…..in my daily walks: the noise of horses in the country, the creaking sound of wooden cartwheels, of footsteps, cries in the night, crickets. The spectacle of the sky dazzles my mind. When I see the sun or the crescent of the moon in the immense sky, I’m absolutely overwhelmed.”
Tomorrow we are heading North West to Carrara which is off the popular tourist route. Carrara is a Tuscan city on the Mediterranean Coast and is known for the quarries of white and blue-grey marble – the same stuff Michelangelo carved his famous sculpture David from.
With a population of only 60 thousand Carrara will feel much smaller. I am looking forward to a break from big cities and a little down time to process all that I have seen and learnt.
Located in Padua, approximately 30 mins train ride from Venice in a small church known as The Scrovegni Chapel, are Giotto’s famed fresco’s. What a privilege and joy it was to visit Padua and see these 13th century frescos in person.
‘Fresco’ refers to large scale painting done on wet plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster. With the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes a permanent part-of the wall.
The Inside of the Scrovegni Chapel is entirely covered in a fresco which tells the story of Christ through pictures. With even the ceiling being painted, you get the feeling you are incased by images.
Here is what I knew before setting foot in the small church:
The chapel was built and commissioned to Giotto by a successful banker named Enrico Scrovegni.
Scrovegni commissioned the building of the chapel to compensate for the sin of usury.
In Catholic belief, usury (charging interest) was a sin and Scrovegni hoped this act would help his soul go to heaven.
So far I have learned a great deal more about art and art history. I can now recognise certain artistic styles. Seeing these works of art in context has been an unforgettable and enriching experience for me. Understanding the stylistic periods of classical, medieval, gothic and renaissance art, has given me an even greater appreciation for artists like Michelangelo and Giotto.
thinking about the frescoes in the context of which they were made
In ancient Greece and Rome, artists embraced the realities of the human body and the way that our bodies move in space (naturalism). For the next thousand years, after Europe transitioned from a pagan culture to a Christian one in the middle ages, the physical was largely ignored in favour of the heavenly, spiritual realm.
Most of the population of Europe was illiterate and couldn’t read the bible. People learned the stories of the Bible that would help them get to heaven, by hearing the words of the priest in the church, and by looking at paintings and sculptures. Medieval and gothic paintings typically depicted and flattened symbolic human figures.
Here are some ways in which Giotto’s painting moved beyond the Medieval style of spiritual representation.
Christ is represented as dead, which puts an emphasise on him as being physical and human.
Giotto chooses an earthly landscape setting for the lamentation of Christ.
The two seated figures with their backs to us and the foreshortened bodies of the angles in the sky create the illusion of space.
The scene appears to be played out by a real group of people. The figures are in active, natural poses: leaning, holding, sitting, and bending. They are monumental and solid unlike the floating figures of medieval art.
Sorrow is expressed in a variety of ways on every face.
In the above scene I was drawn to the three urns/ceramic jugs lined up on the table at the lower right hand side. I giggled when I noticed the well rounded gentleman who seems to resemble the shape of the jugs. Both the character and the situation seem intentionally humorous. It made me want to spend more time in there to see if I could discover any other examples of Giotto’s sly comedic wit.
The monochrome allegories of Vices and Virtues
These figures depicting the ways of good verses evil are very potent. The most striking was the figure of Envy, in profile, engulfed by flames. She is clutching a bag but reaching in her other hand for something she does not have, not content with what she has, Envy wants more. A snake emerges from her mouth and doubles back on itself to stare her in the eyes because it is what she sees that bites her.
Looking at Giotto’s frescos made me feel profoundly human. I left feeling rather content with the life cycle as it presents in birth, life and death – my own fragile and beautiful mortality.
We were happy to be in Venice after a big day of traveling but we quickly realised neither of us had mobile reception and with no data either, we were unable to contact our host who was to meet us when we arrived. We left the station and unenthusiastically navigated a sea of tourists eventually finding the gateway to our place.
With no way to access our accomodation we proceeded to ask strangers if we could use their phone. Eventually, Roberto, a friendly restaurant worker standing out on the street dropped his sales pitch and went all out to help us.
We were relieved when a woman walked up to greet us then showed us to the accomodation. We were expecting what we had booked which was a bedroom with shared utilities on street level. Instead we got a stylish apartment all to ourselves, with views above the street, not bad.
After settling in to our accomodation we went out for dinner at the restaurant of the man who helped us when we arrived. For the majority of our trip we’ve eaten prepared meals from supermarkets or food from small street vendors and bakeries. This was our first dine in experience. I had a delicious ravioli pasta and Mitch had pizza.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
The city of Venice is made up of 117 islands that are linked together by water canals and numerous bridges. It was a stroke of good luck that the morning after we arrived, we managed to find our way through the labyrinthine streets and alleys to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection first pop, right on time for opening, only to get lost every other time thereafter.
A collection of important surrealist and abstract art is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an 18th-century palace, which was the home of the American heiress Peggy Guggenheim for thirty years.
Peggy Guggenheim was a gallery owner and art collector with an eye for undiscovered talent. She exhibited and supported the likes of Jackson Pollock, well before he gained notoriety.
I studied the formal aspects of Surrealist Joan Miro’s painting titled ‘Dutch Interior Two’, paying close attention to colour, line, shape, texture, and other perceptual aspects. It wasn’t until I read the title ‘Dutch Interior Two’ that I began to consider the content of the work.
When I left the gallery, I did some research online and found out that ‘Dutch Interior Two’ is one of a series of three paintings, made by Miro in 1928, each inspired by Dutch Golden Age paintings of Dutch interiors.
Miro’s ‘Dutch Interior Two’ is a reinterpretation of ‘Children Teaching a Cat to Dance’ by artist Jan Steen. Miro’s abstract adaption fascinates me and when I get home I intend to set some time aside to look at all three of the Dutch Interior paintings by Miro.
The Nature of Arp
I was more than pleasantly surprised to find on show at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni a temporary exhibition of work by German-born French Dadaist/Surrealist Painter and Sculptor, Jean Arp.
Jean Arp opposed to hierarchical structures, sought to create art that was free of self importance. ‘Two Thoughts on a Navel’ (pictured above), has three parts to it. By encouraging the viewer to move the pieces about how ever they pleased Arp effectively shunned traditional ideas around authorship in art.
In the above work a slug-like object appears to be crawling over a form suggestive of a human navel. By combining a part of the human body with one of the lower forms of animal life, Arp appears to be making fun at the concept of human supremacy.
Arp produced simple forms, which possess the bare minimum of information required for them to make sense. Open to many interpretations, their hidden sensitivities invite the viewer to a vast number of alternate perspectives.
Tomorrow we are off to see Giotto’s Fresco’s at The Scrovegni Chapel, a small church, located in Padua approximately 30 mins train ride from Venice.
A good part of this trip has been spent on trains, booking trains, navigating train systems, catching trains within a city or catching trains from city to city/country to country.
All credit goes to Mitch, he is truly amazing and this trip wouldn’t be the same without his incredible knack for researching. Although we booked the trip together Mitch saw to the most important, practical details like booking trains, researching whether it was feasible to get to our airbnb accomodation from the stations etc. So far he has accounted for everything, down to the smallest of details. Furthermore Mitches communication skills are incredible, his wonderful kind and perceptive personality has helped us negotiate and enjoy each and every one of our fantastic Airbnb hosts homes.
Traveling by train is such a great way to travel. Time on the trains just disappears, I think its because the seats are so comfy, the views so novel and the ride so smooth and relaxing. It is also cheaper and better on the environment than traveling by car.
After spending four full days in Paris, Mitch and I were both looking forward to heading to Grenoble. Grenoble, a city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France, sits at the foot of mountains between the Drac and Isère rivers. Mitch really wanted to go here to ogle some mountains, here he is doing just that below:
The Bastille fort
The Bastille is the name of a fortress culminating at 476 m above sea level, located at the south end of the Chartreuse mountain range and overlooking the city of Grenoble, France.
Unfortunately on both of the treks we made up the hill, it was quite hazy and we needed a clear day to see the highest most majestic mountain peaks.
Above is the front door to our accomodation, a lovely self contained apartment located on the third floor, opening out onto a street in the historic part of Grenoble. Chez is French for ‘at’ and JuJu means magic charm. ‘At Magic’, was the perfect way to describe our stay here which we really wish we could have extended.
Although we are on the other side of the world where the architecture is different and people speak other languages, no where we have been is really that dissimilar from home in New Zealand. Mitch and I are comforted by, and even laugh about, how similar people are no matter where you go. We have been moved by the endearing kindness people have shown us, and have generally found that when you present in need, people will go out of their way to help you.
Mum, Dad, Zane, April, Archie and Asha, these pics below are especially for you. Spot the name of the bar!
Aside from the mountains the other reason for choosing to stay in Grenoble was for the art. Musée de Grenoble is known for its collections of ancient art as well as its collections of modern and contemporary art. The works at Musée de Grenoble were so good and so vast that I paid to visit the museum two days in a row. I was so inspired by my visits and am working on an Art Grenoble post.
Next stop is Venice to visit the the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of modern art and the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, which contains a fresco by Giotto.
“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.”
John Berger, Ways of Seeing.1
We are traveling through foreign countries whose language’s we cannot speak. John Berger’s quote is reassuring.
Whilst taking photos at the gallery a couple from the North of France came up to me to ask in French what kind of camera I was using. I awkwardly gestured and proclaimed no Français. They proceeded to speak in English asking where I was from and why I had come to Europe, then we started talking about our mutual appreciation and enjoyment of art. Towards the end of our conversation I said how lucky I thought they were to have all this wonderfull art on their doorstep and they responded ‘yes but we don’t understand it’. I wish I could have recalled the above quote from John Berger for them.
Admittedly on our first and second visit’s to galleries in Amsterdam I felt uncomfortable. I was experiencing imposter syndrome, I felt I didn’t know enough because I couldn’t recall periods in the order that they happened in Western art history, and that my interpretation of the work’s of art would be lacking. Only after multiple gallery visits did I start to relax and feel more comfortable, realising that I am here to learn and to relish looking.
This morning we got a sleep in because unlike most galleries which open at 9 am the Picasso gallery didn’t open until 10:30. We have learnt to be at the galleries half an hour before opening times to avoid huge queue’s. Once inside the gallery we were pleased not to have to wait in a line or negotiate crowds. As soon as we picked up our audio guides and checked in our bags and coats we set off to look at some art.
Picasso experimented with all sorts of styles, ideas and mediums. There was such a variety of work on display including paintings, drawings, collages, print’s, ceramic’s and sculptures which made for a really interesting viewing experience.
Picasso was influenced by many major works in art history including but not limited to works by Eugene Delacroix, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Edouard Vuillard and Henri Rousseau. We got to see a few of the great masters works from Picassos own art collection.
The work by Manet alone inspired Picasso to complete 140 drawings and 27 paintings. Picasso made cardboard models appropriating and reinterpreting Manet’s figure’s. In his paintings Picasso experimented further with changing the figures attitudes and positions.
I am loving viewing in person paintings that I have pored over for years in books. I am also enjoying studying multiple works by the same artist side by side, room by room which help’s me gain more of an insight into the artist’s processes and methodologies.
Art is everywhere, the more we look the more we see.
The Louvre, is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. Mitch and I started our visit in the lower most level of the Louvre, walking around the foundation in what was the moat of the original 13th century castle. By the 14th century the Louvre had become a royal home and later still a renaissance palace.
The Louvre is amazing and exhausting! There is room after room after room of stuff to see. We were there for 3 hours and saw just a very small portion of the museum.
I was probably equally impressed by the building/architecture than the collections themselves. Two works in particular I spent time admiring were Rembrandt’s ‘Bathsheba at Her Bath’ and ‘Liberty Leading the People’ by Eugène Delacroix.
Prior to this trip I hadn’t come across the work of Delacroix but I am fast becoming a huge fan. Eugène Delacroix was one of the giants of French painting. In Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum I learnt how Delacroix’s theory of colours had a huge influence on Vincent Van Gogh.
While the above scene of David spying on Bathsheba had been painted before, Rembrandt’s sensual and empathetic depiction differs in its tight pictorial focus and erotic vitality. Seeing this painting in the flesh you appreciate the broad, thick brushstrokes and the masterful use of light and dark.
Napoleon III opulent apartment interiors are an example of the rococo style for which the eighteenth century was famous.
Today on the 8th of April 2019 I turned 34 years old. Birthday Lunch in Paris. Here we are celebrating post Louvre eating lunch in the Tuileries gardens.
the ARC DE TRIOMPHE
It was a hot afternoon and I complained the whole way as we walked down the Champs-Eleeyes which was full of people. It is a lot of walking, but worth it to see the Arc de Triomphe as it is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, France. Its amazing cars ever get off this round about it’s so chaotic.
The Musée de l’Orangerie is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens.
On the first Sunday of each month it is free to visit most of the big museums in Paris. We were lucky enough to arrive in Paris on Saturday and be able to take advantage of this.
The de l’Orangerie is home to Monet’s larger than life water lily paintings. The Nymphéas [Water Lilies] cycle occupied Claude Monet for three decades, from the late 1890’s until his death in 1926, at the age of 86. This series was inspired by the water garden that he created at his Giverny Estate in Normandy.
The water lily paintings shattered the norms of landscape painting at the time. Critic Louis Gillet commented “there is no sky, no horizon, hardly any perspective or stable points of reference enabling the viewer to orient himself.” They are beautiful to get up close to.
Also on Display in the permanent collection where paintings by, Paul Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Rousseau, Renoir, Soutine, Cezanne, Derain and others.
the Tuileries Gardens
Six hours later I emerged from the de l’Orangerie to stroll through the Tuileries Gardens with Mitchell. The Tuileries gardens originally belonged to the Palace, before becoming a public park after the French Revolution.