Essay about my Venicetian Fellowship from the Boston Quarterly Newsletter
I arrived in Venice to begin my Boston Printmakers Fellowship at the Scuola Internazionle di Grafica on a bitterly cold, sparkling bright winters day in the middle of January by water ferry from the airport.
I was a little anxious about which direction my work might take in such a visually saturated city, already painted and written about by the world’s greatest artists, but my arrival coincided with the completion of a portfolio print responding to the impact of rising global sea levels, and so landing on an island surrounded and often inundated by water, was timely.
Since my work is based on a response to my immediate surroundings I decided to simply absorb the essence of Venice during my residency and to embrace a more fluid approach to my work based on the elements around me.
Entering the Scuola, the first thing one sees is the water of the canal at the end of property through an old rusting gate. Throughout the day, from early morning into the dark winter evenings, the water's changing colors and fluctuating tidal levels became, for me, an irresistible visual diary and as much a part of my experience of Venice as anything else.
Joseph Brodsky said that in Venice "we pass from one realm of water to another” and taking that as my starting point, I decided to make a body of work exploring the shifting quality of water and light that was quite literally right on the Scuola’s doorstep.
I had not brought any pre-prepared plates with me as I had wanted to see how Venice herself would affect me and how that would inform my practice, I wanted to embrace whatever materials were available to me and open myself up to trying something different. For me, that is what residencies are for: they give one the time to take a moment and look at things differently and try alternative approaches.
The wonderful studio manager, Roberta, found me some old litho plates in the studio, which I cleaned up, using the backs, scratches and all, to make drypoint and carborundum intaglio plates. Reusing old plates from Scoula itself also lent a sense of being part of the history of the print studio. When I came to printing, I wiped each plate differently to reflect the daily vagaries of colors and movement in the canal, paying special attention to depicting the reflective quality of the light on the water. I had brought various Japanese papers with me, as whatever I ended up making, I wanted the materials to reflect the fragility of Venice itself.
My exhibition in the Scuola Gallery, which is offered as part of the Fellowship, consisted of large installation sized water prints, an artist book printed on gampi tissue, a large rust print of the gate leading onto the canal to connect the exhibition together, (see caption with image for more details) and a large color wheel Chine colléd together from small monoprints I made every day for 32 days, reflecting the light and colors of Venice as I experienced them and based on Saussure's cyanometer measuring the blueness of the sky.
Printed on gampi tissue to emulate the luminescence of light on water, Luce Liquida charts the effects of the constantly changing winter light on the water of the Canal Rio di San Marcuola, Venezia. The interleaving drypoints were inspired by Jacopo de' Barbari’s rendering of water from his Map of Venice,1500. Inspired by Saussure's cyanometer measuring the blueness of the sky, 32 Days is made up of 32 prints for each day I was in Venice, each one reflecting the changes in light, atmosphere and time of any particular day
My six weeks in Venice was an incredible experience and the prints I made there, as different as they are from my usual practice, will influence the way I approach my work for years to come. I would like to thank Director Lorenzo de Castro for this opportunity, and Roberta and Matilda for their helpful support.