October 23, 2015 § 5 Comments
July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
The other day Alessandro who is the Grandson of our great friends Joe and Ivorna said to us to come up to the “Cave” (quarry) where he works Cave 89 way up above Fantiscritti, Cinzia and I decided we’d go up and have a look at the quality of the stone coming out of this quarry. To get there you make your way to Fanticscritti ( image coming when I find it) and then you keep climbing and its all in first gear! It is an awesome experience. The road up the mountain gets steeper and steeper, from the drivers seat it began to feel like I was driving on a giant dragons tail, a glance to the side reveals drops of hundred of meters! To be honest I really began to shit myself! The dust, the savaged landscape, the huge trucks swinging around bends with drops of a hundred meters or more, it is “impressionante”!
We found our way into the quarry and found Alessandro who introduced us to Simone the Capo Cave, who spoke in the slow and deliberate manner of the Cavatore “Carririn”, measured solid like the mountains from which they draw their living from. These men move nonchalantly around the mountains, and it is an environment that to most people would find terrifying! It still is a dangerous job, when people get hurt it is often really bad, so a certain fatalism has been born into these two legged mountain goats. With my feet firmly planted on the marble backbone of these huge outcrops the Apuane Mountains, I felt a surge of emotion I relish being here…I feel part of something raw and powerful, Carrara is a place of tough bastards! As we bid our farewells Simone grabbed a bottle of Aqua Minerale out the back of his 4WD and gave it to us, it was what he had at hand, he wanted to give us something. Every day we experience generosity, acts of kindness that make being in Italy amazing!
July 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
Getting out of Roma was like being in a Fellini move, we hired a car and ventured out into the morning melee, finally got onto the Viale Circolazione, which was choking with traffic, there had been an accident somewhere, behind us we could hear the shrill sound of an ambulance. In the rear view I could see it advancing slowly muscling its way through an impossibly packed road. Still it got past us somehow, the traffic began to move in its wake and finally we could got onto the A1 bound north for Toscana.
Four baking hours on the freeway later we arrived in Carrara and checked into Hotel Michelangelo and after freshening up made our towards the “Via del Caffaggio” where our dear friends the Ambrosini Family live, they are like family for us. We never tell them when we are coming we just arrive. How I can express what it has been for me to have had the privilege of being with them…very simply it is laughter and “mangiare” a gentle craziness. At the long wood table there is always Giorgio’s cousin Angelo [mad as a cut snake] he’s looking pretty mummified these days, due most probably to his hard drinking younger days, but not withstanding physical ailments lives his life with a joyous abandon.
Below “Il Caffaggio” have lived for long periods of time in this part of Carrara.
Giorgio’s wife Evorna after lunch, she’s just feed stack of sausages to Maja a neighbours dog!
Duomo di Pietrasanta, I love this pulpit a virtuoso work by various Sculptors over different periods dating from the 1500’s
Piazza Alberica in the evening
Teatro Animosi Carrara, stones throw from where we are staying
May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
Really looking forward to traveling to Carrara to the Tuscan landscape, the excitement I feel when I think of seeing Campo Cecina as you come in on the freeway, the sense of homecoming…the Apuan mountains those great chunks of calcium carbonate thrown up by the heaving and buckling of the earth, the sight of them excites me. I first went to Carrara in 1979 on an Italian Government scholarship, from the first day I felt at home.
Took this photo from the car park of the supermercato in Avenza, Campo Cecina snow capped rises up untamed wild and raw.
I wrote the following three decades ago, as this is my first posting to this blog I feel like am returning to this “source”…..
By 1977 I had carved half a dozen figures and heads in timber, up until this time I thought of myself primarily as painter, but the process of carving into a lump of material and seeing your concept slowly emerge felt so satisfying and natural to me. I loved the reductive process, but as far as timber is concerned although a lovely medium, has all sorts of limitations; it’s got knots, warps easily, termites can eat it etc. This together with the fact I’d hitched around Europe in 1976, staying in Rome [name me a more sculptural place than Rome!] for six months, attending the Accademia di’ Belli Arti briefly[before my funds dried up] led me to start thinking more and more about sculpture.
In 1978 I was awarded a sculpture prize, I made a huge “hand on a walking stick” in fiberglass a material that [after four months of scratching myself] I learnt to dislike immensely!At this same time I formed the ambition to go back to Italy and carve marble, however I had no idea where I should go. I applied for an Italian Government Scholarship and miraculously I received one……Stewart Purves at Australian Galleries, Melbourne Australia, suggested that I contact Joel Ellenberg [ Australian sculptor b.1944 d.1980]. Some time later I met with Joel, who sadly was gravely ill, but notwithstanding was very vital in spirit, Joel said “Go to Carrara……” He gave me names of people to contact and the key to his apartment there.
So in October 1979 I left for Carrara. I arrived exhausted, falling asleep and passing Carrara twice, on the train up from Rome. My first site of Carrara was around dawn, with the light raking across the famous Apennines mountains, there was marble everywhere, marble buildings, bench’s, road curbs etc. etc. I fell in love with the place straight away. I found the apartment up a little road called “Via Ficola” that wound its way up a hill just out of town, The apartment was built in the 16th century and possessed a lovely marble paved terrace, that afforded a spectacular view to the sea ahead and the mountains behind. Next day I went down into Carrara searching out the different contacts Joel had scribbled down for me.
For a young sculptor, Carrara is intoxicating, set against the spectacular Apennines that form a back drop to the town, great rugged mountains with big marble teeth extracted from centuries of quarrying. Walking around this ancient broken down working town I marveled at the great trucks loaded up with twenty tons of marble rumbling down the tiny dusty road “Via Carriona” built by the Romans for ox drawn carts. The place like all of Italy reeks of history. The river passing through the center of the city ran white, I learnt later that this was because the water was used to lubricate the saws that never cease reducing great blocks into “lastre” [slabs] the white was the dust from the marble. Wherever you go you can hear the grinding back and forth of the multi bladed “sega” the whole town revolves around marble.
Within a day I found myself a corner to work at Studio Nicoli presided over by the inimitable Sig. Carlo Nicoli [for those who know this place I need say no more, suffice to say that it is a sculpture workshop run by the Nicoli Family for many generations, efficient in a crazy Italian way, working there has been for me alternately frustrating and or sublime] The sense of camaraderie was instant I met sculptors on my first day at the studio from Spain, America, Belgium, Sweden, Africa, Japan, etc. There was even one other Australian! I got myself a block of stone bought some hand tools and started carving a “Neffertiti” like head I called Dear John my first marble piece. As the days went by I felt incredible happiness and contentment well within me, I loved the medium of marble, I loved Carrara,I loved all these sculptor people who showed the same crazy compulsion, working with purpose and passion from the morning to the night. Writing these words now brings tears of nostalgia for times had…..wonderful times, bohemian times when I was out all night drinking cheap wine, arm wrestling mad Norwegians, making music, listening to the songs of the “Lizza” sung by old quarry workers primed up on grappa who gathered, like many of the sculptors at the “Bar Anarchista” to play chess. Let me tell you there was nothing to do besides hang out at bars, there were several cinema’s which ran mostly Italian comedies, Hollywood releases and porno films, I remember the biggest act was when Cicciolina came to town! Yet notwithstanding “we” the sculptors had a wonderful social life, we worked all day and played all night, I did this for about 8 months before I collapsed with exhaustion and the flu! I produced in the year I was on the scholarship a considerable amount of work enough for a one man show back in Australia. Schip 1983