It’s summer. It’s hot, hot, hot. And every day we are reminded of why we love to be here, of what we miss when we go away. Its riding on the vespa down tiny country roads, through the vineyards and olive groves and avenues of Linden trees and into the mountains through golden green glades of giant chestnuts, of trickling streams, of lunch time foccaccias overlooking pristine views. Its the little villages on hilltops, and the bustling towns and their ancient centres and of the twilight passegiata in the gentle dusky cool and children running joyously rampant in the parks and piazzas. We love it here so much. We love the time we have to absorb it all.
Lately we have been driving back and forth through the mountains to Pietrasanta for our foundry work, along the Camaiore road. Such a lovely road with lots of tiny hilltops and gorgeous old villas with manicured farmlands laid out before them. Its special arriving in the busy, old, yet industrial Pietrasanta, with the sense that all the old crafts with the arts are still being pursued and highly prized.
At the moment we are working with the Fonderie di Versiliese, who are casting two works of Shona’s. One of the works, a horse and rider, ‘Joy’, has been bought for an art museum in Australia, the Hamilton Regional Gallery. The patinator, Giovanni, is an artisan, easily wounded if his work is not appreciated, and has such a fund of knowledge of all the colours, working with patience and tranquility through the chemical procedure to produce the exact patina required.
For her horse and rider, Shona asked for an ancient patina, as if it had lain in the earth for a thousand years. It had to be a bit more spontaneous than the specific requests for colour for most works, important for this work as its surface is rustic and free. Giovanni was so happy with his result. the work indeed looking old and torn from the ground, daubed with the chemicals of the earth, copper, ferric, overall an earthy greeny grey, very touchable.
Our hearts are glad here. We are surrounded by indescribable beauty. In fact, opposite us on the river we live, is an old paper factory with gracious old bones from the 17th century, but is now brutal with its recent additions of iron tanks and pipes and chimneys of hissing steam. It reminds us everyday of contrast. Today, so much of our modern world is built for functionality, with even contemporary artists focusing in their art with their heads and not their hearts, lost in the bleakness of living a functional and commercial life, representing a society on the surface and not its inner truth. Its true, beauty is useless. But can life go on without it, when unconcerned ugliness makes us sad, and when our hearts cannot sing in such a world. And in our greater selves, we are truly beautiful, and we are so happy when we are recognised as such. Great art reminds us of ourselves and our life journey. Italy is full of these reminders.
Buildings that are still here after centuries, elegant and grand, or simply rustic and from the earth, buildings that people are desperate to own and restore, while empty are the buildings and factories built in the 50’s and 60’s, too soulless to desire. Art that comes from ancient burials depicting fertility, protection, the ongoing cycles of life, and art that comes to us, beautiful for its own sake, no other message than the inherent one of love, which the artist imbues like the breath of life into his work. Italy in all its chaos has protected beauty. Its ethos is not organisation or good business or practicality. It is unpredictably human. We love its humanity in all its craziness, because above all, beauty remains and the sensuous pleasure and luscious desires of being a human is the essence of life’s growth and from which great cultures are made.