In the summer of 2016 I travelled with my family through the Italy from east (Le Marche) to west (Umbria). On that particular trip I preferred the company of my small sketchbook, (Hahnemühle, not Moleskine), to my camera, which only sporadically left its bag. In Le Marche we rented a wonderful historic water-mill. The villages and ‘frazione’ – small communities consisting of only a few houses – were exquisitely authentic. Only a week after we spent a wonderful week there, the area was hit by a devastating earthquake.
In Umbria tourism and recent economic prosperity has left its mark, resulting in a style of building that appeals to a certain category of people with money to spend on real estate, but a taste that was mainly formed by Italian popular TV. Expensive, no doubt, but cheap and tacky. Luckily enough there are plenty of small towns and villages that are relatively unaffected by Berlusconi-induced tastelessness. Civita di Bagnoregio is one of these very pleasant places. The small town, perched on a high rock is well-known and loved by tourists, and a visit is certainly rewarding.
From the terrace of the house we rented in the volcanic valley not far from Civita, I could see the old town, high on its weathered volcanic rock. Inspired by that enchanting view I filled my sketchbook, not by copying what I saw, but by drawing from my imagination, inspired by what I had seen moments before; sometimes floating into near abstraction, sometimes staying closer to reality.
Together these images evolved into a number of juxtaposed sketches which form the point of departure for a series of oil paintings. These are only loosely based on the reality on the ground. With the components of these sketches, supplemented by mental images of colour and atmosphere, and influenced by my background as art-historian with a predeliction for medieval and early renaissance art. The murals of Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena are among my all-time favorite works of art. Size, perspective and technical perfection are still less important than atmosphere, meaning and symbolism. In my own work the same apparent disregard for linear perspective is a recurring feature.
But in colouring and style I always draw from another rich source, which is my love for the masters of the European comic strips, or ‘bande dessinée’, in particular André Franquin, his fellow artist Jidéhem, and Edgar Pierre Jacobs.
Somewhere in between, between the serious art of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the tongue-in-cheek virtuosity of André Franquin is another one of my heroes, Jean-Michel Folon, another Belgian artist. His simple, but evocative lines, shapes and colours, never fail to move me.
Therefore my works can never be regarded as ‘serious’. Although deep down, they are, very serious. But that is for another post.
All images are copyright by me. If you would like to use them, or want to have better copies, please contact me by leaving a comment.
A canvas print is now for sale in the Etsy shop of Moonfrog Studio.