I was lucky enough last week to escape the climate chaos of Britain to spend a few days in Naples. To be honest, I feel pretty guilty about it. I ended up flying there, and doing so, as one kindly friend pointed out, I flew right over the COP21 climate change negotiations in Paris.
I went as part of a lively and talented delegation from ICAW (International Contemporary Art Wales) of ten artists from Wales, to put on an exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum, Naples. The gallery, run by Antonio Manfredi is a huge and fantastic space. Not only that, but under Antonio’s leadership it is bullishly independent, and politically active.
And the gallery has amazingly lively pipes in the ceiling (an opportunity to feed my obsession with movement through spaces)...
The last exhibition put on by ICAW was in Lodz, Poland. I took my video ‘Treasure – or How Much Is Enough’ to that one. This time, not least to avoid technical difficulties, I decided to show my first artist’s book, "I Can't Grow Potatoes, I Can't Have Children, But I Still Somehow Manage To Enjoy Myself".
The work was, in part, inspired by a picture my therapist has on his table by John William Waterhouse, an English artist born in Italy.
As part of the piece, I wanted to generate interference and interaction, and inserted instructions in Welsh, English and Italian made from human (thanks to Alex Galtieri) and google translations.
I was very pleased when people did play with it.
And it was rather nice when an Italian article about the exhibition, featured one of my pictures.
Because my installation was so quick, I was able to drift off to visit Herculaneum on the day of the opening. This Roman sea-side resort is up the road from Pompeii, buried, like Pompeii under a huge pyroclastic ash flow from Vesuvius. 20m of it (compared to 5m on Pompeii), which has meant that it was discovered much later.
[By the by, most of the rock here in Snowdonia was formed from similar Armageddon-like pyroclastic ash flows – 1,800m of it, called the Snowdon Volcanic Group].
Herculaneum is incredible, once you manage to get there. It took me just the 4 hours and advice from no less than 10 people on the way in order to negotiate the 11km. Even as I neared, people weren’t entirely sure what I was looking for, and at one point I started taking photos of these statues, in case I didn’t actually find it. Rather good graffiti, I thought.
The thing about Herculaneum is that it’s not just that everything is so remarkably complete (even wood has survived), or that you can walk on the mosaics…
…. it’s the beauty of the paintings on the walls – and the later graffiti additions - that make you feel at home. It could have been us living here, incarcerated in a moment, lying still for millennia before being discovered, plundered, and then preserved and visited.
Yesterday, I read (by coincidence) that Rothko had visited similar paintings in Pompeii while he was painting his Seagram Murals, saying that “the room had exactly the feeling that I wanted....it gives the visitor the feeling of being caught in a room with the doors and windows walled-in shut."
With special thanks to John Brown (director of ICAW and organiser), Antonio Manfredi, Angela Davies and my room mate, Wanda Zyborska. Really looking forward to going back to Poland for our next exhibition, in April 2016.