In summer 2009, I had an opportunity to participate in an artist residency program at an international school of arts in Montecastello di Vibio, Umbria, Italy. All the paintings are Ala Prima plein air paintings created at the site in about three hours . Drawings are the body of work that I started after coming back to Kansas inspired by the background landscape in the paintings by 13c. -14c Italian artists such as Duccio and Giotto.
The Portrait of the Landscape
In Montecastello di Vibio, I was specifically drawn to relationships with the landscape just like meeting a person. In each slice of landscape, I found their personality and history. I thought they were formed by the interaction with the unchanging everyday routine and changing environment surrounding the landscape.
I saw things which have not changed for many years such as medieval stone walls, individually characteristic narrow streets, and the unique shape of the sky created by these buildings. These landscapes have seen everyday routines such as sweet smell of pancake from somewhere, conversations in Italian language which sounded like music, and a mother and her daughter walking together hand in hand every evening. On the other hand, I saw things changing such as the shape of light and shade, the trees revealed and hidden by fog, and the distant city gradually changing to pink color by the setting sun. These landscapes have seen the changes of growing trees and grass and the changes of people who grow up there from their childhood to elderly age.
The personality and history of these landscapes have been formed by both the changes and the constants in life. I was struck with awe when I met these landscapes just like meeting someone who has a long life full of experiences. Every plein air painting that I did there was the portrait of these landscapes. For each painting, I spent only a couple of hours and did not go back later for further details. It was just like the way I treasure the moment of meeting someone, as it may become the last time to see that person.
Italian Landscapes in the Air
While I was in Italy, I was very much fascinated with the background landscapes in fresco paintings or altar pieces by artists such as Giotto and Duccio which are abundant in the regions of Umbria and Tuscany. It seemed that todays landscape of these regions has not changed from these artists time. Their rendering is abstracted and stylized; there was a good reason for me to be drawn to their work since I am basically an abstract artist.
After I came back, I did some drawings based on their images together with the photos that I took as a reference as well as my imagination. These landscapes are more the impression of the places rather than realistic in detail. These scenes in my mind are getting vague. Now, I wonder if it was real or not real, just like landscape floating in the air.