“Lanterne Del Desiderio”

July 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night “Vitamina” organised and cooked for about twenty people as he loves to do, and I was on my second plate of spaghetti al frutti di mare, chunk of bread in hand mopping up the last of the “sugo” when our  attention was drawn to lights gently ascending into the night sky from the area over “centro storico” [the historic centre]. I left the table telling my friends I would soon be back and went into Piazza Alberica to see what was going on. It was the night of the “Lanterne del Desiderio” when you light a lantern and make a wish. Piazza Alberica was full with with Carrarini… out in force, music pounding away,  families and their children, young adults dancing, a marvellous event to have been part of. I’ll upgrade my blog and post a video I took.



Great day with Paul and Amanda

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

We picked Paul and Amanda Sumner up from Aeroporto di Pisa late in the evening and then drove to Pietrasanta, by the time we parked and walked into Piazza it was getting towards 11.00 pm, the night was warm and humid. This is the summer holiday period and Pietrasanta is buzzing with people, at the moment there are six monumental bronze sculptures by Fernando Botero in the piazza, “la bondanza” of his forms.. huge ample generous and affirming statements…I wanted to show Paul and Amanda this at night,  magical grazie a’ maestro Botero!  The Commune of Pietrsanta is honouring Botero with an exhibition of sculptures and drawings on his 80th Birthday and 35 years of years of “ativita”as a sculptor living and working in the city.

We had something to eat at the “Gatto Nero” just outside the city walls, after a little while all tired satiated and happy we autostraded back to Carrara agreeing to meet for an early breakfast and start to the day. Coffee and brioches we consumed perched on the roof top garden, all glass and spectacular views…the Apuane Mountains the quarries of Carrara. We started with a drive up the winding road to Campo Cecina the highest point, at the top Amanda exclaimed  WOW! what a place!  And it is incredible sight, these rugged mountains and their treasure of marble. It was hot in the valley but at the summit it was fresh, the moisture laden air became clouds licking over the plateau area below the pinnacle of Mt Sagro. On our descent we narrowly avoided jousting with a one of the huge trucks speeding to a quarry to reload another junk of the mountain. Into the Ravaccione and the magnificent epic devastation wrought by man on these noble mountains, giant steps cut and unbelievable quantities of rubble, Michelangelo himself trudged these parts! We went to Studio SGF where I am carving works for my show with Paul, a quick walk to Piazza Alberica the Doumo of Carrara [mentioned in 1035 AD], Piazza D’Armi the Academia and then lunch at Nerina’s. After back to Pietrasanta drinks with friends Michael Cartwright and Shona Nunan reading the sign where Michelangelo signed contract to supply marble for the San Lorenzo facade. We relaxed sipping on orange coloured Spritz Aperol’s before sprinting back to the Aeroporto di Pisa all leaning in the background terracotta roof Piazza die Miracoli out car side window.. appointment at Paris flight and goodbye to Paul and Amanda! Drove back to Carrara light headed, a full full day!


View from Campo Cecina



Carrara and Pietrasanta

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

Arrived Roma

July 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

Got into Roma around 9.00 in the evening checked into our Hotel showered and then set off for Augusto’s trattoria in Trastevere. I first went there decades ago when I was  student at the Academia Di Belli Arte. Sat  down and within minutes bread wine mineral water are slapped down on the paper covered circa 1950’s laminex table we are sitting at. A mature waitress wanders over to take our order she is chewing on a piece of bread, its hot and sweaty, we want the speciality “Coniglio alla cacciatora”, we hear in our heart Augusto’s sadly departed voice, he had a hairlip and spoke with that muffled inflection. He never cared a damn how he sounded, the way he would say Coniglio just cracked me up… I am sure he lives in the memory of the countless numbers who have made their way to this place, generous earthy warm and funny. The food is of the earth fresh, hearty, honest and great value. Simplicity, humility, beauty. goodness…. Italia Italia Italia!!! My heart sings with joy  being here, I add my voice to the millions whose souls have been rehabilitated in the arms of Italy, it makes you feel good about what it is to be human. And by the way the Coniglio is delicious!


Augusto’s is hardly visible its underneath the vine growing over the front, i’ve been going back to this place for over thirty years!Image

I lived in Piazza di Renzi on the corner  in 1976 for 4 months and ate every day at Augusto’s, it was cheap then and remains inexpensive today.ImageWalking back from Trastevere over the Tevere, hot sticky bella RomaImageStayed at a hotel just around the corner from the Pantheon, awe inspiring Roman Architecture, testament to a people of bold vision.ImagePiazza delle Minervra Bernini is everywhere….!!!

Carrara Toscana Italia 2012

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.

Image of Carrara1.jpg

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