'Taking Time' / Individual Art Residency at The Museum of Loss and Renewal / Collemacchia, Italy / 2023.
I spent two weeks at The Museum of Loss and Renewal residency this summer, but it could as well have been a year, two or ten. It was my first art residency, so eagerly, before my arrival, I made plans, carried out a lot of research, and formulated some preliminary ideas. I was hoping to plunge myself into the natural landscape of Collemacchia, and its surroundings, to explore, learn and draw. What I didn't expect is that the same landscape will in fact plunge and pour itself into me almost immediately, and thoroughly fill me up with its beauty and richness. It offered itself in full glory. I just had to reach out and accept the invitation.
Nature and time, together, were unfolding their richness day after day, giving an empowering sense of bond, understanding, acceptance, balance, serenity and strength. I didn't need a desk and a chair anymore to draw. Hills, mountain tops, forests, stone walls, pastures, wild meadows, dry river beds, have become my outposts. I re-discovered spontaneous, sometimes unfinished, imperfect ways of portraying nature. The moment I felt I was letting go of the strict rules of controlled lines on clean paper was refreshing, and liberating. Ideas were pouring out of me, I felt at home. I felt very lucky.
Time became somehow tangible and unaccounted for at the same time. It felt fluid, as if it was wrapping itself around each one of us, revealing our simplest truths, emotions and reflections. 'Taking time' turned out to be the key, solution, the answer, the connecting element, the sap that glued us together... That slow trickling time became a subject of many interesting conversations, which shaped our perception of the place and sparked some wonderful ideas.
Even though the residency time has come to an end, it's only the beginning of a new body of work, which I will be sharing details of as it develops. I was hoping to summarise my residency time with The Museum of Loss and Renewal in a few short paragraphs, but it almost felt unfair. And so, I have included my daily notes from the residency days below, as they built the foundations of a new, and hopefully exciting project.
Day 1 - Collemacchia to Mennella via Chiesa Della Madonna del Morzone di Selvone.
walking, listening, observing, adjusting, smelling,
/ sweating, resting /
focusing, recording, noting, photographing,
/ sweating, resting /
discovering, touching, recognising, sketching, drafting,
/ sweating, resting /
itching, craving, drinking, feeling, picking, collecting, pausing, looking,
seeing, understanding, blending, transforming, reflecting,
'I feel the landscape more than see it' (Don DeLillo, 'Point Omega', The Museum of Loss and Renewal library)
Day 2 - Collemacchia to Colle Cerasara (907 m.), via Pantano, Selvone, Mennella
The initial fear of 'not knowing' is fading away. It's been replaced by a strong sense of belonging and familiarity. I'm surrounded by a mosaic of beech forests, dry grasslands, wild flower meadows, abandoned pastures, and inspiring artists. The solitary fieldwork soothes, and fills me with joy. The ubiquitous influence of nature is ever empowering.
Day 3 - studio time.
drawing, thinking, researching, printing, adding, grouping, mixing, filtering, discarding, acknowledging. Around me: circling swallows, gliding butterflies, buzzing mosquitoes, rustling trees, chirping crickets, and flighty geckos.
Day 4 - Collemacchia to Chiesa Della Madonna del Morzone di Selvone via east facing trail.
It's all about taking time right now. I could not imagine being in a better place to experience this very much needed stillness of time than in the Abruzzo National Park. Every day unravels a new path, new species, new varieties, and strengthens the already familiar sounds, scents, textures. It turns out solitary fieldwork is filling me with an overwhelming sense of calmness. These are the rare moments when somehow, everything falls into place and you feel very connected with the time and place, embraced by the landscape around you. I am hoping to hold on to this sensation for as long as possible. I'm sun-struck.
Day 5 - Insightful walk with Edwin Janssen, Co-Curator of The Museum of Loss and Renewal.
A few of us joined Edwin to explore ruins of the nearby late 16th/early 17th chapel and burial place, as well as a couple of well- preserved stone shelters (some with a few sleepy bats resting inside) and wells, dotted around the area. We walked and talked, mostly about history, nature, our lives, reflections on relationships, life and death. All covered in various grass seeds and tiny shrub and flower spikes, we became the pollinators.
I found comfort in being amongst bats.
'All natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence' (Ralph Waldo Emerson ,'Nature', The Museum of Loss and Renewal library)
Day 6 - A day in the studio with late afternoon walk.
Following the well threaded paths can be a harmonious, and thought-provoking process, in which new species are found, and the already known findings are greeted with gratefulness.
Day 7 - Collemacchia to Cerasuolo via Lagoni, Mastrogiovanni, Monte Pantano, Mennella and Pantano on the way back.
It feels as if I was walking through spider webs all day. I sheltered from the midday heat under a beautiful oak tree with more oak galls to admire. I watched wild horses lounging together with white cattle, surrounded by flat high-altitude plateau and horse flies.
I spotted a Calabrian Black Squirrel, and carcass of a Porcupine, I found Autumn Crocuses, Yarrow, Verbascum, and hazelnuts, I am content.
Day 8 - Collemacchia, Franchitti, Filignano, via south-east forest track.
Early start. The best time of any day. It's so serene. You may hear rustling of the trees, which, if lucky, brings a refreshing breeze. Today there is no breeze, it's very still. The early morning sun is already warming up the hills. It's just after 7am.
I start early, but stop often. Pausing, listening, watching, hoping that I will blend with the landscape somehow and then everything around me will resume it's normal operations, ignoring my scent, and sounds I make. Jays, doves, cicadas, crickets, flies, geckos, lizards, deer, foxes, porcupines, squirrels. That I will be lucky to see them. But who is watching whom? I spooked a few deer on three separate occasions this morning, or maybe they spooked me. Yesterday I saw the Calabrian black squirrel high up in the hills, we watched each other for what felt like a very long time, we parted and walked the opposite ways.
All the senses are switched on.
Day 9 - Collemacchia, Monte Piano, Chiesa Della Madonna del Morzone di Selvone, via north-east track.
I look back at the forest line and hills I walked around yesterday from the opposite hill.
The Peregrine falcon opened today's morning trail, flying low over the path ahead.
I'm covered in the sticky silk of spider webs and as I stop to brush them off, I see the white end of a fox tail, skipping through the woods. I intended to see the sunrise this morning and even though it's only 7am, I'm half way up the hill I'm hoping to get to, the sun is just about passing the top of the hill I'm heading for. Horse flies are bullying me, feeding on the salty sweat on my arms and legs.
I can hear the peregrine's call again.
Day 10 - Lago di Castel San Vincenzo, Cascata del Volturno, San Vincenzo Nuovo/Abbey
Hedonistic day spent at Lago di Castel San Vincenzo, lake located 30km north-east from Collemacchia. Day spent mostly in the azure lake, with soft, clay ground, with plenty of drawing time and conversations in between refreshing swims.
Probably the hottest day of the residency time so far, still, and sticky.
The neighbouring house caught on fire in the evening.
Day 11 - Collemacchia, Filignano, Lagoni, via the quarry.
The day began with an early morning walk down to Filignano in a lovely company of the local foraging guru - Vincenzina. Short, always smiling, and warm, she could be 40 or 100 at the same time. We exchanged a few words in my broken Italian, interwoven with odd English words here and there.
It was a very still and hot morning, the air was full of mosquitoes and so Vincenzina snapped a branch of a roadside weed and used it as a fan/ anti mosquito repellent. She was faster than me, and was in a rush to get her morning cappuccino.
I would like to take a photograph of her before we leave.
Day 12 - Collemacchia, Salvone, Pantano, Pantano Cemetery, via north-east track.
I have my favourite drawing spots now. They usually require an early morning hike.
They are my drawing desks, studios, and museums. My cooling down opportunity and chance to get the persistent horse flies off my trajectory, to peel silky cobwebs off my face and dry my sweat drenched back. I reached one of my favourite sites (1039m.) just before 8am. It overlooks Mount Falconara and monte Marrone (1890m).
I can hear gunshots and hunting dogs in the far distance. Sound carries here far and wide, bounces off the forest edges, circles deep in the woodlands clearings and open pastures, wrapping itself around every corner of the sounds of life in the landscape.
Day 13 - Collemacchia - Filignano-Lagoni-Mastrogiovanni - Casalcassinese
20 km walk with Tash, full of brilliant conversations, thoughts, shared experiences, thundery showers, care, laughs, and reflections. It was a beautiful, and uplifting day.
Day 14 - Collemacchia to Orkney. Notes on the way home.
There is no such thing as a perfect line in nature. The beauty of nature lies in its unruly imperfections, in its curls, ditches, bends, cuts, snaps, notches, curves, swells, crooks, twists, folds, wilts, rises, and growths.
The process is as important as the outcome. The experience is fruitful, time is the key, the solution, the purpose and definition of our personal and creative endeavours.