Just back from a trip to the City of Gondolas, and didn’t read Thomas Mann, Ian McEwan or even Michael Dibdin while I was there so I guess I’m out of love with words at the moment (regular readers are exultant at this point!).
I did however obtain some artistic inspiration; the Palazzo Grassi couldn’t be more different from Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in its outward appearance and internal fabric, but it’s purpose is the same, and at the time of writing I couldn’t have been more fortunate in finding inspiration from its exhibits.
The first, entitled The Illusion of Light,
explores the physical, aesthetic, symbolic, philosophical and political stakes of an essential dimension of human experience that has also been, since (at least) the Renaissance, a fundamental element of art: light.
This alone provided some moving and entrancing art, but it was not the main attraction for this visitor. The upper floor featured
a collection of 83 platinum prints, 29 gelatin silver prints, 5 colorful dye transfer prints and 17 internegatives
these being a sample of the celebrated 20th Century photographer Irving Penn‘s most famous work, though some of the images have not been shown to the public before now. Penn’s subject matter is varied; Vogue models, artists from other fields, tradesmen, Hell’s Angels, skulls and cigarette butts have all produced work of great technical and aesthetic appeal, to this photographer at least. What unites them is that they are black and white, or more accurately monotone, for it is here that his genius is most manifest; through his printing skills and combinations of metallic salts he has imbued the images with clarity and tonal beauty.
Which gave me an idea.
I tend to prefer monotone portraits for the picture then becomes about the structure and shape of a face, the elements that speak to me of character more than hue of skin or eye, but could I undertake a project that would challenge me to produce images with complex and busy subject matter without relying on colour to differentiate them? There’s only one way to find out.
Consequently I’m going to undertake another 365 Project, attempting from the 1000 or so images that I captured, to produce a daily image of Venice portrayed in monochrome.
Now to be fair there will be repeats; not of the same image, but for heaven’s sake how do you not end up with several gondoliers, numerous churches and religious symbols, and a good smattering of piazzas? So for the next 12 months I will publish an image a day that represents something about the city; wide shots and tight details, culture and trash, fashion and fascism, people and places. If you’ve never visited the city (or the Lido where some of the images were taken) they’ll deliver all of the clichés but maybe a few surprises too. To this pair of eyes they give a flavour of Venezia in a way that seems strangely appropriate. The regional dish here is pasta al nero di seppia; white spaghetti or linguine in a sauce of cuttlefish ink, the cephalopod that gives us the brown pigment sepia.
So here’s image number one; part of the display in Irving Penn’s Resonance exhibition; 21 animal skulls.
- Irving Penn Retrospective in Venice, Italy (guardianlv.com)