Sunday, 14 July 2013

Back to Oz

It may take a bit to get used to everyone speaking english and which side the passenger sits in the car, the lack of architectural wonders and the long distances between Things of Interest, but it's taken no time at all to readjust to the fresh air, eucalyptus trees full of lorikeets and kookaburras and the warm sunny winter days...

I'm back!! I know I've settled in somewhere when I've organised myself and surrounds enough to get painting. Relief! I've been up the road to do a quick plein air study (to warm up the brushes) and am currently working on an idea for this year's Talls exhibition at the gallery in Canowindra (near Orange NSW). All submissions are to be painted on a 24x12' canvas ordered from the gallery so they are all the same format. It will be an interesting exhibition and I'm looking forward to starting my painting when the canvas arrives...

So to fill you in on my final months in Italy... summer was very slow coming to Florence this year (and the rest of Europe by all accounts) so I despaired of having any warm weather before heading back for my fourth winter in a row (because of hemispheric changes). But after packing up my life, shipping off a box of my choicest items and farewelling the dear friends I have made, I headed south with the lovely Susan and her good friend Lillian (who's now my good friend too) and spent a week in the Bay of Naples soaking up the sun and enjoying a full week of splendid south Italian summer weather.

We rented an apartment in Vico Equense from where we could easily visit Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, Capri and Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Theoretically at least. In practice we found that random trains were cancelled because of unpaid workers striking (meaning over an hour waiting for the train at times) and although we had a marvellous view from our apartment, it came at the cost of lugging ourselves up a mean hill to get home every day... brilliant for the thighs no doubt but a bit of a strain after a hard day being a Tourist. No sympathy from an 80 year old local who'd lived there all her life and whose muscles were 'accustomed' to the hill!!

The highlights for me were definitely Pompei and Positano. Pompei was an endlessly fascinating step back in time by nearly 2000 years. We had an informative and entertaining guide called Fabio who added Italian vowels to the ending of eacha anda everya worda. He pointed out tiny details and nuances that we never would have noticed or thought to look for, like evidence of donkey parking and groves in cobblestones from the heavy iron wheels of chariots. A bakery where they found carbonised bread pieces and how stepping stones were used to cross the road without soiling one's feet in the general muck created by fountains and sewerage running freely through the streets. How I would love to time travel and see the city in it's day fully functioning and alive with the busyness of every day life.

We reached Positano via bus from Sorrento along the cliff-hanging roads hugging the stunning Amalfi coast. Stunning. The bus driver negotiated the curved and twisty road like one without fear of death and we stuck our noses to the windows like trusting little tourists and tried to capture some of the beauty on our snappy cameras in order to take it home with us. The bus stopped at the top of the town and the amble down the steep road to the centre was punctuated with the delight of the views on the left side and the pleasure of quaint little shops on the right. The streets were clean and colourful, the water clear turquoise, and the locals bright and friendly. It's hard to imagine a more beautiful place. No wonder it's a popular destination for weddings, honeymoons and beachside holidays. After our slow stroll down to sea level we stopped for a bite to eat and soaked up the carefree resort vibe and collectively marvelled at it all. We each managed to pick up a ceramic treasure or two on our amble back up the hill and the afternoon light over the cliffs and sea was something I've filed away in the 'best memories' section of my brain since the camera wasn't capable of doing it justice.

You can see pics and read a bit more commentary from our trip here

So my time in Italy is finished for now but my budding artist's journey is barely begun and I plan to keep a more regular account of my painting progress here so do stay tuned if you'd like to see what I'm getting on with. Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me, more soon!

PS. I went to the NSW art gallery the other day and as always lingered over the Australian Impressionist section... there is an Arthur Streeton landscape there that I love called 'Still glides the stream and shall forever glide', which is a line from a poem by William Wordsworth:

I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide,
As being past away.--Vain sympathies!
For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes,
I see what was, and is, and will abide;
Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies;
While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise,
We Men, who in our morn of youth defied
The elements, must vanish;--be it so!
Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live, and act, and serve the future hour;
And if, as toward the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.

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