Centro d'Arte Verrocchio, Casole d'Elsa, Tuscany, Italy
Me at work on 'Troppi' at the Centro d'Arte, July/August 2001
In March 2001 I was awarded the Juliet Gomperts Memorial Award, a four week residency at the Centro d'Arte Verrocchio near Siena in Italy. The Gomperts family award this prize each year to artists, who can both study and pursue their own work intensively, in a part of the world that has a wealth of sources for inspiration, in terms of landscape and the history and culture of the region. I was very much grateful for this opportunity to travel to an area I had long held ambitions to visit, mainly to see the highest quality stone sculpture from the Renaissance on view in so many locations.
Having to make my own way there, I chose to drive and use the Motorail. Taking my car did make day trips to Siena and Florence easier as the Centro is in only a small country village, but also I was able to bring home the two stone sculptures I completed in the four weeks and some other uncut blocks of stone I picked up in a local stone merchants (Tuscany is a stone-carver's dream in terms of availability and variety of material).
The Centro itself is the home and work base for the greatly experienced sculptor Nigel Konstam, who works alongside students as well as providing tuition. The Centro provides courses for both professional and amateur artists with a changing rota of tutors throughout the summer, my role was to both work alongside the students, providing any help as appropriate, and also benefit from Nigel's experience to develop my own stone-carving skills.
As I am largely self-taught in terms of my stone-carving skills, I did pick up some good tips for my practice, but also the opportunity to work for four weeks (with only four free days) exclusively on my work is also a luxury I rarely have. It was hard work but given that the working conditions were working under a grape-vine in dappled sunlight in hot sunny weather, it couldn't have been that bad!
In terms of developing my own work, I have now seen the
possibilities in terms of expressing subtlety, power and humanity in figurative
stone sculpture. I will definitely attempt a stone figure in the future, I now
realise how much depth of expression can be achieved through simple means i.e.
in just the pose of a figure. Much contemporary-styled art really does not plumb
these depths, fear of being seen as unfashionable or irrelevant is no excuse for
not exploring all means of creating art works, all artists should home in on the
method that suits them best, but also ask themselves hard questions like ' why
am I really doing this? '.
The web address for the Centro is www.verrocchio.co.uk