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CARVED MEANDERS BOULDER I (& II)

by Robert Ranieri, 2018

 

            Anthropologists have discovered several semi flat, hand held rocks in a cave
from the Old Stone Age period, that had been scratched repeatedly with long patterned criss crossing meander lines, that appear to show directions taken by migrating herd animals. This before any written language.
            Several examples of mileage markers have survived from the Classical period of
the Western World in ancient Greece. These exquisite carved marble sculptures in some
cases, had been used to mark distances between certain important locations or also to indicate a person's burial site.
            Some Stelae have been augmented by the Romans with a mausoleum, but especially along the many hundreds of constructed road miles; required mile markers. Quite a necessity for communications and transfer of the legions, diplomats, and commerce. These marked miles fostered the spread of the Latin language.
            With awareness of this fact, the above antecedents have induced my naming of
certain landscape architecture works that will imply 'mythical' mileage markers, but also pertain to varied painted images, emphasized in the subsequent commentary, with titles for series Carved Meanders Boulder. These last two large paintings(2018), so named, are in effect described in detail on this website.
            I am very honored that my son Luke has skillfully, and with profound awareness of aesthetics, has designed my website, and positioned my works as appropriately as
possible, despite many time frame variables, but he also titled most of my work as well. With a fluid mastery of more than eight languages, including two very disparate ones,  Latin and Japanese, his contribution is realized.
            Some important examples of my work have been lost, sold without photographed
records, or even careless abandonment. Thanks to my wife, daughter, son, son in law, and others, their compassionate awareness has sustained me.
                                   
                        Carved Meanders Boulder I
a large boulder shape occupies the lower left quadrant of this painting, located partially
in front of the canvas plane.

we see its entire left side, (from our point of view), that shows quickly painted, tightly
grouped orange shapes.

at boulder's center several orange shapes, heightened with bright yellow accents, noticed
to migrate toward its right edge, merge with broadly painted black shapes that tilt down toward right edge of painting.

a centrally located arcing white band, encloses a deep red area.

within this white arc, notice a miniature arching design. the question is, does this shape
seem to be closer to us, or further away than the small vertical structure within the light
green (partial arch at the right edge of painting)? read the rationale for this condition and
historical reference marked with asterisk.

cascading toward the partial green arc, we see five twisted gray shapes that help to
form a slender waistline of the red pink shape that rises up toward the upper right area
of painting. a similar 'waistline' occurs within Nightingale II, further to the right on
my website, classified as Mountain Refuge. (note the description of this painting there).

from the centrally placed large white arc, we can trace three white bands from their
connection to this arc, to where they rise up over a small landscape and disappear into the upper right corner. three vertical black diamond shapes are superimposed here as distance
markers.

within the upper left corner of canvas, notice how the black and lavender shape interacts
with the high arched structure that seems to reveal a cascading waterfall.

* with an awareness of Paul Cezanne's optics, I understood possible advancing and
retreating of specific elements, one versus the other. Over decades of  painting, I have
continued to exploit this strategy in order to extend to the viewer even more dynamic
forces. in addition the viewer may divide my paintings into three equal vertical columns
in order to discover certain built in structures, noticed to reveal mysterious designed
situations.

if you divide anyone of my paintings into three horizontal bands (registers), similar
viewing opportunities will occur. let your eyes also travel obliquely, corner upper left to
corner lower right, and so on. you will often see more than you saw before.

 

                        Carved Meanders Boulder II
a large shape tilts forward into the lower right quadrant of painting.
this singular boulder structure is identified by its large bright yellow orange shape.

floating free, it is yet connected chromatically to the large red oxide shape with
cadmium orange accents upon it, that occupies the upper half of the canvas.

about one third of boulder's side is defined by a stacked arrangement of shapes
starting at the bottom with four black panels, outlined by briskly painted white bands.
this side area rises to touch a split lavender shape, defined by a bold black check
mark, that directs the eye obliquely up into the red oxide, burnt orange area.

this area contains a small group of shapes. half a bright white arc, plus overlapping
incised black marks, triangulated, (carved) and connected. a small quick black check
is one of three checks that occupy this upper area. this small incised area is amplified
at the upper edge of this red zone, with a larger triangulated (carved), black upper
edge near top of canvas.

two clear, sharply painted, tightly curved dark lines press forward from behind, pushing
dramatically toward viewer, and also push the boulder a little in front of picture plane.

despite subtle atmospheric modeling within the two arched blue gray shapes, they also
behave like shields, understood as ambivalence occurring within my canvases.

a freely painted black shape, lower left corner of painting, could almost have been
a kind of mooring for the suspended boulder.

the three dimensional character of the boulder is enhanced by the way a thin
orange band is stretched over the top upper left area, that also is augmented and
answered with the detailing (opposite side) of three small contained shapes; lavender, black and white.

finally, the large yellow orange front plane of boulder supplies another luminous
area, that encourages the viewer to see that the boulder moves forward to break past
the picture plane.

 

            My work profits from extended opportunities current in our time. Much is
gained from my devotion to Western Civilization; many sources, traditional images,
ethnographic art world wide; classical art of every period. And of course a junk pile.
            Landscape architectural work of mine is not typical, neither in construction  methods nor appearance. The same with much rebuilding of two barns into a home.
            Architect friends years ago had wondered;("what will I do next"). Some
of my early building methods were naturally improved upon as I gained experience.
            Though much older now, I'm relieved that I have accomplished what has
been done. Despite wear on my body, I expect to be able to finish more outside
work with concrete. More changes in the landscape are also due.
           
            When reading my comments above, we understand that much can be
gained by prolonged regarding of my works. Meditating, or like a somnambulist
I proceed from one area of the canvas to another, as an image is being discovered.
Have I just been scaling a cliff face? Or threading my way across unfamiliar
night time, pitch black rooms.
            As I continue to develop ideas, a distinct composition will be cleared.
Creative imagination. Machinations. Modus operandi.
            The important European artist book I discovered while still in college
called Point and Line On Plane, by Wassily Kandinsky, is remembered. He accepts
the value of some clearly marked small dots and circles as analogous to traditional
music notation, and that sounds of music can be translated into color. He made
paintings showing  his insights. He seemed to verify his notations.

            A small work in plaster titled 'Voci', (voices). influenced me, when in Rome.
I met an Italian sculptor, Mirko Basadella, who had made a small work in plaster
sculpture titled 'Voci', (voices). He never explored it beyond this single work.
            These concepts; that visual elements may be associated with sound, have
led me to a vast territory that has fostered, shaped my work these many decades.
Narrative abstraction is a term I use to amplify the understanding of my works.
My story is generated by an inquiry into unexplored avenues of experience and
may also recover and reconcile my parent's trials, and rich cultural life. With the
action and development of a formal and expressive visual language that I have
shaped, we see an ongoing verification of a life worth living.

            Over following decades as I had become involved in music, it was
obvious that music notation had become more relevant to my art, seeing ways
to further my goals through innovation and risk taking. Apparent in my works
on paper as well as painting and landscape architecture, I could welcome the
presence of 'notation' thinking that is evident, a 'leit motif' language. As an
"incurable romantic," I trace the efforts made manifest in even some earlier
examples, with detritus perceived as an expanding visual field.

            More music to mention. I had been singing sporadically in Manhattan
decades ago and found great comfort in this. Bach's oratorios, Mozart's operas,
Hector Berlioz's L' Efance Du Christ; the aria sung by Herod, for bass voice.         Through my review, I recognize this aria, 'Tujour Me Reve, would
influence Verdi's aria for bass voice, Philip II sings; Ella Giammai M'ammo.'
This earlier opera, Don Carlo, was revised and much improved. Collectively,
it is music like this, among  numerous examples; and all of Mozart's music,
his operas, oratorios, and instrumental works, that have nurtured me over
time and helped to clarify my purpose as an artist.

            Reviewing my painting Diva series; Diva Singing, dated (1999), we
notice a complex of overlapping and interlocking coordinated markings. This
entire composition is seen to be contained within an ellipsis. Architecture
here. Much twisting, columnar stacking plus 'sound notation.'
            A partial female figure presides at lower left quadrant and her left
tilting pose is paralleled by the prominent quasi spiral column to her left, rises
to the top of canvas, then to disappear into the blue vault.
            Clearly painted blue 'notation signs' that cross over the female figure, 
direct ones eye into the large S shape, middle right edge of canvas. This work  
manifests and accounts for some of the choices and actions taken, during
my creative process,
           
            The same Diva series, shows a Diva, Performance Mode (2016), with
a dominating yellow-orange trapezoid. A compelling shape that is noticed to
occur with variations in other examples of my work.
            An active and dominant suite of shapes controlled by this trapezoid's
complex formation, encourages the viewer, to explore how space is manipulated
within the trapezoid, forcing it to bow and bend, then flex against one another
while a portion of the yellow-orange that is partially subdivided, will activate
each specific individual section of yellow-orange, to advance, twist forward
or retreat. A dramatic evolution of the role of the trapezoid.
          Interacting shapes that emanate around the top center pink arc area, are
sounds. Same for the lower right corner. Deeply carved and planted, they also
combine to communicate across the expansive yellow-orange, as complex
pulsating responses.
            visually intervening, interacting, we see a set of 'stairs,' bottom edge
center of trapezoid, that is a 'leit motif,' which in itself, activates the entire
painting below the trapezoid, and the remainder of it too, including the vertically
placed Diva, red oxide color. The last portion to be finished, it begins with
the lightly drawn foot in a high heeled shoe, to rise in a dramatic twist, to spiral
up and out of painting's top.

            Partly in comic contrast, I would like the viewer to look at the image
of a very small canvas (2005), located in the area classified as Opera Scenes.
            This work is titled (Good Night You False World). Gute Nacht, Du False
Welt. a aria sung in German by the bird catcher Papageno. This name is derived
from the Italian word for parrot Papagalo. Often sung in English, it shows  humorous connections, embellished on stage, and with his costume almost fully covering most
of his body in greenish feathers. This spirited baritone role shows a moment when
Papageno is about to hang himself.     
            He had had his beak 'padlocked' earlier for lying and speaking out of turn. Thankfully he is rescued. This opera, Mozart's The Magic Flute, (in German) Die Zaubeflurte is one of my favorites.
            Such a whimsical music theatre work, brings forward poignant ambivalence
occurring within our lives. Finally he hears the voice of his Papagena  and they are
united in a charming duette. Two bass arias in this work are also of a higher order.

            This small painting has little connection to any anatomical copy. But it does
derive effectively from my works on paper; portraits as semi abstract formulations,
culled from a repertoire of incidental stuff handled over decades. When painting
freely, experience will accept moments when we are at places of fresh significance
and of unusual value per se. Mentioned elsewhere, odd pieces of metal; broken,
rusted junk yard iron, strange shadows, miraculous music, all or anything we have
seen that stirs within us, to activate creativity.
            Luke titled this work, and consequently enabled me to make inevitable ties
to my work on paper, most of which he designated. An image on paper is centered,
and is delivered without much hesitation, showing an economy of means. We see no spillage of paint on the white paper. Direct notation, without much hesitation.
            This very small Papageno portrait occurs long after all work on paper. It began
as a simple shape, exploiting a quasi figure eight basic shape, and on impulse, I put
a brush loaded with burnt orange to the task of modifying the ovoid, to override
the yellow arcs.
            Midway in this particular painting process, the eye was 'dotted', and the nose
painted into place; then my brush descended in free association with quick impromptu
marks as a mouth and chin, part of an expression, sure to reconcile divergent formal
concepts, with a commensurate rate of speed in the execution of a theme.
            The ear area has been 'adopted' as a 'leftover,' and its' olive and black shape
clarified by a final definition, an assertive burnt orange enclosure. It must be stated,
that this small painting as described, exemplifies a portion of my painting process.
Often clear shapes cavort unexpectedly. Impromptu moments made real.
            When I look back at this work, if I had been constrained solely by mere anatomical renderings I would be nowhere.
            Comic opera like the Magic Flute has precedence in pre-renaissance
'dumb shows' and the subsequent more formal Commedia Del 'Arte. The quickly
painted blackened profile in the small Papageno painting, reminds me of images of Arlecchino, (Harlequin) who wears a black mask.
            This character could even date back to late Roman burlesque, perhaps even
from Arles, France, an important city within the first Roman Provence outside the Italic peninsula.
             
            We review two large canvases. Dante's Voice is My Father's Voice, (1980 (Dante series). A two panel painting done undoubtedly at the end of the year (1980). Early that same year coincidentally, I painted Nightingale I, series (Mountain Refuge). The nightingale is a bird with a beautiful song, adopted by poets for centuries as their voice. Dante and certainly his younger contemporary proto Renaissance poet Petrarch, had made this association.
            Mentioned elsewhere, my father's devotion to these poets was deep and long lasting. Within this large painting, we may appreciate surprising velvety conditions of blue harmonies that pervade here. This work is for Dante, but especially for my father.
            I consider this work to be transcendental. Such mysterious interlocking areas can
only be understood, after prolonged observation. It is hard to explain such confounding
progressions bottom to top, and movement laterally. Qualities of light sources, blend
and flash unexpectedly. A composite view of our own passage through time.
            The next large, single panel canvas, Dante's Open Door(1987) has evolved quite
differently. One can speculate on the primacy of easier to find, distinctively large shapes.
Complexity abounds, though the title itself may deliver symbols.
            One large area, left half of canvas, travels from outside the bottom, and rises
irrevocably, to spread with quickly assertive strokes of red oxide and sharp over layers
of blue and orange checks, that ascend the undercoat of prink and exit the top.
            Notice the dynamic arching shapes. The towering dark shape, right third of
canvas, is modified by precisely placed markings which inhabit this dark zone in
order to enhance the mysterious depth unto itself, and establishes a vibrating tonal context in counterpoint to the ascending orange and blue dashed spreading column.
Important here is the small blue door (doorway). Could it present an escape exit from Dante's troubles? Certainly Dante 'paints' a very challenging situation when he passes
through the Inferno portion of his great poem, The Divine Comedy.
            A truly dramatic assertion is of course the large dense blue area that almost
lifts off of the canvas. But blue is supposed to recede and warm colors advance. How
it is shaped, designed according to specific devices can be explained only by lengthy
examination. The peculiar yellow shape centered within this large blue area with its
distinctive markings is also subject to speculation.
            No open door is mentioned by Dante I'm aware of. Poetry, and my work, leaves
the viewer with the opportunity to discover for oneself each possible adventure.

(Pertrarch)
la voce di Laura
è come un piccolo ruscello
che cade fra i piccoli sassi

the voice of Laura
is like a small stream
that falls among little stones
 
(The Petrarchan sonnet became
an important prototype for much
subsequent romantic poetry in
historical time. The vast major
group of his sonnets were meant
as devotion to Laura, whom he
perhaps saw but once.

(Dante)

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura

nel mezzo del camin di nostra vita

ché la diritta via era smarrita

in the middle of our life's journey

I found myself in a savage forest

for the straight path was lost

(Dante's Divina Commedia has been

celebrated over time. For Dante, it was

Beatrice that he devoted his magnum

opus to. And like Petrarch he saw her only once.)


 

 

 

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LAR