Some time ago an acquaintance affirmed that if I finished up in some provincial town on the continent my mind would soon switch off due to any lack of cultural stimulus. I don’t know what his experience had been like on the continent. He’d stay at Ascona at the top of Lago Maggiore, which is part of Switzerland’s Ticino, but I found his comment strange since there is a very fine music (both classical and jazz) festival at Ascona and nearby Locarno is famous for its international film festival. At least, I’m glad my acquaintance picked his wife from that area of the continent and, surely, that must be a stimulus to beat all others!
Certainly, I’ve never lacked for things to do in Bagni di Lucca whether they be hill-walking, theatre-going, exhibition-attending or street festival participation. And that’s just Bagni! Go to Lucca and there one is completely spoilt for choice (or as the Italians would say ‘con l’imbarazzo della scelta).
A good example of how life can be truly stimulating in Bagni di Lucca was this last weekend when, among other events, art exhibitions from four different artists were inaugurated, where there was a classic car meeting, and when the local church volley ball competition, which attracts teams from all over the valley, was well under way. There would have been a music and poetry show as well but this was cancelled in favour of the big screen where the frustrating match between Italy and Germany was played out (and where the extra time after the equalizing final score had to be resolved by that most unfortunate aspect of the game, the penalty shoot-out in which Italy forlornly lost 6-5).
I’ll just concentrate on one of the exhibitions I visited – that at Shelley House which will last until the end of July. Nino Chiesa studied both at Lucca’s art college and at Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti and has spent much of his life as an art teacher. He’s also been involved in cinema scenery; for example, with Piero Ghepardi in Lumet’s ‘The appointment’.
(Mayor Betti, Fabio Lucchesi and artist Nino Chiesa at the inauguration)
I found Chiesa’s work fascinating for its mastery and variety of techniques in displaying subjects which ranged from this well-known eatery in Bagni di Lucca drawn with red pencil with delightful white highlights:
to this somewhat disturbing end-of-Dorian-Grayish self-portrait
to these rather more relaxing and decorative still-lives, one using acrylic, another fresco technique.
to this picture, entitled ‘swamp,’ which uses classic Jackson Pollock drip enamel technique. The title is clearly a double play on both subject and procedure.
Another picture, using water varnish, called ‘swamp’ seems more restful, evoking for me a part of Lago Massaciuccoli near Puccini’s villa.
Chiesa is also an undoubted master of the nude as seen in this beautiful water-colour pose:
As befits an artist who is also a teacher Nino Chiesa has used most available methods of producing his images. In no way, however, does he imitate. There is clearly an often witty play with techniques setting the artist’s creations directly inside a long Italian tradition. In this fascinating exhibition one can see examples of fresco, acrylic, enamel and charcoal, all used purposefully to achieve always interesting effects.
Here are some other examples of Chiesa’s works. Now guess what techniques he’s used for them!