Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A Hans Hartung approach

Italian wall decorations of the past seen up-close are not necessarily detailed, in fact they are not intended to be viewed with the same scrutiny you might reserve a framed painting. I recently visited a restoration in progress: the church ceiling at San Francesco Saverio in Mondovì, decorated in 1676 by Andrea Pozzo. It was astounding that the painted columns that from floor level seemed to be of mammoth length, seen at ceiling level were in realty no longer then a couple of meters. What mostly interested me was that the rich drapery, flowers, ornaments and moldings were evidently the result of a few very simplified and cleverly chosen strokes of paint. The paintbrushes used must have been of the size you would normally use to fill up a wall with just one colour!
I translated an Italian text for a Hans Hartung exhibition and recall that Hartung favored transforming his gestural paint strokes into an art form, taking a few casual strokes then magnifying them to gigantic proportions. Many Italian decorations seen up close are still lovely, but striped of the distance intended for their viewing, they are similar to abstract works of art. In a way they are minimalist! So yes, tongue in cheek...less is indeed more!