July, August & September: The long and winding road to Vienna
The ferry took us from Palermo to Livorno, from where we made our way to visit family in Saronno (Milan), Soiano (Lake Garda), Venice, Lugnez & Basel (Switzerland). Then we began the final leg of our journey to Vienna, at which point we broke down in Tirol, and had to spend a week in the charming town of Kirchbichl while the Red Van underwent some fairly costly repairs!
Vienna was amazing - what a warm welcome from old friends and new! Delphine loved the local parks, playgrounds and warm weather. Jay completed an enormous new painting, plus a few new painting commissions. We checked out the Vienna art scene, met with local artists and Chiara completed an intensive beginners German course with top marks!
May & June: Road trip round Sicily
Pictures from our final 6 weeks on the road through Sicily! A windy May followed by a blisteringly hot June took us through Gibellina (see blog entry #14), Agrigento, Ragusa, Siracusa, Catania, Messina, Cefalu, and lots of beaches and sunsets in between...including exhibitions and artists' studios (see blog entry #15). We then returned back to Castellammare del Golfo for Chiara's birthday, followed by a final day in Palermo for gay pride and the ferry back to Livorno...
Encounters with Sicilian Artists
Despite good intentions, Jay's weekly blogs never materialised...he's very busy watching paint dry...so it's been another month since we've blogged.
For the last few months, I've (Chiara) mainly been working on the SOLO Award 2016 - since the launching the new open call at this year's London Art Fair, along side work by 2015 winner Kyung Hwa Shon - and continuing research and planning for my new space Chiara Williams Contemporary Art which had a soft launch in London in April. Part of this research includes meetings and talks with curators, gallerists, museum directors, collectors and of course, artists!
In May, during our travels through Sicily, I had a number of encounters with Sicilian artists...two of whom had also applied to the SOLO Award 2016...in the end the selection panel (Me, Sarah Monk, Francesco Pantaleone, Gordon Cheung) longlisted the duo Genuarda Ruta and shortlisted Ezio Cicciarella.
Here are some photos (taken by Jay) of our visits to their exhibitions and studios, with full credits and website links below.
Artists, curators and spaces pictured above include:
Ezio Cicciarella, artist, Vittoria (Ragusa), http://www.eziocicciarella.com/
Factori, Associazione Culturale, Vittoria (RG), www.factori.it, run by Andrea Carrubba, Nanni Licitra, Andrea Tidona, Antonello Trovato.
Duo Genuardi/Ruta, (Antonella Genuardi and Leonardo Ruta) http://genuardiruta.jimdo.com/
Duo Campostabile (Lorena & Mario), http://www.campostabile.altervista.org
Davide Mineo, artist (no website)
Francesco Cuttitta, artist (no website)
Francesco Lucifora, Director of COCA, (Centre of Contemporary Art), Modica, http://www.cocacontemporary.it/
Elisabetta, Archive manager, COCA, Modica
Daniela Bigi, curator of Pre-Visioni II and art critic
Fondazione Puglisi Cosentino, http://www.fondazionepuglisicosentino.it/
Maurizio D'Agata, Galleria Art'e', Acireale, Catania, http://www.arteingalleria.com
First of all apologies for the lack of photos in this blog entry. I somehow managed to lose almost all the photos I took and all the videos I recorded since the start of Red Van part 2... Bloody HD...
After four days in Guidaloca we are finally back on the road. It feels great to be cramped into the back of the van with Sagio's painting hanging on Chiara's wall and diagrams, drawings and stuff on my wall. It takes a while to get used to this lifestyle again but this is what travelling is all about: change.
Today we are driving to Gibellina, a town that was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1968 and then re-built a few kilometers away. The great Italian artist Alberto Burri proposed to plaster the ruins with concrete, creating a cracked landscape, Cretto di Burri, apparently one of the world's largest public art works. You can read more about the history and the background of this town elsewhere, for example HERE. I would rather talk about how we felt being here.
An extraordinary sight, a sensation of death and eternity cast in concrete as you walk along the traces of the old narrow streets, now carved like cracks. I climbed out of the crack on the concrete platform. From here you can see more. It's like standing in a desert. I have decided to record sound and video here for my projects 60 and Nomadic Encounter. I am not sure if I will use it as I feel that my work would have no significance at all compared to the strength and sad background of Burri's work.
From here we are making our way to the new town which is filled with public artworks, a contemporary art museum which we cannot visit as it has been closed for a while for refurbishments and the Fondazione Orestiadi that houses different contemporary works of art as well as historical artifacts. The whole collection is very weirdly curated and put together. There are no visitors, only two skinny chaps in their twenties who sort of work here. They open the two galleries for us. The first gallery: Dusty, badly lit, famous artworks in broken plastic frames, old books; the second gallery: large, Arabic music, big sculptures, golden, grotesque, dark. It's all about destruction and eternity, resistance and struggle (in response to the earthquake).
The town itself is almost deserted, post-apocalyptic. Wide and empty roads, small concrete houses. We decide to camp a bit outside town and arrive at an abandoned farm house. It's a nice spot apart from all the condoms and beer bottles. We hate it and return into town where we are staying near the back of the modern church and semi-occupied houses.
Before leaving Gibellina we spend a few hours exploring this town, filming, taking photos, recording sound, mixing paint.
After a three-day stay at Irene's mum's lovely cottage in Guidaloca we are ready to move on and head to Gibellina.
We spent our time here mainly chilling and finishing off admin. I managed to work on two of my projects, namely Square of Paint and 60. Besides this, I have been thinking an awful lot about social media and how to get this thing, including this blog off the ground. Oh, what a headache! It's harder than one might think. Content, visuals, text, all of it needs to be carefully curated. Photos have to be interesting, not only to oneself but to other people, people who know you and people who have no clue who in the world you are. Not too many baby pictures. Ah, but they are sooo cute! I want to share the steady growing process of Delphine. But of course, who gives a you-know-what... Keep it short, witty and to the point, not too much information. And consistency is important. This sounds like hard work. Not that I am scared of hard work. No, on the contrary I work about 28 hours a day on my art. Okay, by now I probably have lost 90% of all readers... I guess...
Anyway, let's get back to our daily adventures. Everyday life seems pretty, PRETTY uneventful. I don't want to bore you with too many details. Just imagine: it's hot, the sky is blue, you can hear birds singing, there is lush green around you, tropical plants, Italian radio from the kitchen, the sweet smell of flowers mixed with the salty wind from the sea. This is here, this is where we are now, this is where we are living an uneventful and totally unglamorous life. In order to get a bit of good old urban action you need to go to town, to the big city of Castellammare del Golfo where I got my hair cut in that stereotypical Italian barber shop on the main street, something out of a Hollywood movie, where people come in for an unnecessary five-minute hair cut, talk about the latest news, kiss each other on the cheeks and shake hands. A place that has three paintings on its white washed walls: a enormously badly painted tiger in a golden frame and two naked ladies in plastic frames, one is called Winter and the other is called Spring. Very profound and nude. A place that is filled with blades, scissors, bottles of aftershave, conditioner and shampoo, pictures of Padre Pio, Jesus and Maria. A place that is simultaneously in- and outside. A place with two barbers: one who looks like my uncle Walther with a mustache, glasses and small eyes that catch every detail; the other one a younger man, a bit fatter with a full head of hair. A place where skillful people work. I like my Pakistani barber in Hackney Downs, London, but this gentleman here cuts in a different league. Quick and precise, no hair in the inside of my T-shirt.
Castellammare is also a place where you meet friends and Delphine runs around and falls into dog poo. Hands and shoes brown and smelly. It's a place where Simona and her four angry looking dogs live who piss and shit in their walled-in yard. It's a place where Delphine chases those four dogs with a broom.
Castellammare is also place of worship where they build whole altars with bread for Joseph, I mean SAINT Joseph. Oh Joseph, one of my favorite characters in the Bible. God gave him the important job to look after Jesus.
And when you need to really relax, then you drive through Castellammare to Terme Segestane where you can jump into a sulphurous and natural hot spring. Note that there is the official hot spring where you pay good money to sit in hot water and the free hot spring that you reach by crossing a little river.
Hello there. Thanks for having found your way to our blog. We have decided to update it more often, not every three to four months but a few times a week. Besides this, Jay is now in charge of the blog. Not because he is a fantastic writer with a great eye for details and an amazing talent for building up narratives but because he wants to write the blog. And now you know this, let's switch to the first person. Before we begin, let me establish that I am actually not a writer. I know how to write but I am not very good at it, especially in English as my first language is Swiss German. Hence limited vocabulary and an awful literary use of it. This however shan't hold me back.
Okay, let's start! I am already excited...
After an extremely busy three-week stay in London, we arrived tired and exhausted in Sicily, Castellammare del Golfo. Busy, why? In brief: We had to supervise bathroom renovations in Chiara's house... When I say 'we', I actually mean 'Chiara' as I am useless at DIY and have no working knowledge of such things. At the same time we had to welcome our, I mean Chiara's, new and very lovely tenants Emi, Flora and Dan; set up two exhibitions: The Red Van Pit Stop, a one-day documentary style exhibition at WW Gallery's HQ and my installation The Thing Outside which was part of an art show organized and curated by Infinity Bunce and Sarah Jeffries at the Cello Factory. Finally we sorted out our co-working hub Desk Address in order to make things run more smoothly and stress free for us. And not forgetting, Chiara was busy working on the Solo Award 2016 during the entire three weeks.
Now let me talk about Sicily again. We arrived after a nearly three hour Rynair flight at Falcone Borcellino Airport in Palermo on the 24th of April 2016. Delphine did not sleep and entertained the rows in front, behind and next to us. She did not entertain us every much. A taxi we managed to pre-arrange with the help of our friend Giacomo brought us back to Castellammare del Golfo's Roxy Bar where the Red Van had been waiting for us to return. After spaghetti, sandwich, arancini and half a litre of wine at Roxy, we moved back into the Red Van: our first night on this second part of our trip.
The next day I re-organized the interior of the Red Van while Chiara was working on gallery stuff. Not a very eventual day really and probably not a great idea to write about it in our blog but hey, I am in charge. In the evening we drove to nearby Guidaloca Beach to camp over night in front of the drumming and salty waves trying to leap onto the mainland and take a bit of it back into the sea. Delphine did not want to sleep. On top of that it was FREEZING COLD which resulted in us both waking up in pain. I had very bizarre and realistic dreams. You might not really care about my dreams and I respect that but I am going to tell you about them anyway: It was like a Tarantino film. The story evolved around the revolutionary uprising of black people in America that turned into a civil war. The strange thing was that they revolted not against white people but against people who were into S&M. Don't ask my why, I don't know. There was one particularly interesting scene: A group of about 10 S&Mers came out of a cave by the river Rhine, they danced around and then formed a fare ground like sea monster that would rotate around its axis inviting people to jump over it. Very strange. Anyway, let's travel back into reality.
The first thing I did was filming and taking photographs for one of my projects. We then needed to go back to Castellammare as our mobile Internet modem including a few laptops were stored in Giacomo's & Irene's office Alka Immobiliare Office. After a king-sized lunch Chiara had to finish off gallery work for the Solo Award 2016 which she was doing all day (again) at Roxy Bar while I had a great time with Delphine around town. When I say 'great' I don't mean 'great'... After a sort of busy day we ended up back in Guidaloca, not by the beach this time but in Irene's monther's house where we are staying for a few days to get our projects a bit sorted and chill out before we eventually hit the road again.
Spring is here
March in Castellammare del Golfo. A visit from Mariann. A 10km walk through Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve. A swim in the crystal clear waters. Several more visits to the thermal waters and discovery of a secret natural sauna in a cave. Visits to Erice, Trapani, Scopello, Palermo, and then we bid farewell to the lovely flat we called home for the last 5 months...
Christmas, New Year and friends
In December, we continued to enjoy the pretty town of Castellammare del Golfo. We built ourselves a Christmas Tree from recycled materials, while Delphine took her first independent steps. In January we made another flying visit to London (in order for Chiara to curate and manage the SOLO Award / WW Contemporary Art stand in the London Art Fair). In February we had old friends visit us, made lots of new friends, and for the most part, the sun continued to shine on us...
November in Castellammare del Golfo
Two days before we were due to move into our new flat, Delphine fell ill (just a 24hr thing as it turned out) and so we returned to Castellammare and moved in a bit earlier, which the landlord was great about. After 4 months (on and off) in the van, it took some getting used to having so much space to ourselves, hot showers, toilet, flatscreen TV, coffee machine etc. We spent our days working on our businesses and art practices as well as going for walks and drives in the local area.
October: Hello Sicily!
The plan was to head to warmer climes for the winter and find a cosy and relaxed place so our little Delphine would have more room to play and toddle. The ferry trip was fun, delivering us into the heart of a crazy but beautiful Palermo at rush hour, so we didn't stay here long before driving west along the coast visiting apartments we had already arranged to view.
When we arrived in Castellammare del Golfo, we immediately fell in love with it. The next day we found our home, and arranged to move in on 1st November after one final week of exploring the west coast...