I’ve added five more monoprints to my work based on visiting Florence – see my last blog for the earlier work. They all need a bit more finishing, but I like to see a whole series together before I think of each separate print as ‘completed’, because I learn more about the potential of each image as I use similar elements to make different ones.
This print is called ‘Hail Marys’ because the images all contain a Mary – the large woodcut is of Donatello’s Mary Magdalene, the small central figure is a sculpture I made of a Madonna of Mercy sheltering people under her cloak, the figure beside her in a red cloak is Masaccio’s Magdalene and the Pitti Tondo has one of Michelangelo’s Marys. All of these are linked by a solarprint of fallen blossom, a reference to our mortality but also to a promise of spring.
The next print I made used the ghost of print on the plate from the Marys (the two Magdalenes are there) and I added a drawing of a Pisano sculpture. I had to mask the Mary images to give a strong background colour, so I had both the plate and the back of the mask with ghosts. First I added the drawing to the ghost from the plate as a chine colle, but that left a very pale image, so I printed the ghost of the mask over it. That was a mistake, because it made the whole print the same tone and the drawing was difficult to see. I strengthened the background colour and pulled off the chine colle drawing which I then added as a collage when I had added a new digital print of the drawing that is clearer because it’s not under the ink. So this is about ghosts of art in museums.
I wanted to make some prints about the massive impact of tourism in Florence. I’ve usually visited in winter, when it is quite peaceful, but in spring it is almost overwhelmed. Of course there are good things – including lots of money to invest in preserving what tourists want to see – but looking at art becomes a collective activity to visit popular favourites. This makes it impossible to have the personal dialogue with art – I could only glimpse fragments as tourists crowded each ‘recommended’ sight. So David is never alone and I used a digital image of my drawing of him (made in black ink) as a counterpoint with the print of a sculpture I made after my first visit to Florence. I added the crowd, trying to make them transient and restless – I call this print ‘Rock Idol’.
Another place where the art gets mobbed and concealed is outside the Baptistry, where people want to see Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. These are reproductions now and the originals are in the Duomo museum, far less visited! I used my photo of the real gates as a chine colle under the ghost of the crowd from David, together with the repeated image of the head of Ghiberti from the gates. This is something about tourism and the quest for paradise, but I want to strengthen this image a little more.
Because so many tourists are only in Florence for a day or two, the lines and groups are very focused in the centre of the city, between the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. A street or two away and the impact is barely felt – except that local people must sometimes feel resentful. I photographed graffiti saying, ‘Why is it called tourist’s season if we cannot shoot them?’ and our local barista suggested that we come again in November when it becomes their city again.
I’m not sure if this completes the series – I think I may have more to do yet, but I’ll be distracted this week with a small exhibition to put up locally – I ll have more to say about that soon.