26 April 2008

The Fantastic World of Edvard Mordake

two painted roomscapes which will form Mordake's bedroom
Mordake, Erling Wold's latest opera, tells the story of the 19th century aristocrat, Edvard Mordake, who was driven mad by his twin sister - a female face on the back of his own head.
I was asked to help visualize the setting- a suite of rooms fit for a Victorian gentleman.

I found plenty of inspiration at Richard Reutlinger's lovingly restored Victorian house in San Francisco, especially in the master bedroom, which features a Dresser-inspired frieze painted by my late friend and mentor, Larry Boyce.
I photographed some rooms, and made a Thurber-esque line drawing, as well as a simplified gouache painting of the bedroom (above) which are all to be computer- modified by Erling and German visual artist Freider Weiß, and then projected on stage to create Edvard's world. The large mirror I left blank, as they will be adding some invented reflections there. The set will alternate between photos, video, drawings, and paintings, to create varying levels of reality and fantasy.
And I hope Larry won't mind that in making my paintings of this room, I filled in his rather glaring persian flaw, so as to leave room for some of my own.

Mordake by Erling Wold, a solo performance with tenor John Duykers, premiers May 22 and runs through June 7, 2008
as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival

More information and musings on this subject can be found on Erling's blog.

Mordake is featured on the cover of Theater Bay Area this month!

13 April 2008

Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi

interior of the Cathedral of St Gallen
After an incredibly lovely train trip from Milan through the Alps we arrived in St Gallen, Switzerland, for the premier of Erling Wold's mass, which he named for one of St. Gallen's most beloved monks, Notker the Stammerer.

Nearly 500 people attended the concert held in the choir of the Dom Cathedral. Erling's beautiful and moving music was brought to life by soprano Kim Brockman, whose voice really does remind one of angels, and the rock star of organists, Willibald, who handled the cathedral's 300+ year old instrument like it was a turbo-powered sports car.
The applause lasted over 10 minutes.

A recording of the concert is here.

10 April 2008

Grotesque obsession

window detail from the Gallery of Maps, Vatican Museums
As an Ornamentalist (and posting this while currently traveling in Italy) I can't help but obsess just a bit about the grotesque ornamentation that covers entire ceilings and indeed whole rooms in some of the places I have visited recently.


I am also absolutely rapt with my newest aquisition, Les Grotesques by Allessandra Zamperini, a comprehensive and lavishly illustrated book that traces the history of the form, from ancient Pompeii to the bestiaries and drolleries of medieval manuscripts, to the discovery of the Domus Aurea in the 15th century that inspired Raphael and his contemporaries to create an entire system of "grottesche" ornamentation, which endured as a major influence in painted decor for centuries, including singerie, neo-classical, and 19th century revival interiors. I bought the French version of the book while in Florence and have only slightly minded its weight in my luggage this last week.

Rome:
ground zero for Grotesca
In future travels I'd love to visit the Guila Romano, Palazzo Farnese, Villa d'Este and some of the other fabulous villas that sport this kind of painting.
This time, I did get to spend a long day at the The Vatican Museums:
Grottesche ceiling in the entry stairway to the Vatican Museums
Spandrel ornament in the entry stairways, Vatican Museums
Grottesche wall ornament in the entrance to the Vatican Museums

Renaissance "grottesche" ornamentation created by Raphael and his team of decorative painters in 1517-22.














Vatican - Museo Pio Clementino: detail of ornamentation
by Christoforo Unterperger circa 1776

this splendid bit is in a window inset
 Santa Maria dell'Anima, Rome: detail of a chapel painted by Francesco Salviati, 1548.
Florence: The Uffizi
Spectacular painted ceilings in the main corridors, many of which were painted by Antonio Tempesta and Alessandro Allori around 1580
detail of above ceiling

A small spandrel ornament on the lower level of the Uffizi

note: photography is not permitted inside the Uffizi, so my images were taken by stealth.
Some of the other stealth photographers sharing this work on the web:
groenling's flickr set
MikevV


All of the images in this post photographed by Lynne Rutter, April 2008.

Select any image to view at larger size.



Books!
Les Grotesques is now available at amazon.com in English as: Ornament and the Grotesque: Fantastical Decoration from Antiquity to Art Nouveau
also recommended: "
La grottesque
" by Andre Chastel


update:  Incredible book detailing painting techniques by contemporary master Carolina d'Ayala Valva:   the Art and Techniques of Grottesca


03 April 2008

dissolving/evolving facades



Postcard from Rome...


Near the Campo de' Fiore there is a small building of some considerable age, bent and worn, the lower part covered in graffiti.
At the top of the facade, you can see a lovely frieze decoration that cleverly marries neoclassical and art nouveau styles: angel figures, fountains, and horses, and a vitruvian wave border, created from horse heads.


















If you look very closely at the surface in the center of the building, you can see the ghost of an earlier decoration - a simple trompe l'oeil grid pattern that was all the rage in the 16th century.

The more exposed base of this facade has worn down to its bricks, and a new buildup of spray painted sentiments has begun.





Vitruvian wave is in the glossary!


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