Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Homo Faber Shines in Venice - Michelangelo Foundation's Mission for Creativity and Craftsmanship

Homo Faber Opening Ceremony ©SGP
(Venice, Italy) Homo Faber. Crafting a more human future is Europe at its finest, an exhibition that celebrates the human touch. You can feel the excitement in the air as soon as you step off the boat and onto the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Sixteen dynamic event spaces imagined by a team of world-class designers, curators and architects spice up the monumental spaces of the Giorgio Cini Foundation. It is the first major cultural exhibition dedicated to European craftsmanship, and an opportunity to visit a venue not normally open to the public.

The Michaelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship believes that it's time to give back and to put the human being back into the center of our systems. An international non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, the foundation was created by Johann Rupert, chairman of Swiss luxury goods Compagnie Financiere Richemont, and Franco Cologni, former Cartier executive, to celebrate and preserve master craftsmanship around the world and strengthen its connection to design.

Through September 30th, you have the opportunity to watch artisans at work and see the results of the collaborations between artisans and designers, attend conferences and concerts, and interact with over 100 Young Ambassadors, all the while strolling around one of the most beautiful venues on the planet. It's an immersive experience, and I promise you will come away refreshed by the knowledge that there remains an entire domain of humanity that still operates on the highest level.

Young people discovering LUXOS Magazine - Photo: Cat Bauer
I was delighted to see LUXOS Magazine, of which I am a contributing editor, prominently displayed on a wall of quality print magazines, available for free, inside the Homo Faber bookstore. I was even more excited to witness a group of young people discover LUXOS for the first time, and watch them flip through the magazine, intrigued. "What is it? Is it a fashion magazine?" they asked. "It's that, and much more," I explained. "LUXOS focuses on culture as well as brands." Which is a perfect fit with Homo Faber.

"Inside & Out" in the pool at the Giorgio Cini Foundation - Photo: Cat Bauer
There is a huge empty swimming pool inside the Giorgio Cini Foundation, complete with two diving boards. It is not empty any more. With "Fashion Inside and Out," curator and exhibition-maker Judith Clark spotlights the master artisans in the fashion industry who are crucial in bringing contemporary designers' visions to life. Using natural materials, Clark's original staging illustrates how critical craftsmanship is not only to fashion itself, but in the way it is exhibited, with examples by major brands such as Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton on show.

Venetian Way inside the Giorgio Cini Foundation - Photo: Cat Bauer
Susanna Pozzoli, photographer, artist and artisan, had the privilege to enter and experience the goings-on in 21 workshops in Venice and the Veneto Region, which she has documented in "Venetian Way," a series of photographs captured by use of analogue rather than digital photography, and "is about the beauty of loving the work itself." Displayed along the walls of the cloister, Pozzoli's photographs are a journey through the creative process. I was thrilled that the work of one of my dear friends, Sergio Boldrin, had been included. Together with his brother, Massismo, Sergio makes papier-mâché masks in his La Bottega dei Mascareri workshop here in Venice. Sergio is also part of the Doppia Firma (double signature) section, which pairs master artisans with international designers to create unique, original objects.

Montblanc at Homo Faber - Photo: Cat Bauer
One of my favorite experiences was sitting down with Frank Derlien, Head of Final Assembly and Nib Manufacturing at Montblanc, as I sampled a series of fountain pen nibs to decide which one suited me best. Part of the "Discovery and Rediscovery" section, the artisans at Montblanc work through 35 different stages, rolling, stamping and shaping the 18 karat gold nib that perfectly matches an individual's writing style. I am a firm believer that the art of handwriting is a precious human ability that the digital world cannot replace, and Frank confirmed that there was great interest on the part of young people in Montblanc's offerings.

Cat Bauer aboard the yacht Eilean
We had to take our shoes off to climb aboard the Eilean, the legendary 22-metre yacht built by the renowned William Fife boat engineers in Scotland in 1936. Eilean (Gaelic for "little island") is moored in the Venetian lagoon during Homo Faber after being returned to her original splendor. Beautifully restored by master Italian craftsmen and engineers from the Cantiere Francesco Del Carlo di Viareggio, she is an exquisite example of the heights that human hands are capable of reaching.

On the grounds of San Giorgio Maggiore - Photo: Cat Bauer
That is just a very small sample of the offerings on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore through September 30th. There are many more delights waiting at Homo Faber. Crafting a more human future for you to discover, including three free concerts on the last three days of the exhibition (September 28, 29 and 30) at 8pm inside the awe-inspiring Basilica of San Giorgio. A visit to the island will renew your faith in humankind -- which should also include the Vatican Chapels exhibition, part of La Biennale International Architecture Exhibition. Go to the Michelangelo Foundation for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, 14 September 2018

Splendor of The Venice Glass Week - 2018 The Second Edition

Still Life in Glass - Centrotavola Veneziano 2018 by Judi Harvest at The Gritti Palace
(Venice, Italy) The Venice Glass Week, now in its second edition, has the remarkable ability to get residents out of their homes and out on the town to visit galleries, sip wine and socialize like the good old days before mass tourism made it nearly impossible to move comfortably through the city. Founded on excellence and cooperation, it has a noble cause: its aim to is revitalize and sustain one of Venice's most ancient and important industries -- the art of making glass.

Salizzada San Samuele during Venice Glass Week - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Venice Glass Week is a major international festival dedicated to the art of glass, with a focus on the island of Murano, the heart of Venice's glass-blowing industry. From small galleries like those along Salizzado San Samuele whose festivities spill out onto the street, to shops, cafes, hotels and major cultural institutions, there are more than 180 events, including exhibitions, conferences, film screenings, educational activities, themed evenings, open furnaces and more that take place all over town.

Venice is transformed into an international village pulsing with innovation where we can once again see our neighbours and make new friends while learning about the latest trends in Venetian glass -- even the travellers who attend have a genuine love and understanding of La Serenissima. And, of course, it gives Murano a jolt of electricity.

In addition to Venetian born and bred artists and artisans, there are plenty of participants who are not Venetian by birth, but by choice, who add extra spice to the festivities. 

Indefinito by Mafalda Millies - Film Still
One of the most enjoyable evenings was at Casa delle Parole (House of Words) held on September 11th in Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi, which kicked off its new season with a "glass" theme. From September through June, on the second Tuesday of each month, Casa delle Parole reads literary texts from all over the world in the original language by native speakers, followed by the Italian translation. At the end of the evening, the short film INDEFINITO was screened, starring the dazzling glass sculptures of Marcantonio Brandolini d'Adda. The film by Mafalda Millies featured bold, original dance and choreography by Megumi Eda and a commissioned soundscape by Charles Derenne, and was produced by ALMA ZEVI as part of Brandolini d’Adda’s recent solo exhibition in New York.

Paolo Lorenzoni, GM The Gritti Palace & Judi Harvest - Photo: Cat Bauer
Over at The Gritti Palace on the Grand Canal, the blown glass centerpiece created by American Judi Harvest was the star of the show, inspired by Caravaggio's still life. Centrotavola Veneziano is an elaborate glass basket filled with blown glass fruits and vegetables grown in the Venetian Lagoon. At the inauguration on Wednesday night, guests were treated to tasty nibbles served in the kitchen of The Gritti Epicurean School, which had been enhanced by Judi Harvest's watercolors on the walls. The delightful and distinguished art historian Barbara Rose wrote the text for the brochure. Judy lives and works in Venice and New York City, and cultivates honey bees on the island of Murano, where her glass is blown.

Marya Kazoun at Ikona Gallery - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Lebanese-Canadian artist Marya Kazoun is at the Ikona Gallery in the Ghetto with her Perceptions installation, with glass sculptures blown on Murano, and which challenge you to go beyond and question the normal limits of human perceptions. Marya grew up in Beirut during the war years, and lives and works in Venice and New York City.

Pierre M. Picavet at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Cat Bauer
Pierre M. Picavet is French, and was the president of Wolford Italy, the luxury hosiery company. These days he pursues his passion, designing elegant glass lamps, tables and other furnishings, blown on Murano, which can be seen at the Dondolo Lounge in the historic Hotel Danieli on the Grand Canal.

The Venice Glass Week
That is just a tiny sliver of more than 180 events during The Venice Glass Week, which runs from September 9 to September 16, 2018. It is promoted by the Town Council of Venice, and conceived and organized by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, LE STANZE DEL VETRO - Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, and Consorzio Promovetro Murano. The Venice Glass Week not only energizes the art of making glass and Murano, it wallops La Serenissima herself with positive, unifying energy. Go to The Venice Glass Week for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, 10 September 2018

New Art Form: Virtual Reality at the 75th Venice Film Festival

Eclipse - Jonathan Astruc & Aymeric Favre - Film Still
(Venice, Italy) The Venice Virtual Reality competition is in its second year at the Venice Film Festival, and is zipping forward at warp speed. No one really knows where this thrilling new medium is heading. I imagine that someone reading this post in the future will find it as antiquated as we do today when stumbling upon an old article about that newfangled medium called the "movies."

The Venice International Film Festival's mission is to elevate Virtual Reality into a legitimate art form. I am giving you my perspective as someone who chooses not to own a smartphone, and is a neophyte when it comes to VR.

Sunset - Island of Lazzaretto Vecchio - Photo: Cat Bauer
Two years ago we had the opportunity to experience VR at the Venice Film Festival for the first time by watching a rather peculiar biblical VR experience about the life of Jesus Christ(!) inside Palazzo del Casinò. Then last year, La Biennale drastically upped the ante by adding a Virtual Reality competition to their official program and moved the whole show to the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio, a former 16th century plague hospital, transforming it into a dramatic exhibition space that is accessed only by boat (I think they should change that to a team of gondola traghetti - it would make the experience even more surreal).

What is Virtual Reality?

It is hard to find a good definition of Virtual Reality. Here's one from Technopedia that I like:

Virtual reality refers to computer-generated environments or realities that are designed to simulate a person’s physical presence in a specific environment that is designed to feel real. The purpose of VR is to allow a person to experience and manipulate the environment as if it were the real world. The best virtual realities are able to immerse the user completely. Virtual reality should not be confused with simple 3-D environments like those found in computer games, where you get to experience and manipulate the environment through an avatar, rather than personally becoming part of the virtual world.

The VR experiences at the Venice Film Festival are divided into three different categories: Stand Ups, VR Theatre and Installations. To gain access, there is an elaborate system of reservations in place, or, since the competition is still in its infancy, you can just wander over to Lazzaretto Vecchio and take your chances by putting your name on waiting lists, which is what I did. 

1. Stand Ups

What they are: You literally stand up (or sometimes sit), alone, strap on the gear, and view a Virtual Reality film, either "Linear" that you passively watch, or "Interactive," which requires some form of action on the part of the viewer.

By luck, I was able to watch two linear VRs.

Arden's Wake - Tide's Fall - Eugene YK Chung - film still
The first was Arden's Wake: Tide's Fall starring Alicia Vikander and Richard Armitage, written and directed by Eugene Chung, CEO and Founder of Penrose Studios. Tide's Fall is the second installment of last year's Arden's Wake: Prologue, which I did not see, and which won the Lion for the Best VR at the 74th Venice Film Festival. The characters are Pixar-like animations.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been flooded by the oceans, Vikander is the voice for Meena, a dynamic young woman living with her alcoholic father alone in the middle of the sea on some kind of tiny structure he seems to have created himself. I was mesmerized by the story, which is layered with dark complexities, and which transitions visually between their home and the sea, plunging straight into the belly of a sea monster where a whole lot of backstory takes place. Since it is VR, we are inside the story, not outside observers as in a film, which means we go down into the belly of the beast along with Meena. It is an utterly different cinematic experience, and the possibilities of where the story will go seem endless. The only quibble I have is that it was about 30 minutes long, and since it was not interactive, it would have been more comfortable to view sitting down.

1943 Berlin Blitz -_David Whelan - film still

The second Stand Up I saw (sitting down) was 1943: Berlin Blitz. The audio is the actual in-flight recording made by BBC correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas when he flew with the Royal Air Force on a Lancaster bombing raid on Berlin during WWII.

Filmmaker David Whelan drops us right inside the bomber and allows us to experience the horrors of the raid. I had to wrap my mind around the fact that the voices of the pilots and crew were real; that this really had happened as we flew into a barrage of fighter planes, missiles and searchlights. As the blinding lights swept across the nighttime sky, I thought, So that's where the term searchlight comes from! Not from movie premieres! The crew's banter was cool as ice, with a dash of wit and humor as we navigated through what seemed like certain death. It was James Bond cool. You are seated directly behind the pilots; if you turn around you can see the guy recording the sound that you are actually listening to. It was surreal, and I was a bit dazed when I took the headset off to find myself safely inside the exhibition space.

2. VR Theatre

What it is: a group of people sit in chairs, strap on headsets, and watch the same film at the same time. The offerings were only Linear.

I caught two short films made by Biennale College Cinema VR. The first, Floodplain by Deniz Tortum was in Turkish with English subtitles, and seemed to be about an enchanted tree that casts a spell and puts everyone in its vicinity to sleep  -- all men, who seemed to be soldiers, police or foresters. The second, Metro veinte: cita ciega by Maria Belen Poncio was in Spanish with English subtitles, and was about a young woman who is almost completely paralyzed and in a wheelchair, determined to have sex, and sets off alone on a blind date. I thought both efforts were raw but intriguing, and hold much promise for the future.

3. Installations

What they are: Installations are both Linear or Interactive; the two I experienced were both Interactive with four participants. 

The first, Make Noise by May Abdalla, was a rather hackneyed animation about suffragettes breaking the glass ceiling, where the audience is seated and encouraged to use their voices to make noises and holler words like "rage." It felt like something a NGO would produce.

Eclipse - Jonathan Astruc and Aymeric Favre - film still
Eclipse, on the other hand, was totally cool, a virtual embodiment experience, a VR game developed by Backlight and Virtual Adventure in France. There are four participants divided into two teams -- the Support team, wearing blue, and the Explorer team, wearing red. We were suited up with backpacks, headsets, hand-controllers and feet sensors, and divided into two separate, empty rooms. We were instructed that we would be on the Eclipse II spaceship, and our mission was to save the crew of the previous ship, Eclipse I. I was the only female, and I was on the Support team. Me and my partner, who I'll call Kurt, stayed on board the ship Eclipse II while the Explorers boarded Eclipse I.

When the game started, we were no longer four people wearing ordinary clothes. Suddenly, we morphed into astronauts wearing spacesuits, and that is what you actually saw -- if I looked at my arm, I saw a blue spacesuit, not my real arm. Kurt and I could see and hear each other, but not the other team. To talk to them, we had to speak into a metallic band on our spacesuit wrist.

Eclipse - Jonathan Astruc and Aymeric Favre - film still
Kurt and I stepped into a Star Wars-type space elevator and zoomed up to the cockpit where our eyes were blinded by a huge boiling star dominating the window of the Eclipse II. For a moment I was dizzy, but then things started happening and I immediately found my space feet. We had to align a hologram so the ships docked; break a code when the electricity went out; jump into the elevator and zoom down to the Oxygen Garden to put out a raging fire with fire extinguishers that you had to grab by clicking a button with your real hand (that looked like it was wearing a spacesuit glove), actually pick up the fire extinguishers, then push a different button, emitting a white mist, all the while maneuvering a platform that hovered over the flames. The Oxygen Garden contained trees and greenery, all ablaze, as well as what seemed to be capsules on either side on fire that contained...? We both dropped our fire extinguishers, and watched in dismay as they tumbled down into the fire. We had to maneuver the platform back to get more, then charge once more into the breech, but eventually succeeded in putting out all the flames.

It was a blast! It lasted for about 40 minutes, which wasn't long enough to save anybody, but for a first-time experience, I think we did okay. I was so caught up in the adventure that it was mind-blowing to come out of it and realize that we were actually in street clothes wandering around an empty room, instead of astronauts inside a space ship.

VR Installation inside Lazzaretto Vecchio
We don't know how Virtual Reality will evolve, but the creative possibilities seem limitless. It feels like tapping into a child-like imagination, or reading a riveting novel, or having a lucid dream experienced by all five senses, when the real world disappears and you become immersed in a different reality.

I think it is terrific that the Venice Film Festival, the oldest in the world, has added this cutting-edge new art form to its menu. VR is about to explode into our lives.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

So far, My Favorite is "The Favourite" - 75th Venice Film Festival

Emma Stone on Red Carpet for The Favourite - photo courtesy La Biennale di Venezia ASAC
 (Venice, Italy) Trying to capture the magic of the Venice Film Festival in 500 words is a challenge, but I hope I've managed to give you a taste of it with a feature article for, which is now live on their site:

The Red Carpet and Beyond - Welcome to the 75th Venice International Film Festival, where stars are born

There have been a bunch of dynamic films screening this year. The one that caused the most excitement is "A Star is Born," Bradley Cooper's directorial debut. He also co-stars with Lady Gaga, who seems to create electricity wherever she goes.

Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga on Red Carpet - photo courtesy La Biennale di Venezia ASAC

Here is a review by Owen Gleiberman of Variety:

 “A Star Is Born” is that thing we always yearn for but so rarely get to see: a transcendent Hollywood movie. It’s the fourth remake of a story that dates back to 1932, but this one has a look and vibe all its own — rapturous and swooning, but also delicate and intimate and luminous.

I had the chance to have a long conversation with Gleiberman while we were standing in line waiting to screen "American Dharma," Errol Morris's documentary about the controversial Steve Bannon. Gleiberman is the chief film critic for Variety, the Hollywood global media company whose yearly party at the Hotel Danieli on the eve of the opening of the Venice Film Festival has become a tradition.

Gleiberman has some fascinating insights into the world at large, not just film, so if you are looking for a critic with pizzazz, read Owen. To me, he writes like a novelist.

The Favorite - Fox Searchlight
So far, my favorite film is "The Favourite," by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, and starring a female triumvirate of Emma Stone (the only American), Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz. Set at the beginning of the 18th Century during the reign of Queen Anne, Lanthimos captured the machinations and schemes that a particular brand of women perpetrate upon each other to claw their way into positions of power. And yes, there are lesbian love scenes, but so seamless and integral to the story that you aren't jarred out of the film, as is often the case in the hands of less skillful directors.

Here's a review by Michael Nordine from IndieWire:

The Favourite” feels like a crowning achievement: a royal period piece led by the majestic triumvirate of Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz in which the emperor has no clothes, duck races are the go-to entertainment, and loyalty is as strange a concept as a new-world fruit called a pineapple.

Cat Bauer in the Campari Lounge at the Venice Film Festival 2018
Cat Bauer in the Campari Lounge

A terrific new addition to the Venice Film Festival has been having Campari as a sponsor, who have a pop-up lounge, complete with terrace where journalists can relax and enjoy a beverage. Sipping a Campari spritz is one of my favorite things to do in the evening, and Campari red is such a vibrant color, and the terrace has a terrific view, so I like to make a pit-stop at the lounge whenever I'm in the area, which has not been often enough!

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

LIVE! From the 75th Venice Film Festival - Waiting for the Stars

Waiting for the Stars at the Venice Film Festival - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) There is an embargo until 8:30 tonight against writing anything about Damien Chazelle's world premiere "First Man" starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. However, I don't think I'll be giving anything away to reveal that when a journalist asked Gosling if he thought the moon walk was America's greatest moment, Gosling replied, "I'm Canadian." 

I wandered around and took some shots of the crowd waiting outside the red carpet, even though no stars were scheduled to appear for hours, and it was hot. I wondered, who are these people, anyway, and how long have they been here? I found three girls with front row seats, sitting with their backs against the white barrier separating the public from the red carpet. They had written their names there to reserve their spaces, though they were not in their proper places when I spoke to them.

Elena, Ale & Silvia - waiting for the stars
Elena, Alessandra (Ale) and Silvia had been parked outside the barrier since 5:00 A.M. They were waiting for Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle, who would not appear until about 14 hours later. 

Elena is 21-years-old and is from Mestre, the town right outside Venice. Ale, 27, is from Florence, and came up by train. Silvia is 18, and from Padua.

It turned out that this is a yearly reunion, and the girls have been on red carpet-duty for the five years now. In fact, they met five years ago waiting outside the red carpet. I said, "Wait a second. Silvia, that means you were 13-years-old. How did you get here?" That's when it was revealed that in addition to her home in Padua, Silvia's family also has a house on the Lido.

Ale, the oldest, had her first red carpet adventure at the 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009, which I remember very well; it was the year that Sam Maoz's "Lebanon" won the Golden Lion, and George Clooney starred in "The Men Who Stare at Goats." So, Ale was only 18-years-old herself when she began her red carpet brigade. The girls are strategically positioned, experienced and congenial -- real red-carpet pros.

I asked them if they would wait for Lady Gaga on Friday, and Elena and Ale said no. They said they thought that Lady Gaga was a great performer, and respected her talent, but they weren't big fans. Silvia, since she had her house on Lido, would wait, but was more interested in Bradley Cooper (as were they all) who directed and stars with Gaga in "A Star is Born."

Other young people drifted by and said hello; it was a festive atmosphere, sort of like a weekend outdoor concert where the attendees stake out their space, and then come and go, counting on the community to keep an eye on their stuff, which included backpacks, umbrellas to block the sun and ladders to get a better shot. 

Guillermo del Toro Venice Film Festival
Hours later, I watched the red carpet arrivals on the screen inside the press room, and it seemed that the girls got autographs and/or and selfies of Guillermo del Toro, the president of the jury, but not of  their heartthrob Ryan Gosling, who was told too soon that time was up. The fans loudly protested, and Gosling broke free of his handlers for a few more quick autographs, but was quickly escorted back to his place with the rest of the cast. Damien Chazelle, who was there with his wife, Olivia Hamilton, did not sign autographs at all. 

"First Man" - Jason Clarke, Olivia Hamilton, Damien Chazelle, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy
At least the girls got some prime red carpet images for their Instagrams...

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Equilibrio: LINDA KARSHAN - "Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation" at the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice

From Equilibrio by Linda Karshan - Choir of San Giorgio Maggiore - Photo Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) If you title an exhibition, Equilibrio, with a subtitle of Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation, and the venue is the Benedictine Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, designed by Palladio, you will be sure to catch my attention. It was not what I expected.

American artist Linda Karshan says that she is "after the most perfect line," and that she feels like the Vitruvian Man. The artist will be 71-years-old next month, but has the looks and energy of someone 20 years younger.

There is a famous story about the great artist Giotto. Back in the 13th century, Pope Boniface VIII wanted to embellish Saint Peter's Basilica, so he sent out a messenger whose mission it was to find the best painter in Italy, and bring back samples of their work. When the messenger got to Giotto, the artist balanced himself, and positioning his arm liken a compass, drew the perfect circle with one stroke, using red paint. He got the job.  

Linda Karshan sort of works like that, except she is interested in lines. She is left-handed, but uses her right hand to draw lines, after raising her left leg and balancing on the point of her pencil. Unlike Giotto, there are no circles on display, nor human figures lurking behind the line.

Linda Karshan at work
Equilibrio is the product of the artist and three diverse curators, a spiritual collaboration born from art, religion and culture. Linda, who is Jewish, was born in Minnesota, lives in London, and has a house with a pond in Connecticut. She was educated at Skidmore College, the Sorbonne, the Slade School of Art, and has a Masters in Humanistic Psychology from Antioch Centre for British Studies. Richard Davey, who wrote the essays, has a PhD in Theology and Contemporary Art, and is the Anglican Chaplain at Nottingham Trent University. Elisabetta Bresciani studied art history, archaeology and philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, the University of Vienna and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Brescia, and is a cultural anthropologist. Carmelo Grasso graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, Milan and is the director of the non-profit Benedicti Claustra Onlus organization of the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore, which preserves and promotes their treasures.

From Equilbrio by Linda Karshan - Photo: Cat Bauer

Linda Karshan states: "Due to the enduring power, and allure of Euclidian forms as embodied in my work, Elisabetta Bresciani and the Rev. Dr. Richard Davey conceived of this exhibition and the city in which it should take place, developing it into the project it has become. Dr. Carmelo Grasso and the Abbot Norbert Villa then took up and shared their vision and have deemed my art worthy of the sacred space of San Giorgio Maggiore Abbey. I am immensely grateful to them all."

Geometric tiles - San Giorgio Maggiore & the Venice lagoon - Photo: Cat Bauer

From the text by Richard Davey:

"When the American artist Linda Karshan first stepped off the water bus at San Giorgio Maggiore, walked across the geometric tiles of the sagrato and into the spacious interior of  Andrea Palladio's Basilica, she immediately felt at home. The ubiquitous presence of water was deeply familiar to Karshan, who had grown up in Minnesota, the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes,' and still swims regularly in the natural pond at her Connecticut home. What she recognised in Venetian art and architecture was the same diaphanous and playful quality of light and sense of continuous movement she had known since her youth. But it wasn't just the proximity of water that struck a chord. Everywhere she looked she also found examples of sacred geometry: in floor tiles, woodwork, stonework and the Abbey's illuminated manuscripts. Here were the same Euclidean angles and patterns that have defined her work since the mid 1990s, the familiar play between two and three dimensions, form and formlessness that take us from the realms of the physical into the metaphysical. 

Equilibrio: Linda Karshan -- Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation celebrates these resonances. It brings together works from different centuries and created in very different circumstances to make connections that will help us discover the qualities of a distinctively Venetian sacred geometry: The Venetian 'disegno' that underlies Venetian 'colore.'"

Tintoretto's Last Supper & High Altar - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Equilibrio exhibition and its accompanying text weave a story between the ancient sacred geometric elements of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and the contemporary work of Linda Karshan -- the church itself is part of the exhibition with its geometric tiles, woodwork, stonework and Tintoretto's Last Supper incorporated into the text. One of the Abbey's monumental illumined choir books commissioned at the turn of the 15th century is on display, an 'Antiphonal' call and response that Davey relates to Karshan's method of working. The exhibition includes a short film, Movements and their Images, by Candida Richardson showing the artist at work, which should be watched in its entirety before viewing the drawings. To fully appreciate the aim of the exhibition, an illustrated book with text by the curators is available for purchase from the Abbey or Beam Editions.

Antiphonal Choir Book - Photo: Cat Bauer

Richard Davey writes:

"We can look for signs of geometric perfection in the stones of Venice, but more often what we discover is what we find in Karshan's drawings: angles that look right, lines measured by breath and measurements made by rule of thumb. We see wobbles, slips and deviations; moments of unsteady balance and bold gestures of great assurance. We see unevenness and irregularity, things off centre and not quite true, adapted to the seam of the stone of the level of the land rather than the angle of the set-square. For this is a sacred geometry that is not defined by a divine ideal or an adherence to Minimalist anonymity, but made by a human being teetering on the water's edge, standing upright whilst constantly adjusting their balance; their presence revealed on the page, declaring -- the artist's hand was here."

Linda Karshan - Photo: Cat Bauer
Equilibrio: Linda Karshan -- Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation  at the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore runs from August 26 to October 7, 2018.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog