Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Legato at Cassino

"It's the paintbrush versus the gun as the biggest ever collection of New Zealand art in Italy prompts the question: Can art change the world?"

Legato at Cassino from Nicola Blackmore on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Photos from Legato

Thanks to photographer Derek Bunn for these images.
Avv. Beniamino Papa (Assessore alla cultura Comune di Cassino), Kay de Lautour (organiser and curator of Legato), and Margherita Giampietri (exhibitor and translator).

Sophia Elise (exhibitor and New Zealand liaison) at the exhibition with Kay de Lautour, organiser and curator of Legato.

A glimpse into a corner of the exhibition.

The end of a very long day!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A Different Approach to Colour

The moment you step into the room you register, either consciously or unconsciously, that this in an unusual exhibition in this part of Italy. The works are modern, colourful and diverse, despite being linked by a common theme. Although sombre and serious in message, they somehow combine to form a colourful and deceptively light-hearted show that has a distinctly New Zealand flavour.

Sculpture (below) "Siamo morti, per cosa?" by Dave Fowell.

The exhibition is up to version three, with fairly major changes in placement as new works arrive. All works get their day under the spotlight, but some of the earlier arrivals are now on display in the entrance foyer to make room for new arrivals under the lights. (The choice of being under the chandelier or under the exhibition lights is not a bad one, really!) These photographs are not in any particular order, nor do they show all the works on display.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Splinters in Fingers.

The final "official" part of the proceedings is over. Gifts have been presented to dignitaries. Long speeches have been delivered, translated and applauded. Official delegations from various countries involved in this week's Cassino commemorations have been lead through Legato. It's been a long week, and it's still only Wednesday here.

The New Zealand Embassy put on a nibbles-and-drinks reception on Monday night, at which most of the artists said their goodbyes and travelled on to sightseeing further south.

The exhibition, however, is still a work in progress. Paintings are still arriving, hanging issues are being tweaked, and updated price lists and artist details have been delivered to the venue. Everyone left here is quietly exhausted.

I have many more films to make, but this post will have to serve while the web-watchers are waiting for video. I'm the odd observer here; the one that makes the coffee, cleans the towels, buys toilet paper for the venue. I'm also a video journalist rather than an artist, and as I've talked to the participants I've gained an overall view of what's been happening.

Opinions, predictably for a large group, are divided. Some love where they've been placed, others are not as happy. Some are motivated solely by the promotion of peace, others are understandably desperate to sell to cover the costs of the trip. Some are glad and grateful to be here, others are home-sick, travel-sick or simply sick of Italian food.

There's a lot of culture shock, in both directions. It's not just the language, it's the way things happen here. We're in Southern Italy, where people don't drink without food, where tradesmen don't always turn up when they say they will. Some cultural mores are easy to adapt to: Italians flirt constantly and everyone enjoys the game of making each other feel wanted and happy. Artists have been adopted by various local families and over-fed with attention and regional food. But local political ructions impacted on the opening night, with the Italian invitations going out late and with the wrong time on them.

The good news is that the exhibition is busy despite this. The works are hung in the Italian way, with names and prices in a folder on the desk rather than by the art. People frequenting the cafe next door are spreading the word, and regular fixtures within the exhibition room and adjacent library means the eyeball count for the days so far is pretty good. It doesn't really matter if artists are focussed on profit or peace, both aims are served well by a busy exhibition with an impressive visual impact.

As for those still spending hours on the phone to customs or manning the exhibition, the view with the most impact is the inside of their eyelids...

Monday, 17 May 2010

20-something hands make light work...

Under way...

Cassino is now host to not just 30 or so tired New Zealanders but the Legato exhibition, open and in full swing. Many of the artworks are strongly New Zealand, and it sometimes seems wierd to see them hung in an Italian way, with no names and a discreet book of information at the desk. It's also very Italian to wander through after a coffee in the bar beside us, inspecting every work carefully before coming back with friends. Legato is establishing itself as an event to pay attention to.

In a few hours there will be the promised video report on the opening day. We will also be posting photos of the exhibition as and when they come in. For now, it's off to the ceremony at the Commonwealth war graves in Cassino, followed by a visit to the exhibition by the NZ Ambassador to Rome. The day concludes with a reception hosted by the New Zealand Embassy.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Kiwi Invasion

The Commander-in-Chief of this army of peace has given the job of blog to a lesser ranked communications officer. I'm Nicola, the videographer for the Legato exhibition, and on the eve of the opening I've taken over the writing of this blog. Please excuse the change of style. Kay is currently lost under lists of things to do and only the scent of tea or the sound of a cell-phone brings her to the surface.

Over the last few days the pace has changed from hectic to chaotic as wave after wave of kiwi artists (lugging tubes of rolled canvas and oddly shaped parcels) sweep into the small Italian village of Roccasecca. It's a bit ironic that an exhibition promoting peace has prompted such tumult and noise. "Legato" is demonstrating that peace can be a state of delight and laughter, not just calm. It is also showing that there is room for lofty ideas and philosophical chat alongside the mundane minutae of bedding, brackets and bolts, or breakfast in a foreign place.

By tomorrow night (Italian time) the artworks will be in place, the opening party will have started and those lucky enough to be here will be able to view the culmination of a huge amount of effort from many many people, all working towards the common goal of world peace and remembrance. We wish you were here to enjoy it too.

For those that couldn't make the trip I am hoping to have video highlights throughout the course of the exhibition available online, so keep checking this blog for updates.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Latest NZ Press Release

Organiser Kay de Lautour preparing for the NZ art exhibition in Cassino, Italy, this weekend.

Emotions of about 40 NZ artists appear on canvas at the big exhibition in Italy to mark Kiwi involvement in Battle of Cassino
By Word of Mouth Media NZ

The biggest Kiwi art exhibition in Italy and one of the most moving NZ art events overseas opens at Cassino in Italy on Saturday.

The event will be held at Cassino on May 15-29 to commemorate New Zealand’s involvement in the Battle of Cassino there 66 years ago.

Kiwi artists who have a connection with soldiers who fought in Cassino make up most of the entries. Italian-based Kiwi organiser Kay de Lautour Scott said it was their "busy time" of the year in Cassino with veterans groups, commemoration services and unveiling of new memorials.

The NZ art exhibition has attracted substantial interest in Italy and will be held in Cassino’s public library with a formal gala opening on Saturday. Many of the artists are depicting links between New Zealand and Italy, featuring their fallen relatives and other connections to the battle.

De Lautour Scott said works range from showing the destruction and horror of war (Merv Appleton of Auckland and Ronda Turk of Levin) to the tranquillity of the peace rose (Jenny Bennett of Whangarei).

Works by Italian born artists (now living in NZ) Margherita Giampietri (Whitianga)and Francesca Gallo (Auckland) reflect childhood memories and culturally integrated themes.

''American-based Sarah Scott's portraits have a challenging poignancy, showing the personal tragedy of war while the paintings by Chrissy Brook (Christchurch) and Rachel Olsen (Whitianga) bring a rich New Zealand flavour to the exhibition. Susan Edge (Waipu) has produced four works bringing a different perspective to the history she has explored.

Ann Fletcher (Opotiki) offers a space for contemplation in a delicately woven pencil work, while Frances Rookes (Taranaki) uses a genuine army blanket in her 3 dimensional textile and wire art. Eleanor Wright's (Auckland) delicate charcoals include a portrait of her grandfather in uniform.

It is evident that a lot of research has been done, and veterans have contributed to the stories being told in paint, glass, photography and sculpture. Other works are being sent over for display in Italy to bring a sense of closure to families and veterans.’’

About a dozen artists head to Cassino this weekend for the exhibition opening. Most of the contributing artists had grandparents, uncles and relatives who fought in World War Two, or who fought in Italy and some had parents, grandparents and uncles who were at the Battle of Cassino.

Artists taking part are from Patea, Christchurch, Upper Hutt, Waipu, Whitianga, the USA, Italy, Auckland, Mt Maunganui, Napier, Opotiki, Orewa, South Otago, Whangarei, Levin, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Oban, Pokeno and Wellington.

The NZ Ambassador to Rome Laurie Markes will tour the exhibition on May 17. The event has been organised by de Lautour in Cassino and NZ Art Guild manager Sophia Elise (in Auckland) without charging for any of their services.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Facing Realities

This acrylic work, "Puzzled" by Margherita Giampietri, adds to the diversity of ideas that will be portrayed in Legato. There are almost as many different approaches to the themes of peace and commemoration as there are artists involved. The art is selecting itself into groups, or, as I prefer to see it, puts itself into imaginary "rooms" as different genres, colours and themes begin to emerge.

In the painting above Margherita refers to her father's confusion about the need for war. Please click on this post for more details in English.

Margherita writes:

Sono cresciuta con i racconti del tempo di guerra: facevano da corona ai lunghi pranzi natalizi e pasquali. Quando i "grandi" iniziavano a ricordare io riemergevo da sotto il tavolo dove mi nascondevo dopo gli antipasti, per evitare di mangiare. Noi bimbi conoscevamo gia' tutte le storie, ma non ci stancavamo mai di riascoltarle. Erano storie tristi, drammatiche, piene di dolore in cui a volte c'era la vena comica di chi sa di aver scampato la morte. Probabilmente non ce le hanno mai raccontate tutte.

Mio padre, Alfeo Giampietri, era Sottufficiale di Macchina a bordo dell' "Augusto Riboty ". Aveva 20 anni quando scoppio' la guerra.

Fu ferito gravemente durante un bombardamento a Trapani nel 1943, mentre era in libera uscita con due amici. Rimase sepolto sotto le macerie per due giorni ascoltando i lamenti dei suoi amici che morivano e invocavano la mamma...aspettando il suo turno. Fu fortunato, lo trovarono, lo estrassero dalle macerie, subi' un'operazione per ricostruirgli una gamba e infine lo mandarono a casa in convalescenza.

Non era finita: fu rastrellato dai tedeschi ( sulla linea Gotica) assieme a suo padre Giuseppe, i miei zii, parenti e tutti gli altri uomini del paese, per rappresaglia dopo il cambio di bandiera fatto dagli italiani, e spedito in Germania. Alla fine della guerra passo' nelle mani dei Russi che dopo un po' di tempo li lasciarono liberi. Rientrarono in Italia a piedi e con mezzi di fortuna.

La mia pittura e' semplice, disegno col pennello, ma cerco di rappresentare le emozioni che i racconti di guerra mi hanno instillato fin da bambina:

"PUZZLED" (Acrilico) e' un gioco di parole: e' un "puzzle" di volti di giovani uomini che si trovano, loro malgrado, a incrociare e incastrare la vita gli uni con gli altri, alcuni sono vivi altri non piu', ma "puzzled" in inglese significa stupito, disorientato, perplesso. E' dedicato a mio padre ed ai giovani costretti a combattere.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Forever Connected

Chrissy Brook, che attualmente vive a Christchurch, dipinge da circa dieci anni esibendo i suoi lavori un po' in tutta la Nuova Zelanda. Il suo metodo preferito e' nell'uso di colori forti e tessiture. E' stata istruita per cinque anni dall'artista di Canterbury Robert McDowell, da cui tutt'ora segue lezioni ogni sabato presso il suo studio.

Chrissy usa spesso motivi artistici Maori che riflettono il suo background culturale. La tribu' a cui appartiene si chiamano Ngai Tahu e Te Atiawa. Suo padre Syd Mansbridge era membro del secondo battaglione neo zelandese, del 6^ Reggimento di Artiglieria, 48 ^Batteria, Don Troop, e fu di stazionamento a Cassino durante la seconda guerra.

Ha partecipato al 60^ anniversario della battaglia celebrata a Cassino nel 2004.
L'opera realizzata per questa mostra rappresenta la connessione che ancora oggi esiste tra le famiglie dei veterani e la comunita' di Cassino. La forma di un koru a Monte Cassino rappresenta un giovane uomo che ha perso la vita in quella battaglia e che per sempre e' rimasto in Italia, mentre il koru raffigurato nel cielo rappresenta il giovane uomo che e' tornato a casa alla pace e alla liberta'. Le parole sono prese da una lettera che il padre di Chrissy spedi' alla madre durante la guerra. Si sposarono nel 1946 e celebreranno il loro 60 esimo anniversario in Giugno, quindi giorni piu' felici li attendono in futuro.

“E' un onore prendere parte a questa mostra come tributo a mio padre, ai suoi compagni e al popolo di Cassino”

Chrissy Brook, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been painting for ten years and has exhibited throughout New Zealand. She enjoys the use of bold colours and textures. She has been tutored by leading Canterbury artist Robert McDowell for five years and still attends his studio every Saturday morning.

Chrissy often uses Maori motifs in her works which reflect her cultural heritage. Her iwi are Ngai Tahu and Te Atiawa. Chrissy's father, Syd Mansbridge, who was a member the 2nd NZEF, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 48 Battery, Don Troop, was stationed at Cassino during world war 2. He attended the 60th anniversary celebrations at Cassino in 2004.

The painting represents the connection, which still exists today, between the families of veterans and the community of Cassino. The koru shapes in Monte Cassino represent the young men who died there and will remain forever a part of Italy while the koru in the sky above the mountains of New Zealand represent the young men who came home to peace and freedom. The writing is taken from a letter sent by Chrissy's father to her mother during the war. They were married in 1946 and will be celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary in June - so there certainly were happier days ahead! "It is an honour to be able to be part of this exhibition as a tribute to my dad, his comrades and the people of Cassino."

Monday, 3 May 2010

A Way with Words

Auckland based Christian artist Theresa Cashmore began her career in Graphic Design, and she worked in that field for many years. Her most internationally recognized design work is the logo for the Rugby World Cup. Her paintings almost invariably contain text, and her work for Legato is no exception.

Painting above: "Remember", acrylic on canvas with 23ct gold leaf.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Diverse Works Resonate in this Village

Works (and text in italics) by Helen Moore, glass artist.A Winged heart between body and soul
Flying for the love of God on wings of joy
Breaking free from the chains and barbed wire bullets
To the calm of the heaven blue beyond.

This piece is called the Tell Tale Heart, because when you look at all the symbolism that makes up each element it speaks for itself.
The heart is love, white is the colour of mourning purity and life. The poppy is the symbol of sacrifice, death, resurrection after death and renewal of life. Barbed wire is the graphic image of captivity, political violence and death. It is a wall without being a wall and it magnifies the distinction between inside and outside.


When Sophia Elise of the New Zealand Art Guild accepted my invitation to join this project I was still thinking in terms of paintings. The logistics of transporting and displaying other works was in my "too hard" basket. I hadn't really thought about the extent of the networking of the NZ Art Guild, thinking only that Sophia seemed to be very effective at getting things happening for good causes. Soon I was getting emails asking if 3D art, glass art and sculpture was suitable. I wrote back asking for the stories connecting these artists to Cassino.

If there is one thing that I have come to believe in recent years, it is that anything is possible. Having read the stories, cried through the emails, and thought about the exhibition and the artists, I said "Yes, we will find a way". So, above you see a handmade lampworked glass heart, wrapped in Sterling Silver wire, and handmade lampworked glass beads, combined with hand sewn glass seed beads. (The artist had no way of knowing that around my house is barbed wire left when my house was a fortified German bunker and supply depot, or that the post-war stories for the family in this home were tragic ones).

I am amazed at the range of works coming together in Italy - but mostly I am thrilled at how the New Zealand media has taken the project to heart and made it possible for veterans and artists to connect. The shared stories and the family histories that are emerging, then merging in the artwork, are a part of what makes us a nation. We are only four million people, and with the support of the media connection is so much easier. Legato is a vehicle for communication, before anything else.