08 March 2021

Monday! a day for Piero della Francesca!


I can never get enough of Piero.

They say (some idiot back in the day) that all roads lead back to Rome, well, in the world of Painting, all pictures lead us back to Arezzo, and Piero della Francesca. 

I believe somehow that there is enough in his work to please everyone, everyone who is genuinely interested in Art, even Post-Modernists, maybe just. 

I took these close-ups at the National Gallery, a place where I usually spend all day when in London. Just in these few details reveals a hidden world of something quite sacred, but in a sensual way, a pleasurable way, something so fleetingly sweet that few of us are allowed to remember it, even if we have experienced it.

It's as we have been given a peek of a perfect dream world to which we are forbidden access. And if it does indeed exist, it's just not for us.... or is it? 

It reminds me of what some people say about being around the Uber Rich, sleeping aboard a Gulfstream above the Atlantic, sunning oneself on a private yacht the size of baseball diamonds; 'If the poor knew what they were missing, there would be blood in the streets'. 

But in the end, we all hear about the lives led by the Rich, no matter how much money one has, one still has to face one's ageing body, and also, most of the time, in tandem, a decayed mind as well. So they say, anyway.

But this dream paradise which Piero offers up to us has nothing to do with material wealth even though social scientists might disagree. 

Non! Piero offers us something different, even more extraordinary; He opens up a window of light and the possibility for real joy on this earth. He offers up an interruption of our own jaded sense of importance, preventing us from being in this present moment, eternally. 

And yes, these are white women from a European aristocratic culture (though in truth Italians almost always on the darker side) These women seem to resemble women of the North, in fact. But all that does not mean that its vision is not universal. He illustrates for us a kind of spirituality, but a secular one for all. If I remember correctly, the three women above are the Three Muses, maybe not.

But I am not just speaking of the content, though it is extraordinary. As a painter I am speaking of the sheer joy in the painting. 

In these works, I am always astounded by the colour, colours which have been seeped in light, bathed and pampered in it. Handled with great care like a newborn, this colourful luminosity had never before seen the light of day. No one had ever painted like Piero, before him, or since.  And one had to wait until Cézanne to witness again something similar to this effervescent light.

I approach him not as a professor nor as an historian, but thankfully just as a painter. His frescoes are not to be understood in a book or indeed lectured about, or locked up in a museum, but to be seen and grasped in our own work as painters of the 21 century. Piero asks questions of us, demands that we attempt answers to them. 

How does one construct a picture? How do colours work together to create harmony, and why is this necessary? Can we live without it? What is Light in a painting? And is Light the same as Luminosity? How do we see these pictures, lodge them in our memory, then take them home with us? As painters, what do we then learn from them?

Is all his delicious work just a remnant of a distant past and disconnected from our world of today? Personally, I see the future of Painting in it. 

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