- Arts and Design
Ticino, Switzerland: "Reflections of Ticino"
"Reflections of Ticino"
"Reflection of Ticino" is a series, or collection of paintings, that are focused only on the theme of reflections. The collection consists of 9 paintings. Each painting is an interpretation of a reflection, and each reflection is an image captured in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, Ticino.
In this article, I will be sharing my journey through the making of this collection. You will discover my sources of inspiration, the making of each painting, and how my "nous," my perception of the world, led me to express each image as one unique entity.
Sources of inspiration:
Switzerland is known for its beautiful mountains, lakes, and let's not forget, its amazing Swiss knives, watches, and chocolates. However, that's not all I associate Switzerland with.
Ticino, Switzerland, is what I call home now. I've been living 3 happy years here. I thought I knew my region pretty well, till that one day I discovered another side of Ticino. A Ticino readily seen by tourists and full time residents alike; the source of inspiration for my collection: "Reflections of Ticino."
I can no longer count the number of times I have visited the city of Bellinzona, Switzerland. The city is famous for its three castles: Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbado. I have no favorite spot in the city, but almost always I visit at least one of these castles. Castelgrande is right in the center of the city, and it is easy to access. Through shoulder season and during the summer, the castle is jam packed with tourists busily trying to catch an image of the castle and the city.
It was during one hot Spring day that, while trying to evade the crowd on the Castelgrande, I decided to enter the passage underneath the castle. On that dark tunnel, that afternoon, I discovered what would be the first image (picture to the right) that gave rise to the creation of the three series paintings titled: "Bellinzona." I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw such beautiful reflections on the wall of the tunnel. They were reflections of the city coming into ventilation openings. I was drawn to their texture and vivid colours.
San Benardino was my next source of inspiration. San Benardino is not in canton Ticino, but I have included it in the series because their main language is Italian, and because of its proximity to my area.
San Benardino is my favorite place to go to for romantics out-in-the-country walks. Its true beauty can be appreciated more during Autumn, when the canopy of the trees turn into a variety of reds and yellows. The painting: "San Benardino" is inspired by a reflection of the forest on the lake Isola (Lago d'Isola). This true amazing Alp's jewel had to be part of my series in "Reflections of Ticino."
I am so very lucky to live in the city of Ascona, hence, this town is my most memorable, and favorite city in the whole Ticino.
I knew, from the first time I walked through the stony passages of Ascona, that I didn't need to look too hard to find something inspiring in the city. The image that captivated me the most, however, was the one I saw one rainy Autumn morning. The stones of the pavement near Piazza Giuseppe, were still wet and reflecting a mixture of colours and patterns of its own stones and Asconese residents.
Locarno is another one of my favorite spots in the Ticino area, and that's because it feels bigger than the rest of the cities near by.
The first time I moved to the Ticino area, the Piazza Grande, was one of the first places I visited. I felt and imagined each building's history through their architectural structures and facades.
My dream to paint the Piazza Grande became a reality through a reflection I spotted during the days of "Locarno on ice." I noticed that on the big disco ball, hanging in the middle of the ice ring, you could see the entire plaza all distorted into tiny little squares. I felt in love with this image straight away.
My last and second series: "Locarno," consists of 3 paintings all of floating boats, or silhouettes. They were also inspired by images I had gathered from the reflections of small boats on the Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore).
Laggo Maggiore is basically my biggest source of inspiration! The series "Locarno," are paintings of reflections of boats I've seen on my walks along the promenade of Locarno/Muralto/Minusio/Tenero. My favorite reflection on water comes from the port of Ascona. A lonely tree at the end of the port has captivated me ever since I've lived here. The only and one tree on a peninsula of its own. It is such a treat to sit on one of the two benches next to this tree.
The making of each painting:
Materials and techniques:
All my paintings are oil paint based, and all of my canvases are made out of cotton. The frames are made out of wood, treated with normal black paint. They are large, and square sheets of wood mounted straight against the canvases. This type of framing does not allow for distortion of canvases through time.
I must confess that this is my first time using oil paints. I have only used acrylic paints in all my previous works. The differences in working with oil paint and acrylics was frustrating, and overwhelming at times. At some point, with certainty, at the beginning of this journey, I thought of shredding the canvas I was working on, and start new with acrylics. For me, oil paints require more devotion, and more care. The end results from working with oil paint are, of course, more satisfying.
I must also say that after 9 oil paintings, I have mastered well, what I call: the smooth brush stroke, all using just paint brushes. I didn't use knives, or any other tool to create any of the paintings in this collection. The little texture you see, has been created by this method called, layering. That is, adding coats on coats till you see a rich texture.
Some of my NOUS in my paintings:
The "Bellinzona" series is composed of 3, 1m x 1m panels. The first panel, or first painting, depicts a number of small buildings, churches, and houses. The second panel, has medium to larger buildings, churches, and houses. The last panel, or painting, only has big houses and churches. When put together, they create the illusion of distance: the farthest away the bigger the reflections get.
At first, I wanted to recreate the exact same image I saw, point blank. I had falling in love with the reflection the way it was and I didn't think it was necessary to modify it. Then I thought that duplicating the exact same image was pointless and soulless. Pointless, because my camera had already replicated the image, and soulless, because a replication of it, wouldn't show any personal interpretation.
As I stood facing the emptied 1m x 1m canvas, I decided I would contour only objects I remembered from the picture I had taken that day in the tunnel. From there on, I only used the picture as a guide: to help me place colours, contrasts, light, and texture. As for the buildings, well, I still haven't found anyone who can see what I see in each reflection. Perhaps the turpentine helped me a lot with my imagination but most people who compare my painting with the reflection's picture, all ask: "how or where do you see these churches and houses?"
"San Benardino," wasn't an easy piece of art to express, nor to work with. I myself find it hard to compete with nature's artistic abilities. No one can paint the sky as beautiful as does itself, for example. I find that hardly any one can stand up to such a challenge, to surpass nature's beauty. The moment you try to catch it, let along imitate it, your work turns into "just another tacky landscape."
My painting "San Benardino," was just pure and simple, an interpretation of what I saw that day. I dared only to borrow the beauty of the image, but decided to intensify the contrasts and the bright colours of this reflection. This was the only way I could give tranquility to such vibrant painting.
As explained before, Ascona is a beautiful town, and I have no doubt in my mind, that it will be THE place that would give me more material to work on in the future.
I decided to paint the reflection, "Ascona," in its pure form. I took the challenge to be consistent with the real image of rocks and the reflection. Mother nature is the best painter in the world, but it does not always use my favorite colours! This is why I thought my painting would benefit from having more earthy tones, and more oranges/reds. The change in tones, as well as my imperfections, are two components that makes this painting unique.
"Eureka!" was the word that came to mind when I first saw the reflection of Piazza grande on the disco ball of the ice ring, during the days of "Locarno on ice."
My painting, "Piazza Grande," was the most difficult project in the entire collection. I wanted to recreate the effect of the disco ball on the image of piazza grande, so, I took no shortcut. I covered the surface of my 1m x 0.70m all in squares of different shades and colours. With each, I took the time to mix one colour with another, and restart the mixture for the square next to the one I had just finished.
The most difficult challenge was to change the ice ring into a field of pebbles (as the piazza grande normally is covered with gray stones). The pavement, as well as the balconies of the houses, were painted according to what I remembered of the piazza. Alas, with these changes and decisions I made throughout its making, I managed to interpret a new image of the Piazza Grande.
The "Locarno" series consists of 3, 1m x 0.50m paintings. It was a must do series, particularly when one is surrounded by lakes! The Lake Maggiore (lago Maggiore) and its boats caught my attention, way before I had the intention of making a collection of reflections in the Ticino area. I always imagined making black and white paintings of the reflections of the boats I saw along the promenade, "lungo lago,"
I remember having a vivid prototype of what these paintings should look like, from the sizes and shapes of the canvases, down to the type of frames I wanted to mount them on!
My first painting of this series came straight from my memory bank. I had seen the reflection of two boats on the lake one early morning, where the water was still, and the day was clear and bright. The reflection of these two boats were sitting still and their shapes were perfectly drawn on top of the water.
The second painting comes from a figure I saw yet another early morning. This time the fog had not dissipated and I was purposely hunting for boats on the lake. The presence of this lonely man moved me deeply. It didn't provoke me a sensation of loneliness, but of peace. I took one shot and felt content.
I traveled one more time through memory lane in order to make my third painting of the series "Locarno." If you will, I "made-up" the turbulence of the water, as well as its colours and shapes. Of the three paintings, I can say that this one was a creation of different memories combined into one image. This art work, is indeed 100% my own creation, as I had no photograph to relate it to.
Porto (port of Ascona)
Again, my favorite of the many reflections on the waters of Lago Maggiore. Oil paint on canvas, 1m x0.50m dimension. Painted mainly in white and black, with highlights of greens and blues. The little details make this painting look different from the other three paintings ("Locarno" series). Perhaps this is why it looks like I've painted it in yet another style.
"Reflections of Ticino."
"Reflection of Ticino" is a collection of paintings, inspired by reflections I have found in my daily life here in Ticino, Switzerland. Each painting is unique, and different from one another, just as the collection is different from other paintings of the area. They are representations of how I view my world, a moment in my life.
"No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose they are like himself"--John Steinbeck. I hope you have enjoyed my article, and most importantly, my collection: "Reflections of Ticino."
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Get out there and paint: - Reading material before going out:
Some learn by just doing, and some read before doing! I have integrated a list of books you may find useful. It is important to note: push the envelop and use these books as guidelines, not as rules
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