Tag Archives: Giotto

Not so Naif Art

One of the ongoing problems I have with exhibiting in public is the number of people who comment by saying “Oh! it’s naive work”. This is frustrating as they often have no idea what they are talking about and are missing the deliberate, subtle games the works play.

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Rousseau – Classic Naive Art

Naive art

So for those of you who profess to be Naive Art experts, here is a lesson on the established rules of Naif Art  and why my work defies or subverts these conventions.

Naïve art is simple, unaffected and unsophisticated – usually specifically refers to art made by artists who have had no formal training in an art school or academy“(taken from the Tate Gallery website).

The last part of the statement is the easiest to dismiss as I spent four years at art college and have a honours degree in the subject. Hardly a case of no formal training. I have studied, researched and practised the art of perspective, colour theory and composition since the age of five and have a complex understanding of the subject.

Naïve art is characterised by childlike simplicity of execution and vision.

MartiniDetail

Simone Martini town

As I live on the Umbrian/ Tuscan border in Italy I am surrounded by examples of High Byzantine, Gothic International and Early Renaissance works. These periods are characterised by a rediscovery of realism, perspective and naturalistic painting.

When depicting buildings, vegetation and landscapes the likes of Giotto, Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers played around in a simplistic way. Using these artists as inspiration my work demonstrates the same principles of draftsmanship in my renderings of the Italian countryside.

 

neal-winfield-gubbio

Winfield – Gubbio

Breaking art rules

This requires a good knowledge of oblique projection, aerial perspective and an ability to interpret the Medieval mindset and style. You need to practice in order to look at a modern scene and visualise it as it would have been seen 700 years ago.

As a one-eyed and colour blind artist I naturally see things from a particular viewpoint. My world is flattened out, like a postcard and has colours that are incredibly muted. Therefore, I explore different ways of deliberately painting three dimensions in flat images. I choose to ignore linear perspective but give depth through overlap, size difference, aerial perspective and tonality.

MedievalDetail

Cannan – San Gimignano

Colour blind art

The tenants of Naive art state that colours are unrefined. Whilst my paintings are incredibly bright there is a logic to be had here. Now people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) have certain colours “washed out” from their vision. Knowing this and trying to give CVD viewers a better experience I deliberately use luminous hues and occasionally confuse colours.

For us, red/green, orange/green, pink/grey and the mystical purple are all colours we commonly mix up and we have to take great care when painting with them. Luckily they write the names of the colours on the tubes. Although, if I see a pink sky, why should I paint it grey just because that is the supposed colour.

watercolor Assisi

Winfield – Assisi

Colourful art

Despite what you might think of colour deficiency we do have some benefits and the sky, especially dawn, dusk and storm clouds give us wonderful experiences. The paintings often reproduce the types of dramatic skies I see with their pinks, purples and pale oranges. Don’t ask us about the two colour rainbow though, very lame, we’re not impressed with them.

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Winfield – IKEA Library

Behind the painting

The  composition uses the principles of golden mean proportions, where ratios and position are carefully calculated to give pleasing relationships. Hey! If it’s good enough for Mother Nature and Vermeer, it’s okay with me.

There are strong diagonals and the vanishing points are all placed so as to draw the eye to particular points. If you divide the pictures up into thirds or fifths you’ll see that certain landmarks and features are placed at these junctures.

If these works should be called anything then Gothic Nouveau, Bosso Nova Byzantine or Faux Early Renaissance would be more appropriate. However, it would be naive to think of them purely as Naif Art.

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Assisi – Home to Saints Francis, Ruffino and Clare

watercolor Assisi

Assisi – watercolour and ink, 35 cm x 70 cm. (For Sale)

This Assisi watercolour is a very busy painting filled with lots of detail and colour. Like the town itself, you can easily get lost looking at the buildings, alleyways and churches. The three major cathedrals of St Francis, St Ruffinus and St Clare are all prominently featured, as are five of the medieval gateways.

Dawn sky

DSCN7606The sky is a beautiful sun burst pattern, one commonly seen in the Umbrian dawn. While the picture is divided into three views by two trees, which depict the styles of Giotto and Simone Martini. Both of whose work can be seen in the magnificent Basilica di San Francesco.

Streets of AssisiDSCN7349

As you walk the streets, what strikes you most is the array of arched doorways and windows. The town is full of arches, some ancient ones, long blocked in, others leading to delicious restaurants and bars, while others lead you down interesting back alleys to new and captivating piazzas.

The International Gothic – A Break from Tradition

The International Gothic or Late Gothic art period covers the 13th – 14th centuries and came during a time of religious upheaval and political change. The Christian church was witnessing the growth of Protestantism with its new fangled ideas and the establishment of City States. These too had their own, personal, political agendas and particular allegiances. Very much like the world of today.

lorenzetti_street2The growth of the merchant class provided a challenge to the financial muscle of the church and Europe’s royalty.

These nouveau riche still wanted art on a more personal level but art that reflected their view of the world. It wasn’t  burdened by outdated dictate and accurately reflected the people of the times. The church’s ideals on how and what art should depict was being intellectually challenged. People wanted frescoes and paintings that illustrated real life. Therefore there was an increase in naturalistic imagery and the showing of everyday life.

Gothic art

Annunciation of Death of the Virgin_Siena,Museo dell opera del DuomoThe artists during this period spent their time rediscovering the ancient ways of showing nature. Perspective, foliage and realistic depiction were once again on the menu. Here current artists played their part in trying to understand how the Greeks and Romans set about doing this.

Suddenly it was possible to paint trees, water, buildings and furniture. Painters could populate their worlds with people and animals, fields and hills. But how?  It is interesting to see the artists development of perspective. Each creating strange views with multiple vanishing points, rooms with weird angles and impossible furniture scattered throughout the pictures.

Social painting

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽdaThese strange, other worlds, with their experiments at three dimensions provide a unique viewpoint into life during the Late Medieval period. They show the lives of the ordinary people in the fields alongside royalty.

You can see palaces, castles and cathedrals but also simple houses, barns and sheds. As much as you can see wars and battles there are farmers sowing crops and peasants tending sheep.

Artistic licence 

Giotto di Bondone, Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti brothers in Italy and  Conrad von Soest in Germany and the Limbourg brothers from France all played their part in developing the distinctive style of the International Gothic.

This break with the traditions of the Byzantine paved the way for what would become the greatest advances in art with the arrival of the Renaissance. The steps started by the International Gothic would flourish during the next period and set new standards in artistic representation.  However, I still find the exploration of the 13th and 14th centuries some of the most compelling works on view.

 

Red Green Intolerance in Tuscany

Tuscan landscape

Montecucco Tuscany
Watercolour and ink, 35 cm x 70 cm (Sold)

Paul and myself spent New Year in Tuscany discussing the relative merits of being red/green intolerant. We both have a red green dietary deficiency where these two colours are concerned and it was fun to talk over our relative experiences together. Tuscan sunsetTherefore this painting has several inconsistencies in his honour and serves as a celebration of all things colourfully alternative. Colour blindness isn’t something to worry about (unless you’re a pilot or electrician) but something to be celebrated and enjoyed. It’s just a different way of looking at the world. Or that’s my life long take on the issue. So this painting features a tree full of invisible, red berries, purple and pink clouds and an orange grassy hillside. All par for the course in the colour blind person’s daily routine. Who says we see the world through a mute palette?

Giotto and St Francis

Giotto’s Oak Tree

Paul is a tree surgeon, therefore it features many different styles of foliage and pays homage to the trees of Giotto and Gozzoli as found in their own representations of the landscape. What I loved most about this landscape was the gorgeous hill top villages scattered across the horizon. Castello Verdano, Amiata, Castelnuovo and Montenero are all clearly visible. Tuscany too, with its varied produce, fields of olive groves, orchards of fruit trees and endless vineyards. The landscape is a patchwork of crops.

Gozzoli painting

Gozzoli’s Procession

The little farmhouse at Montecucco most definitely has a wonderful view, set in peaceful, luscious surroundings.  If any Renaissance artists found themselves in the area today I’m sure it hasn’t changed that much over the centuries. Check it out for yourself.