Thursday, July 08, 2004

July 4

Siena

We spent the morning walking through the town and visiting the baptistry of the duomo. The town square is a magical place. There is something at work in the curve of the ground which focuses the sense of space, a focus added to by the rounded line of buildings on the uphill semicircular perimeter. It feels like an ancient place of worship, or a place for primeval theater.

The baptistry contained, among other wonderful things, what I think was a font with small bronzes and bas-reliefs of incredible wonder, especially those by Ghiberti and Donatello. There was a moment as I looked at the relief by Donatello (I think) that shows the presentation of John the Baptist's head at the table, when I realized that the limited use of the third dimension of space was being combined with illusionistic perspective lines as in a two dimensional painting or drawing. Suddenly the dual effect came together for me and the space "pulled back," creating a kind of magical miniature theater. It occurred to me that these were not two dimensional, not three dimensional, but works in two-and-a-half dimensions. I said this to Serge and he replied that Greg Wyatt had told him exactly the same thing in the same words.

In the afternoon I tried to paint a city-scape on the new boards I bought at Zecchi. The material was very unfamiliar and I made a mess out of it, although rubbing the painting out in the end showed me an interesting effect. Maybe I can use this the next time I try one. After that, disheartened and exhausted, I retreated to drawing and spent the last three hours in a small, somewhat abstract rendering of a city hillside. I was totally exhausted on the train ride home, which was interminable and had the worst seats I have ever sat in.

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