Thursday, 18 October 2018

Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo
 (An All Male Dance Company)

Long Zou

The Troks kindly let me watch their rehearsals.  I have written a blog post about them before, you can find it here.   I might add a text to these drawings if I find the time!

Long Zou

Alberto Pretto

Alberto Pretto

Alberto Pretto

Alberto Pretto

Alberto Pretto

Alberto Pretto

Alberto Pretto

Boysie Dikobe

Boysie Dikobe

Duane Gosa

Duane Gosa

Josh Thake and Long Zou

Josh Thake

Kevin Garcia

Kevin Garcia

Long Zou

Long Zou

Long Zou

Long Zou

Long Zou

Long Zou

Long Zou

Long Zou

Raffaele Morra

Takaomi Yoshino

Takaomi Yoshino

Takaomi Yoshino

Takaomi Yoshino

Monday, 1 October 2018

Giuseppe 's Battered Rose

I have been in Naples by myself for a week; drawing, drawing, drawing.  I met so many interesting people and really had one of the happiest week's of my life.  Now I have to write a blog about the wonderful bohemian spirit of that battered, chaotic, kind and charming city.  It is so good to be alive!

My hotel was the cheapest I could find. It was a clean room with a little balcony that looked out over the Piazza Garibaldi where I once slept out as a student (1971) and was robbed of all my money.  In those days it was grassed, today it is a brutalised concrete slab.  Below there were hundreds of dispossessed African migrants that had set up a scratch market selling trinkets that nobody really wanted. At the far end of the square Giuseppe Garibaldi stands on a massive plinth looking across towards the modern glass façade of Naples station at the other end.  Giuseppe's back is towards the old city he would have recognised. At his feet there is a frieze where he is seen waving his hat whilst astride his steed as he leads his "ragamuffin army" of "redshirts" to victory against their oppressors.  

Giuseppe Garibaldi with his back to the old city

In fact history records Garibaldi arrived at Naples by train on 7 Sept 1860.  At that time he was the dictator of Sicily having gained his position by siding with the brutal landlords against the peasant uprisings.

Battle of Volturno
Three weeks later Garibaldi fought the superior Neapolitan army to a standstill at the Battle of Volturno and gained a tactical advantage. In  October 1860 a plebiscite sanctioned the end of the Kingdom of Sicily and the birth of a new Italian state; the United Kingdom of Italy. It took another seven years before Garibaldi unified the rest of Italy.

During my visit I never consulted a guidebook or map and never left a small area of Naples which I got to know intimately through drawing. Finding the old city was not as easy as I expected.  On the first morning I was soon lost, navigating my way through alleyways too narrow for a car. I saw scooters more dented and held together with more cellotape than my Honda Civic that everyone in Pembrokeshire points at and tells me needs cleaning.

At times I felt embarrassed to look through the doors into the pitiful poverty that opened on to the streets.  Many were one room apartments with a dilapidated bed and a table. 

Along the way a small girl was sitting on top of a scooter. 

As I made my first drawing, her mother edged herself next to her child.  She speaks no English but she smiles warmly. A group of curious residents gather to look and tell me my picture is "complementi".  There are no barriers to stop us.  The child is called Francesca and the mother gives me her email address. I tell her that when I get home I will send her a copy of the drawing. I hope she understands.

I have always loved Naples, however I am still a little nervous.  I have to find my space amongst these people.  I have to find my rhythm.  I have to build up a worthwhile library of images describing the city.  In a new city I usually warm up by picking unambitious subjects, such as this Eagle plinth on an old wall opposite a car park. 

Because I am nervous I spend far too much time making the drawing, but I score again; the car park attendant and his two friends who were lazily sitting in dusty chairs against the wall are really pleased.  They say my efforts are "complimenti".

The lovely architecture, the ornament fountains and the medieval landmarks have all been can-sprayed with graffiti.

No one cares about a bit a graffiti, we are blessed to sip the velvet tones of Italian coffee in this is a beautiful place. Even the strong rays of heat of the blazing sun become cool air that runs in draughts between high walls that corridor this beautiful city.  Life does not feel dirty amongst the litter and graffiti, it feels rich.  At last I find myself in amongst the hundreds and hundreds of small  shops of the "old city".  Small enterprises run by small people, not a single brand name to be seen.  For me this place is heavenly.

Claudia Grimaldi selling her pictures in Naples
I am still nervous.  I stick to untaxing subject matter.  I settle on making profiles and portraits of the passers by. There are the tattooed girls, a Petronella and a man with a clipped beard and bunned hair.

a man with a dog!

A girl sitting on stone steps,

girls with poney tails that drop over their shoulders,

 and girls with bushes of fuzzy hair

and girls with cigarettes and hair that cascade like mountain streams.

A child's face

and an old man.

A fat bar owner chatting with his wife,

a migrant moving from table to table selling cellotape

I only spoke with one migrant who came from Nigeria.  He told me he had been in Naples for fifteen months.  He liked the people and the city but had not been able to find a job.  He was waiting for his papers before moving north to Denmark. These people are not losers, they are determined to win even when the odds are stacked heavily against them. I regret not getting to meet more migrants.

I found a coffee bar in front of the transgender "Body of Naples", an ancient mascot of the old town.  The original sculpture depicted a goddess of the Nile suckling her children.  It got lost, broken and refound again in the 1400s.  During the renaissance they gave her a new bearded head and reinstated her as the old man of the Nile. 

All drawings are about time.  Sometimes they are fragmentary moments of time, other times they are about the permanence. In this drawing I added the people that had passed me by during the creation of the drawing.  The passers by became ghostly memories, the statue was permanent; an interesting metaphor of the city.

Memories of people passing the Old Man of the Nile

In the evening I find a small restaurant. The waiter sets up his motorbike for his two children to play on, as the evening progresses I get to meet and know Nancy and Lanzi.

Nancy and Lanzi

Rome has big squares with wide streets and big vistas.  The old city of Naples is medieval, most of its houses and piazzas were laid out in the early Renaissance.  Three of the squares are often dominated with huge wedding cake monuments that leave  little room for an artist to stand back. I am not an architectural artist and at first I hesitated to draw them.

This is the Obelisco dell'Immacolata which was the last of three great obelisks in the City. It was completed in 1750 and has an overall height, including the sculpture of he Virgin Mary, of  33m. It is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque sculpture in Naples.

Obelisco dell'Immacolata in the Piazza of Gesù Nuovo

I want to make some street scenes that capture the spirit of the place.  There are exotic medieval bell towers of all shapes and sizes.  This one has an onion dome and spans a river of people.

There are churches galore.  I am told there are a thousand churches in Naples

Looking own towards Nila Square
this is a view of Piazza del Gesu Nuovo

Piazza del Gesu Nuovo
The baroque interior of the Gesu Nuovo

In the Gesu Nuovo, a baroque church church off this square, I stand in a dark corner and watch an Indian-Italian Catholic wedding. 

Gioia with her father and brother


I cannot see the bride's face, but I can draw the little brides maid in her dress of blue.  Gioia vies for the attention of her father.  There are two brides maids.

Another little girl with a white hair band is fidgeting with a fan during the service.  She is an irresistible target

Perhaps a different girl

The church is full of Bollywood singing, Italian style and high Asian-Catholic theatre.  I follow them out at the end of the service, at last I can see the bride. They take photos, and then all come towards me and gather to see my drawings, we exchange email addresses before they scoot off in a fleet of limousines.

As I Wander back along the lane I am called by the sounds of the banging of a drum and songs of Puccini coming out of a cafe.  It is Pino, a Tanzanian Arab who greets me with a broad smile.  He tells me he once was a drug addict but today music is his drug. I buy his CD and we are are friends forever. (sorry mislaid the image)

A little further along the way more singing can be heard.  It comes from a beautiful woman with rivulets of black hair, bells on her ankles and a gypsy dress.  She calls herself a "zingerina" and is rocking with her accordion under a huge medieval arch decorated with satyrs and masks, against her back are the worn shiny surfaces of a white marble gargoyle as old as her songs.  She throws back her head and casts her eyes with smiling enticements across a wide scan of her gathering audience.  Her appearance says Carmen, her voice says raw Piaf passion. Her seductive glances reel in a little old lady who is passing, who approaches like fish caught on the end of a line.  She bends, their mooning faces attached with an invisable thread and they  sing a refrain "la boheme, la boheme".  The crowd dances ecstatically, disperses and regroups.

Maria was not the only one singing Neapolitan songs, a little down they way I found Ricardo with his tambourine.  Ricardo sings himself into a trance whilst his girlfriend, the inordinately pretty Priscilla, danced with castonettes.  Her beauty had caught me eye earlier as she sat giving her rapt attention as she drank Ricardos' music.

Priscilla is obsessed with beauty and knows her own.  But she is a generous hearted girl and open, she wants everyone to dance with her and her castonettes.  When she sees me she stops dancing, apologies profusely for not speaking any English and gives that same deep attention I saw her giving her boyfriend. This time her big almond eyes are asking that I make a drawing of her beauty.

I never found enough time to draw the churches.  I was told by one resident that there are a thousand churches in Naples, the biggest being the 14th century Duomo di Napoli. The the crypt of thsi cathedral the body of San Gennaro, a patron saint of Naples, have been united and interred.  

I could have spent days in this church. The magnificent altar window would have made a good subject.

In another part of the church I made this drawing of San Gennaro's shrine

One of many sculptures of San Gennaro

It just happened to be the 19 September, one of two days in the year when Pilgrims are allowed to witnessed the miraculous liquefaction of the blood of San Gennaro.  The blood is kept between two plates of glass a sealed silver ampoule.  Naples has become known as "the city of blood" after this ritual and there is a legend that if the blood fails to liquefy disaster will befall Naples.

A bishop was rolling the vial in the light and with a mellifluous voice explaining to a crowd of pilgrims how the dried blood in the vial had miraculously melted. 

He placed the ampoule on pilgrims foreheads and allowed them to kiss it.

Outside the church is another of their wedding cake pillars. The Spire of San Gennaro (1650)  was erected to celebrate the deliverance of the city from the great earthquake of 1631.

The Spire of San Gennaro (1650)
I spent a lovely few hours on the steps of the cathedral drawing.  A boy clambered over one of the lions that guard the main entrance

The lion outside the Duomo di Napoli
 I drew the children running in circles around their young mothers.

In Italy even the soldiers guarding the Duomo are chic

Every evening I retire to a different restaurant where I take a table with a good view and sit for hours as the guests come and go.  I always attract attention and end up giving away portraits to the waiters and guests.

Rose - actually a waitress I met in Rome
A guest who looked over her shoulder in a restaurant

Towards the end of my stay, after a long evening drawing faces in a restaurant, I come to a large crowd of people in the darkness.  Someone  waves and beckons to me - it is the zingerina's boyfriend, another musician.  

Maria Cerbone Zingerina

I walk across and stop, Maria, so beautiful herself, is with another most beautiful woman holding a little child. This is an opportunity I cannot relinquish.  

Margherita and Ella
The child sees me and climbs down and comes towards me, her mother follows.  

"My child does not want to be with us, she wants to be with you.  Please be careful that she does not get run over by a scooter" and so I am left in the half light with the little Neapolitan Ella.

Margherita is an actress, she could so easily be cast in one of Montebano's films.  She is one of the few people I meet who speaks any English.  The next day we meet again in the street and she invites me to a meeting at the "Association Cultural" where they are discussing making films and a theatre production of Romeo and Juliet (Neapolitan style).  I feel have arrived in this city and they are embracing me, but alas my stay has to come to an end.

My visit confirmed my love of Naples.  Enduring images lodged in my mind of a child looking out of a car window with serenity whilst all the around her was mayhem and hooting.  Of children without crash helmets being scooted on the laps of their mothers.

These children will carry the spirit of Naples alive for future generations.  I love being amongst these people.