Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cross Currents: Ponte di Castelvecchio - Water and the Image of Time

by Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick
Ponte di Castelvecchio (Verona)
48"x36" oil on linen 2016

Last year, perched above a Renaissance era bridge in Verona, Italy, I watched a light rainfall and a swollen river rush by. The smell of rain filled the air. Swifts darted across the milky sky. Like gauze stretched across a stage set, the mix of rain, bus exhaust, and a distant sun breaking through the mist cloaked the moment in a spell of timelessness. I thought of the late Russian emigre writer Joseph Brodsky and his idea that water is the image of time. Often on trips to Europe, I will carry a battered copy of Brodsky's verse to help inspire my ramblings. Here in the Veneto, I am reminded of Brodsky's love of Italy and Venice in particular. I turn the pages of Brodsky's Watermark and find the passage I am looking for:
"I always adhered to the idea that God is time, or at least that His spirit is. Perhaps this idea was even of my own manufacture, but now I don't remember. In any case, I always thought that if the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water, the water was bound to reflect it. Hence my sentiment for water, for its folds, wrinkles, and ripples, and – as I am a Northerner – for its grayness. I simply think that water is the image of time, and every New Year's Eve, in somewhat pagan fashion, I try to find myself near water, preferably near a sea or an ocean, to watch the emergence of a new helping, a new cupful of time from it. I am not looking for a naked maiden riding on a shell; I am looking for either a cloud or the crest of a wave hitting the shore at midnight. That, to me, is time coming out of water, and I stare at the lace-like pattern it puts on the shore, not with a gypsy-like knowing, but with tenderness and with gratitude."
 I look up from by book and peer down at the river's edge. In the reeds and shallows small fish chasing food dart where the current eddies. In this reverie, my mind creates stories - If Brodsky is right these pools hold time in stasis. If I had a long net, maybe I could dip into the water and pull out living memories. A motorcycle roaring by on the road behind me breaks the spell and I think of darker times. During the Allied advance in World War II up through the Italian boot, the occupying German army drew a do not pass line at Verona because of its major transportation links running north to Austria. This bridge beneath me, the Ponte di Castelvecchio, bears the scars of that conflict. Retreating Nazi forces blew the bridge up in 1945. After the war, the pieces were collected and reformed into the bridge's current form. Time shapes all. 

I rush back to my studio on Via Filippini and lay in with liquid oil paints the initial layers of my first study for Ponte di Castelvecchio. 

Gregg Chadwick
Study for  Il Sole nella Pioggia : Ponte Castelvecchio Verona 
oil on canvas 2015
private collection - Verona, Italy
photo taken at Via Filippini Studio, Verona, Italy 2015

On the canvas, I brush in greens, milky blues, and brick reds. The structure of the bridge begins to emerge as I cut into the wet paint with a loaded brush of lighter color. It is a large canvas in my small 16th-century space and it quickly becomes a presence in the room. After the initial surface is complete, I lean the wet painting against the plaster wall. 

Gregg Chadwick's Via Filippini Studio, Verona, Italy 2015
I stand across the room and gaze at the painting. Even at this stage, the artwork has taken on a life of its own and I need to respect that. I see hints of Corot, maybe Degas? Perhaps I was thinking of Giorgione's The Tempest now housed at the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, Italy?

Giorgione Banner with Detail of The Tempest
Venice, Italy 2010

I spend time with the painting, then out into the vibrant Veronese streets for dinner. Tomorrow, I will look at the painting again and maybe, if the paint is dry enough in the humid summer air, add more layers of color. In the morning light with an espresso in hand, I will see more clearly.

A few weeks later upon its completion, I left the study with a new collector in Verona and started on a final version in my Santa Monica studio upon my return from Italy.

As a painting progresses, I will often find hints of its future shape in historical artworks as mentioned above, or in films, or books. When I was in graduate school at NYU, I studied not far from Verona in Venice. I often think of my instructor Giovanni Soccol who provided the art direction for Nicolas Roeg's eerie Venice-based film Don't Look Now. The film is based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier and stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as a couple mourning the recent loss of a child. Soccol's artistic vision is evident throughout the film and I remember traveling to sites in Venice with Giovanni where the film was shot. As a Venetian, water is an important subject for Soccol and is often poetically referenced in his film work and his paintings. (See the video below)

Another striking element from Don't Look Now has found an echo in my painting Ponte di Castelvecchio (Verona). The color red is a character in Don't Look Now as much as Christie and Sutherland. That pop of color against the green-blue water, blue and grey skies, and tawny stone of Venice finds an echo in my painting. In Ponte di Castelvecchio (Verona), the splashes of red and orange that mark the umbrellas swiftly carried across the bridge find their antecedent in the red jackets and blood eddies in Soccol and Roeg's film. Water, blood, and time.

Gregg Chadwick's Ponte di Castelvecchio (Verona) is on exhibit at Saatchi Art through September 29, 2016 in the group exhibition Cross Currents. There will be an opening on Thursday, July 21, 2016 from 6-9pm. For more info and to RSVP please visit:

New Works by Los Angeles Artists 
Saatchi Art, the world's leading online gallery, presents new works in celebration of LA's first citywide Public Art Biennial, Current: LA.
July 21, 2016
6–7pm VIP Preview
7–9pm Public Reception
Featuring special musical guest
1655 26th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
RSVP by July 20

CROSS CURRENTS is a new exhibition on view at Saatchi Art in Santa Monica. Curated by Katherine Henning, Associate Curator, and Jessica McQueen, Assistant Curator, the exhibition continues Saatchi Art's series of shows around the world.
The exhibition highlights the work of 14 emerging artists represented by Saatchi Art, the world’s leading online gallery: Gregg Chadwick, Fabio Coruzzi, Charlotte Evans, Art van Kraft, Chase Langford, Koen Lybaert, Lola Mitchell, Harry Moody, Relja Penezic, Kelly Puissegur, Stephen Rowe, Erin Tengquist, Dean West, and Naomi White.
The exhibition is on view from July 21 through September 29, 2016 at Saatchi Art, located at 1655 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA. Gallery hours: Monday through Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday by appointment. Please email to schedule a visit during gallery hours. Gallery
All works are on sale at the exhibition and online at Saatchi Art:

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