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Still Life 10: Walkabout - Morandi inspired photos




Still Life Chapter 10   Walkabout Part I    
Studies IV    April,  2014 
Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi


  Fig.#1  Morandi inspired  photograph, Still Life, Chapter 10  Walkabout  

For an Introduction to the Still Life project and the links to all of its chapters visitStill Life

The Way In
Whoever you are: some evening take a step
out of your house, which you know so well.
Enormous space is near, your house lies where it begins,
whoever you are.
Your eyes find it hard to tear themselves
from the sloping threshold, but with your eyes
slowly, slowly, lift one black tree 
up, so it stands against the sky: skinny, alone.
With that you have made the world.  The world is immense,
and like a word that is still growing in silence.
In the same moment that your will grasps it,
your eyes feeling its subtlety will leave it . . .

Rainer Maria Rilke



Introduction
Photographers use to joke about the shoe leather they would wear out walking about the world seeking images.  Indeed, I have been a wanderer my entire life looking for images that would spark a resonance deep within me.

For the past nine months I have been making Morandi inspired still life photographs in my house and in my wife's studio.  The large project is a meditation on Morandi's work, and ideas associated with his work.  I wanted to see how Morandi's influence would affect my photographic vision in relation to my immediate domestic surroundings, those things that belong to the great tradition of still life painting, things that perhaps I have become too familiar with and have stopped paying attention to.  

About a month after beginning the Still Life project, however, it occurred to me that it could be equally as interesting to see how Morandi’s influence would affect how I see and photograph out in the world.


. . . some evening take a step
out of your house, which you know so well.


Thus, at the same time I was working on the various still life projects at home I was also gradually accumulating the collection of images you will be seeing in this three part project.  Whenever I would go out to eat with my wife, visit family, friends, doctors . . . I would take my camera with me in the hope that some photographic opportunities would present themselves that would test my evolving Morandi inspired vision.  I began making these images in September, 2013 and have continued making them through March 2014.   

Rilke’s poem clearly speaks to the challenge of looking beyond what we know.  Of course that's what great artists, like Morandi, do.  Morandi was vert interested in perception, how we see and questions about what is real.  He once said famously: "I believe there is nothing more abstract and unreal than what we actually see."  I think Rilke is also suggesting in his poem that the enormous space outside us is a projection of the enormous space within ourselves; that perception -  seeing with the eyes - is the means by which we create our own unique world:

Enormous space is near, your house lies where it begins . . .
with your eyes slowly, slowly lift one black tree up. . . 
with that you have made the world . . . immense . . . 
like a word that is still growing in the silence.    


Unity of Being
I believe there will come a time in every dynamic creative process when the apparent differences between things (the separation of inside and outside worlds, self and nature, immensity and intimacy, sacred and profane . . . ) will begin to dissolve and merge into each other, into a unitary reality.  The great saints and mystics from all the major traditions have written similar accounts about how their perceptions of the world and their own self merged into one; how the same consciousness or life energy pervades everything equally; how perceiver, the perceived, and the act of perceiving have become one thing; how the self becomes so identified with what is being seen that it experiences I am That. 



Fig.#2  Morandi, Still Life, watercolor 1960

Fig.#3  Morandi, Still Life, oil 1963


I see this occurring in much of Morandi's mature work (figs. 2 & 3 above).   The images are pervaded by an atmosphere of intimacy in which things appear to be merging inseparably into one another.  These kinds of images are spontaneous visual symbols that affirm the abstract reality I like to refer to as the Unity of Being.  See my writings about the unity of being, the theory of correspondence, and visual symbols:  click here. 


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Rituals of a Creative Process
I am somehow comforted by the thought of Morandi alone in the seclusion of his studio, painting his beloved objects carefully constellated in the gentle, mysterious afternoon light  wafting through his window.  And I imagine him making drawings late into the night as he sits on his bed under the solitary light bulb in the ceiling of his studio - which was also his bedroom.  At some point, in the silence of the night where the boundaries between drawing and dreaming begin to dissolve, Morandi slowly closes his eyes and falls to sleep. 

But these romantic images of introversion only partially capture the Morandi who also looked out of his studio window and painted what he saw in the courtyard below, and beyond the courtyard to the buildings, their tiled rooftops and the sky above Bologna.  He would also get out of the city when he could to paint landscapes in the mountain village of Grizzana, an hour’s drive away.     

Every morning Morandi took long walks: to the central market where he would buy food for himself and his sisters; to visit his favorite coffee bars; and he might even stop along the way to talk a while with the butcher.  We are told by those who knew him that as he walked about the streets of Bologna he would pay close attention to the ochre colored buildings and arcades that surrounded him, and the way the light illuminated them, and transformed them.


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Morandi’s morning walks were part of his daily ritual, and an important part of his creative process.  It may have been as necessary for him to walk each day as it was for him to paint and draw and study the work of other artists.

Janet Abramowicz, an excellent artist in her own right, knew Morandi well, first as one of his art students at the university, then as his studio assistant and friend of the family.  She writes in her book Giorgio Morandi: The Art of Silence: “Morandi was a walker of tremendous endurance; he had from childhood been accustomed to covering most of his city on foot, and he knew every inch of it well.  In his daily walks, Morandi carefully observed how light modified the forms of the old buildings and arcaded streets, and he visualized how these common elements could be transformed into subjects for his paintings.”
  

Architectural World
Morandi considered architecture the greatest of all art forms.  In fact he once told Abramowicz: “After all, even a still life is architecture.”  She writes: “Morandi chose to paint bottles, clocks, jugs, and vases not because they had sentimental value, but because of what they could represent.  His objects are not to be looked at as bottles or vases but as things with new meanings that transcend their functional use as they became part of an architectural world within his studio."

Many writers have explored how Morandi’s painting was influenced by the architecture of Bologna.  For example the structure of his still life compositions are essentially architectural, and there are obvious visual relationships between the forms in his still lifes and the famous arches of Bologna’s arcades, and the smokestacks, towers and church steeples scattered about the old city, so numerous in fact they earned Bologna it’s nickname “the urban pincushion.”  (see the images below) 



Fig.#4  View of Bologna, the "urban pincushion"  from The Art of Silence
                                                                                  


 Fig.#5  Morandi, Still Life, 1937
                                                                         

Writers have suggested that the ochre colors which pervaded so many of Morandi’s paintings probably came from Bologna’s old stone buildings.  Even the objects Morandi fashioned himself for use in his still lifes seem to have been architecturally influenced; for example the famous funnel that he had welded onto the top of a round base.  Even his landscapes would often include simple childlike renderings of architectural forms that were nothing more than a triangle set on top of a rectangle.

Morandi’s fascination with light and it’s transformation of architectural space has also been carefully noted and considered by writers.  They have gone to great lengths to articulate their perceptions, feelings and understandings regarding the magical quality of light in Morandi’s still life paining; a light, they say, that was as much based in memory, imagination or dream as it was in direct perception.

The point I am wanting to make here is that Morandi did engage the outside world: he looked out his studio window, he walked about the urban spaces of Bologna and in the landscapes of Grizzana.  These experiences of the world outside his studio became an integral part of his creative process.



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Walkabout
In early March, 2014 I traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to visit my friend Larry for a few days.  We have been the best of friends since the mid 1960’s.  He’s a serious and excellent photographer who has recently fallen in love with birds and birdsong.   

During my visit I made lots of photographs inside Larry’s house.  And when we went for walks in his neighborhood and in the nearby countryside to seek out his beloved birds I would take my camera and make photographs.  When we visited the Memphis library, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a beautiful wildlife refuge outside of Memphis, of course I took photographs.  I also photographed inside of the airports in Memphis, Detroit and Atlanta. 

One evening Larry suggested we watch an old movie he’d been wanting to revisit: the 1971 film entitled Walkabout.  (It’s always better to watch old movies with a friend.)  After seeing the film I began thinking about how the initiation ritual of the Australian Aborigine related to my practice as a photographer, and to Morandi’s creative process.


Creation Stories
The Australian Aborigine Walkabout is a spiritual journey that initiates young men into the timeless, sacred, mythic world of Dreamtime, the Aborigine Creation Stories also known as The Mysteries.  On his journey, which is as much internal, imaginal as it is an adventure into the vast Australian wilderness, the young initiate imitates the paths traveled by his ancient ancestors.  Along the way he may also imitate specific actions performed by ancestral heros that he particularly feels drawn to or identifies with. 
   
The Mysteries not only give form to an initiate’s Walkabout, they also explain the existence and meaning of specific things, such as the creation of the sun, and the creation of particular animals and sacred places.  They also explain the laws and customs that give order and structure to the initiate’s entire community.  As he wanders the earth, touching it's primal presence with his body and his soul, the initate absorbs the very essence of the Mysteries into himself.  The stories transform him because they have become alive within him and thus provide him with the core meanings of his life.   Visit Dreamtime


The enormous space of the Heart
Morandi said himself that he wanted his art to reveal “the essence at the very core of things.”  The life of a great artist like Morandi is of course a creation story, a spiritual journey, a kind of hero's adventure into the Imaginal World.  But each and every one of us is embarked upon a Walkabout, though because our culture lacks the initiation rituals that we see in the Australian Aborigines, many of us may not be aware that our lives are a journey of the spirit.  Our deepest longings, our dreams, and even our most subtle of life experiences bring us close to inexplicable transcendent meanings hidden within the enormous space of our Heart.  Artists who are taken into the inner world through the necessity of their creative process are duty bound to bring back to the rest us mysterious images, secret messages from their journey.  

Morandi's paintings and drawings are the living fruits of his interior journeys, sacred offerings which can gift us with news of the universe.  But to fully receive these precious gifts we must quiet our minds and contemplate the images with an open heart.  Great visual art conjoins corresponding contents of the inner and outer worlds in a visual symbolic unitary reality.  Morandi's art is for me a visual celebration of the Heart's Unity of Being.  His images embody the same timeless meanings as the Aborigines' Mysteries.


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Walkabout Photographs  
Part I        Introduction                      See the photographs below 
Part II     Journey to Memphis      Click here   
Part III   The House Remodeled   Click here



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Part I  
Morandi inspired Still Life Photographs
Walkabout
Chapter 10


Prelude to the photographs   
The sequence of photographs below begins with an image of a window taken in a Chinese restaurant early in the evening.  The window is sweating; its watery surface receives the projected golden light of a street lamp just outside the window, and the shadow of a tree.  

The image relates to the poem by Rilke, The Way In.  The window is an interface between the outer and inner worlds; it serves as a threshold to the immense world outside.  Like an eye (or a camera's lens) the window provide a way to look out from the inside.  

Tears are streaming down the window's (sur)face.  Through the tears we can see the source of the tree's shadow standing up against the blue evening sky:

some evening . . . with your eyes
slowly, slowly, lift one black tree 
up, so it stands against the sky: skinny, alone.
With that you have made the world.

The window is divided by a wide black line; it's cross-like form echos the tree and its shadow.  The chains hanging down from the cross echo the streaming tears.  The surface of the window merges with the surface of the photograph.  The twilight blue of the evening sky unites the light of day and the light of the urban night.

The blue sky and the golden street light of the window photograph illuminates and colors the next still life photograph: upon a table we see a tightly constellated triad of forms: a soy sauce bottle stands between and touches a salt shaker and a pepper shaker.  

The first two photographs were made within a minute of each other, from the same place: where I was sitting at the table.  The third and fourth images echo the first two.  Silence pervades these images, these imaginal worlds:

With that you have made the world . . . 
immense . . . like a word that is still growing in silence. 





There are many recurring themes in the sequence of images below; Light on Water is a theme I'm especially fascinated with.  However, the conceptual and subject themes are not what I care most about.  I'm not interested in photography as a means to documenting or interpreting the world, or narrating a story.  Rather, my goal is to achieve in each individual photograph a particular depth of vision, a certain articulate visual reduction approaching abstraction, and a palpable sense of light and atmosphere that contributes to a feeling of presence or essence, qualities kindred in spirit to what I love most in Moradi's art, qualities which inspire me and provides a path for my own journey, my own creation stories.

Welcome to the Walkabout Still Life Photographs, Part I.  



Chinese Restaurant: light and tree shadow on tearing window    Image #1 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout  




Chinese Restaurant: Soy sauce bottle, salt & pepper shaker    Image #2 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout




Mexican Restaurant: salt & pepper shakers on table next to window    Image #3 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout




Mexican Restaurant: salt & pepper shakers on table   Image #4 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout




Greek Restaurant: Decorative basket, cloth and column    Image #5 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout




Greek Restaurant: String of hanging light bulbs    Image #6 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Greek Restaurant: Light on Water, Water bottle with lime    Image #7 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Greek Restaurant: Light on Water, two water glasses    Image #7 
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Tai Restaurant: Light on Water, glass with straw, white plate    Image #8
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Vegan Restaurant: Canning jar, hanging canning jar lights    Image #9
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Vegan Restaurant: Light on water, water bottle, lemon    Image #10
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Restaurant: Two dark padded chairs, white napkins, green walls   Image #11
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Restaurant: Table setting, fork, knife, candle, salt & pepper shakers   Image #12
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Restaurant: Table setting, light on lake image   Image #13
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Chinese Restaurant: Round table setting, soy sauce bottle, chairs  Image #14
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Chinese Grocery: Fish frozen on a bed of ice   Image #15
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Bed and Breakfast: Decorative ceramic bird and grass   Image #16
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Store window objects: Sailboat light, red flowers, flower shadows   Image #17
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Store window objects: Wire sign stand, shadows   Image #18
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Store window objects: Hanging sign on chains, tearing window   Image #19
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Store window objects: Plant behind tearing window   Image #20
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Store window objects: Decorative display     Image #23
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Office Space: Lawyer's conference table     Image #24
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Office Space: Doctors office, plant by window    Image #25
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Office  Space: Coat rack, waiting room    Image #26
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Office Space: Entrance doors to  medical waiting room     Image #27
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Office Space: Car Dealership waiting room     Image #27A
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Public bathrooms: Coat hooks, hand bar     Image #28
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Public bathrooms: gold hand bars   Image #29
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Public bathrooms:  Car Dealership     Image #29A
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Public bathrooms: Green walls, old painting reflected in mirror   Image #30
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Public bathrooms: Toilet seat, blue walls    Image #31
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Botanical Garden: Tearing window, winter scene, plants   Image #32
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Botanical Garden: Iced window, plants, statue of Buddha   Image #33
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Botanical Garden: Iced greenhouse windows   Image #34
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Botanical Garden: Iced and soaped greenhouse window   Image #35
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Botanical Garden: Plant, wall   Image #36
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Mount Hope Cemetery:  Colorful trees  Image #37
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Mount Hope Cemetery:  Decorative artificial red leaves  Image #38
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Mount Hope Cemetery: Black bird on lamp shade   #39
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Bedroom Light,  Image  #40
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Decorative leaf, blue bulb, reflection in window   Image  #41
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Tree and projected leaf shadows   Image  #42
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Wedding Reception: Paper lamp decoration under fan light    Image  #43
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Wedding Reception: Botanical Garden trellis    Image  #44
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





Wedding Reception: Botanical Garden pillar and rose     Image  #45
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: skylight, tree    Image  #46
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Chandelier    Image  #47
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Pomegranate skin on granite counter top   Image  #48
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Night Scene of Lower Garden, deck shadows   Image  #49
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Chandelier through a doorway   Image  #50
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Lamps, windows, pillow, potted plant  Image  #51
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





A Relative's house: Framed photograph, reflections, striped blanket  Image  #51
Still Life: Morandi inspired photographs, Chapter 10: Walkabout





This concludes Walkabout Part I

Click here to see Walkabout Part II  Journey to Memphis
Click here to see Walkabout Part III  The House Remodeled


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This project was announced on the Welcome Page of my website April  20014




Still Life ~ Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi  


Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.










































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