Back in May of this year Tony and I went to Italy where I exhibited at the LEGATO exhibition in Cassino, along with 40 or so other New Zealand artists. The exhibition featured paintings, mixed media, sculpture, textile works, glass and drawings; all around a theme of peace and remembrance. Organiser Kay de Latour has a blog where she is documenting the ongoing story of the exhibition.
I did quite a lot of fundraising in order for us to travel to Italy. One of the main things I did was offer $35 shares in my trip. In return each share holder got a share certificate, handmade postcard mailed back from Italy, a full colour newsletter after the trip and, by Christmas of this year, a 6×6″ painting around what we saw and learnt while away. In total I sold 57 shares, so took 60 or so handmade postcards in my suitcase and mailed them home from Cassino.
Once we got home and the dust had settled I wrote a newsletter and mailed off 57 copies. And then started on the process of creating 57 little works of art. I wanted them to have real meaning both for me and for the recipients, but at the same time I didn’t want to do something so complicated that my every waking moment was spent on them from now till Christmas Eve. I thought long and hard about what had most touched me, and how that could be represented. I came up with a work method that means each work is individual but part of a large series, so that I could create them in batches of 10 or so at a time. When each work goes out to its new owner it has a letter with it, and part of that letter says:
The enclosed mixed media work is based on more than 70 photos I took of poppies growing wild in the Lazio region, including around Monte Cassino Abbey. Many of the photos were blurred, taken from cars and trains as we sped through the landscape. For that reason the background is blurred; with a final large, in-focus poppy symbolising the way poppies became a focus for the artists. The large poppy is the same one used on the artwork I created for either my father or my best friend’s father, and so has special meaning to me. In addition, the poppies are important to me because they are such a strong symbol both in Italy and in New Zealand.
This weekend I put the finishing touches on work number 54; the final 3 works are going to be quite different and very individual for a number of reasons. This has been a huge journey for me. I am pleased to have fulfilled my obligations to all my shareholders with plenty of time to spare and continue to be amazed by how wonderfully generous people are. I also learnt a lot about how I create works by doing such a big number of works with one essential theme. Things I would not have discovered any other way I suspect. What a journey this has been…so, here are two of the final batch of ‘Italian Poppies’.