On Friday night my best friend Sandra, her daughter Melissa (who is my god-daughter) and I attended the gala opening night of the Legato exhibition at the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville. They’d sold 178 tickets to the opening, and everyone was dressed up and looking splendid. Rotary did an amazing job of passing round yummy little eats and nice cold wine or juice, while live music played in the background. Well done guys!
The opening began at 6.30 and at about 7.30 curator Kay de Lautour Scott took the stage to speak about how Legato came about, the momentum the project has gained, and a little about her life in Roccasecca. Kay showed a few photos of the exhibition in Cassino and played a video made by Nicola Blackmore showing the exhibition and talking to various people involved in the project including some of the artists. People were clearly very interested in what Kay had to say; there was none of the usual shuffling and muttering that goes on.
In the video Kay mentions my works and discusses the fact that, under the layers of paint and photos, I had written down all the things I’d been told about the men by their family members. Private things which I then partly painted over, respecting the fact these men had not shared their stories in life. I heard something beside me and realised Sandra was crying – hard. We hugged. For both of us this has been about honouring our dads, not just as men who went to war, but as men who went to war, survived, and came back to be amazing fathers who we love dearly and miss today.
It was a very different experience seeing my works being viewed here in New Zealand to seeing them viewed in Italy. I’m not sure I can explain the difference yet; my mind needs to work through it a bit more for the right words to come. What I do know is that, because the works are deeply personal, people take a keen interest in them. I had a number of people shake my hand and congratulate me. One lady, almost in tears, hugged me. Why? I think it’s about connection, and acknowledging the personal nature of the images.
It was a great experience to be there and see people’s reactions first hand. But for me, a thorough introvert, it was also incredibly tiring. All I wanted to do afterwards was sleep, to escape the people. I guess that is why I paint…