Cambodia is the inspiration for this piece.
Another image from my trip. This one is inspired by the power lines in Thailand. If you’ve ever been there, you know they’re simply mad, but strangely beautiful. I also included a pattern I found in their Temple of the Golden Buddha. Power comes in many forms.
It was a Christmas miracle! Ok maybe not a miracle, but it always seems miraculous when an artist receives funding to realize their artistic vision. This is what happened on Christmas Day 1909 when a wealthy Chicago businessman agreed to fund renown Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha‘s ambitious Slav Epic. Ambitious would be an understatement; the work consists of 20 large scale paintings, some ranging in size of 26 by 20 feet. The series consumed the last decades of his life.
The series depicts the history of the Slav people and serve as a monument to both celebrate them and inspire them. The works have a very cinematic scope with their muted palettes and hints of the mystical and the magical. He employs the tricks he learned throughout his years of developing Art Nouveau but the series never truly veers into this realm.
I wasn’t too familiar with the work of Mucha before we stepped foot into the National Gallery in Prague. You are immediately struck by the scale of these works. It appears to be a cast of 1000s. The room is painted a neutral grey and the lighting is low so that even though the works are painted in a muted palette, they pop. These are those rare works that become more rewarding the longer you spend with them.
Unfortunately my photos do them no justice, take a look here for a much better survey. If you find yourself in Prague and are tired of the masses on Charles Bridge, Mucha’s Slav Epic is a welcome respite from the madding crowds.
The unfinished majesty of Gaudi’s Cathedral in the heart of Barcelona is a hot bed of controversy. The construction continues long after the original plans were burned in 1938, during pro-Franco protests. Purists are horrified by the guess work while enthusiasts are thrilled with the progress. The exterior suffers from a form of multiple personality disorder while the interior feels unworldly. Light fills the space and the ceiling resembles a mad burst of crystal like stars unfolding ad infinitum onto themselves. Your neck will crane and your eyes will pop.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is unparalleled in the history of art. The frescoes executed by a man who was mostly known for his sculpture, enrapture all that step foot into their presence. Michelangelo’s genius can not be understated. He designed his own scaffold, painted above his head the whole time, compensated for the the distorted perspective of painting on a vaulted surface as seen from 80 feet away and in the process changed the history of painting. For all his genius; the female figure kind of eluded him.
A building so beautiful; it is impossible to capture in a photograph. Within its endless red and white striped pillars lies a church: a cathedral wrapped within a Mosque. A definite must see.
The dome of this ancient Roman temple opens itself up to the sky. A single massive spotlight pours into the Pantheon, along with the rain when the weather turns. Raphael: the boy wonder of the Renaissance’s final resting place.
The ceiling of the Scrovegni Chapel could be considered Giotto‘s version of The Starry Night only painted nearly 600 years previously. The visits are timed so there isn’t a chance to linger but the impression it makes will last a lifetime.
Just a twenty minute train ride outside of Barcelona is a secret gem of the architecture world; Gaudi’s unfinished church in the small town of Colonia Guell. Commissioned in 1899 by Gaudi’s chief patron Eusebi Guell, the church was to be a thank you for his workers in the small industrial town. Unfortunately funding was cut in 1914 and only the crypt was finished. The crypt is built into the side of a small hill with building materials that match the colour and texture of the surrounding landscape. The design includes a series of of rough-shot pillars, abstract stained glass and catenary arches.
Gaudi’s designing and working methods were both creative and innovative. He would suspend ropes attached with weights or chains from the ceiling. The curves created by gravity became the basis of the catenary arches when inverted. He would then either photograph or place a mirror under the hanging model to see the inverted structure.
The art critic Robert Hughes was the person who first drew my attention to this wonderful place in his documentary about Gaudi. The film is a great precursor but in no way a substitute to actually experiencing these buildings in person.
Barcelona contains many of Gaudi’s most famous works. The humbling scale and imagination of the Sagrada Familia and the sheer delight and whimsy of Park Guell are must sees. A wonderful aspect that separates Colonia Guell with these places is that you don’t have to deal with the long lines and crazy crowds of Barcelona. When we went, we had the place to ourselves for over an hour and only then, did another five people show up. It felt like we had our own personal Gaudi. When you are there, you are amazed that a place this amazing isn’t crawling with people but then again you’re thanking your lucky stars that it isn’t.