Caravaggio vs. Rocco Normanno “David and Goliath” – Compare and Contrast

Another repost of an essay I wrote in 2014 whilst at college.

Caravaggio - David and Goliath - 1599 - Oil on Canvas (110 x 91cm)
Caravaggio – David and Goliath – 1599 – Oil on Canvas (110 x 91cm)
Rocco Normanno - David and Goliath - 2006 - Oil on Canvas (150 x 150cm)
Rocco Normanno – David and Goliath – 2006 – Oil on Canvas (150 x 150cm)

For this compare and contrast essay, I have chosen two works of the same title “David and Goliath”, both painted with oil paint on canvas, but 407 years apart. The first of the paintings was done by the master painter Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio in 1599; the second by Rocco Normanno in 2006. Both of the artists were/are Italian, Caravaggio was born in a town of the same name in Lombardy, northern Italy. Rocco Normanno was born in Taurisano, Lecce. In this writing I am going to pick them apart for their similarities and differences.

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Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615

Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615 - Coffee on Canvas Board - 16" x 20"
Coffee Comes to Europe, 1615 – Coffee on Canvas Board – 16″ x 20″

By the 17th Century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming increasingly popular across the whole continent. The opposition were overly cautious, calling this new beverage from the Arab lands the “bitter invention of Satan”. With the arrival of coffee to Venice in 1615, the local clergy immediately condemned it; causing a controversy so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. The Pope decided to try the beverage before making his decision and he found the drink so satisfying that he gave it Papal approval.

In relation to my identity and following the theme “Who are you?”,  I wanted to create a piece of work that not only told a story, but also related and described my own personality through symbolism, thus creating an artwork with two meanings.

The painting that I created is a narrative piece and was painted entirely using coffee as my medium. It depicts when coffee first came to Europe, arriving in Venice in 1615 aboard a merchant ship, awaited and opposed by the clergy. This entire piece is full of symbolism pertaining to who I am and my identity, so I’ll have to break it down into further parts.

Coffee as a medium Every single morning of my life is centred around one very important, and never-changing ritual, coffee. It begins every single morning of my life and continues on into the day. That being the case, plus with the exhibition being set up on a table in the college Atrium Café, it made sense to me to use coffee as my medium to paint with. In my research of coffee I delved into the history and discovered plenty of opportunities to create a narrative painting, which is my favourite form of art, art that tells a story.

Venice I decided to base my narrative in Venice as this is where coffee came into Europe and the story behind it really appealed to me to create a narrative scene of. Also, I have a very deep fondness of Italy and it is intrinsic to a lot of what I do, to the point that my love of Italy is almost an obsession, this made my choice of story to tell very easy and enjoyable at the same time. My scene is based at Riva Degli Schiavoni, with the isle of San Maggiore faded in the distance across the entrance to Venice’s Grand Canal.

The Clergy – The clergy, depicted standing on a small jetty, in opposition of the merchant ship bringing coffee to port, are symbolic of the opposition I feel I face with artwork, whether real or imagined it seems that in the Contemporary art industry, traditional painting and values are frowned upon and neglected, whilst Conceptual art, Installation and challenging conventions is what is the art that wins awards and sells.

Whilst the clergy show how close I feel to opposition, the distant view of the church San Giorgio di Maggiore shows how far I feel from salvation, not in a religious sense but a metaphorical one, in the industry I’m entering.

Myself – I depicted myself literally into this painting as well; situated to the right of the narrative scene I am sitting in a small boat, sketching the scene before me into a book. This shows my personality, my introversion, close by and very aware of the events unfolding around me and sketching what I see; at the same time situated solitarily, alone but comfortable to be so, concentrating on what I’m seeing and analysing it onto the paper.

This is the first piece of work that I have created entirely how I want to and have been able to project a narrative through which not only tells a story, but describes aspects of myself within it.

This work was exhibited at the Atrium Café for the day in my first real exhibition and the feedback that I received was incredible, very encouraging comments were made and a lot of interest was shown in both the work itself and the meanings behind it.

JG

Change of Direction – New Paths

So many people in this world are scared of change, whether big or little; I see it as an opportunity to adapt, start anew and build up an empire, alas, don’t ever fear change but on the contrary, embrace it. – J Glover

I recently made a decision that was found to be shocking by the people around me, my friends and even my wife, who knows me better than anyone. That decision was that after 2 years of working hard in education in order to go to uni, I will no longer be going. This decision wasn’t an off the cuff spur of the moment change of heart about my future caused by being unsure of what I want from life; my end game is the same, my objective clear and concise, a set destination of immovable strength; it’s just the road that I’m taking to get there that is different.

This was incited by troubles in getting the funding that I needed, a lot of hassle and stress that isn’t needed at the best of times, but this minor tribulation set off a whirlwind of thoughts and deep contemplation, tropical brainstorms and meditating until my pulse stopped, weighing up and reasoning on every aspect of my decision to go to university and the course that was available to me.

I had chosen to take a Fine Art BA (Hons) Degree; now when I initially pictured Fine Art, I had a beautifully romanticized vision of a modern Verrocchio’s workshop. Tutors that would teach me to draw and paint like the masters of the Renaissance, Sculpt like Michelangelo and provide plenty of hours worth of figure studies each and every week. Research on different narratives, mythologies and a study of philosophy. Obviously my definition of Fine Art is very outdated and too far gone to even be sniffed at in a modern Fine Art degree. A Fine Art Atelier would probably be better suited to my needs, but due to lack of funding available for such a course and locality this isn’t an option either.

Instead of what I envisioned, the course has dropped figure studies from its curriculum and the rest is more Contemporary than I would like to be involved in, Conceptual art, challenging conventions and Installation work; whilst I have seen artworks from each category that I have liked, it’s not what I personally want to create or be a part of. From unmade beds to condensation cubes and glittered excrement I found myself questioning if it really was for me. The end result of my contemplation was that I don’t want to invest 3 years and so much debt into something that I’m not 100% dedicated to. I’m not suggesting that the course is worthless or that I wouldn’t have learned anything because that would be a ridiculous idea, it’s just not going to teach me what I want to learn and will involve me spending too much time away from what I do want to do and my personal studies.

My next step now is to self educate, with the power of books and the internet on top of spending every day in practical work I will learn to draw and paint in the way I want to, whether frowned upon or not to prefer the traditional methods, that is what I’m going to do, staying true to myself rather than going to university on a whim for the experience or conforming to the Contemporary art industry. It’s funny really that they spend so much time trying to find new ways to “challenge convention” that they’ve lost their way, it’s turned now to the point that I’m challenging convention more by wanting to draw and paint in the traditional manners and techniques.

Also underlying all of this is the fact that I would love to work as a concept artist, for film,TV or computer games and although a lot of this work would be done digitally through software such as Photoshop, it still offers opportunity to be traditional in the sense of creating a narrative using paint, drawing and sketching, research and practice; these are the things that appeal to me more than anything. The thing that would get me a job in the field of Conceptual Design will be my portfolio based around that area, not a degree and a portfolio full of glittered turds and “this is art because I say it is” pieces.

Time is a very important factor as well, by not attending university five days a week, I have the time to go to London regularly to visit galleries, places of interest, museums and draw inspiration from them; I’ll also be able to make more trips to my home away from home that is Italy. Trips to other places of interest and long walks through natural landscapes, sketching and painting as I go will also now be a part of my itinerary. In addition to these things, I’ll have more time to build up my blog and remain consistent with posts, not having to neglect neither this or my artwork due to having to write essays or dissertations and not running on fumes every day. My creativity will be nurtured and in full bloom due to my decision and inspiration comes from within as much as from without, if not more so.

I may have rambled a fair amount through this post but the point of me posting it is to show that change is not something to avoid, change of mind is not a sign of failure or fear to commit, it is something to embrace and use to your advantage wherever possible. We are human, adapting to new situations is part of our being and a skill that comes naturally, never having to be learned as long as you don’t fear to utilize it.

JG

Vatican Angel – Watercolour

Vatican Angel - Watercolour on Paper
Vatican Angel – Watercolour on Paper

This is a painting that I done in watercolour in March, I created this using a photograph that I previously took, as a reference to work from.

The original statue is to be found on the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele bridge in Rome, leading one into the Vatican city, I’ve tried researching who designed the sculpture and who made it but without many results¹. The bridge itself was constructed to the designs of Ennio de Rossi.

Overall this painting is an interpretation of the battle between dark and light, good and evil, I have attempted to describe this battle in a few different ways within the piece.

To begin with is the obvious, a silhouetted angel figure, a figure that is instantly associated with light and love, is a dark black silhouette, no light emanating from the angel whatsoever, but it is illuminated by the lighter background behind it, almost as though it is being pushed forward by the light, and away from the light.

Upon further examination of the light behind the angel, it becomes evident that it is actually a storm cloud, battling it out with the much lighter and more welcoming pristine blue sky, whether the cloud is building up, ready to engulf the world of light or whether it is dissipating is open to the interpretation of the viewer.

That brings us back to the angel itself, so at first a vision of darkness, it’s now questionable whether the angel is fighting off the darkness that’s surrounding it and seemingly fighting a losing battle; being consumed by the darkness from within and becoming another fallen angel; or is the angel sacrificing itself, consuming the darkness to bring the light to the world?

JG

 

 

¹If anyone reading this knows who the artist was that designed and sculpted these statues I am dying to know so I would be thrilled if you could enlighten me, I’m pretty certain that they’re not works of Bernini, although there’s tons of his designs dotted around the entire city; both Rome and the Vatican.