'Imagination will take you everywhere'
This painting of Venice marks the culmination of my A-Level Art course. I created it within a 12 hour exam in which we had to produce a painting which reflected the topic title ‘Inside, outside and in-between’, as well as use our trip to Venice as the main source of inspiration.
I am really pleased with my final painting and exam project, as it successfully documents my trip to Venice and effectively conveys the main theme: ‘Inside, outside and in-between’. The painting allows the viewer to look ‘inside’ the gondolas, while the ‘outside’ of the buildings in the background are adorned with strips of Italian newspaper which I picked up from ‘inside’ Venice. The water is positioned ‘in-between’ the gondola and the buildings, which isolates the architecture in the background and reinforces the clichéd representation of the ‘floating city’. My aim was to depict a traditional Venetian scene, but to make it unique by creating a foreboding edge through the colours within the sky and the choppiness of the water; thus juxtaposing the threatening quality of the natural elements against the serenity of the architectural facades.
The impressionists have been a recurring influence within my artistic journey; for my coursework I concentrated on their paintings of the majestic countryside, so it was a natural progression for me to investigate their representations of cityscapes. What I love about the work of Monet, Renoir and Manet is their ability to transform a dull, grey cityscape into something bursting with colour, movement and texture. I emulated their painting style through the use of broad, loose and textural brushstrokes – particularly within the sky and water to convey movement. Eugene Boudin was a specific influence, as I wanted to capture the hazy, undefined brushwork which transports viewer’s into a nostalgic, dream-like world and which also evokes a care-free spirit. Compositionally Boudin’s Venice paintings often combine architecture with water in the foreground which is how I formed the idea for my own composition, as I wanted to merge nature with man-made elements. The ends of the gondolas and the height of the mooring posts in the foreground of my composition draw the viewer’s gaze to the focal point of the buildings within the golden section of the image. Venice is essentially a paradox between nature and man; the water dictates all that man does and mankind adapts to live side by side with nature – for example by building bridges to cross waterways.
Boudin also inspired my colour palette. Particularly the rusty browns, cream, burnt sienna, yellow ochre and terracotta, which I used within the buildings to convey a rustic edge that resembles a medieval Italian town. I added blues and greys into some buildings in the background to reinforce the portrayal of them fading into the distance, while the unexpected flash of green from the trees breaks up the line of buildings. Renoir influenced my abundant use of colours within the water and sky, as I didn’t want the two main areas of open space within my painting to be dominated by the colour blue. Instead I incorporated green, purple, yellow ochre, yellow, brown, white and varying shades of blue, thus brightening the whole image. The flecks of sunlight reflecting off the water evokes a peaceful, sunny atmosphere, which was inspired by Ken Howard’s paintings of Venice, in which he creates breath-taking panoramic views of sparkling stretches of water and grand buildings in the background – similar to my own composition.
I wanted to add surface texture in the form of Italian newspaper strips as I think it adds a dynamic layer to the image by enhancing the visual description of Venice. The strips of newspaper (inspired by Ian Murphy) are partially visible as I left subtle gaps in the paint – thus drawing the viewer closer to the painting as they try to interpret the hint of text. I wanted the newspaper to be from Venice to represent the Italian city, culture and people, which creates an effective link to the theme of ‘inside, outside and in-between’; as when I was visiting Venice I felt like an outsider looking into the city – simply viewing it for its aesthetic beauty, not actually experiencing it. Also the Italian language and people are well-known for being passionate and expressive, thus symbolically linking to the expressive nature of my painting technique. Overall I think my painting not only portrays my developed artistic skills and addresses the main theme for the exam, but it also acts as a fond memory of my Venetian adventure.
Here are images of my final painting during the production process: