Explore Brooke Walker-Knoblich's paintings on her website

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Discovering" Ramiro Sanchez

If I could choose where to live in Florence the decision wouldn't be hard. The Oltrarno district, south of the Arno River, instantly felt like home the first day I wondered out of the city center. Yes it is somewhat lacking the grandiose tourist sights... not to say that the Piazza Santa Spirito isn't the perfect place to have a lunch or that the Modern museum in the Pizzi Palace isn't one of the more important museums in Florence. It's just that in Oltrarno, it's as real as Italy gets. Women hang out the windows to pinch their wet clothes onto the line, old men ride rickety bicycles, their arms loaded with bags of fresh produce. Laughter can be heard from the depths of woodworking and leather shops, and even a solo, perfectly round tomato forgotten in the gutter becomes a sign that people are LIVING here.

As I was looking for Gusta Pizza I stumbled upon a gallery (inevitably closed for lunch) and was incredibly moved by the paintings and drawings I saw displayed in the window. When I jotted down Ramiro Sanchez's name I figured I was simply educating myself on an artist from the past, even though his work was beautifully fresh, because most of the art you see on display in the city are old masterpieces by artists long since dead. So I was completely shocked when I looked him up online and discovered not only is he a contemporary artist but he actually teaches at the Florence Academy of Art!!!

You can peruse his website and see his magnificent handling of paint in portraits, figures, and landscapes alike. I'm only going to discuss a couple images that really inspired me.

Ramiro's painting "Wicked" took my breath away. How can shadows, by their very nature meaning the absence of light, be so luminous? And his handling of the flesh is so exquisite with the perfectly clear  lines mixed with foggy passages of color. 

But besides just the technique of paint application, I think what makes this painting particularly powerful is the play between static and active distributions in both the figure and composition. The way her back is curved suggests a restful, well supported position. Yet her cocked foot and the gap under her arm display an awakened activity within the figure. In turn, her weight is simultaneously supported by both an active and static entity...the fabric in the foreground looks like a hammock (which as we know shifts and moves constantly) and the couch in the background is of a solid wood foundation (always stationary). The dichotomies are disturbingly beautiful making me feel, simultaneously, at peace and on edge.

I really love this portrait. How the dreamy, almost sad quality of her expression seems to be represented equally in the background makes the painting a whole emotional piece. The technique of mixing a solid form with a washy background also creates a beautiful juxtaposition and the muted palette is at once delicately feminine and weighty in its substance. It's an incredibly haunting image and I am so thrilled to have found this artist. Tomorrow I will inquire at the Academy if he is available this summer for a class or perhaps just a conversation...

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