A meeting of minds

Dario Fo exhibition cr Judy DarleyI’m an ardent admirer of the inspiration one art form can fuel in another. Occasionally these prompted pieces can take the form of a dialogue with the original works, adding meaning and verve to those earlier pieces.

At the Santa Giulia museum of Brescia, a duel exhibition is performing just this feat, showcasing 35 works by 1997 Nobel prize winner Dario Fo created in direct response to the work of his hero Marc Chagall.

Rather like a duet of piano and cello playing out to exquisite effect, with one passage of notes echoing and building on the other, the exhibition features celebrated pieces by Chagall reflecting moments from his youth and early adulthood, with dreams and impressions woven into the paintings and sketches, many of which have never been displayed before.

Marc Chagall sketchbook

Marc Chagall sketchbook

I entered this gallery first, accompanied by dozens of members of the Italian press, all jostling for a closer look and a quote from curator Eugenia Petrova and artist Dario Fo.

The images, which include stunning early works from Chagall’s childhood in Russia, resounded against the walls of the narrow space, presenting scenes of farmland against portraits of Jewish workers – this is the artist whose painting The Fiddler inspired the musical Fiddler on the Roof, a detail I rather love, and which demonstrates the visceral energy of his work.

L'ebreo in Rosa by March Chagall

L’ebreo in Rosa by March Chagall

 

Fo, you may recall, is most celebrated for his work in the theatre (as a playwright, set and costume designer, director and even composer) explaining in part, perhaps, this match made in heaven.

Many of Chagall’s works speak of love, too, which is also an enduring theme for Fo.

Blue Lovers by Marc Chagall

In a separate hall, I strolled amid the 20 works by Dario Fo, each created especially for the exhibition. Accompanied by 15 preparatory paintings, the companion pieces draw from Chagall’s work but also Fo’s own life.

Dario Fo exhibition

They fizz with vigour, revelling in their colour-saturated canvasses. Even pieces depicting traumatic events (such as this one by Fo showing the new-born Chagall being plunged into an ice-cold bath to shock him into breathing), are packed with humour.

Dario Fo birthThere’s a wonderful sense of Dario’s personality imbuing the pieces, a wry wickedness and a glint of mischief. This is, after all, the man who muddled together European languages to create a brand new theatre experience.

Dario Fo cr Judy DarleyWhile Dario (pictured left) claims to have learnt storytelling from fisherfolk and glassblowers, his passion for the work of Chagall means much of his mark-making has been influenced by the artist described by Pablo Picasso as “the only painter left who understands what colour really is.”

It’s a legacy that lifts both segments of the conjoined exhibition, along with a passion for the fantastical and surreal.

Dario Fo was born in March 1926, and discovered Chagall’s work when he was only in his twenties.

It’s such a happy and harmonious union that I can only wonder that this collaborative exhibition didn’t happen earlier, and be glad that it happened at all.

Dario Fo's signature

Marc Chagall. Russian years 1907-1924: with a story in pictures by Dario Fo is on at the Santa Giulia museum in Brescia until 15 February 2016. I can’t think of a more delightful excuse to flit over to this beautiful Italian town than an exceptional spot of culture. Find out more about Brescia at www.bresciatourism.it/en/

A Chagall-inspired writing prompt.
A Chagall-inspired play.

Writing prompt – fountain

Brescia fountain cr Judy DarleyHave you ever noticed how in some parts of the world, myths and legends seem to brim at every corner?

Last week I had the good fortune to return to Brescia, one of my favourite towns in northern Italy. Meandering through the streets I happened to glance through a doorway and saw a courtyard watched over by this extravagant fountain.

Brescia fountain entrance cr Judy Darley

Surrounded by ordinary apartment buildings, it’s a glorious work of art in an otherwise unexceptional setting. Beneath the fountain’s base, monstrous feet poke out.

Brescia fountain foot cr Judy DarleyThe fountain was dry when I saw it, perhaps due to the season, or perhaps it’s been disused for decades.

It made me wonder, what has this fountain witnessed and overheard through the years? I can imagine shy lovers meeting, clandestine trysts, conspiratorial gatherings, or simply the gossip of women trading the news and scandal as the sound of the water’s song rises about them.

If you write something prompted by this idea, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com. Find out more about Brescia at www.bresciatourism.it/en/

Paper flowers vs catastrophe

While travelling through Brescia, northern Italy, Judy Darley discovers a dying art that protects one small corner of the world.

Women making paper flowers, Carzano

The women sit together in a small building at the edge of Italy’s Lake Iseo. Scraps of crepe paper cover the table, drift down to the floor, as they work with their scissors and small lengths of wire, creating flower after flower. Continue reading