Sunday, August 18, 2013

Graffiti Florence Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I have written before about graffiti here in Italy before.  I just find it fascinating and beautiful.  I am speaking of the original meaning of graffiti, not so much the graffiti of today.

graf·fi·ti  [gruh-fee-tee] :

1850–55;  < Italian,  plural of graffito  incised inscription or design, derivative with -ito -ite2  of graffiare  to scratch, perhaps influenced by presumed Latin *graphīre  to write; both probably derivative of Latin graphium  stylus < Greek grapheîon;  cf. graphic, grapho-, graft

Coming home recently in Florence, Italy, I turned down a short road on the Oltrarno side of the Arno River, not far from the Trinita bridge.   It was after dark and my lack of ability with Photoshop meant that I was not able to successfully lighten these images… but here goes.

You may see here that the cement was troweled onto the wall and then the designs were scratched into the still-wet mixture.  Just as in sculpting in 3-dimensions, note that the artistan keeps the line at 90 degrees and crisp when he wants a dark line [note the raised edges on the straight lines near the top of the image], while he opens up the incision a bit if he was a lighter effect [grey vs. black, curved lines in the bottom part of the image].  In something flatter than a proper bas relief sculpture, these subtleties are about the only control the artisan has to play with tone, other than using actual color later.

This third image shows how this material ages… the wall becomes highly textured (and in my view, gorgeous) in the process of erosion.  

This next series illustrates a couple of things.  I have noticed here in Italy (and maybe in other countries) that great art is one thing and decoration quite another.  However, it is amazing what a simple design (technically speaking) can do for a space.  Many times I have seen palaces and homes decorated to the point of feeling almost too much on the wall patterns.  But when you look at the design, it is simple and repeated… not difficult per se, but it certainly gives a wondrous effect!

These last three images confuse and amuse me a bit.  I cannot tell if the faces in the patterns are by the original artisan or if a different person came along and added something closer to what we call “graffiti” today… the faces.  I am amused because you will note that the simple shape drawn for each head and the very simple faces drawn still result in what seems to me to be unique personalities.
A man…

A woman…

A work of art by Edvard Munch (author of “The Scream”).  What do you see?

I hope that you enjoy my little examinations of traditional Italian graffiti:   More in the next post.

Past posts about Italian graffiti:
The sign of the Medici family (6 balls on the shield):
Few things last forever, disappearing graffiti:

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