Where the Absence meets the Present- the RSA John Kinross Scholarship 2020
I went to Florence to do my John Kinross scholarship in Summer just after my graduation. Being in Florence after such an intense time at university and lockdown was a very unique experience. The scholarship gave me a special opportunity to focus and work on a very different body of work after the degree show, which probably wouldn’t be possible if not thanks to the RSA scholarship. The environment and the energy of the city, especially during summer, is very different from Scotland, and I found this very stimulating and refreshing.
Departing to Italy, I allowed myself to not to have a clear plan of what I want to research, but rather react on spot to what was surrounding me and try to draw as much as I could. Florence has so much to offer, and at the beginning of my stay there I was overwhelmed by the art grandeur around me.
Having the opportunity to live in Florence was a very different experience from being just a tourist, and what probably had the biggest impact on my works. The John Kinross Scholarship allowed me to spend enough time in Florence to immerse myself in the city and spend as much time as I wanted to understand, research, and take my time to properly admire what was around me.
The scholarship was a very valuable lesson that helped me to become an artist after university. I had to manage my time and build my routine, something that before was dictated by the course structure. In the beginning, I was feeling a bit lost as I didn't have a clear goal, but soon I embraced it. I was drawing every day and the subjects for my works appeared naturally. I understood the value of routine, and structure, as every day, for two months, I was going for a walk to draw. With every walk, I was discovering something new. There is just so much to see in Florence; every courtyard is interesting and each building has a story.
I very quickly became interested in the relation and tension between Absence and Presence in the city and particularly how much the city has changed because of covid-19. I spent most of my time drawing in the old monasteries' courtyards. Not only they were a perfect shelter from the heat, but the atmosphere there was so different from the hustle of tourists in the main parts of the city. It was important to me was to try to draw on a big scale on the spot. Monasteries provided a great place to do that in peace. I quickly became absorbed by the "hidden" and quiet places inside of the city- convents' gardens, courtyards of uninhabited palaces, and hidden churches. The absence of people was striking but the presence of the past grandeur and history of these places still could be felt although few hundred years passed.
The thread stretched between Absence and Presence in Florence is very thin, almost invisible, yet can be felt strongly. Through my drawings, I was trying to discover what is missing in this balance between memories, history, absence, and present. My drawings are my response to the stories and places I experienced in Florence. Moreover, my works present narratives that appeared in my imagination through my interaction with these places during the drawing process. The absence of people was arousing my imagination, almost provoking it to fill in these empty spaces with stories. What is striking in the absences in Florence is the urgency and the need to fill them with stories, people, objects, or simply signs, traces, or shadows of them. These create mental geometries such as to mend past and present. In my works I wanted to present these absences acting on memory, and bringing the involuntary associations, evoking deep sensations and emotions related to the most intimate and personal sphere.
My final drawings are not a perfect reflection of what I was seeing; although I was drawing from life, I was adding, shifting and replacing objects I was seeing in front of me.
I also wanted to challenge myself and work on big drawings on the spot, rather than in a studio space where I feel comfortable. My big drawings, measuring sometimes 150x100cm where drawn mostly on the floors of the convents. It was not only another way of deep interaction with these places but a way to question and rethink my way of creating.
My time in Florence undoubtedly had a big influence on my art practice and gave me valuable experience. I am very grateful to The Royal Scottish Academy for giving me this amazing opportunity, and I am sure my art practice will draw from this experience inspiration for many years to come.
Below you can see some of my final compositions from my time in Florence.
You are, but where? Here there is only longing
Charcoal on paper, 150x100cm
More and more doubt is in front of me, the eyes of my soul are getting darker
Charcoal on paper, 100x70cm 2020
Charcoal on paper, 60x42cm
My falling, my raising
Charcoal on paper, 100x100cm 2020 The Royal Scottish Academy Collection