Sì, la luce (by Shaun McDowell)
‘Won’t you be lonely?’ they say as though cities can’t feel like the most solitary of places.
I plan to wake early for exercise, learn Italian for at least an hour, draft the studio plans and perhaps read Lucretius in the evening … although it’s more likely a neighbour will call for lunch or an aperitivo at Casperia, which turns out to be a banquet or barrel of wine. Living on a hill in the Sabina can be busier than you’d expect and besides, Rome is just down the road.
I move to a property without power or running water and before long a small cat joins me. Soon, I receive a message that a dog has been born in Montasola, a cacciatore (hunter) having abandoned its pregnant mother. I take him to Rome the next day for a date and see that Italians adore cuccioli (puppies). Women are beside themselves to touch him – ‘Mamma mia.’ … ‘Ooh, bello! bello!’ With animals and Italian hospitality, perhaps I want to feel rather more lonely than I find myself.
‘Oh, but the light in Italy.’ Sì, la luce è bellisima. Painting on a hillside, I don’t resist the temptation to steal colours of the sunset and make them my own. In the light of the full moon I walk through the olive trees, cat and dog playing alongside me. I sit for some time to drink wine and smell the air. If this is loneliness then I want some more.
Sitting on my roof, I’m looking at the foothills of the central Apennines. I call artists in London, Paris, New York, Berlin. They say they’re thinking of leaving the city or at least will try. I tell them I’m working on the construction of a large studio and will run a residency, they must come. They say they’d like nothing more. Perhaps one privilege of technology is that we could choose an expanded sense of space – does it make sense to message someone when they sit beside us on the Tube? If being ‘connected’ serves a practical purpose it should be one that is liberating.
‘Are you lonely?’ people ask as if romance isn’t the Roman style. I take wine from the nonna (grandmother) on my road and meet Francesca in Fianello, a town mostly abandoned since the terremoto di Amatrice (Amatrice earthquake). Sitting opposite Palazzo degli Orsini, we talk about the Italian countryside and its lonely viales beckoning exploration. I have a sense of potential. I am cultivating something unconfined and it seems my time to paint in cities ended some while before I left them. Though I enjoy the hustle and even the grime of the metropolis, I need space. Sustainability is a word on everyone’s lips. The cost is no longer practical for growth in cities, least not in a natural sense.
I invite you to visit – you know where I am. Ten minutes from my hill is the Villa di Orazio in Vacone, named after the Sabine goddess Vacuna. In another direction are the ruins of Cicero’s family villa and close by is Camuccini’s Palazzo. You may feel lonely by the waterfall at Rocchettine, but you might like it. It’s true this area is quiet – this is not the centre of the ‘art world’, nor the financial one. Yet, what is important to hear? Regardless of where I stand, I can listen to the commercial buzz of that portal in my pocket, until I switch it off. I invite you to visit, see a life among these quiet hills that inspire loud colour. You may get lonely, this might not be for you … but, anyway, Rome is just down the road.
Shaun McDowell bases his paintings on his personal perception of the world around him. An accomplished colourist and mark maker, McDowell works according to his own sense of spontaneity and intuition, allowing the painting to direct itself. Using energetic brushwork he forms a language of line and colour inspired by his surroundings. Whilst making use of references in his titles he refuses to form figures, landscapes or scenarios in a way that confines the work to a singular moment or indeed perspective.
Born 1981 in Sussex, England, Shaun McDowell is now based in Torri In Sabina, Italy. In 2009, he showed in the group exhibition Visible Invisible at Parasol unit, London.