1 December, 2012 - 15 January, 2013

Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni Valdarno (Arezzo), Italy

Participating Artists

Remen Chopra, Vibha Galhotra, Sonia Jose, Monali Meher

San Giovanni Valdarno, the Tuscan town in the Arno valley in the historic district of Arezzo, traces a personal and significant association with art, culture and architecture. Being the birth place of the famous Renaissance artist Masaccio (b. 1401), there is a significant and protracted relationship with changing art movements and practices that integrate themselves within the inherent art and culture of this town. Though San Giovanni Valdarno was founded in 1296 by the Republic of Florence, it has integrated itself with cultures and influences from the surrounding regions, thereby imbibing multicultural elements from the very beginning. The architectural layout of the historic centre of the town was created by Arnolfo di Cambio based on the layout of Roman cities with a piazza forming the centre with two main roads on either side from which the town extends via secondary streets. Though San Giovanni Valdarno is an industrial town, it preserves its cultural and artistic heritage.

Artists and art movements over the centuries has been influenced by historic events, political turmoil and contemporary happenings. Artists integrate personal views and ideas into a universal language through their art practices, similar to the history of the town of San Giovanni Valdarno.

During the residency at Casa Masaccio, the artists have explored and excavated, through ideas and research, the historic nature, architecture and art of the town to integrate it into their personal art practices. Maintaining an identity of their own, the artists have created a dialogue that engages with San Giovanni Valdarno, its culture and people; and at the same time realised the development of new contemporary ideas and forms through their art. The works created during this period adopt a language that merge into the history of the town, but at the same time maintain universal identities of their own.

Remen Chopra draws deeply from the Renaissance period and school of thought, which was very central to San Giovanni Valdarno, the birth town of Masaccio. Her works resemble a detailed report of the artist‘s impressions and connections with the intensity of the laws of universe. These complexities and layers of the universe become paths of departure, and central to the course. Rendering it through the theatrical realm, Chopra enacts the act of cleansing in her work to step into the second birth of spiritual awakening. This work becomes the beginning of a yearning for the ideal, conveying the impressions of the new Renaissance.

Vibha Galhotra's art practice addresses trans-cultural in the global local specificity. She focuses on the context of displacement, nostalgia, identity, existence construction or deconstruction, the banal cultural condition in, around environment of negotiations in the new constant changing world. The works Galhotra has created during the residency are from her series 'Orbis Unum‘. Through this work, the artist has attempted to replace, deconstruct and dissolve the existential thought of the world of differences, religion, hierarchy, borders and power. Galhotra has drawn from the chastity of white to re-design the flags for One World, where the cultural and social symbols of geo-political places are denoted but not differentiated. The artist draws a reference from Einstein‘s statement; "the acceleration of free fall with respect to the material is therefore a mighty argument that the postulate of relativity is to be extended to coordinate systems that move non-uniformly relative to one another . . . ."

Her Re-birth Day project, inspired by Michelangelo Pistoletto‘s Third Paradise engaged the first public art interaction for the people of San Giovanni Valdarno, who participated in the creation of this work on 16th and 17th November 2012. The work will be exhibited in San Giovanni Valdarno on 1st December and on Re-birth Day - 21st December 2012. The interaction of the people with this work will extend into the artist‘s concept of her Orbis Unum series.

Sonia Jose‘s work during the residency at Casa Masaccio is a creation of her impressions of her immediate surroundings. Through her sensitive ability to absorb her surroundings, Jose has translated her observations of the architecture and diverse history of the associations of San Giovanni Valdarno with other towns and cities in Italy into her works and installation. The vitality of the centre and the knowledge of a trusted structure within the unknown is something that takes shape in Jose‘s works, signifying the connection of the contemporary re-birth (Renaissance).

At this month long Casa Masaccio artist residency program, Monali Meher portrays the site- specific aspects of San Giovanni Valdarno. In her short period of time here; the artist draws from her experience with the new surroundings, its nature, and architecture, interiors of spaces as well as people and their customs. In spite of Meher‘s physical appearance - which is fleeting or still - the emphasis is on the surrounding and its symbolic nature. These are reflected in her photographs and video works, which she has created during the residency. This series of works also reflects the performative nature of her art practice.

Text by Veeranganakumari Solanki.

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