New Work. What Life?

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Below, my most recent work. It has been quite a while since my last post. I have been busy painting. While painting, I listen to podcasts from BBC and WNYC, or I listen to rock music on Virgin Radio. I take frequent breaks for tea, prepare lunch and dinner, teach five hours a week, try to go for a walk in the evening on the seaside promenade literally steps from my house, and go to bed thinking about what might my next painting be. That’s it. I can’t even read in bed, or elsewhere, because I need to shut my eyes, shut down, and dream or envision things, scenes, plot lines, scenarios. And I need to sleep.

I suppose I should go out a bit more. I was out on an errand up in town a few days ago, and on walking on the main street,  what words suddenly came to mind?

Wow, world.

Yes, there is a world out there, as real or fictitious as these, each a stage wherein you play your part.

And move on, or move aside.

Today, though, I am taking a little break. I sketched my next painting, but instead of putting on my work clothes, I put on my running gear and went jogging on a sunny beach. No podcast, music. Just the sound of the sea and a northerly breeze.

I noted the colors – sea, sky, waves. They might go into this next painting.

I jumped over a sea monster emerging from the shore –  driftwood too large and immersed too deep into the pit of sea and sand to pull out and drag home.

I ran on, this sea monster impressed upon me, a possible feature of a future painting in another country of the mind, one with its own mythologies I may create one day.

But for now, other priorities;  I have to cook ragu’ for my signora, after which I am teaching for an hour.

Since I am up in town, I will certainly stroll about Piazza Rossetti,  maybe take some pictures, cross paths with acquaintances, stop for a chat.

Yes, join that world, the real world, grant myself the time today to grasp, feel, act and move in clean new clothes, an ironed shirt,  crisp trousers, polished shoes to remind myself I am a character, minor, in a larger picture.

But life is in these miniatures …


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Luigi Monteferrante in Caravaggio mode.

Luigi Monteferrante in Caravaggio mode.

One day, one day without painting, was hell – no, but purgatorio, si.

Yesterday, work on the house had me assisting the bricklayer and plumber, and so I was on call for errands, cleaning, and moving furniture back and forth. Nothing heavy, nor tiring, and with small talk, the morning passed by easily enough.

By afternoon, however, the realization that I had nothing in mind, body, or spirit regarding my next painting had me feeling wretched, my mind not a blank, which conjures a clean, fresh, bright page, canvas or screen; instead, a thick, turgid, muddy green/grey swamp dully bubbling at an ever-decreasing rate and temperature.

My body, too, began to creak, my muscles   growing taut, my spirit sluggish, dull, a smoky fog as heavy as a lead mantle.

The day’s work done, I walked into the night by the sea, head slung low, the only rumblings the crash of waves ashore. So, too, dinner and after, a quiet evening of dull despair and emptiness failed to bring deliverance.

I woke up at 3:09, ready to plug my ears with a BBC podcast when suddenly a vision.

A vision.

That is: two consecutive, successive visions.

Clear, perfect, two bodies of work delivered bedside.

La notte porta giudizio, says an Italian proverb, night brings wisdom.

And something more. Levitation. And the exit sign out of Limbo.

Where does Art come from?

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2014-10-31 18.01.25

Where do paintings come from? Where does art come, the singular piece?

The above painting, Genesis, is not a painting I would have conceived or, once conceived, wanted to paint. Dark, disquieting, open to a variety of intetpretations I might find interesting, intriguing,  right or wrong though they may be.

Compared to the previous most recent work, Genesis would not be the first to hang on my walls. A woman, moribund, on  a table; a woman very near tears. No use describing it; the picture is posted for you to see, judge, dismiss, revile.

In fact, on the back of this painting, is another piece I had started sketching, near completed, a wholly different painting, one that would have been much less exhausting, and aesthetically pleasing, conceptually gratifying, the literal expression of a profoundly felt sentiment, but not one I plan on acting upon for the time being.

But Genesis, too, was a vision, not one that appeared in a dream, but in my waking hours – at that twilight zone of time of 3 am when I first awake, only to resume my journey towards the dawn.

From the initial vision, the picture expanded as I stared at the unprimed board.

Curled fingers, fingers, eyes, heads and legs generated themselves from nothing, or to be honest, the natural tones of pressed unsand-papered wood.

So where does Genesis, or more generally, art come from?

Not being a neuroscientist, nor a psychotherapist, I have no idea, but I do prescribe to the idea of Muses and visitations and divine intervention; that is often exactly how it feels, a curtain pulled aside, a tap on the shoulder, a word whispered, and everything is suddenly clear, not for nothing are they called illuminations, epiphanies, inspiration – to inspire, breathe in – what? The universe, human history, tragedy, comedy, melodrama, all of it, the human very personal condition.

Enthusiasm follows fast on the heels of inspiration, enthusiasm, being one with the gods, hence creation, Genesis.

Of course, there are electro-chemical actions, flux and reactions, a neural primordial soup, more like a swamp, full of life, one that would have remained a swamp breeding pestilence, no doubt, but for a new and external agent, an accidental spark, a freak bolt of lightning, and the given normal state is upset, disturbed, altered, the elements now in motion, reacting, twisting and gyrating, transforming and reshaping itself into a new body, new stuff, an entirely new thing, but not being gods, all we can do is create art.

Art, humankind’s imitation of Divinity, creating art, man’s mimicking the Divine Act.

I have not answered my initial question; maybe you can.

Me, I am just happy my beautiful muses come knocking; a slap to the head, a shout to the ear, a French kiss to the mouth, however they wish to spark life in this primordial mud of bone, gut and blood held together by pale sack, I welcome and take what comes.

Until the time prophesied by my next painting.

The Private Study of Mr & Mona Lisa, or Six…

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The Private Study of Mr & Mona Lisa, acrylic on wood,  106 x 96 cm. Gallery:

The Private Study of Mr & Mona Lisa, acrylic on wood, 106 x 96 cm. Gallery:

I started this painting with the idea of using the colors green and cream. And depicting a woman at a table. That’s all.

I carried the wood panel from the garage, put it down on the large outdoor table,  and started to sketch the table, the woman. A simple outline, but my eyes zoomed to one corner, followed the edges of another figure, and I set to tracing the personage waiting there, fully existent and cleary defined. I drew my pencil over the head and torso, fingers and hands, an annotation, or more a reminder to myself, or a fear that turning away I would lose it, the character off to some netherland, a character in search of an artist.

And so, my mythological muscular figure is firmly in place, cast in lines drawn by a pencil, no more than faint lines tying down such a powerful figure.

The gentleman on the left, he entered from the wings, in fact, unannounced. Mr Mythos has come and gone in a number of paintings, is indeed a member of an ongoing series entitled The Afterlife of Romans – I say ongoing now, only at his insistance, but the gentleman?  I know not where from he comes, nor to what purpose, but now that you are here, let’s make use of him.

Stand there, which is where he was in the first place.

The large portrait in what is a painting in a painting in, possibly, a painting, eyed me bashfully from behind the wall I had already built, that is, drawn.

And who am I to say: no, go away.

Oh, he or she might have gone down the stairs, stairs not so much an afterthought as a prime necessity even in my own daily life; always make sure you can go, leave the party, run, hide, even it’s just by holding up a book, and finding succour.

So, the stairs had to be there – and maybe with all these people, and who knows how many more were hiding behind the curtains, walls and panels waiting to, I don’t know, make their requests which may or may not be amicable.

With such a grand staircase, another picture frame was an obvious aesthetic choice, child’s play, but it required content.

Voilà! A new piece by Seymour Snowe, especially commissioned for the occasion. Thank you.

After I poured myself a cup of tea, and stood ready to begin, in jumps our little painter. A bald guy, barechested, not unlike me, for I shaved my skull for years, but my hair, albeit short, has long grown back, and I wear my usual autumn beard, so it is not me, but another imp of a man who has leaped centerstage. And, I suspect, is showing off for our Mona Lisa.

Or maybe he is her toy boy, as is the gentleman who, on looking closer at his hands’ expression,  appears to be directing or conducting – what, his own farce? With no one paying attention, not even the very clear object of his desire.

And Mythos, what is he raging about? Clenched fists, and bone-breaking strength, and unrequited love, a terrible mix! And jealous, too. I have no idea why he is upset and I am not going to stay to ask, in case he finds me guilty of being, well, guilty.

One thing I do know, though,  is I am going to descend those stairs, and invite you to entertain, ugh, explain the Private Study of Mr and Mona Lisa to our friends, while I go search for the artist.

The End?

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When do you know you’re finished? You don’t. You stand back, observe, reflect, go for a walk, sleep on it, and in the middle of the night, you realize there’s something wrong.

An uneasy feeling, specks of dust that make your nose twitch, becomes a rock-hard punch to that same nose, each speck of dust transformed into a lead and concrete block, so heavy getting out of bed becomes a burden.

The eyes are all wrong. Not all wrong, but need a touch of paint here, three strokes there, more shade, less shade, more color, lighter, darker, more variation, but without spoiling the chosen palette.

It’s not easy, but nobody’s chasing you for results.

You’re your own boss, your own critic, and nobody’s watching.

But you know where it’s wrong, and where it can be righted.

So, out with your paints, brushes, cup of water, rag, and tea.

The problem is that essentially, you are satisified. It does look okay, and it can be improved, but the fear is that you overdo it, you alter the painting and make it worse or even: the painting is ruined.

If it were a geared machine, I am thinking Victoriana, one loosed screw, one lost screw, and the entire contraption starts to wriggle and shake and, ultimately, its parts loosed, the Gargantuan contraption shatters, its parts spilled to the floor.

Looking at this painting the morning after I finished, and judiciously thought to myself, I’d like to see what the colors are like in the morning, I can see that the colors are more or less satisfactory, but the x and y are eyesores as is the z. But compared to Girlfriend with Loft, for example, which precedes The Triangle of Circular Squares, where the girlfriend is a suggestion rather than a true figure, why am I after a more realistic depcition of these people?

I’m no hyper- or photo-realist. How could I be? I have trouble being a realist.

But in this painting, the mode was set, and I have to proceed within its own logic.  That may mean I have to repaint it. Time stops. And then action.

I suppose it’s like rehearsing a play. You go over the lines, the motions and emotions, scene after scene, act after act until you reach the end and you are satisfied. And the curtain comes up and it’s the true and final and first performance and there’s nothing between you and the audience and they laugh at the wrong places and don’t laugh at the right places and the critics will tear you apart and you mumble and stutter, forget your lines and oh, disaster.

Why I feel lucky to be in my studio, my paint, brushes and me – alone, except for the dozen or so paintings I see waiting to be painted before me.

I will make this painting ‘better’, but I have those other lives, characters, Actors caught within the framework, to save, resuscitate, unpack from their boxes, unleash from their beds, and so on.

After all, I bet that Mona Lisa smile was a mistake. I mean, nobody smiles like that, but Leonardo, being the frenetic Genius that he was, told himself he’d get back to it someday, then things came up, and he died.

So, perfection is fine, if  ever you are granted infinity, and a hyper-realist will tell you that it’s highly unlikely, but I Always think of Shakespeare. The  pressure was on, the fury of his Genius enraged, and who the hell has time for notes and folios when I’ve got put on this show, and give Birth  to this next child – and oh, let the Others bawl, dirty, scantily dressed, snotty loves of mine who now live, beautifully imperfect, accidentally becoming, yet complete, while this next cries for life and I cannot delay…

The Triangle of Circular Squares,  or The Importance of Being Earnest.  95 x 106 cm, acrylic and graphite on wood. About:


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Ambition, the painting I posted on my first twitter Yesterday, came to the fore. Of all the paintings I might have posted, it was not a painting I chose at random. It summarised how I felt during the period which led to this new series of paintings. What was I going to do? Paint? Paint what? Take pictures I would manipulate and publish in my photography portfolio at I wanted to do something different. But how could I do something different – think, act, ponder, create anything different with these same hands, heart and soul? The solution: Ambition. A man holding a knife stands behind a man who is seated. The former will presumably murder the latter. Brutus/Caesar. CEO and his right-hand man, the CFO. Father and son. Buddies. A jealous husband. There are countless reasons for murder as we learn from history, literature, film, the news, TV drama. Nor are our own inner rage and deeper instincts immune to murderous conflagration, but in Ambition, the Ambition of late has taken on a wholly new meaning: murdering me, or killing one’s self to overcome one’s elf. No Nietzchean Superman, or comic strip here, but dying to become an Other who is one day stronger and better than Yesterday’s. No more, no less. At each sunrise/sunset, the maker of a new fate. And so we proceed as Merlo Ponti across Blackbird Bridge, working title of this Lasalle/Montreal series of paintings, singing Ridi, Pagliaccio. And laugh as we paint.

Ambition, from The Blue Room, 105 x 75 cm, acrylic on wood, LMonteferrante

Connnecting Parallel Lines

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I started a new painting. No big deal. I have started and finished about 200 paintings. On wood, canvas, paper.

Most are in the garage. One’s in Perth, Australia; another’s set for LA. Twenty or so are in a couple of locales. Most are here and not going anywhere fast.

The point is not what I have painted, but I am going to paint next. That is always the point. On occasions, on finishing a painting, I was stumped for my next, but it would come soon enough. In a dream, or a daytime vision, or from the support itself – plain white paper, wood board, canvas.

Not knowing what next to do was and is unpleasant; to date, the restlessness is/was shortlived.

I thank the  Muses and the Great Unknown.

I always tried to do something new. It is, and was, important not to repeat myself. A new stage, new characters, a new visual plotline and story.

About two weeks ago, the next painting appeared in its entirety, but so did the second, and third, and the entire series seemed to expand like a deck of flash cards which I would have to accurately and hurriedly paint.

Life gets in the way, so two weeks passed, and I only started today. Back where we began. In more ways than one.

I never moved to Italy.

I stayed in Lasalle, followed a dear old friend to art school, but he dropped out to follow a maestro, and I stayed on to complete my studies.

Never gifted at drawing, or painting, I read much and widely, much more than any of my classmates, and did well on my exams. I also happened to write relatively well. There was no great competition. The class of visual art students were not big Readers and were largely uninterested in the written word – unless it was backlit with neon!

I enjoyed studying; combined with writing extensively with notions picked up from the texts assigned, and many more besides, I did well on my exams.

That my life drawing was weak, my perspectives surreal, my shading unlikely was largely overlooked.

I was also well-behaved, engaged with professors before, during and after class, and was pretty much liked.

Teachers liked my enthusiasm and scope – and would start skimming through my papers after page five, my answer to question one, for example.

Thanks to a teacher, I found a part-time job at an arts supply store located downtown. I worked Thursday and Friday from six to nine, and all day Saturday.

I needed the job because my family had moved to Italy without selling the duplex, but I was lucky they still allowed me to live in the bachelor’s, a one room semi-interred flat in Lasalle.

Tenants occupied the two upstairs flats, the rent forwarded to my parents’ Italian account. My flat was free, of course, but I would have to attend to maintenance and small repairs.

Still, I felt lucky. Having a roof over your head, a place to live and work, paint and study, was no small thing and I was grateful.

Of course, I broke my mother’s heart, my sister cried, and my father thought they should have stayed in Canada anyway. But they left.

I finished school. Cegep, that is, and went to Concordia. I continued my studies: art history, art education.

I knew I would teach. I wanted to teach. And I started teaching in Cegep, having completed my MA.

I liked being in school, life on campus, smart colleagues, bright students, the competition, the desire to outshine your peers with publications, exhibitions, notoriety. Sure, that was all good.

I wrote reviews. There was no point in reviewing bad work, lending a spotlight to an artist that did not deserve the attention, and so I persisted in featuring works I did like, artists I enjoyed, thought interesting, intriguing, deserving.

The community, being small, in Montreal, I won the tiniest notoriety when first one artist, or gallerista, then others, were noticed for not being reviewed by me.

The ignored struck back by reviewing my own art, not ignoring, but writing a bad review.

Writing a bad review, not a review about how bad my art was, but the review, the writing itself, was bad. Bloated, hyperbolic, abstract, incomprehensible, or so insightful it hurt the author, if nobody else. A game, nothing more, nothing less.

And I was amused. I was teaching, but kept my job at the art supply store. I liked walking the aisles, being ho-hummed by a would-be costumer looking for a specific brush, or paint, or instrument, or advice. The occasions would sometimes lead to small talk – life, art, the hardships, the joy – and sometimes these would lead to friendship, relationships – deep and long, brief and intense, and as likely, one-night stands.

After work, I would walk around downtown, sometimes with colleagues, often alone, go to shows, and inevitably meet with students and former students, struggling artists juggling ambition, craft, ego, vision, careers and aspirations.

A pint of bitter was my drink and I raised a few in the endless talks, discussions that finished late into the night, and always left me exhilerated and exhausted.

Back at work, sooner than wished for, it was only after  four or five late-nights that I would begin to suffer, and so it turned out that I’d be home on a Saturday when everybody went out.

And Saturdays I would start on a new painting in the bachelor’s where I am now painting: the bachelor’s.

The Bachelor, acrylic on wood, 95 x 106 cm. First of a series.  About:

Wanted: galleries.

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I have only been painting since November 2013, having spent all my years writing long bad novels, a few plays, one produced in NYC in 2011, some good short stories and lots of good, perhaps, very good poems, many of which were published.

But then something happened.

I went into hermetic mode. I needed silence. I tired of setting words in a pile, putting them into order, fashioning characters, background and backstory, twisting plots and creating drama, tension, and a satisfying finale. Words, words, words. Basta.

I started painting full-time in near-total retreat.

What to paint?

Images emerged at night, while sleeping or during my waking hours, unexpectedly. Or they simply appeared to me in all their completeness and finality directly from the blank canvas, or more commonly, primed or unprimed wood board.

Once I had a good body of work, I started writing galleries in cities where I could depend on friends to have me as their guest, if I did get an exhibition; and if I did, I could count on them to show up with friends and friends of friends: London, Montreal, New York, Toronto, LA, Philadelphia, Brussels.  Closer to home: Milano, Rome, Bologna. And then, Holland, Germany.

I had hit upon the Artforum list and tried them all. Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Estonia.

But no luck.

Some replied they were not taking on any new artists, and some never wrote back. Simply not interested.

Meanwhile, I had a group show at Palazzo d’Avalos in Vasto, where I live, and a solo show at the Politecnico di Milano university in May 2013. I was also accepted for a group show in Ireland, to take place in November, and I was really looking forward to returning to Ireland, but the gallery was damaged by an inopportune flood, the show put off indefinitely. Sigh. During the summer, though, Galleria Ramundo, Vasto’s only commercial and longstanding gallery, decided to put two of my paintings on display. A hotelier friend who organises cooking classes and Abruzzo tours at Palazzo Tour d’Eau in the hilltop town of Carunchio also suggested a show, especially as he caters to mostly American clientele who might appreciate contemporary Italian art.

But by the end of the summer, the fifteen or so paintings were all still there. No sales.

All the while, I kept painting constantly, grateful to my muses, and the great unknown that granted me the time and opportunities to dedicate myself  wholly to painting full-time, and during intervals, who would I contact?


Then an acquaintance called. An architect,  she has a beautiful little studio she has used for exhibits, and would I like to have a show? Sure.

Solo Exhibition

Date: 20-23 December 2014. Location: Piazza San Pietro 16, Vasto. From 6 pm.

And you’re all invited.