Saturday, 7 June 2008
Just back from a week's holiday in Sardinia. Relaxing.
Myself and the missus took drive into the mountains to check out the mural art in Orgosolo.
Orgosolo is a small rural village in the mountains in the islands interior. From a distance it looks like every other sun-baked italian hill town. As you approach the town you see the "Hungry Landowner of Orgosolo" a haunting image painted on rocks which brought to mind Titan's "Saturn devouring his son".
There are hundreds of murals all around the small town. Is that Robert Burns below?
It's really inspiring, the murals were initially painted by local schoolchildren in the '70's. The first murals were actually posters stuck up throughout the town.
Early themes covered the commemoration of resistance from World War II but also local issues such as the controversial proposal of a National Park in Gennargentu which would have displaced traditional shepherding in the area.
The Shepherd is a totemic figure in Sardinian culture and is a recurring motif in many of the murals.
Other themes cover the traditional obsessions of the Italian Left over the last 30 years, the war in Vietnam, industrial dispute, workers rights, political corruption, fascism and violence among the police.
The majority of murals have been painted by Francesco Del Casino and Pasquale Buesca with help and input from local children and citizens of Orgosolo. There is a real sense of vibrancy in the murals, contemporary subjects include the attack on the World Trade Centre, Gaza, the war in Iraq as well as global poverty, AIDS, debt and profiteering.
The style isn't particularly sophisticated, Picasso and Miro seem the overwhelming influences with Guernica being the obvious and repeated touchstone. But other influences seem to intervene, TV news and even Banksy references crop up in some of the more recent murals.
It was a great trip and the variety of murals was mind boggling for somewhere so small. Street art, whether murals or graffiti, is predominantly seen as an urban art form and it was captivating to see this kind of work in an unexpected context. There's one mural outside the town where two people are pictured in an embrace under bushes. It's a touching and magical piece of work, largely because it represents an intimacy and romance that is unexpected in a form that's ostensibly propagandist.
Politically many might find the earnest declamations a bit naive but it's a geniunely engaging piece of folk art with a genuine sense of community and moral authority than an awful lot of bland impenetrable contemporary public art in more urban surroundings.
Orgosolo reminded me a little of Stokes Croft in Bristol in a way. The two environments couldn't be more different but the direct intervention of local people in forging an independent creative environment that reflects the world as it appears to them is something that's inspiring.
Sardinia itself is a really wonderful place. We stayed near Bosa in the west of the island. Ate our own body weight in superb seafood and just hung about. There was an amazing barbeque in the place we were staying so we had some great steaks and sausage! Yum!
Explored some Nuraghe and churches and sat on the beach (in my case hiding under rocks with things tied around my head reading and listening to tunes!). Read John McGahern's amazing "That they may face the rising sun" which is an absolutely stunning meditation on community, age, farming, love and the passage of time. The description of agricultural life in Leitrim amongst my grandfather's generation provided a neat echo of the serene agricultural rhythms of an island that hasn't yet lost its sense of the pulse of the seasons.