The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Sep 25, 2010

Chez Danielis

The other day Ray and I were supposed to meet Denis for French Lunch at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. By French Lunch I mean Ray and I attempt to speak at varying levels of competence in that language (Ray much better than I) and Denis tolerantly and with much forbearance listens to our drivel and corrects us. Unfortunately, Denis was unable to make it to the venue - some problems on the train - so Ray and I were left to our own devices. We tried a few half-hearted phrases between each other, and then gave up the effort, and concentrated on the exhibition itself for the following fifteen minutes.

Ray had met an Italian lithographer at the Affordable Arts Fair a few months earlier, and promised to check out his latest presentations at Whitechapel, which was primarily why we were there. Massimo Danielis turned out to be a quietly eloquent gentleman with a collection of artistically produced books for sale. These books were limited run editions of some of his etchings and lithographs in a free associative pattern with text from the epistles of St Paul and the writings of St Francis of Assisi. 
Massimo Danielis - Biele Compagnie II b2, 2005
Massimo explained that he had written out parts of the text in block letters and persuaded his children to copy them out in their (five-year-old) handwriting. The overall effect was surprisingly moving, suggesting, as he intended, innocence. The contrast between the abstractions of his own etchings and the ancient writings was quite palpable.

He showed us his illustrations on the theme of St Francis's Brother Sun and Sister Moon. We looked admiringly at one green-blue etching and he asked us what we thought it was. 'Grass?' I ventured. He was polite enough not to throw us out, and corrected me gently, 'It is rain.' The next picture was of brilliant swathes of scarlet across a field, and I said, 'Tulips?' and he must have thought me a complete boor, for after all, Francis's Canticle talks about the sun and the moon and the stars and fire, and ends with Sister Death. But I didn't know that till after he explained, and now you know as well.

We chatted briefly. Ray was going to Massimo's studio in Munich to check out some of his latest work, and I think had hoped to see examples of it at Whitechapel. But of course Whitechapel turned out to be holding an Arts Book Fair, not an Arts fair, and so he was probably a little disappointed. 

A good lunch-time break, nevertheless.


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