Regular posts about my painting practice present and past.

Bumper stickers from the Palio di Siena

| 27 March, 2012 10:26

 

 

I bought a set of bumper stickers in Siena, Italy about 20 years ago that represent the colors and some design elements of the banners of the 17 different contrade or city wards.

 

 Bianco listato di Nero Turchino e Rosso of the “crested porcupine” contrada

Twice a year since the 14th century a horse race is held in the Piazza del Campo. Only ten of 17 teams participate because there were too many accidents when all 17 raced. The bareback riders are often thrown.

 

Bianco e Arancio listati di Turchino of the “unicorn” contrada whose residents are goldsmiths by tradition

 

 

Bianco e Nero listati di Arancione, the “she-wolf” contrada, home to bakers.

 

The designs are simultaneously authentic mediaevil and modern/minimalist. They have the flat, programmatic presence of a Bridget Riley painting but they derive from battle banners: graphic signs to identify the bearer as friend or foe.

 

Rosa antico e verde con cornice gialla of the “dragon” contrada whose residents were bankers.

 

I’m intrigued with how they succeed as minimalist painting compositions conveying a sense of urgency with their repeated, high-contrast motifs. These pictures aren’t whispering, they’re shouting. Their formal attributes organized primarily to turn up the volume and emphasize their difference from one another.

 

Bianco listato di Rosso of the “giraffe” contrada where the painters lived.

 

I bought them because I used to be a minimalist painter and I learned how difficult it is to compose an image that is free of  literary or illusionistic content.

 

Giallo e Verdi listati di azzurro or the “caterpillar” contrada home of the silk trade workers.

 

And I feel these compositions do that while at the same time relying on a highly specific iconography. I just love them. They are emotional and flamboyant yet completely abstract.

 

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