When I started to discover the surroundings of my new home in Castellabate in
the south of Italy about twelve years ago, I explored them by drawing objects
that would catch my eye, anywhere, near to and quite far away from my house
and workroom. This was a totally new approach for me.
First of all, it meant I had to get out of the house and carry all the tools and
materials such as my pads, papers and pencils with me. Then I found that the
sitting arrangements can be quite uncomfortable, the sun may dazzle you, there
are disturbing shadows on the paper, sometimes the wind tries to blow away the
drawing, and there is always a bad-tempered dog unmistakably urging you to
pack up and disappear.
Furthermore, I was having doubts about my approach - if it was still acceptable
and appropriate to work in such an ancient and slow way in an age with facilities
to produce thousands of electronic pictures in no time at all.
However, I learned how working like that in the open air teaches you to look
at objects in a very incisive way and urges you to decelerate and let everything
sink in slowly. You can hear the wind, the voices, the noise of cars, and people
come up to you and ask what you are doing there. They start telling you about
this uncle or that aunt who is an exceptionally great painter, and every so
often they come back with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine for you.
After a while, you begin to grasp where you actually are, and you are bound to
discover the shadowy and shady side of life in this part of Italy as well,
simply by perceiving and observing the daily life that is going on around you.
All this was important for me to gain a solid footing there, and it helped me
to accommodate and become a part of the local neighbourhood and community.
So, finally, I dared to create these large portraits, hoping the people depicted
would not banish me after they have set eyes on my pictures…
In Castellabate I quite often think of pittore Miller. When he started his
famous Grand Tour down to Italy in September 1786, he did not intend to visit
the southern parts of the mainland. He was firmly convinced that the areas
further down were not worth seeing because they would lack charm and beauty.
After his excursion to Paestum in March 1787, he returned to Naples on the
same day, and took the ferry bound for Sicily six days later.
This man was Goethe. I think he was wrong.