Hooray – this blog is about to get another perspective, and probably a much more interesting one than I usually come up with! My partner Katherine is going to start writing entries here, and this is the first of many to come. Read on:
We’ve been travelling through Europe for seven months now and have developed a sort of astronomically high standard when it comes to things to see and do. Mediaeval hill-top towns with charming, impossibly narrow cobbled streets that would have once had me salivating are now generally met with a lacklustre “it’s nice but we’ve seen better”. Ditto for churches and castles. We went to Assisi and didn’t step foot into a church. When we saw photos of the Siena Duomo, however, the newly found HDR photographers in us couldn’t wait to photograph it and it didn’t disappoint.
One of the first things we noticed about this gothic masterpiece was the cacophony of detail in the facade. We’ve both often wondered at the practicality of such lavish detail that is going to be viewed from a great distance. A sculpture that may have taken months to complete may never be focused on for itself but will just blend into the rest!
We wandered the town before entering the Duomo in order to avoid a school group that was just about to go in. I didn’t find the town itself particularly captivating – there was none of the grandeur of Rome, the beauty of Florence or the charm of tiny villages but the piazza was rather impressive in its vastness.
We spent hours in the Duomo being generally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of photogenic goodness and not wanting to miss a great shot. Truly, we would have had lacklustre photos if not for our new found HDR skills given the bright spots of light coming in through the windows and the lamps with the rest being in shadow. Tripods weren’t allowed even if we had one so my shoulder and both of us holding our breath was the next best thing.
I love that those dudes above look like they’re at a rock concert, fist-pumping the air.
Another thing that’s easy to overdose on during an extended jaunt through Europe is religious themed art, especially in Italy. One of the highlights of the Siena Duomo for me was the library which had massive illuminated vellum hymn books on display. To my delight they were filled with creatures and floral designs that could easily slot into a pop surrealism painting today. This guy put me strongly in mind of an X-Men cartoon:
By far my favourite little guys were these dolphin-like creatures that I could totally see in a Greg “Craola” Simkins painting – they’ve even got pearls!
I felt such a powerful sense of kindred-spiritness through this vast span of time with the whimsical soul who conjured up these bizarre creatures. It’s the first time that I felt I could really relate to a specific person from another time period and it made me reel a little bit at the… I don’t know, interconnectedness of it all, I suppose. You can’t get much more modern than pop surrealism in the art world. Like the Impressionists and the Salon, pop surrealism artists are still largely unaccepted by mainstream galleries: That’s how new it is. Yet, here’s some dude illuminating hymn books with these imaginary slightly creepy creatures almost 600 years ago that could be published in the funkadelic Hi-Fructose magazine today. This to me, was much more interesting than seeing an umpteenth Madonna and baby Jesus.
After spending some time pouring over the books Mike asked me if I’d looked up yet.
Thank goodness for zoom lenses and digital SLRs because it turned out there were more creepy creature goodies all the way up there getting lost in the “more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts-ness”.
We probably could have stayed and spent another hour or two photographing the cathedral but we were racing daylight so we headed off at peak hour, as usual, for our home for the night – a sosta in the delightfully named town of Poggibonsi.