VENICE BIENNALE DIARY MAY 23

Anita and I made plans to create a book with the drawings using handcrafted book-binding methods. Today we work to complete this book. She shows me a bookbinding book which explains how to bind with bird feathers and other such things.

May 23
Today I wake up early to meet the artist Anita Cerpelloni, who is also the owner of the gallery where my exhibition is showing. Anita works with calligraphy, painting and with paper – sculpting with paper, folding paper, making her own sketchbooks and bindings by hand – even making her own paper. She builds huge lampshades out of folded paper and exhibits them in hotels and design fairs around the world. Two years ago she gave me a sketchbook that she made which I have prepared with background layers. Resolution has been difficult because I want to complete the book with drawings worthy of the book itself. Inspired by the works by Frank Auerbach, which are exhibited at Alma Zevi – a gallery very close to Anita’s gallery, I have started drawing the scene outside the gallery on a daily basis. By the end of my exhibition which is Thursday, May 30 the book should be complete. The difference is that his drawings are highly edited and mine are going into the book unedited. I feel the pressure but I draw with improvisation in mind… I am tired today and the drawing is probably not going to be as ‘good’ as when my mind is sharp – but I’m working without judging. The show is called ‘imprecision’ after all.

Two years ago I also produced a series of double-sided drawings for my exhibition Out of the Mothership. Anita and I made plans to create a book with the drawings using handcrafted book-binding methods. Today we work to complete this book. She shows me a bookbinding book which explains how to bind with bird feathers and other such things. Our plan requires foraging for materials so we decide to meet again tomorrow.

The problem with waking up so early is I’m ruined for the rest of the day.

I spend the last few moments of sunshine with a takeaway pasta from Tuttinpiedi (On Your Feet), which I try to eat in St Mark’s Square. I hadn’t read the signs that sitting and eating in the square is not permitted and I am told to move on. I transfer my picnic to an acceptable location by the waterfront. I see on social media that Banksy is in Venice. His stunts are going viral. He set up an arrangement of paintings depicting a typical touristic scene of Venice except with a huge cruise ship going across them. There is a humorous video on his official Instagram account of setting up his display in St Mark’s Square and being asked to move on – possibly by the same guards who asked me to move. His Instagram caption reads, ‘Setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale. Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason, I’ve never been invited.”

I chat with a friend about art and popularity. What makes good art? Will Banksy ever be curated into the Venice Biennale and if not, why not? His works are so popular and his stunts are quick to go viral. His works sell for more than $100,000. I remember an intern at the British Pavilion scoffing that people were asking her whether Banksy was representing Britain this year. Is it snobbery preventing Banksy from being accepted? I wonder whether there is a particular quality or characteristic that defines great Art. Neurologist Semir Zeki believes that high levels of ambiguity are needed to make works of Art great. There isn’t much ambiguity in a Banksy’s cruise ship paintings – essentially they are clever tricks with a fairly obvious message. Could that be the answer?

Sharon Kenny from Porthole Cruise Magazine meets me at the gallery in the afternoon for an interview. She explains how cruise ships get bad press in Venice due to the over-tourism when in fact, cruisers make up a much smaller percentage than tourists coming in on airplane, bus, and train. It is easy to target the cruise ships because they are so visible and such a blight on the Venetian views when they are juxtaposed next to the relatively minuscule traditional Venetian gondolas, (as Banksy has highlighted).

I manage to work during the evening until 2 am. By that time my exhausted brain is wired with adrenaline. I cancel all my plans for tomorrow morning and I ask Anita if we can take a break with the book – continue next week so I can think about what to do and also to rest. At the moment I feel like I am doing an ultra-marathon – my wellness, sanity, and happiness is almost directly related to getting enough sleep and eating well at the moment.

Anita Cerpelloni and one of her paper lamps in her gallery
Claire Zakiewicz, ‘Outside the Gallery’ 2019
Banksy in Venice

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