“…and I am still looking for a well-conserved specimen of a hedgehog!”
The day we arrived in Celleno, there was a festival. This event turned out to be much bigger
than planned, since there were some 3000 visitors instead of the expected 1000 people. The
travel directions, a careful composition of photos and instructions, were of no use. We tried to
reach Casa Amenta Maria from various angles, but each time we tried, we got stuck at the
entrance to the old village. In the meantime dusk had fallen and we called Rosella. She
understood at once that we would not be able to find CAM on our own. So, her son jumps
into his car and leads the way for us. From that very moment we are moved by the friendly
and helpful inhabitants of the village. The next day, we went to Andrea in his San Rocco bar
for coffee and a bite. There was nothing left to eat, they were sold out.
Yolande, my lady friend, accompanied me during my first week. Before I got there, I had had
to organise quite a number of things and it had been a very busy time. My eldest daughter
Guusje, 18, was in Australia; Cato, 17, was swotting at her local grammar school, and Teun,
13, had just begun his secondary education. Being a co-parent for 50% of the time, my
children are with me every other week. Consequently, it was quite hard to leave home for a
month and a half.
The Volvo 240 station wagon was filled to the brim with lamps, tripods, two camera systems
– a 35mm camera and a medium format one – and a number of objects including some
carpets. And there were a few things I wanted to use as props while making nudes. I had made
arrangements with models beforehand. One was to come from Holland, another from Rome. I
was cheerful, for this was an opportunity to create new work, working with an open mind in a
new environment for six weeks.
Working at CAM went very well. Every day just before sunrise I was woken up by the flock
of sheep walking past the house; they were bleating loudly and ringing their bells. On hearing
them, I jumped out of bed to enjoy the view and catch the first sun rays, followed by a quick
The landscape is of such beauty and so unlike the landscape I am used to at home, that I often
got lost on purpose, with Radio Subasio on at full blast, and me singing along. I had such a
strong feeling of being alive and connected with all and everyone.
The cultural-historical background of this region has lifted me up. There is so much beauty
and such a lot of history, with art and architecture stacked on top of one another, like in
Celleno Vecchia. Here, the people are so friendly; they are a small, pure, and tight village
community, with men sitting on a wall during lunch break. The San Rocco bar and Andrea
were a kind of base for me. I often came there to work and to prepare my plans. This is where
I met some local people.
I wanted to make nudes and still-lifes, and since I never use Photoshop, light is crucial. For
nudes the locations are important, too, as well as the time of day as regards the light and so
on. During week one I tried to find spots to make a series of nudes, and Yolande helped me
find them. We found some appropriate spots outside, but also inside Casa Amenta Maria,
where the window in the living room worked perfectly as a daylight window. Working in the
house forced me to be well prepared. Considering the lighting conditions, taking pictures was
only possible from 8.30 to 11.30 am., and a bit longer when the sky was overcast. I have made
two nudes in the house and a few on the path from the house to the stream below.
I got in touch with people in order to borrow objects for the still-lifes and I bought some
objects as well. I got inspired by the colours of the landscape and by the houses. The Bonucci
firm has mixed these colours for my paint, and with it I painted a large canvas. After applying
a second layer of paint I connected the canvas with my surroundings: While still wet, I placed
the painting on the path where the sheep go, and stepped on it with my bare feet so that it got
covered in soil, clay and sheep dung. I then turned the canvas over and added some chalk
from the rocks nearby.
I visited a number of museums to get an impression of still-lifes in the time of the Etruscans.
On one of my rambles I met Tuijla Weigel, a lady of Finnish origin, who works at Castello
Costaguti in Roccalvecce. I showed her some of my work on A-5 size, and it turned out she
absolutely loves still-lifes. She put me in touch with Giovangiorgio Afan de Rivera Costaguti,
who, being also enthusiastic, gave me permission to make nudes and still-lifes in the castle.
The whole series of Tabula Rasa Italia was made at CAM, whereas, up to now, the Nuovi
Amici series was made in Castello Roccalvecce. This latter series is to be continued, and I
hope to go on with it during a later period of AIR in Celleno.
Opposite San Rocco there is a family whose youngest grandchild helped out as an interpreter,
so that I could talk with the pater familias, a former lawyer and now an artist. In this house a
lot of special stories are connected to works of art and to objects, and I really want to return
here, one day.
Working in Celleno was fantastic; it was an incredibly rich, warm and special experience. To
me, the colours of Italy are ochre, orange, and a certain shade of red, the colour of my
background, which represents present-day Italy. My favourite colour is vermilion, a kind of
orange-and-red blend, which somehow symbols the pomp and circumstance of the Italy of
I could cry out and admonish the people of Celleno to keep the balance between the town’s
authenticity and tourism, an industry they are yearning for. Most of all I want to thank them
for their helpfulness in realising some of my works and for making friends with me. I am
already looking forward to coming back and perhaps I can then borrow some special objects
for new series of still-lifes, objects with a special story behind them.
I have never experienced a period in my life that was more valuable, energetic or productive.
In Celleno energy flowed like never before and the urge to create was unfailing and
successful. A whole series of still-lifes has arisen, called Tabula Rasa. This title came into
being when I first arrived in Celleno without the relationships and knowledge I usually need
in order to harvest. Borrowing objects was a stiff process at first, because my Italian is
insufficient. In the end I am very glad with the result.
By the way, I am still looking for a well-conserved specimen of a hedgehog!
Translation Hans Kal