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Barga II Excels Again .... much delight all round!

Tom Ewing Does it Again!

Tom loves painting pictures for City Mayors! His first artwork for the Arts Festival in 2003 was for the Lord Mayor of Gothenburg, and now on the Arts Festival's Barga II trip he does it again.

There's an Exhibition jointly with Preston Lodge School at The Gothenburg during 3Harbours

This NewsNet is just to whet the appetite for the Exhibition of artworks arising from Barga II Visit just completed led by Tom Ewing and Hamish Moore and co-ordinated by Gillian Hart. Martine Robertson was also there again and penned the following word images of time gleefully spent for Tuscany Life / Barga News:

From Scotland to Barga: Beyond Volcanic Ash

'Two weeks prior to our planned visit to Tuscany the ‘travelling section’ of the Prestonpans art group breathed a collective sigh of relief. The drama and the dust from that Icelandic volcano had receded, and we resumed our rummaging - in lofts, dark cupboards and under the stairs - for suitcases and travel bags, tubes half full of sun screen, acrylic paints and sandals, squashed desperate for an airing.

On Tuesday 4th May with just two days to go, a fresh cloud of ash stole in stealthily and settled over Scotland. Anxious texts, phone calls and emails flew, all hoping that one or another might know a bit more, have a clearer idea. A vulcanologist maybe? What were the chances of taking off on Thursday 6th May. Undaunted we left Prestonpans, suitcases set for sun, heartened by internet assurances that our plane was scheduled to go. And it did.

For all Scots the weather is a constant inconstant, we always anticipate more of it, but travelling to Tuscany we hoped for less of it. Along our way the Gods threw the whole seasonal jigsaw in the air and the pieces landed all over the place. Wind and ash from Iceland, Edinburgh bathed in sunshine then landing into a cloudburst in Pisa. We ran through it to our seats on the spotless Biagi bus, and continued our journey to the beautiful walled city of Barga Vecchia.

Several of our party were headed for the magnificent Conservatorio di Santa Elizabetta just below the Duomo. It was to be our elegant and atmospheric dwelling place for the week generously available by the hospitality of the Comune di Barga. We felt, we were, very privileged.

Prestonpans with Cockenzie and Port Seton in Scotland are small towns on the Forth coast of East Lothian. The Sea is to us what the mountains are to Barghigiani, the very air we breath and often the presence that is a catalyst for our changing moods and emotions, the backdrop to so much of our creative outlet. Barga and Prestonpans are twinned towns drawn together in the first instance by our links with the great artist John Bellany. He was born and raised by that Sea at Port Seton and who has now lived, inspired, on a mountain in Tuscany just beyond Barga for all of the past 20 years.

We too had made this journey to Barga looking for inspiration, and we found it over and over again. Several of us had travelled to Barga before to sing or paint, or in the case of Hamish Moore to play and build his beautiful Scottish small pipes. Those returning found a joy that was unconfined to friends and familiar faces and places. For others new to Barga there was all the excitement of finding the best ice cream shop in the world, working out the ‘secret code’ of the bells at the Duomo, or finding themselves part of the everyday film show flickering quietly away in the corner of the Barga Book Exchange.

Throughout our week in the town, Barga's un-seasonal weather was a major topic of conversation for both Barghigiani and visitors alike. Fair weather shifted to hard rain, soft rising mists to sparkling light, colours that changed almost as fast as we could mix them on our painting pallets. Days folded into one another in a vivid mix of good food, and drink, conviviality and above all painting. The weather showed us the changing scenes and hues of Barga and we attempted to capture them quickly in the knowledge that each view was a one-off, brought by a shift in a fleeting cloud formation. We painted: from the Duomo, Altana in the old town, in doorways and stairways, in beautiful gardens and from the windows of the Conservatorio itself. We simply painted through the weathers.

Some in the group were greedy capturers of light and hue and had to record what we saw there and then. Other walked and talked through the week taking it all in, to return to their easels at home in Scotland, warm with inspiration. Some recorded our collective experience on camera - [particularly May Cruickshank who contributed the images immediately above.]

Our favourite meeting place, Aristos bar, proved to be a welcoming spot for impromptu exhibitions at the end of a painting day. Prosecco or beer in hand we surveyed the day's work and felt warmly encouraged and supported by the people of Barga who sat with us, or passed, smiling and enjoying our pleasure.

Those of us who left the walls to walk for an hour or two, found ourselves moving up through soft air and scents, that let you know that Spring had really been here all the time in the wild flowers, butterflies and the green green foliage all around. Others boarded buses and enjoyed travelling with the school children through the different hamlets to their homes in and through the hills.

On Sunday the heart beat of the old town pulsated to drums pounded by men and women dressed in velvets so rich you could almost feel the great softness of their touch. They were followed by lords and ladies in heavy brocades and satins, and by pilgrims in plain linens, and then most importantly by fierce archers protective of their domains. A great feast for all the senses.

Each day we looked forward to meals made from the best local produce. Tasty lunches in small cafes and bakers, and hearty dinners in the restaurants and trattorias, almost always accompanied by the delicious local red wines, all served up with a warmth of spirit that added even more depth to the flavour.

Two days before we left the sun shone for us. As Barga sparkled in all her finery we purred with the pleasure of the sun's warmth. We had been able to produce so much work through the week we decided to hold a miniature exhibition in the Conservatorio and invite the interested and the curious. Then we attended a small reception with the Mayor Marco Bonini and were happy to be able to present him with a painting of Barga - [as seen above] crafted for the occasion by our Art Tutor Tom Ewing. Also there by coincidence were children from Longniddry in East Lothian [accompanied by East Lothian Provost Sheena Richardson] who sang beautifully in Italian and Scots as we gathered to record the event on the wonderful balcony of The Comune.

Even now we are all in our various ways planning our returns. Some in two years for Barga III perhaps, some almost immediately to take part in The Hamish Moore School of Scots Music this June. For almost all the question seems not to be if but when?

Barga’s beauty is immediate and intense. Turning a corner can startle you with any number of perfect connections between the natural landscape and the town's built architectural landscape. But there is another, slower, more peripheral beauty, the memories that come back to us and seep out warmly into a Scottish winter evening. A glass of good wine, bringing back smells of flowers you hadn’t been aware of, or a song you forgot you had sung, or a photograph that once in your hands can recall for you the exact moment of the shutter's click, a moment you knew even then you would treasure forever.

There are many people we would like to thank but it’s too difficult in case we miss someone out, but we would like to single out Sonia Ercolini in particular. She has simply been ‘Our woman in Barga’, our connector to possibility. Many thanks Sonia from the Prestoungrange Arts Festival Group - Barga II.'

Published Date: May 20th 2010

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