Some background on ‘Pentimento’ from Marco Luccio:
To create the work for Pentimento I travelled to Paris and Florence for the inspiration of those two beautiful cities.
We arrived in Paris in December 2005 and began the work for the show which I later finished at the Baldessin
Press in St Andrews.
To work in Paris was a dream I held for a long time, and then one day, I woke up, I was in Paris, and it was time
for me to work. It was cold of course, but I rugged up in layers, left the apartment and took a train to the Arc de
Triomphe so I could draw its views into my sketchbook.
I chose the Arc because I knew that its location included everything that would fire the automatic response that
inspires all of my work. I find it hard to work from memory or from photos, so I really have to work live-on-site, and
the site has to be a place where something monumental is happening. The monumental thing that Paris does is
lay down layers and layers of itself as every moment passes, each moment never to be repeated, and it has
places where you can see that happen.
On top of the Arc de Triomphe I saw all of Paris laid out around me, in the grind of the traffic, the pressing
crowds, the gulls, the frigid wind, and the sights: the wedges of city split by those radial boulevards, the classic
lawns, the arresting architecture and Eiffel’s perfect industrial icon.
Possibly the one sight I did not anticipate turned out to be one of the best. Soon after I arrived I saw, floating
above those classic Paris rooftops and capped by the constant zigzag of passenger jets high above, a fleet of
intensely coloured hot air balloons. They just meandered about the city, looking for all the world like exclamation
marks streaked onto the cityscape. I could barely take my eyes off them, and couldn’t believe my luck to see this
reminder of those classic French hero-scientists among this brilliant, heaving city that stakes its place in the here
and now yet all the while flaunts its past. I had to include them in my images of that day.
I made some of the images in Pentimento in Florence, Italy, in late 2005. Through the generosity of some
patrons, Debra and I stayed in the centre of the old town in a beautiful apartment near the Duomo of Florence,
the Santa Maria del Fiore. That for me was amazing, because without quite realizing it or even fully
understanding why, the architectural dome has become a recurring motif in my work, and the Duomo’s dome is
perfection, to me. Perhaps it’s the form itself, or because I’m taken with the vaulting ambition of the designers, I
really don’t know, but when I see great domes I’m always compelled to just sit and draw them from life. The
Duomo was no different, and from the apartment I could open a window and look over the rooftops to
contemplate this beautiful object.
At that time the Duomo was actually surrounded by scaffolding, which probably marred the experience for the
thousands of tourists who trail past it daily, but for me the sight was serendipitous. It just reinforced to me that this
place, which lives and thrives on its Renaissance past, still lives now. Scaffolding is all about remaking the city,
and it signalled a truth outside the romantic conception of the place. In a way, the scaffolding was all of one with
the profusion of air conditioning units, antennae and satellite dishes on the red roofs of the old town. Together, it
reminded me of a thought that I’ve carried for a while now – that time speaks to us through our marks on the city,
and that they are never entirely rubbed out. Everything changes, even in glorious artifacts like Florence, but when
the change follows the layering of new lives on top of the old, it’s beautiful.
A new focus for me in my current work is the horse, and Pentimento includes images of a horse’s head that I first
drew from an Etruscan sculpture in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
I have always drawn horses and they have long been fused into my sense of the city. I recall as a boy looking at
Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano in books, and later, at the horse in works of Delacroix and Gericault, and
of course, of Picasso. I know now that the horse represents power and civilization and wealth, so to me they
belong in a city and they reveal all of the politics and intrigue, and the ascent or destruction, of a place. The
Etruscan statue that I used as a study for my own work was a tiny piece. It was elegant, as Etruscan art so often
is, and it looked liked it was made for its lines to live on in new work.