Anna Belleforte

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the wabi-sabi of Budapest

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 30, 2018 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)


Buildings are tangible evidence of history. Even the newer ones should be able to tell us something about the past, if done right, i.e. when sympathetic to local values and truths as expressed through architecture. Many of these lots are being filled in with modern, cheap concrete. Because the construction industry goes on. It’s understandable, but also what a shame to lose sight of the hand-laid brickwork, the beautiful textures resulting from river silts (of which bricks are made) and the ‘wabi-sabi’ – great Japanese terms describing the qualities of simplicity, imperfection, uniqueness and solitude. Exactly the features of these spaces.

We’re heading towards the exhibition and I have to think up titles. ‘Vacant lots’ seems too simple. I like titles that keep things open and non-explicit, but give you enough of a hook to make you curious.

achieving shadow colours with collage

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 27, 2018 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I’ve left the first painting to rest and started a second. Painting new colours onto old pages: yellows, peaches, greens, blues and the varieties in between. Cutting them up and applying strip after strip. Randomly at first, then concentrated, to get the right juxtapositions and balance. There’s a meditative quality to it and pleasure in seeing the volume and perspective of the buildings come to life. The big challenge today was to get the colours right for the shaded areas and how to make the transitions look natural – from wall into projected shadow on wall, and gradations of shadows into the deeply recessed light wells, which also absorb some reflected light. Hard lines tend not to look natural for cast shadows, and getting the colour right for the cast shadow is easier in paint than in ‘pasting’. Quite a lot of details to consider. It’s not ‘immediate satisfaction’ collage, but a slow process. I did hear from a fellow resident that the buildings look both old and new, giving it an interesting appeal. I like that contrast.

#papiercolle #acrylicpainting #artistinresidence #BARTR #Budapestartresidency #mindspace #Budapest


acappella and collage

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 21, 2018 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I attended a wonderful a cappella concert last night in Budapest (with a cappella groups from Hungary, Sweden and Germany) and while listening I found a similarity to my working process that day – and every day, working on this Budapest series. A cappella is like a patchwork of voices, sometimes overlapping, a harmony of opposites, sometimes shooting out of the melody; there’s rhythm and repetition, peaks and valleys. As I lay the paper strips one after the other onto the canvas, I follow the same process: overlapping, synchronizing, finding/creating rhythms and textures. I’m ultimately creating a kind of melody with coloured papers, and because they are such defined shapes – I’m now working with geometric strips – they also look a bit like the staves of musical scores. I’ve never really thought much about the parallels between music and visual art, though of course there are many (mark-making/notes, brushstrokes/playing an instrument, abstraction/jazz…). There’s purity and something fundamental in both these art forms. Somehow I feel a cappella to be a musical expression of my ‘papier colle’ process and the collage building a visualization of a cappella music.

the stage is set

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 18, 2018 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Buildings have narratives, infrastructures have narratives, parks have narratives… all places made by or touched by people have narratives. I see it as an artist’s task to ‘record’ these in some way. Obviously there’s some construction involved on my part: I am human with my own perspective and make a selection in the multitude of human stories; then there’s what I choose to see and narrate/depict… Having chosen these empty lots as my subject, I’m thinking of the next step: should I place a narrative in the spaces I’m painting? As always, I’m initially attracted to the perspective and simplicity of space (and the geometries), but I see the potential of the subject as a sort of stage. On the one hand I feel these vacant lots speak for themselves, there’s satisfaction in seeing (and creating) the textures, lines and dynamic perspectives. And I’m not one for putting humans in my paintings. But putting a sense of human presence in could be an added dimension. Nothing elaborate. More like the elements I have seen: caravans, dogs, playing kids, junk/remnants, or even dead potted trees.

#vacantlot #architecture #Budapest #representationalpainting #BARTR #artistinresidence2018

piece by piece, laying bricks

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 13, 2018 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Although it takes time, it’s not so hard thinking up ideas (maybe only easily said once you have one). It’s the execution that poses real difficulties. I knew that some of those difficulties would dissolve by painting bigger. But other new ones are on the horizon. It’s difficult to maintain the crispness and clarity of collaged acrylic papers on a large scale. This size simply requires much more painterly work. Or so felt. I’ve come to realise that I’m really more of a builder than a painter. I had created some interesting texture with teabags, then managed to kill that with paint while trying to pull it together, losing all the random tea stains (and the evidence of tea drunk at this residency). The walls are too expansive to be left as uninteresting planes. I came to see that I really only could do it by focusing on every individual inch, applying inch by inch with colour to create a pattern … I’m just a builder. I see that while I’m fascinated by the large scale, I can only process it through the small scale. Some people are able to build (or happen upon) surprising effects through paint, I can only do so through collage, piece by piece, and sometimes surprisingly leave behind an interesting effect.

#artistinresidence #BARTR #Budapestartresidency #artistinresidence2018 #Budapest


underpainting and other decisions

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 9, 2018 at 5:30 AM Comments comments (0)

So many decisions for this new series. Which colour combinations? Colours that pop or are subdued? Use the same colour palette for the whole series? Use coloured papers as the underpainting, or as the meat with which to build the image? Whether to include fine drawn lines or rely on the juxtapositions of collages shapes? How to treat the sky (I think I would prefer collage-free)? Could gold-leaf be an interesting accent layer here? Often you just need to get started to figure these things out. So now I’ve figured out: when I work with colour patches on a small scale, I can cut the desired shapes from a single coloured sheet, and so sustain a kind of unity/harmony in the piece. Not so for the larger areas, and the text pages from the Magyar book I’ve decided to paint with colours are even smaller than A5. Hoping these will give some interesting, unexpected textures, but worried that I may need to work with even smaller mosaic-type coloured pieces to make it work. (Only worried because that requires so much more time, to amass shapes and fill the whole canvas.)

First, a final experiment in underpainted patches done in opposite colours (A3 size) …and getting the outline of the subject on a first big canvas…

#painting #acrylic #mixedmediatechnique #bigcanvas #urbanism #Budapestartresidency

big new canvases

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 7, 2018 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Buildings are capable of transforming your mood. Just think of coming into a church from the street or stepping into an intimate courtyard. It’s the kind of transition I want people to experience in my art (wow, that’s a big statement!). Well, it’s a factor in my choosing a new size: 150x100cm. Of course I’ve also had to consider getting them back from this Budapest residency to Holland. But still, it’s a size you can almost step into, or somehow feel the scale of what’s represented while also feeling a connection to the tactile aspect of such a space. It’s a new challenge, so big.

I see these spaces as modern cathedrals, for a society that increasingly does without religion. You can enter them and find calmness and cool air and feel enveloped and small. They are spaces of potential and transition, they relativize the urban environment. In a sense the formalization of such a function is already happening: some of these spaces have been converted into mini-parks, playgrounds or outdoor pubs (the famous Budapest ruin bars). Or even when they’ve turned into private dumping grounds, they serve this secularist purpose of needing an ‘overflow’ space and nurturing the attachment to things some people just can’t get rid of. 

dog cities

Posted by Anna Belleforte on May 5, 2018 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

While waiting on some special order canvases, I’ve made some collaged maps again, fitting in with my earlier Narrative Maps series. I keep coming back to them because they are so satisfying, and when I come across local maps – in this case, a book of aerial/orthographic photos of Budapest and a retired Hungarian guide book (Magyarorszag Utikonyvek) with old Communist street names – I can’t resist seeing things in them and cutting them up to find those things. So I made two. This time the theme was specifically Hungarian dogs, just because there are so many happy dogs here in Budapest. Here the Pumi (orange city maps) and the Viszla (using the green Danube):

the hunt for voids

Posted by Anna Belleforte on April 27, 2018 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Empty lots: I like the shapes and strong perspectives, and have collected quite a bit of source material. The city centre of Pest is in pretty good shape. It’s cleaned up with slick new buildings inserted into the urban weave, attractive to tourists with no space left un-used or unprettied. Outside of the central core, the older neighbourhoods are a bit run-down, or in the process of being regenerated with new-builds filling in the holes in the urban grid. Beyond this zone again it becomes a bit more traditionally residential. The vacant lots there have their brick walls stuccoed over, so as not to make it an eye-sore I guess. The plainness and propriety of it all makes it a bit boring. I’m drawn to the middle zone with its sporadic vacant lots of land: the rough brick walls, the big planes of colours and textures showing where past volumes attached themselves, the jagged skylines of angled roofs and chimneys, and the serious height and scale of it all – from the insects running amok on the gravel of the empty lots to the vast openness of the space despite the density in this part of town. And the cameos of green too.

#mixedmedia #paintingprocess #vacantlot #urbangreen #artandarchitecture #Budapest

ornate architectural details as subject

Posted by Anna Belleforte on April 25, 2018 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I love how every city has its frivolous bits, usually built by 19th century architecture enthusiasts, who knew no limits when piling on the decorative icing. Being an ‘Empire‘ kind of city, Budapest has its fair share, and on a grand scale. The Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill is one such bit. What’s not to love about all that excess? The arches, twisting columns, crenulations, pointy domes, creamy stone… And then the views over the Danube, Parliament and Pest. Reminds me how fun my Aerials series was.

Many of the city’s buildings are so ornamented that sketching/painting these details becomes too much, a mere copying exercise. And are they going to be my focus? I mean, the architectural detailing is so specific that the narrative of a painting can become about that, but I don’t want it to. There’s no denying though that Budapest (or maybe even Hungarian?) architecture is very much about embellishment. In all the classically inspired architecture here, it’s never restrained, there is always a Baroque quality to it. 

#monumentenzorg #buildingconservation #historicpreservation #architecture #Budapest