Tag Archives: Daily prompt

Animals are bad for you – Part II

I am sure you’ve embraced the idea that animals make people suffer from Part I – we talked of ruined sofas, broken electronics, blocked roads, and general harassment by animals that people start experiencing quite early, like illustrated by Filippo Palizzi here:

Fennel Cart attacked by Goats, 1857

Fennel Cart attacked by Goats, 1857

Or here:

Filippo Palizzi, Agnelli e pecore alla fonte, 1957

Filippo Palizzi, Agnelli e pecore alla fonte, 1957

There’s one more real story you need to know to understand why revenge against animals is a good thing.

It took place in Viterbo, Italy, in 1367. Like in the painting above, it is about water, animals, and people.

Viterbo was a place where four popes had been elected by the time it all happened, with the reigning Pope also present at his summer residence there.

The medieval historian who described the event was quite brief, but there’s much to be read between the lines.

“A member of the cardinal’s retinue, whom others might call master of the pope’s household in Viterbo, was washing the cardinal’s pretty little dog in the Fountain of Scarlano. A servant woman of a citizen of Viterbo, who had arrived there just at that moment to fetch water shouted at him. Insulted by her enraged indignation, he killed her, which sparked others of the neighbourhood to take up arms and seek revenge. Whereupon, others of the papal court came out into the fray, which in turn increased still further the number of Viterbesi who came out into the streets.”

Now that’s a lesson in Christian love, isn’t it? Because no one of the religious community wondered if killing a woman for using a few special Italian words to stop the cardinal’s henchman was a bit harsh.

“In great numbers they chanted, “Long live the Pope and death to the foreigners”.

This is something I could not understand at first. I mean, “death to dog-owners who wash their dogs in public fountains” would be more logical. But “death to the foreigners”? Then I learned the Cardinal in question was from Carcassonne. A-ha! A Frenchman! And a French dog!

“With great rioting they stormed the castle where the pope was in residence and there in front of his door killed many soldiers and servants of the cardinals”.

A pretty little doggie brought about a carnage. This riot went down in history as “Riot over the cardinal’s pretty little dog”. 

Remember, pets are very dangerous, especially those pretty little dogs that shake like a street pusher pressed hard by Bruce Willis in a cop movie.

So, when you’re next time in Milan, go to their modern art gallery that has 19th century works by Italian artists, and enjoy Palizzi paintings.


Fate cuts it short

What do you do when you are stressed out? Storm outside, lit a cig, down a shot, hit a wall, murmur nasty things about people responsible for your being tensed? Medieval monks would step out to the cloister of their monastery: a peaceful courtyard used for contemplation and murmuring, usually surrounded by a columned gallery around the perimeter.

Visual arts (sculpture) at the time was meant to make them realise the stress they’d brought out to the cloister was insignificant in the general scheme of things.


Fate can have your head on a plate in the most awkward manner at the most inconvenient of times. What petty stress can compare to that? A 10-minute meditation, and – done! Cured of stress free and better than a shrink could do in an hour.

For those who read my previous post about medieval sculpture, this is the cloister of San Zeno Basilic, through which we would enter the Cathedral in the next post.


A man fished out a bottle from the sea and found a letter inside.

“I have been marooned on an uninhabited tropical island. There is no inflation, no taxes, no city noise, no traffic or pollution. Take a moment to reflect and envy me” 

The letter in a bottle is a powerful concept of despair, hope and salvation in an improbable twist of fate. Yet, is rarely used by artists as a theme, apart from the millions of images of old bottles half-buried in sand.

Yet, there’s an artist who decided to document his suburban world existing half-way between a large city and nature, in a series of bottled pictures.

Jim Dingilian makes pictures inside bottles with candle soot as his primary media. This allows him to create dreamlike images encapsulating the life of a small suburb,

It is not great art, but it is something that makes you stop, look inside, and reflect on your personal experiences (if any) with suburban life and/or moments frozen in time. I find it strangely captivating.

Thank you, the Daily Prompt for reminding me of this artist.

Playing with death

Mountains are often very boring to photograph, especially in winter, because they’re white on white on more white and their scale, their enormity, their eternal beauty is often lost.

Mountains are very difficult to paint correctly. A friend of mine who lives in the Alps is always ready to point out artistic mistakes that reveal the artist had no knowledge of how a mountain shoulder or ridge had been shaped by tectonic shifts, earthquakes, and millions of years of tear and wear. It can be tearfully painful for a professional mountaineer to see artists deforming nature.

Mountains are very difficult to establish a relationship with. Men can climb mountains, litter their tops with cans of coke and cigarette butts but when mountains decide to severe the relationship, they simply kill men.

Let’s watch a man-to-mountain relationship, from outside, at a safe distance. We’d need to climb a little up this mountain top for seats at the stalls:

This is a clickable hi-res image

What we see there is a bowl with perfect snow:

This is a clickable hi-res image

It is not a static picture. We’d have to look closer to see dynamics in it.


This is a grassy slope. Cows don’t go there in summer, so grass grows long, which makes it easy for snow to slide down in winter. You see, the slab of snow that slided down in the big avalanche left almost nothing in its wake:

2014-01-08-4090_Q1 - копия

When the avalanche stops, the snow often gets compressed so hard it becomes concrete. An unfortunate skier can’t get out from under the snow mass, even if it is only a few dozen centimetres deep.

Now you can appreciate the strength of character utter stupidity of skiers who decided to play with the mountain choosing the path between two avalanches.


What’s even more dumb, is stopping on the slope with other skiers starting directly above. If they trigger an avalanche, the guy beneath them is doomed.

These people made it down to the bottom safely.

A week before, two men (experienced pisters) were killed by avalanches in neighbouring valleys, all in one day.

The mountaineer friend of mine, who was with me that day, wanted to go skiing there. But he knew it would be a risk too great to test the relationship with the mountain. It was better to watch the bravely suicidal skiers from the outside.

Somehow, watching these guys, and, of course, the mountains made me think of Turner. He was afraid of and respected the power of mountains. He could paint it in a way that makes professional mountaineer shudder.

J.M.W. Turner, Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, 1812.

J.M.W. Turner, Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, 1812.

In this painting, the mountains are one with the skies, with the clouds raising from the mountain tops like ancient spirits, re-examining their attitude to human ants scattered around. Few artists could express the deadly power of mountains better than Turner.

Getting a kick out of abstract art? You must be joking!

Late night TV show. I couldn’t miss the opportunity offered by the Daily Prompt to write up my own script for my own show.  I spend a sizeable amount of time evaluating scripts of others, I can surely sketch my appearance. Or not? We’ll see it now.


Let’s talk about art lovers. When I go to an art exhibition, I usually pick a few fellow visitors, at random, and ask them what they think about the show. I hear a lot of multi-syllable words, adjectives upon adjectives of praise but no one could ever explain to me why they felt the way they felt, and that lack of explanation usually makes the whole story phony.

I can’t get rid of the sensation that my fellow visitors often feel nothing at all, but want to be seen as someone who can resonate with art. People are afraid to admit they don’t get it, because someone would say they are illiterate, ignorant, and not worth drinking with.

So, today, we decided to invite someone who writes about art. We didn’t want an art critic, so we settled on an art blogger. The problem is that most art bloggers just go around posting pics of art they found online.  So, we decided to invite Artmoscow, who is behind one of popular blogs (“Standing Ovation, Seated”) on art appreciation, not just about art.

Artmoscow: Hi

Host: Hi, you say people can learn feeling art, sort of learn how to get a kick out of watching art. I can’t believe it. I think some people are born either with a built-in ability to feel someone else’s artistic expression or totally numb in that department.

Artmoscow: Are you brave enough to take a work of art that doesn’t make you feel anything except, perhaps, confusion, and show it to me?

Host: I didn’t get to hosting a late-nighter, being shy. A work of art that I think shows the artist who created it could benefit from a Valium course? Here it is, Miro. The name is Blue III, because there’s a lot of blue in there, I guess.


Artmoscow: All right, turn it face down now.

Look here. Imagine a world of 2-dimensional creatures. These creatures can’t see us, they can’t even imagine us existing. We are like gods to them. We can tap them on the head but they won’t even know what hit them. Can I borrow a few markers and some paper? [gets them]

This is one of those creatures, a black blot. What’s it doing?


Host: well, looks like it is going to leave its home. The door is swung open, the blot is ready to step out.

Artmoscow: Yes, this is what I wanted to show. The drawing looks very abstract though, but you did well.

Host: I can understand your logic and decipher the drawing, but I don’t really feel much looking at it.

Artmoscow: Just wait a bit. Now, what do think is happening here?


Host: the blot is steadily walking… or flowing from left to right, there’s probably some place it needs to get to, and the other blot seems to be going to the same place, but rather in a hurry. And it is red, or it’s getting red, so it is probably sweating as it tries to overtake the black dot.

Artmoscow: Well, here is another drawing. What is happening in it?


Host: It is an excited red dot that comes up to a black square.

Artmoscow: How does the black square feel about the red dot approaching?

Host: it’s a square, for god’s sake. It is always right, impregnable, solid. Not very welcoming, but not aggressively rejecting the dot.

Artmoscow: very well. What if I alter it a bit?


Host: now the square shows it will take the red dot. Not all the way in, but it will allow the dot to dock.

Artmoscow: now let’s get back to Miro again.


What do you see here?

Host: The red oval first decided to go see what the black oval was doing, but it wasn’t sure how the black oval would react to that (the line is a bit wobbling), and then the red oval decided it didn’t want to go right up to its black sister and went up, sort of watching from above. It is shimmering with red, so I feel like it is agitated about something. Perhaps, it is agitated because the black oval doesn’t move, doesn’t care about all the attention the red brother wanted to give to it?

Artmoscow: you see, you said “I feel” for the first time. Now, look at this blue ocean or whatever it is. Try to remember your own experience of approaching someone who was not that much ready to throw him or herself into your arms.

Host: You know, this is getting too much personal. A couple of times I was captivated by women I didn’t know well, but… There was that intern with auburn hair, who had an air of teenage dreams in the body of a grown-up woman, and she did a nice job on a special report we ran on the Presidential election campaign… I remember… Oh. As they say, I need to zip it. My wife is watching my show and I don’t think I want to go into graphic detail of those experiences. Tell me, do you really think about chance encounters when you look at this painting?!

Artmoscow: no, I think about opportunities that I missed and I ideas I thought were there forever, and that I would have plenty of time to go grab them later. Never did.

Host: do you want to say there’s no meaning behind it and that each viewer makes up his or her own?

Artmoscow: Exactly. A great abstract painting can trigger associations and memories that you thought had been deeply buried in your memory. Showing nothing specific, it can make you relive those moments, relive those feelings. The Miro painting itself can hardly make you feel anything. It is what you remember watching it that makes you filled up with emotions. The blue colour just helps to get immersed into it, into your own mind.

Now you are ready to revisit Kandinsky, who is a bit more 3D.
Blue Painting by Wassily Kandinsky OSA468

Host: Thank you, I need first to sort out the Miro accident at home. Good night, folks, remember to never talk in front of other people about things you see in an abstract painting!

PS To my loyal readers: I remember about the promise to talk more about Isaac Brodsky!

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