When Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer discovered reinforced concrete as a way to construct shapes that seemed previously impossible, he was suddenly free to explore his vision of form following beauty. “The artistic capability is so fantastic — that is the way to go,” he said of his new favourite material. “There is no reason to design buildings that are more basic and rectilinear, because with concrete you can cover almost any space.” Niemeyer’s projects — mid-century houses, government buildings, the United Nations in New York City, even Brazil’s new capital city — were lauded and criticized as “sculptural monuments” as Niemeyer pushed the boundaries of structural logic and explored with abandon the aesthetic possibilities of concrete. “I search for surprise in my architecture,” said Oscar. “A work of art should cause the emotion of newness.” Here are a few surprises:
Colour surprise: Establish a mother colour, or even the absence of colour by staying within one side of the colour wheel or within a narrow value zone. Now, surprise with a punctuated colour block or rhythmic meandering of the mother colour’s complementary. In painting, think of a field of Cadmium red Indian paintbrush peeking through a blue-green forest, or a cerulean sky cutting a reflecting pool in a snow patch.
Surface surprise: Is there a way of giving your audience an extra pleasure close up? Without getting mired in weeds, details add interest — even awe — by way of unexpected surface quality. In painting, scumbling, transfer, characteristic line, glazing, shine, soaking, resist and impasto all add an abstract poetry, attracting the possibility for a second appreciation from those who step up to your work and look closely.
Omission surprise: “My ambition has always been to reduce a building’s support to a minimum,” said Oscar. “The more we diminish supporting structures, the more audacious and important the architecture is. That has been my life’s work.” In painting, consider what can be left out and what can be described in the pause of your brush. “The secret to being a bore,” said Voltaire, “is to tell everything.”
Shapeshifter surprise: I once entered a gallery to get a closer look at what I thought were paintings — large, graphic colourfields — only to discover upon closer examination that they were sewn blocks of denim and screen-printed silk.
Contrapuntal surprise: Oscar traded his mentor Le Corbusier’s straight lines and blocky shapes for the curves and flowing swooshes of Brazil’s mountains and crescent beaches. By drawing from the aesthetics of home, he made magic from unexpected form while expanding upon his most familiar notions of movement and nature. Juxtaposing lushness and austerity, excitement and calm, playfulness, elegance, gravitas and joy exceeded the expectations of what a mere building could accomplish. “Curves are the essence of my work because they are the essence of Brazil, pure and simple.”
PS: “Surprise is key in all art.” (Oscar Niemeyer)
Esoterica: Oscar Niemeyer was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907 and started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. He studied architecture while working in his father’s typography house and interned with a group of Brazilian architects who had become interested in the advancements of modernist building and design materials in Europe. In a twist of fate, Le Corbusier was invited to Rio to consult on the firm’s commission for Brazil’s new Ministry of Education — what would be the first state-sponsored modernist skyscraper in the world. After imploring his superiors to allow him to participate, Oscar was given the job of helping Le Corbusier with his drafts. The impression he made established him as one of the leading artistic voices in what would become Brazilian modernism. Oscar Niemeyer died in 2012, 10 days short of his 105th birthday, still overseeing ongoing projects from his hospital bed in Rio. “Architecture was my way of expressing my ideals: to be simple, to create a world equal to everyone, to look at people with optimism, that everyone has a gift.” (Oscar Niemeyer)
“My architecture is easy to understand. And enjoy. I hope it also is hard to forget.” (Oscar Niemeyer)
Highlights: See all 6 Mosaic’d churches in Ravenna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Visit & sketch the places where Michelangelo sketched in the late 1490’s in Bologna; Wander the house where Renaissance artist Rafael’s grew up; Tour the castle that inspired a chapter in Dante’s Divine Comedy; Paint while watching the sunset over a cliff-top castle; Ride a bicycle along the beach to a Roman Bridge built in 10AD that is still in use today!; Sketch alongside Canadian artist Joanne Hastie & experience how the Italian countryside inspires her art.
Included: 7 nights accommodations, 7 gourmet breakfasts, 7 gourmet dinners (wine included) at Hotel Belvedere in Riccione; transportation to and from Riccione to each location; watercolor sketchbook, plein-air starter kit (watercolor), ink pen, eraser
$3325 CAD per person
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