The weight of history at her feet

When Barbara Nell visited Italy for her first rural artist residency four years ago, she did not expect to see the things she did.

Struck by the “powerful and moving” medieval processions she and her husband observed in Florence and Assisi, Ms Nell returned to Australia armed with inspiration for a new art exhibition.

Entitled Processo Culturale, Ms Nell’s latest collection features scenes from the processions they watched pass them in the street at night.

“It translates to ‘cultural procession’. It’s a play on words, I wanted the Italiano influence,” she said.

“[One evening] we witnessed this whole medieval thing that occurred the night before the Pope was visiting Assisi. There were drummers and dancers, all in costume, and a fire show…”

Ms Nell, who has been an art teacher in Goulburn for 35 years, said it was the palpable sense of the “weight of history” among those in the procession that really moved her.

“They were very powerful because of their difference. In Australia we’re not as accustomed to that kind of celebration of history,” she said.

“We’re talking centuries and centuries that these customs have been going on. It’s quite embedded… the ease of being surrounded by pageantry.”

”These works are from memory, and from photographs I took at that time.”

Using oil on canvas, the collection is also an exploration of Ms Nell’s ongoing enchantment with light and movement.

“It’s a continuing theme of figurative work and movement. It’s really all about painting light and movement at night… that feeling of the crowds moving.”

“They are very tonal. [It’s] that whole impressionist thing – a fascination with how you get movement into a static image. It’s an illusion.”

Processo Culturale will be on display at Ten Thousand Paces gallery in Springetts Arcade, Bowral from Saturday, September 2 until September 15.

As published in the Southern Highland News, September 1.

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