Statement: Sampietrini Syncopation  

The five paintings comprising Sampietrini Syncopation are the result of improvisation, a twist of fate, and the gift of encounter.

My intention as a recent Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome was to gather seeds for future work, by engaging my body and my senses in notitia or attentive noticing, absorbing spirit and sensory environment, capturing images and letting them capture me. I expected to experience moments of aisthou (gasp of perception when arrested by beauty) and to follow the mantra, “use what you are given,” in building work. Eager to use my time in Rome to experiment with different ideas, supports, media, and techniques, I sent ahead a large box of supplies.  Unfortunately, the box never arrived. An Italian-American Fellow suggested, "You will now be very Italian and just go with what destiny has in store!"

Freed from my preconceived plans, I was opened to chance: I walked the sampietrini-paved (cobblestone-paved) city with a heightened sense of absorption and attention; I listened for chords of resonance in conversation with others in the community; and, at the long table in my studio loft overlooking Rome, I played with newly-gathered materials -- acrylics, flashe paint, sumi ink, carbon, applied with brushes, palette knives, bamboo sticks and fingers on Italian papers and maps.  I waited for the “aha” moment, which I assumed would derive from visual stimuli or lofty ideas.

But the aisthou, the catalyst for focus and direction, came via a new acquaintance, a quiet young Rome Prize Fellow, who is a percussionist and composer. The sound and energy of his music and my immediate response launched new painting directions for me.

I downloaded the music and set up my work space with seven small rectangular cobblestone-gray flashe-coated papers and multiple palettes with silvers, blue, black & white — acrylic & flashe + sumi ink, carbon and pen --  all ready to create works in direct response to the music.  Once I pressed “play,” I worked as if I were striking the steel pan itself, with my media-laden tools tapping the paper in response to the energy and beat of the music. Next I worked with the same palette on four small gray flashe-painted squares. This time I looked at my photo of the composer’s steel drum while listening to his music.  Using this method, I created several more sets of both the rectangular and square pieces. There was no time to plan, ponder, or adjust the work.  What was created in the duration of the music was the final result.


The challenge in my home studio was to re-create this spontaneity and non-judgmental finality across five larger canvases (each 50" x 36,” spanning a total of 15').  .  Using the same music, it was a much more energetic dance, requiring bigger tools, broader gestures and more movement. Ultimately, I did some work across all five canvases at once and some work on each canvas separately, adding momigami paper (on hand from a previous project) as a reference to the irregularity of the sampietrini.

True to the original inspiration and energy I used what I was given, and look forward to opening this gift more fully.

© 2015 mary souza