Monday, October 14, 2013

Firenze: Forte Belvedere, Zhang Huan exhibit

“Three heads – six arms”
Another place I visited on a sunny day was Fort Belevedere, also located near San Niccolo. Though we use the word belvedere in English, we mangle the pronunciation, which is more lyrical in the original Italian:  bel vuh dare(rolled r) ay, which means beautiful view. The Fort was recently reopened after five years of closure.

Long Island Buddha
I went to Fort Belvedere to see the great views, but also to attend the exhibition “L’Anima e la Materia/Soul and Matter” by Zhang Huan, a Chinese artist based in Shanghai. "Transience is what distinguishes his work: he makes massive yet short-lived ash statues destined to unravel in the wind. Apart from the ashes of incense, Zhang Huan uses metal, leather and bronze."

The works are "...constructed from incense ash collected from Shanghai temples; a laboriously involved process of weekly gathering and sorting. This medium has multiple significations: it is the actual substance of prayers, the dust of death and rebirth, the allegorical weight of spirits. Emitting an overwhelming scent throughout the gallery space these pieces recycle the hopes and wishes of others, sharing a cathartic ambience of cleansing and purity."   -

Ash Buddha
Aluminum Buddha, used to make the Ash Buddha
Peace 2
Cowskin Buddha
Another view of “Three heads – six arms”
Ocean view : ash on linen

View of the city
View to the east, with San Miniato al Monte in the distance
Both the location and the exhibit were visually stunning, and I'm glad I was able to get there on a sunny day, two days before the exhibit was to close. On the last day of the exhibit, I visited the second part, housed in Palazzo Vecchio. Several large ash sculptures were included, including Buddha and Jesus facing each other, as if in conversation, with remnants of incense sticks still evident.

the Buddha
incense sticks sticking out of the sculpture
Zhang Huan has some interesting ideas and materials, and I'm curious to see what he comes up with next!

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