It was a surreal moment as Alan sat surrounded by some of his closest family members and friends sipping coffee in the bright sun in the Piazza degli Scacchi in Marostica as his painting of Marostica on the exhibition posters stared back at him ten times over…
It was the 17th of November 2005, two days before Alan would launch his very first overseas exhibition in Italy and here they were, sitting beneath a number of promotional posters advertising the exhibition to the locals of Marostica in Italy’s Veneto region. “The Light” was a long a time coming considering how much time artist Alan and his wife Susan had spent gathering reference around Italy for his ever-expanding popular collection of Italian paintings and unlike the ancient oil paintings that tourists and locals alike were used to seeing hung in galleries, or the fly-by-night souvenir paintings sold for pennies at local markets – Alan’s lively, unique watercolour paintings of some of Italy’s most loved locations and some hidden gems proved popular with the Italians. Carefully loading around 40 paintings onto a private courier, Alan, Susan and their parents flew to Bergamo to meet them, joined by friend’s Loretta, Hilary, Carrol and Franco, Cath and Mike.
Much of their first day in Marostica was spent hanging paintings with the help of Alan’s father.
Within the town of Marostica there are two medieval castles, an upper Castle known as Castello Superiore and a lower castle known as Castello Inferiore. In front of the old Castello Inferiore and its ancient library is a prominent chess board.
Every even year during the month of September a game of chess is played using live pieces.
The custom began after the First World War where members of the local chess club began playing chess in the main square and decided to play a game of chess using people as the game pieces. After the Second World War, comedy writer Mario Mirko Vucetich wrote a play in which two noblemen fell in love with the beautiful daughter of a local lord. They challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of their beloved – only to be stopped by the Lord of Marostica who did not wish to see them duel and so forbade the encounter. Instead, it was decreed that the two rivals would play a game of chess and the winner would win his daughter’s hand in marriage and the loser would marry her younger sister.
With such a rich history and artistic background, the lower castle was a popular place to host events and exhibitions and so with the help of publisher and exhibition curator Alberto Brazzale whom they had met in Rome not long ago the space was booked to run from the 19th of November 2005 until the 6th of December.
The Commune di Marostica were too incredibly helpful to the couple promoting and facilitating the exhibition – one lady in particular named Francesca did an excellent job of promoting The Light on Alan and Susan’s behalf whilst they were back in England running the busy Alan Reed art gallery in Ponteland.
Although Marostica was not on the tourist track, the couple’s friends Paul and his wife lived nearby and they fell in love with the area. Sending across images of his work to Alberto across to Italy via CD (it was 2005 after all!) the exhibition began to come together.
The couple vividly remember how they rose early each morning with eager anticipation to introduce Alan Reed Art to a new audience.
Alan was to be interviewed by respected art critic Signora Maria Lucia Ferugatti on the afternoon of the 18th, the day before the exhibition opened. Signora Ferugatti was impressed and wrote rave reviews about the exhibition for the local paper and regional news. The opening date passed by in a wonderful blur of opening speeches, chatting to locals and listening to their stories about the history of the town, followed by a very welcome visit the next day by their dear friend Nai who had travelled by train all the way from Venice to Marostica to be there.
Lovers of Italy’s slow food movement, the group enjoyed a number of fantastic meals whilst in Marostica, and to this day Susan still recreates the divine polpette meatballs they ate at Osteria Madonnetta.
The exhibition was without doubt a high point in Alan’s career. Now a fully-fledged international artist, light remains an incredibly important theme that weaves throughout his work. From painting against fading light “on location”, to establishing a light source in the painting and creating highlights, contrasts and shadows using watercolour to bring the painting to life.
Returning to Marostica on the 2nd of December, Alan did a series of live painting demonstrations at the exhibition which delighted visitors.
Crediting the whole event as a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable experience getting to chat to the locals in Italian and introduce Alan’s work to them, there was just enough time to enjoy a wonderful supper at their hotel restaurant, Due Mori where they had been upgraded to a room that overlooked the castello beyond and also to their indispensable assistant Francesca’s family home for a home cooked meal.
Alan Reed Art was moving in the right direction – and fast. Selling several originals, The Light was a collection of Alan’s paintings of Italy, London, Edinburgh and even Chicago and all showcased his lively style of working with watercolours to create light and darkness in his paintings.
Leaving Marostica on the 6th of December after taking the exhibition down, there was just enough time to relax and soak up the scenery – including one particularly lovely scene of ice skaters on the piazza. Begging Alan to capture the scene for a future Christmas card, Skaters in Marostica later became one of Alan’s most popular Christmas card designs, and now you know the story of how and where it all began.