Art

RSA Benno Schotz Prize

Porthole Projection Progress

I'm delighted to have received this Royal Scottish Academy award thanks to these stacks. The prize is awarded to the work of the ‘most promising’ artist under 35 working & living in Scotland. Stacks (previously titled Porthole Projections) was on show in Edinburgh in the Royal Scottish Academy.

Made from stacked and screwed vintage cylindrical objects — from 8mm ciné canisters to shoe polish tins — the artworks are quite simply a series of imagined portholes, projected at varying heights. Built to be displayed on either wall or plinth, in each arrangement the cast shadow is key. The paintwork is in oil, as with every work in the Rising Horizon series. These works will be shown next in The Scottish Gallery as part of Rising Horizon.

Online Store: Charity Water

David Cass + Charity Water

The majority of my artworks are either sold at exhibitions or by commission, though I do keep a stock of small-works & studies available for sale online. Generally, these are works that are not part of a current exhibition program and so there is no conflict with active projects.

Almost every artwork I've ever made has been concerned with water in some way...

...and through online sales I – we – can support a groundbreaking charity that has already secured safe water for 7,347,032 people in need. Each of the paintings available for sale here carries that gift of safe, clean water. Because nobody on earth should die from dirty water. Each sale made [via the above linked page] will provide at least one person safe water for life.

In collaboration with charity: water, each individual artwork description states exactly how many people your purchase will benefit through their incredible work.

If this concept has swayed your decision to make a purchase, then please make use of the following code at the checkout for free postage: WATERCOLOUR.

663 million people on our planet drink dirty and dangerous water. Actually, they don’t just drink it, they work for it. They invest hours every day. And not only does it keep them out of school, or take up time that they could be using to earn money for their family, it also kills them. That’s not an exaggeration. Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. But access to clean water changes that. Clean water improves health, gives kids more time in school, empowers women, boosts economies, and gives hope for a brighter future. Clean water changes everything.

Winsor & Newton: Water Paper Paint

Earlier this month I gave a live painting demonstration for Winsor & Newton, during the exhibition Water Paper Paint. The show's been a great success so far and finishes this coming Saturday (22nd April).

Four of my Florence in Flood watercolours are on display, plus one gouache seascape. All works are framed.

Live-painitng was a new experience for me, Winsor & Newton will release footage of the event soon. Thanks to all those who came along!

David Cass Royal Watercolour Society

Joan Eardley: 'Foreign Familiar' Curated by David Cass

I'm thrilled to be able to include Joan Eardley's 1948 Florence watercolour in Foreign / Familiar.

The works that form this exhibition are observations of the foreign ‘everyday’ through often overlooked architecture and city elements, and indeed scenarios that might not spring immediately to mind upon consideration of these locations. This is taken to a further extent in Eardley’s ‘Building, Palazzo Type’, for it was not only in Glasgow that the artist sought out derelict or dilapidated built-environment subjects. In this watercolour the noble proportions of a Florentine riverbank palazzo stand — quite unfamiliarly to the ancient structure — on unstable foundations, at a precarious angle, the rubble of restoration work all around, and with another isolated (spared) building standing exposed behind.

Joan Eardley:  Building, Palazzo Type  (1948) Gouache 49 x 42 cm

Joan Eardley: Building, Palazzo Type (1948) Gouache 49 x 42 cm

Eardley here is documenting the extreme restoration works necessitated by the devastation Florence endured at the end of the Second World War. The Germans had blown-up buildings along the river and each of the bridges that crossed it, except for Ponte Vecchio, which Officer Gerhard Wolf had ordered to be spared for personal reasons. Eardley’s watercolour depicts Piazza di Santa Maria Sopearno — along Lungarno Torrigiani and just behind Ponte Vecchio — and focusses on the still-standing Palazzo Tempi. This work therefore celebrates this steadfast ochre palazzo, one of many that line the riverbank, built some-time in the early fifteenth century and then restored three hundred years later to take the form that Eardley describes. Perhaps spared because of its close proximity to Ponte Vecchio, this beaming structure — owned by successive Florentine noble-families — has stood resolute throughout a turbulent history of siege, political struggle, war and repeated flooding*. Eardley’s painting presents this bastion as etched into that same history and memory, as familiar to the city’s inhabitants today as it would have been four hundred years ago.

*During the lifetime of Palazzo Tempi, Florence has endured seventeen small floods, sixteen large floods, and seven exceptional ones: most recently that of 1966, as seen in [Cass’s] Florence in flood project.

Exhibition News

The paintings that make this exhibition are windows through which an alternative look at Venice is offered. These exclusively front-facing works present an exaggerated two-dimensional aspect and feature no glimpse of sky, nor do they describe grand façades. Many are paintings upon paintings — their previous brushwork, marks and details evident under the surface — echoing the actual textures of the city’s layered hide. The majority of the pieces aim to reflect what is most fittingly labelled ‘everyday’ Venice.

Historian Fernand Braudel describes a city’s history as ‘often present in a detail’. These oil paintings (many of which are painted upon aged papers, pasted onto board) examine a complex city through a lens that focusses on the smallest elements and components. For it is by way of the minutiae — the fragments of Venice’s skin — that the city’s story might be told and the layers of life revealed (as illustrations of doorplates, shop-signs, and buzzers demonstrate). Bricked-up doors, signs upon signs, nameplates over nameplates, an erosion spreading from the water up, and salt-assaulted bricks: “Venetian houses as we see them today are the product of countless transformations, reflecting the cultural, social and historical mutations of The Serenissima” [Giulia Foscari: Elements of Venice]. What period in the history of Venice are we witnessing now, as Venetians rapidly leave their home city?

Many of these works look down, becoming isolated examinations of the zone in which canal meets building (home). Venice is a reptile struggling to shed: while its upper skin has no chance of renewal, thanks to increasingly inelegant pastings designed principally to direct tourists, its lower parts rely on restless rising water to help loosen an uncomfortable outer crust.

Venice has been (and is being) ill-treated on all fronts. Italy (and Venice, specifically) is regarded the world over as a place of tremendous cultural importance. We have witnessed just how quickly and catastrophically Italian towns — and the myriad architectural pearls they are made of — can ‘disappear’, as in the case of the 2016 earthquake destruction in the centre of the country. Venice is today being destroyed not only by its age and the weight of all it has lived through, upon its plunged wooden-pile foundations, but also by the inundation of visitors, water taxis and giant cruise liners that visit each and every day. On top of that, Venice is also a direct and vulnerable victim of rising sea levels: it is fact that global sea rise is impacting the Adriatic. In February 2017 (mere days after the completion of this exhibition) UNESCO will decide whether or not to place Venice on its list of endangered heritage sites. Then, there’s no turning back.

I am aware that as a visitor, I have little right to comment or speak on behalf of the city’s inhabitants. But as an environmentally conscious artist, I consider it my responsibility to mention the various stages of research that go into each body of work. In a recent Pulitzer Centre podcast, many Venetians who remain claim to feel that their city no longer belongs to them. One describes Venice as a “dying city amongst the waves of the Adriatic”. Venetians are concerned that they will soon end up being seen as an embarrassment in the eyes of the world, if government does not right its wrongs and atone for ignoring (often in the most despicable of ways) these issues, if residents do not stop leaving their homes, if the city succumbs absolutely to its celebrity status.

Street names and directional signs (often vandalised so as to mislead tourists) are sprayed gracelessly to buildings in oversized stencilled font; harsh stabilising chemicals are injected into mortar; anchors are stapled through stone to grab hold of subsiding walls; agitated water eats away at the city’s ground floors. Venice’s skin therefore — the surface that we see — is in a constant state of transformation, and almost all of today’s modifications are negative and irreversible. Contemporary artists can either ignore the reality of the Venice of today and nostalgically recreate a past that no longer exists, or meet it. And though the paintings assembled here inadvertently celebrate a certain brand of crumbling aesthetic charm (the style to which I am most drawn), at their core lies a more serious message. The paintings that form ‘Pełàda’ are observations: they celebrate the joy of the everyday through the most mundane of functional and often overlooked elements.  At the same time, many of the pieces — in particular, those that illustrate the waterline — aim to establish themselves within the consciousness of the viewer, jolting the brain and asking for reconsideration as something more than a decorative outer coat of pastel-shaded skin.

Perimetri Perduti: The Book

I'm delighted to present Perimetri Perduti. This has been a massive task, but absolutely worth it. The book will be launched in the British Institute of Florence during November 2016 (opening Nov 4th), and in The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh soon after (January 20th). 

A massive thank you to all those who have contributed to the book, and supported it, you know who you are I hope.

A combination of records of and responses to the catastrophe of November 1966, Cass’s thoughtful and moving pieces are all the more powerful in that they are made by someone who was not yet born when the flood waters hit Florence.
— Julia Race: Director of the British Institute

Perimetri Perduti by David Cass

Perimetri Perduti by David Cass

Perimetri Perduti by David Cass

Florence Flood Aftermath

Inch by inch, the filthy floodwaters lowered, as daylight gradually left Florence on 4th November 1966. Oily black perimeter lines marked the water’s journey down façades: from a height of four adults in Santa Croce, each stage of this slow recession was charted in level horizontal lines of varying thicknesses. This process was repeated, unbelievably, over hundreds of acres. Clocks throughout the city sat stationary, reading 7:26 AM, when power in the city had been lost as the force of the inundation took hold that morning.

As toxic muddy diesel and oil-infused sludge settled on pavements and roads of deep clay as daylight broke the following morning, Florentines searched for lost family, friends, neighbours and pets, as upturned cars bleated from short-circuited horns. “Steel blinds were twisted like paper”, records artist James Hogg. Antique furniture lay strewn across streets. The Ponte Vecchio was in danger of collapsing, having been stripped to a near skeleton, like the carcass of a whale stretched out between two banks. 

The force of the inundation had been relentless as it pounded streets, ripping apart ground floors and basements, shopfronts, signs, generators, garages, cars. It tore the city apart from the ground up over the course of an entire day. The devastating and deadly force of black water. Had it not been Armed Forces Day on the 4th (a national holiday), the streets would surely have been busier as the tides entered the ancient city early in the morning. 

I've dedicated the last couple of years to researching and responding to this catastrophic historical event (drawing parallels with 'extremes' of today). Through this research I've come across all sorts of ephemera (newspaper articles and clippings, magazine features and appeals for help, short-run flood related publications...) but by far the best is these photographs. I purchased this set of prints on eBay.it last year, from a vendor who did not know the history or provenance of their lot. I've asked around and searched extensively for evidence of these images (by an unknown photographer) in other archives, with no results. If you know anything about these images please do get in touch. I'll be featuring a selection of these scanned prints in my book 'Perimetri Perduti' set for launch on November 4th this year: the 50th anniversary of the flood.

Surface: Exhibition Photography

Gayfield Creative, Edinburgh. A set of paintings that explore the concept of the surface. Created using non-traditional methods and painted on unconventional surfaces, these repetitive, layered artworks are unified by their exclusive depiction of water. From heavily layered oil paintings created outdoors over several years, to miniature gouache artworks painted on matchboxes or coffee grinder drawers.

The exhibition (and ongoing series) features images of water surveyed whilst travelling: the Atlantic from Cádiz, the Adriatic from Dalmatia, the Mediterranean from Liguria. Many too, are abstracted visions of the English Channel ('Mor breizh') - the strip of water I must cross to reach France, Belgium, Spain and Italy - where I source the materials and supports upon which I works. From Paris’ plethora of antique shops to Brussels’ frequent flea-markets, I source and gather every-day items (wooden, metal, and paper planes) suitable to be brought back to the studio and transformed into the foundation of each artwork.

These are artworks made from ordinary objects that speak of function and familiarity: tabletops, drawer bases, trunk lids, roadsigns, books & papers. Aged items and objects that describe a lifetime of use in their worn grains – a kind of repetition that is mirrored in the marks of each piece, the obsessive documentation of a singular subject.

Spring 2016

These coming weeks are shaping up to be the busiest I've yet experienced since becoming self employed in 2010. I'm working on exhibitions that are several months in the future, whilst also distributing as yet unseen 2015 artworks into venues now.

My key focus at the moment is working to secure funding for a solo exhibition in Florence this coming November. If you follow me on social media I'm sure you'll have viewed my recent Florence in Flood sketches. I'm delighted at the level of public engagement this project has so far enjoyed, and am excited to work with the British Institute Florence to build this informative exhibition within the walls of Palazzo Lanfredini.

Back to the present and my next solo exhibition will be in new organisation Gayfield Creative, based in Gayfield Square, Edinburgh. The exhibition will feature found-object based water paintings exclusively. Water has become the main focus of my practice: from straight depictions of sea, pools, reservoirs; to studies that explore flood-zones. The exhibition 'Surface' will exhibit more of an informal nature than my usual displays, featuring experimental works as well as works in new media.

Other current and upcoming dates include Rome Media Art Festival in Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo - MAXXI, Rome; Till It's Gone in MoMA Istanbul; The Royal Watercolour Society's Contemporary Competition in London, and a mixed group exhibition in Crinan Fine Art, Argyll.

Awarded the Winsor & Newton First Prize at the RWS

I'm delighted to have received the Winsor & Newton First Prize at this year's Royal Watercolour Society 'Contemporary Competition'. The prize was awarded for one of my Florence in flood artworks. The exhibition runs until 16th March in Bankside Gallery, London, right next to Tate Modern.

Ocean Postcards

Wherever I travel, I make sure to spend as much time at the coast as possible. Here are a few seascape examples. Created in Croatia, France, Italy, Spain...

FlashFlood

 

Basilica of San Frediano

Exaggerated Inundation in Lucca • Based on imagery of Lucca's 1996 flood • 9 x 14cm • Available for purchase

 

19th June 1996: Flash-flood in Lucca, Tuscany

I spend one day a week researching as part of my Florence in flood project - there's always new facts to discover (and new ephemera to source and purchase) relating to the November 1966 flood that's occupied my practice for the last couple of years. This research informs and supports my painted artworks. During this week's reading I came across news articles describing inundations in the province of Lucca in 1996 - somewhere I've visited regularly over the last few years. Caught completely off guard, the region endured severe flooding: one of the strongest flash-floods in history (in the Apuan Alps) according to EU MetStat. Several small villages in the foothills of the Appenines were literally ripped apart by the fierce floodwaters.

View archival news footage here

Read more here