Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Installation

Mandy's Reliquary welcomes us

Graham and Mandy place Alison's drawings

The installation 'team' make a decision

Trying out Ben's commemorative plate.

Bev works with utter precision on her salt text beneath the table, which stands under the painted  Last Supper, (which contains its own illusionary pot of  salt.)

Claudio's shrouded 'Jesus and John' stands by the entrance

 Brigid's video of Judas

Installing ‘ L’Ultima Cena’: a brief description of the process- by Anne Grebby 

The collection of new work, made in response to Sansoni’s ‘L’Ultima Cena’ was brought together for the first time on Friday Sept 2nd. 2011. Its diversity of size, content and media presented us with an installation challenge. 

(Nothing can be attached to the Refettorio walls, so there’s no possibility of a traditional ‘hanging’. It’s dominated by the massive original painting at the far end of the space. Long tables on stone pillars run down either side of the room.) 

Initially, each artist stated which would be the preferable placing for their own work. Then a nucleus group took on the job of optimising the potential for individual pieces in relation to each other and to the installation space. 

We shifted the work around the room, seeing the transformations which occurred in this completely new context. The discussion was interesting and creative and the eventual solutions were arrived at with great care. Through this system of placing, each work found an appropriate position and the whole of the space was energised, for example: 

Bruno Fiori’s painted column, inscribed with Christ’s inner thoughts, echoed the doorway to the room and framed the whole installation. The work established its timescale in ‘the moment’ after the last supper table had been cleared away. On the large refectory table beyond, stood the ‘reliquary’ of Mandy Havers quoting the painted head of Christ, in the distance. It cocooned a piece of bread, notionally from the last supper and welcomed the visitors with a flickering flame light bulb in its crown. 

Jonathan Waller’s glowing green and red ‘Head studies’ of Sansoni were placed, facing inwards and across the space, glancing at the artist’s self-portrait staring out from the left of the Last Supper table. Next to them, Ben Cove’s ‘HERE AND NOW’ commemorative plate was placed on the table, fixing the whole exhibition in an ambiguous time layer, and echoing the past, present and future depiction in the painting. 

Anne Grebby’s version of ‘L’Ultima Cena’ offered twelve views of the remains of the supper, a torn tablecloth, covered with breadcrumbs, oil and wine stains. The work was placed vertically on a table, beneath a heavy gold- framed painting, which emphasised the ephemeral nature of her wine-spattered relic and emphasised its lack of imputable worth. 

The importance of the meal itself, its link with Pescia and the everyday ritual of eating together was celebrated by Graham Chorlton’s ‘Trattoria’ paintings, which were placed in the wall panels, as if opening a window on the world beyond the dining space of the Refettorio. 

In Brigid McLeer’s ‘untitled Judas’ video, almost imperceptive, light passes over a photograph of the painting of Judas’ face. It existed in the ‘real’ time of the exhibition, holding the ‘past time’ of the video and conjures up the past time of the painting, recording day moving towards night, and returning to day. 

Seeming to give off a light of its own, at the far end of the room, directly under ‘L’Ultima Cena’, was Bev Stout’s salt text ‘per l’amore di Dio’ . Hand- formed with absolute precision, (as if manufactured), it was hidden away, discreetly placed in the darkness beneath a table. 

To the left of the painting, placed behind a table, Christ bent over to sip the cup of wine. John Devane’s portrait referenced Scorsese’s film, ‘The Last Temptation’, bringing a more humanised painted Jesus into the twentieth century. 

The photographic documentation of Jane Ball’s sound work, ‘senza filo’ stood like a miniature stage set parallel to Sansoni’s painting. Around each depicted table, people were whispering. Standing in front of the piece, one picked up the quiet hum of distant voices, coming and going, travelling around a circle of microphones. 

The drawing of ‘Judas’ and the ‘two hands’ which rest on the table, by Alison Lambert, was placed at a half-way point between the entrance and the painting, juxtaposed against not only the original, but also Brigid’s video image. It called attention to the ambiguity of Judas’ role. 

At the next table, Alan Dyer’s ‘L’Ultima Cena’ detailed fragments of script framed a massive iron nail, as if it were a precious icon. It stood as a metaphor for the Christian narrative and at the same time a reliquary object. Placed on the table, menu-like, it offered the subtext of the plot.

On leaving the exhibition, the viewer came face to face with Claudio Stefanelli’s painting of ‘Jesus and John’, shrouded, seemingly in a semi-transparent skin. It stared back at Sansoni’s own Jesus and John figures, emphasising a sense of intimacy and evoking ideas of birth and death. 

On passing through the exhibition space, everyone’s attention was repeatedly drawn back to the source. Viewers were invited to read their own meanings suggested by the work and discuss it with the artists themselves, the two translators, working on the project, Alessandra Lavoratti, Cristina Mastroeni and the exhibition Director, Amadeo Valbonese. 

The two days of the exhibition were really busy and the majority of visitors wanted to talk about the show and know more about individual works. Furthermore, many people had access to the Refettorio and Sansoni’s painting, whom otherwise would never have known that they existed.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bruno Fiori

Il Momento

oil on canvas
220 x150 cm 2011

This work represents ‘the moment’ in which Jesus faces the supreme ordeal, in order to open up the possibility for humans to return to Eden.

I intended to portray the room, at the very end of the last supper, when the disciples have left him by himself, absorbed in thought. His mind dwells on his own strengths and feelings.

I quoted Biblical texts drawn from:

1. The Gospel according to St. John. (John 8:32, 14:6), in which the idea of a vine represents Jesus.

2. The Psalm of David. (Psalm 139 :23, 24), which is referenced by the distressed eyes which are depicted indistinctly in the dark sky.

3. Matthew (27 : 45,46), the words that Christ will pronounce before his death appear on the white roll of parchment, lying on the table.

The open hand symbolizes Jesus’ inner strength and his sense of control of the situation.

The rest of the painting, the space, forms, volumes and details, are pictorial elements which function as a frame for the whole even

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Jane Ball

Senza Fili
sound documentation of an event,
Le Refettorio, S. Michele, Pescia, July 2011.

artists book, photographic and graphic documentation of an event, Le Refettorio, S. Michele, Pescia, July 2011, on acid free Cartiera Magnani Paper (made in Pescia using a cylinder mould since 1404).

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Bev Stout

Salt text

From the corner of the white linen cloth a few grains of salt fall to the floor.

The golden vault of salt starts to leak it’s precious cargo…..

Slowly momentum gathers and the few grains become a steady stream falling as a white fine thread to the floor. As though drawn by an invisible magnetic force the thread starts to form one by one a sequence of letters across the floor …..


per l’amore……

per l’amore di…..
per l’amore di Dio….. 

Brigid McLeer

Untitled (Judas)

Video Still.

My work for ‘L’Ultima Cena’ uses the figure of Judas as its subject. In Sansoni’s painting (as with many other paintings of the Last Supper) Judas appears on the opposite side of the table from the other apostles. He is separated from the main group. And in this painting he is the only figure to look directly out at the viewer. In this he breaks the illusion of the painting and looks back to the viewer, challenging us.

For this work I have chosen to video record a print out of a photo taken of this figure, thereby drawing attention to the image as a construction, mediating a narrative that is itself highly constructed. Equally this ‘retechnologising’ of the painted image in video, puts the still figure into time, a time that closely mimics the actual time of looking. Judas is isolated in this new work, and he looks directly out at us, the viewers, that look back at him.

His gaze becomes one that questions the viewer’s assumptions: how easy is it to betray? what is betrayal? Can we be sure that we would never be weak enough to betray?In Sansoni’s painting Judas seems to be painted with incredible empathy, his face is not that of the scheming conniver, but a face rich with human depth, fragility and frankness. 

To me this Judas is strangely modern; a complex and equivocal figure.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Graham Chorlton

oil on board

I was interested in the way the artist  had tailored his image for the people of Pescia, including their local landscape in the background etc. This was not uncommon in such commissions, and I like the way that images with such huge religious import could be connected to the everyday life of a specific community. for my contribution i wanted also to make a reference to, and paintings for the local community. Having visited Pescia, I enjoyed eating at the local cantina, where people of all walks of life go to eat lunch in a communal setting. The sharing and enjoying of food is important in life and in the society of a town, and this connects to the choice of a communal meal in the bible story as a fitting setting for Christ's revelations.

The paintings show two scenes from the cantina, one of them foregrounding the common items of food and drink, including those of the sacrament. 

John Devane

Last Supper Fragment after Scorsese
oil on canvas
85cm square


Inspired in part by the idea of the Last Supper as something of an icon in both the history of art and more recently in cinema.

The image is essentially an improvised response to the ‘Last Supper’ sequence in Martin Scorsese’s : Last Temptation of Christ. The idea of using the film still as a starting point  is in some sense an acknowledgement of way in which directors like Scorsese have been in turn inspired by the history of painting.

Claudio Stefanelli

Gesù e Giovanni
130x100 cm

Claudio Stefanelli nasce a Tuglie (Lecce) ma subito dopo la sua famiglia si trasferisce a Pescia, in Toscana, dove vive e lavora.

Ha frequentato l’Istituto d’Arte di Lucca, quello di Pistoia e l’Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze seguendo i corsi dei professori Breddo e Loffredo.

L’artista ha effettuato numerose mostre personali e collettive sia in Italia che all’estero, fra le quali ricordiamo la personale alla Fondazione-Museo Remo Brindisi, la partecipazione alla prima Biennale Città di Gallipoli e la collettiva della “Giovane Arte Italiana” a Lido di Spina.

Negli anni Novanta le opere che hanno caratterizzato il suo ventennale percorso artistico, hanno costituito una mostra itinerante dal titolo “Dalle nature morte alle forme” che è stata ospitata in varie città tedesche della Westfalia a partire da Unna (Hellweg Museum) poi a Munster (Geleria Horten) poi a Ludenscheid, Bochum, Bielefeld ecc. La stessa mostra, rientrata in Italia, è stata ospitata nel suggestivo scenario del Castello di Buggiano.

Dal 1983 Claudio Stefanelli alterna la sua attività artistica con l’incarico presso il Comune di Pescia di Direttore dei Civici Musei .

Fra le sue recenti esposizioni sono da ricordare la personale alla Gold Smith Gallery negli USA (Boston), quelle virtuali organizzate da Web Art Magazine e ART-ARTE, la partecipazione a Opeen Art Code presso l’Auditorium Ranieri III di Montecarlo _Principato di Monaco e a quella presso la Galleria OXO di Londra.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Jonathan Waller

Head Study 1
34cm x 24.5cm
soft pastel, charcoal, gouache and shellac on paper

Head Study 2
34cm x 24.5cm
soft pastel, charcoal, gouache and acrylic on paper

As soon as I saw a reproduction of this Last Supper painting my eyes were drawn to the figure on the far left. He seemed to be painted with an engaging naturalism and was looking directly out of the painting. This indicated to me that the young man may be the artist who painted the picture. Raphael famously and controversially did a similar thing in his major work The School of Athens that is housed in the Vatican. He includes himself in a crowd of ancient philosophers in a grand composition. His outward gaze is similar and correspondingly it has the effect of separating him from the action, but the eye contact has a magnetic effect on the viewer and you are automatically drawn towards him. Likewise, Hans Baldung Grien looks out from a throng of soldiers and grieving figures below one of the crucified thieves in his painting of Calvary, which makes up one of the panels of the Freiburg Altarpiece.  Mischievously, he also shows up next to the perforated St Sebastian in his martyrdom painting that now hangs in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. These are just a few examples - there are many others in Western Art.  
More recently and in the same tradition Alfred Hitchcock also liked to make cheeky appearances in his own films.
Having identified the element of Sansoni’s Last Supper that I found most intriguing, and only working from photocopies from a catalogue, the task I set myself was how to bring my images to life through transcription. A week before I started on the project I had been to Hampton Court to see the Triumphs of Caesar by Mantegna.  I was particularly taken by the large areas of flat red on some of the panels and amazed at how modern they looked. This revelation was the starting point for my first drawing. By the time I had embarked on the second one I was more familiar with the portrait and was feeling more playful: I took more liberties and the head became more Pan-like. I can see possibilities for making many more versions and these two will lead to a bigger series.

Ben Cove

Commemorative Plate
indian ink on porcelain plate (wall mounted)
27cm diameter

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Sansoni's Last Supper is a complex work, a familiar scene but individually executed. An awareness of the viewer’s place in time looms large in front of this work. Painted in the 17th century and recently restored, it depicts an event thought to have occurred 2000 years ago. It presents an historic moment in time whilst simultaneously prophesying Christ’s fate in the depiction of the crucifixion. To Christians this work points back in time to a significant event whilst acting as a reminder as to the promise of the return of Christ in the future. In this regard, it could be read as both solemn and heartening.

With this in mind, my response has been to produce a pause. The phrase ‘here and now’ occurs regularly in Aldous Huxley’s 1962 novel Island. In this, his last major work, the narrative plays out in the fictional utopian civilisation of Pala, an island culture which is based on a number of eastern philosophies and religions. The Palanese people train the numerous mynah birds who inhabit their island to repeat the phrases ‘attention’ and ‘here and now’ with the intention of assisting the population to retain a full awareness of themselves at one moment in time in relation to their surroundings.

Commemorative plates, decorative rather than functional, are produced en masse to celebrate or record specific events, people or places. Though my plate is entirely non-specific, its presence seeks to anchor the viewer in the time and place in which it is hung.

Ben Cove website:

Mandy Havers

Bread Reliquary
Mixed Media (bread / leather / velvet / prints / jewellery)
August 2011

Anne Grebby

L’Ultima Cena
oil on canvas

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The idea of making contemporary art in response to Fioravante Sansoni’s Last Supper painting began when I saw the publication which documented the restoration of the painting in 1998.

Having met the Director, and been given a thorough account of the history of the painting and the Museum of the Refettorio di San Michele, in Pescia, I spent a long time looking at the original.

It’s a fine example of seventeenth century Christian art, lovingly painted and sensitively restored.

I was particularly interested in the fact that an illusionary framed image of the crucifixion hangs above Christ’s head. Thus, the viewer, who is placed alongside Judas on the near side of the table, knows what’s about to happen, just as he does.


Initially, the proposed exhibition was to be simple and easily transportable. Twelve other artists would be invited to join me in making place settings to be laid on the refectory table which stands beneath Sansoni’s painting. It was this proposal that I put forward to the artist Jane Ball over dinner when she hosted me on my External Examiner’s visit to Coventry University and at a later date, to Brigid Mcleer and Mandy Havers. The discussion opened up wider possibilities and suddenly we had a new project on our hands.*

*At this point the discussion extended the ideas beyond the Refettorio exhibition and resulted in a proposal which is currently being considered by the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art, Prato :-.

’Excavating the fold: hidden archives’ aims to explore the potential of the archive and its implied histories as a focus for creative practice.

As the other 12 artists became involved, (most of them visited the Refettorio in Pescia) , the exhibition profile continued to shift. Group decisions were made. The art work needn’t be confined to the table. The emphasis on meanings embedded in the painting, the variety of media and the innovatory aspect of the installation of the work were prioritised.


I began thinking about my own piece for the show as a continuation of my initial ‘place-settings’

idea. I set my studio table, spread a white cloth, dropped wine, oil and breadcrumbs. The resulting photographs became placemats. I re-played and photographed the same process time and again, until I’d accumulated sufficient images to begin to work with.

The table would be replaced by the large (200 x 130cms) canvas. I prepared the ground, using white gesso as a drawing primer to describe folds of the tablecloth.

Then I painted twelve placemats, imagining the type of scrutiny the stains and breadcrumbs might be given by the disciples, as they each attempted to deal with the horror of this last meal. I left Christ’s place empty, assuming that he had no need of diversion tactics.

The more breadcrumbs I painted, the more significant they became. Having worked for the last few years on the theme of molecular swarming, trying to investigate ‘matter’, the substance of bread was a perfect vehicle. Its associations with ‘body’ are traditionally deep-rooted, as are the properties of wine and oil.

So, the table top was established. Looking down on it, the viewer could read twelve disparate views of the remnants of a meal.

At this point, it seemed too obvious, too well designed, too carefully conceived, even too pleasurable to the eye. The narrative element was so dominant that it acted as a closure, rather than a prompt to stimulate new creative thought.

I had to spoil it. I lay it flat and started again, putting it through the identical processes that I’d applied to the real table. At this point it began to breathe.

The resulting painting can speak for itself.

Anne Grebby

25/08/11 Lucca

Anne Grebby website:

Alan Dyer

L’Ultima Cena
mixed media on panel (paper/text/wax/nail)
74cm x 65cm (including frame)
August 2011

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The drawing is the product of a meditation on the biblical ‘Last Supper’ text (Luke Ch. 22), seen as a metaphor for the Christian narrative: Bread–Wine–Body–Blood–Betrayal–Death–Resurrection–Transfiguration–Ascension. It also embraces some psychological & archetypal ideas associated with change and transformation. As a pictorial representation of a conceptual and linear narrative the drawing has much in common with the tradition of religious iconography. It also makes reference to the reliquary object as a symbolic or expressive device. 

Alison Lambert

The two drawings I have made for  L’Ultima Cena are directly based on the painting itself. ‘Thomas’ is based on the ‘Judas’ character and ‘Two Hands’ is based on hands that also appear in the painting but separately.

During the execution of the drawings, Alan Dyer, one of the artists in this exhibition, brought to my attention a verse in the Bible, 21, Luke chapter 22: 

“But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table”

This text seemed to me to be very appropriate for the images I was creating for this project, although I haven’t titled the portrait, Judas but Thomas.

The way I draw has evolved over twenty-seven years. Essentially it is the process by which I ‘find’ the image and this process can continue for days, weeks and sometimes months. I use fresh white paper to cover previous unwanted marks and continue to draw over the top. White paper, like black charcoal and pastel becomes a tool for mark making much in the same way that a painter might use black and white paint.

This method is the way in which I search for the inner ‘spirit’ or emotional ‘self’ of a human head and the attitude and feelings that are behind a depiction of hands.

Thursday, 11 August 2011