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"Only Fresco..."

Why Fresco?

This is the question that I encounter the most. The story of fresco painting began over 35,000 years ago in the caves of modern France where the Neolithic man applied natural earth pigments to the moist limestone walls of his cave to illustrate his life and beliefs. Of cause Neolithic man did not call his paintings frescoes. So as every civilization there after had own name for the technique used for the magnificent wall paintings found in it's most treasured environments, temples, public spaces and homes - the only technique that allows us to see those masterpieces thousands of years after they were created. Through the years this technique has been refined and now we know it as Buon (true) Fresco.

Affresco ( In English usage, "fresco" ). Painting done on freshly laid wet plaster with pigments dissolved in lime water. As both dry they become completely integrated.

In true fresco the artist must start applying his colors on the wet (or fresco) intonaco as soon as it has been prepared and laid on the wall. The colors can thus be absorbed by the wet plaster. When it dries and hardens, the colors become one with plaster.

Technically speaking the plaster does not "dry" but rather a chemical reaction occurs in which calcium carbonate is formed as a result of carbon dioxide from the air combining with the calcium hydrate in the wet plaster.

The complex information bank and technological achievements of our age tempt and often force us to take a "short cut" in visual arts education forcing our children to "run before they could walk". We learn to read and write using the alphabet and in teaching art, I believe, we should use the same method. Drawing a line on the piece of paper will never form a word that may compose into "Hamlet" unless the alphabet is taught, so as the same line will remain just a line for as long as it only represents itself. This "line" may trigger some abstract associations, however to make it "speak" we need to learn where it "began" and what it is there for.

Fresco painting is the only "thread" that could be continuously traced throughout the entire history of painting as the form of expression "stitching" together the universal "language" of our species - Art. During the Renaissance fresco was referred to as "The Mother of all Arts". I do not think that it was the statement of the confused people - their art speaks for itself.

Studying it's (fresco) history is taking us from Sistine Chapel into the dwelling of the Neolithic man, from Mayan Temple to the house in Pompeii, from Russian Church to
the Chinese Palace erasing the boundaries (distances) between cultures. It is teaching us tolerance to each other. It is impossible to overestimate the benefit of such journey.

Learning the technique of the fresco painting creates the unique opportunity to discover the true essence of color and it's relation to nature. It broadens the way we experience the painted image, teaches the value and responsibility of permanence.

Due to it's chemical properties, Fresco Painting is the most permanent painting technique, in which the painting becomes the integral part of the wall or panel it is painted on. In fresco painting pigments are bound into newly formed crystalline structure of the limestone as oppose to adhering to the surface as with other painting techniques. The colors in fresco must be applied during the formation of limestone crystals and depending on the skill of the mason and purity of the materials used, the "open window" for painting could be anywhere from 2 to 12 hours. Large frescoes could only be painted in sections (giornatas). Each section has to be completed from "start-to-finish" on the same day and if the result is unsatisfactory failed part of the painting must be redone from scratch. Corrections and changes afterwards are not possible. The size of each section is determined by the artist reflecting the complexity of the composition and detail. Fresco painting is also the most "involved" and collaborative painting technique. Each fresco requires careful planning, multiple trades and substantial resources. The successful completion of a fresco equally depends on the artist, mason, architect and other parties involved.

Factors above place fresco painting into a different from other painting mediums realm - into a timeframe that is not enslaved by periods, fashions, trends or anything temporary, but including everything that has passed the test of time. Fresco painting does not change but rather evolve from civilization to civilization, era to era and from culture to culture reflecting changes in society, ideology/religion and major transformations in the development of cultures. Styles in fresco painting span over centuries and often millenniums. Metaphorically speaking other painting mediums serve as a sketchbook for the final masterpiece - a new "mega period" in fresco painting.

Integrating a thorough study of the human history with the study of the development of arts and comparing the combined timeline with the timeline that marks "mega periods" in fresco will result in the astonishing "coincidence" - whenever the civilization reaches its pick - fresco matures and manifests itself through timeless masterpieces and as civilization declines - fresco follows. Follows but just to be reborn again in a renewed form after the dark period of wars, confusion, false kings, false prophets and uncertainty of faiths will pass.

The twentieth century presented us with most, if not all, of the signs of the end of the old and the beginning of the new era. Two world wars, rise and fall of the ideologies, "Babylon" of the religions, information and communication mayhem, etc., etc. The new civilization is "being born as we speak" and the new "mega period" in fresco is forming. Recent escalating interest in fresco painting is not a coincidence - it has happened before, it will happen again and it is happening now.

ILia Anossov

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