Why buy rugs to roll out on your floors, when you can paint them? Why collect art when you can decorate walls, floors and ceiling, with found materials?
I’m smitten by these two wildly different, improvisational ways that artists have used paint to mimic and displace art in such disparate places as a house on the Cycladic island of Serifos in Greece, and a classroom in Bihar, east India. In Greece, the floors get the spartan treatment; in India, on walls and ceilings, the sublimely ornate and colored with suprising materials. Both are divine.
Keeping it utterly basic, in Paola Navone’e’s Greek island retreat there are no rugs, except those painted in simple stokes of whitewash
on the concrete floors. Above, a minimalist dining table floats comfortably on a ghostly tasselled rug.
A uber-simple platform bed built from formed concrete, plastered and splashed with ubiquitous Greek whitewash, rests next to a painted checkerboard runner that looks thick and cosy, although I know better.
Outdoors, another, boldly striped tasselled rug mitigates the heat arising from a blazing concrete slab leading to two ultra-simple lounges.
Another, more ornate rug, features painted rams’ horns to soften the stern lines of the outdoor furniture, which looks to me as if it
has been cast in concrete––though on second look, I can’t imagine how it could have been transported from to this Aegean eyrie
lookout if it is really is solid concrete. Everything in this island retreat has been pared down, no fuss. Built to last forever.
Abandoning the spartan Greek aesthetic, let’s jump-cut farther east, to the Niranjana School in India where we enter the magical
painted world of more, and more. Where the floors are thick with straw over mud, no concrete in sight.
The WAF is a nonprofit organization based in Tokyo whose Wall Art Festival (WAF) brings art into remotes schools in Tibet and India. They invited Yusuke Asai, a Japanese artist who paints with any kind of material he can get his hands on (mud, dust, pens, tape…) to this classroom in Bihar as a part of their worldwide art initiative. “Earth Painting: Blessing Dance” was created with 11 kinds of soils, cow dung, ash of straw, water, and straw.
Asai chose to paint only in locally-sourced, found materials, which included up to 13 kinds of cow dung, soil, water and straw.
Sadly, the writhing mural of mythical creatures entitled “Earth Painting: Blessing Dance,” that sprawled so sublimely over the walls and ceilings proved impermanent and washed away after several months. But not before it could be marveled at by students, teachers and the local people, and recorded for posterity in photographs.
I’m filing as ‘keepers’ these fabulous images of what paint and visionary improvisation can do to alter any sort of living space. Maybe there’s a way to integrate both ideas in one’s home or apartment––perhaps an entry hall and a kitchen could have painted ‘ghost’ rugs, and the bathroom could morph into a fantasyland?
It’s just a matter of a little imagination and, um…courage.