I recently saw an article in the Financial Times featuring Maro Gorky’s home in Tuscany. After seeing images of her Tuscan home with all the walls adorned in her hand painted landscapes, I was excited to hear of her exhibition, now open at Long & Ryle in London…
Maro Gorky says ‘a painting is the emotion the artist has while looking at the object’ and I was so happy to be able to meet the artist, who has painted magical landscapes, ones in which the viewer is invited to climb into and explore. The exhibition includes rare early gouaches and watercolours. There are also oil paintings, including two portraits. I arrived early to be able to see the work for myself and I already felt I had an insight into Maro’s imagination. Just like her colourful work, she is full of character. I congratulated her on her retrospective and her 80th Birthday. She immediately asked to see my work and we spoke about our creative families.
Maro Gorky is the daughter of the celebrated Armenian artist, Arshile Gorky, one of the originators of Abstract Expressionism. Her husband is the sculptor and writer Matthew Spender. Maro studied under Frank Auerbach at the Slade School of Art before moving to Tuscany with Spender in 1968.
Maro and Matthew have made their mark on an old farmhouse, which was once a ruin. Since then they have planted about four thousand trees. It is clearly the home of creatives and now more than ever, it epitomises our saying that ‘every room tells a story’. The Tuscan farmhouse is to Maro, what Charleston House was to the Bloomsbury Group. Every surface and wall is an opportunity for creativity and Gorky has hand painted them with vibrant landscapes inspired by the surrounding Tuscan landscape. I believe the success is that the house and where it sits, are inextricably linked. There is a constant dialogue between the two, both evolving over time. Maro has cited William Morris as one of the biggest influences on her work – not specifically on her style, but by his method of making art in all everyday activities. She has made the walls of her home sing.
The retrospective exhibition is vibrant and full of colour. You have to experience it in person. I can relate to Maro when she talks about colour and how she feels when looking at it in the palm of her hands, ‘like an itch’ she says. ‘I have noticed that older painters seem to simplify and have brighter colours because their eyes can’t see so well. They put more colour in’. I have never thought about that and perhaps it’s true for designers as well!