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“A ghost upon the sands of the sea … so quietly—so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watch her faint reflection in the mirages of the lagoon, which was the City and which the Shadow.”

–John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice (1851)

It is, indeed, within the image of Venice—the “faint reflection” of a glorious but irredeemable past—that its contemporary reality attains the elusive but vigorous efficacy it possesses today to beguile and inspire. The “real” Venice now resides mainly in its breathtaking beauty, enigmatically enduring in what some call a decaying relic. Once a glorious and powerful maritime republic, Venice diminished as an economic and military capital with the ascendency of other Mediterranean and European states, concluding with its ignominious surrender to Napoleon in 1797.

values, ideas and beliefs, the acclaimed symbolist and expressionist painter Michael Roque Collins has created a striking new body of evocative oil paintings on canvas that allude to Venetian architecture and sacred spaces to create allegorical visions for the potential of a similar human transcendence from enduring meanings within human existence. These works are assembled in Collin’s latest solo exhibition at LewAllen Galleries entitled The Venetian Series. In this new series, Collins’ restive imagination grapples with relationships between building and decay, success and failure, darkness and light, life and death, in order to suggest parallels between the experience of a city and opportunity for man. Venice’s own symbiotic phases of triumph and decline, decay and regeneration, provide the inspiration for his ambiguous and seductive portrayals of the city and aspects of its modern-day mythology. Packed with allusive notions of spiritual transcendence, Collins’ new Venetian Series provides veiled allegories illustrating how adversity and hope can combine to offer regeneration for the spirit of a city as well as that of man.

This decline left its once proud citizenry despondent and, in the words of a 16th century Doge, feeling “abandoned by God [and] in a state of gloom … wretchedly beaten.” However, the social, cultural and psychological void left by this new “reality” gradually was replaced by a myth so infused from and resonant of its remembered glory that it has made Venice a place of nearly unrivaled seductive artistic impulse. This complex and romantic set of stories and traditions are cloaked in veils of exoticism and mystery, commemorating a noble if largely lost past and illuminating the power of shared ideas to sustain and energize a people.

The paintings are based upon deep engagement by Collins in the city and its mythic significance. They constitute powerfully metaphoric glimpses of the acclaimed symbolist’s intermediation of Venice’s mysteries and meanings. As with the city’s mythic reflection in its lagoons, Collin’s new works are shimmerances of Venice’s architecture, objects and ideas. They demonstrate how the most poignant and affecting reality may reside in the artistic dream of a place. The feeling of these images suggests, as the Narrator of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time

The evolution of Venice’s myth elevates the significance of its “Shadow”—this “ghost upon the sands of the sea”—fused into a mythic unity formed from its historic antinomies— its unprecedented glories and the humiliating dissipations. Through its myth, Venice is lifted above the remnants of its past, freed from an enslaving consciousness of its decline, and given a powerful and enduring meaning for the future. Using this example of a city’s regeneration through a shared narrative of 2

Michael Roque Collins: The Venetian Series  
Michael Roque Collins: The Venetian Series