Category Archives: Architecture

The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri by Mélanie Grondin

The beauty of many old churches (particularly cathedrals, basilicas, etc.) is in their architecture as well as in their religious art, whether it is the many large frescoes or the exquisite stained glass windows that adorn them. The late (1885-1973) Italian-Canadian artist and stained glass master Guido Nincheri has enjoyed a recent resurgence of interest, thanks to his grandson Roger Bocchini Nincheri who has been tirelessly photographing and cataloging his grandfather’s hundreds of existing works. (See the 2011 article “Saving Works of God” in the National Post for more on this)

Nincheri’s works of art can be found in all Canadian provinces except Manitoba and in six eastern states in the U.S.

Now, Montreal’s Véhicule Press has released Mélanie Grondin’s The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri which will serve to promote Mr. Nincheri to an even wider audience; particularly those not fortunate enough to live near any of his many existing works (which are in all the Canadian provinces except Manitoba and can be found in six eastern states in the U.S.) Ms. Grondin has included a complete list of these works in the back of the book as a guide for those who wish to view them for themselves. Here in New Brunswick, we are favoured with an abundance of his decorations, murals and stained glass work from Edmunston to Black’s Harbour. Right here in Miramichi, both St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newcastle (4 stained glass windows) and St. Michael’s Basilica in Chatham (2 stained glass windows) boast his beautiful productions.

Here is a sample of those in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church:

Ms. Grondin’s book is exceptional not only because it is the first full-length book dealing with the man and his works, but it excels at explaining the various styles and media Mr. Nincheri worked with which was very helpful for this reader to understand. An examination of his life, both in Italy, but primarily in Canada and the U.S. helps us to understand this “being that was warm, devoted, calm and respectful.”

However, life did not always treat him kindly. Despite living to the age of 87, he was never in good health, and spending time painting frescoes and murals in cold, drafty cathedrals (sometimes while laying on his painful spine) took its toll. During the Second World War, he was even unjustly incarcerated (for being a fascist) in an internment camp in Petawawa Ontario for he once, against his wishes, asked include an image of Mussolini in one of his frescoes in the Madonna della Difesa church in Montreal (which is a National Historic Site).

Ms. Grondin’s interest in Nincheri began when she became friends with the artist’s great-granddaughter Tracy Bocchini Nincheri, daughter of the aforementioned Roger Bocchini Nincheri. She was “hooked” when she visited his studio and saw a completed stained glass work up close, rather than mounted on a distant wall:

“Although I can’t truthfully say that I was filled with religious devotion, I did get a sense of how beautiful religious images can arouse piety. Certainly, something in me did stir: admiration and a sense of peace brought about by looking at a beautiful, balanced, perfect artistic creation – a sense that there is much that is right in the world in the face of such a magnificent work of art. I was hooked! I new I had to learn more about Guido Nincheri and his art.”

Ms. Grondin’s book is beautifully composed and packaged by Véhicule Press from the gatefold cover to the two full-colour inserts and many black and white photographs of the man, his studio, his employees and his family. Printed on quality paper stock and using highly legible Minion and Perpetua typesets, The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri has found a permanent home on my bookshelf, alongside other books pertaining to art. I rated it 5 stars at Goodreads, and I am putting it on my 2018 long list for a “Very Best!” Book Award in the Non-Fiction category.

September 9th, 2018: The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri has been awarded “The Very Best!” Book Award for Best First Book!

The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri by Mélanie Grondin
Véhicule Press

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

A Place in Mind: Designing Cities for the 21st Century, Revised Edition by Avi Friedman

When I first received this book from Montreal’s Vehicule Press, I really didn’t think it would appeal to me. After all, I am not much of an architecture “enthusiast” and the reminiscences of a world-travelling architect came across as a bit pompous (I plead ignorance to reading any of Mr Friedman’s previous books or knowledge of his fine reputation). Nevertheless, I resolved to give the book a chance and cracked the cover of A Place in Mind.

Reading A Place in Mind induced me to recall places and moments in my past that were special to me, which I found both unexpected and stimulating.

I was immediately drawn in by the first page; Mr Friedman has an amiable tone to his writing that I found refreshing and unexpected in a book about designing cities for the 21st century. I soon found myself engrossed in a book that I normally would not even have considered reading had I come across it in a bookstore. I guess that is one of the perks of being a book reviewer: getting introduced to new subjects, new authors and genres. A Place in Mind is part memoir, part travelogue, a little history, and a healthy dose of food for thought about our environs, both present and future.

In a nutshell, Mr Friedman takes us to various places that he has travelled to and where he has found what he terms “a sense of place”:

“Places can be engaging. “Good” places know how to engage and keep us coming back. We may stumble across them by accident or be directed to them by others, but they need to be experienced firsthand to be appreciated, and they are kept among our treasured memories.”

Over the thirteen chapters in A Place in Mind, Mr Friedman takes the reader along with him through the past: a tearoom in Istanbul Turkey, a rustic restaurant in Tuscany, his childhood playground in Israel and a street market in China (just to name a few), and reflects on how (or what) made that particular place special and how those qualities could be applied (or, in some cases, should have been applied) to spaces in our time. For example, after describing his Istanbul teahouse experience, he laments:

“Loss of context was a contributor to the diminishment of sense of place. In the Istanbul teahouse, I was surrounded by the markings of a place. Modern communication and the rise of the digital age have served to erode the contextual dimension. Buildings of any style can now be constructed anywhere.”

Reading A Place in Mind induced me to recall places and moments in my past that were special to me, such as the large open playgrounds around my childhood home and favourite pubs and eateries in places I have lived or visited. I’m sure you will enjoy this book and it will undoubtedly cause you to reflect on places you hold dear, whether in the past or in the present. It may even move you to stop and consider the place where you live and influence a future move or trip to a new place in your life.

Avi Friedman is a professor of architecture at McGill University. He is the recipient of several research and design awards including the World Habitat Award and the 2014 Sustainable Buildings Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the author of sixteen books, including Narrow Houses, A View From the Porch and Innovative Houses: Concepts for Sustainable Living. He lives in Montreal.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved