After a prolonged period of intense rain during the first days of November 1966, in the early hours of November 4th (49 years ago today), two dams north of Florence began to propel water at great speed towards the city. Florence was rapidly inundated as the Arno spilled over, rushing to fill every part of the city. Mud, oil, fuel and filthy water spread through Florence - at it's peak reaching 22 feet in Santa Croce, covering almost 7000 acres in and around the city. By the evening of that same day the waters began to recede, leaving behind some 600,000 tons of mud and debris, and utter devastation - to the city, and to its inhabitants.
I first visited Florence in late 2010, on a Royal Scottish Academy scholarship. I've returned regularly since 2010, and my artistic response to the city has gradually developed. Inspired by artist James Hogg's set of letters written from Florence during November 1966 (published in Dear Eddie & Popp - by S.A.C.I.) my Florence in flood artworks are as much an attempt to introduce a new topic to my practice, to my audience, as they are explorative responses to the history of this catastrophic event.
Many of these watercolours are literal depictions, however, taken as a whole, these pieces imagine and exaggerate. I began creating these artworks during late 2013 / early 2014: 47 years after the flood which claimed over 100 lives; rendered 50,000 homeless; damaged 14,000 works of art, plus up to 4 million books & manuscripts. Traces of that day in 1966 can still be seen around the city: etched into plaques placed over head-height on the streets, proof of where the black water reached. Oil stains can still be seen too, in parts of the city which weren't scrubbed clean.
Artist Stephen Kavanagh and I presented a series of paintings, sculptural works and film in Florence's SACI gallery (Studio Art Centres International) - part of the show "Quest'Arno! Quest'Arno!"
In July I exhibited a large series of watercolours in Edinburgh's The Scottish Gallery entitled Tonight Rain, Tomorrow Mud. I'm still working on this series, and hope to return to exhibit in Tuscany next year, to mark the 50th year since the flood.
See more: www.davidcass.co.uk/flood