Risi Bisi by Stewart Lees
Oil on Panel
15¾" x 19¾"/40cms x 50cms
“As I observe a still life grouping with ever deepening intensity, the objects, and the space they occupy, become a landscape with depth and atmosphere revealed through the play of light across forms, all firmly rooted within a plane. And by adhering to strict accuracy in drawing and modelling, and by my pursuit of meticulous fidelity to form, texture and colour, I come up against all the challenges of a portrait painter, concerned with surface but trying all the time to say something deeper about the subject before me, to turn the familiar into something extraordinary.” – Stewart Lees
The dish risi e bisi (which should be translated as rice and peas, but which is actually much more) is a typical dish of the city of Venice and Veneto itself. Little by little it has become the typical recipe par excellence of the Venetian lands, where it is prepared all year round but with a marked preference for the spring period. The official recipe in fact sees the use of the first pods of freshly harvested peas (which can be easily found, in fact, in spring). The whole of the peas are used, including the skins that are thrown into the cooking water to make the stock that is the basis of the dish.
It was the dish that was served to the Doge of Venice on the occasion of April 25th, a day dedicated to the celebrations for San Marco, patron of the city. The dish, now considered much more accessible, was at the time a real privilege for the very few, because it is rich in vegetables and made with a fine rice, fairly expensive ingredients at the time. Legend has it that there was precisely one pea for each grain of rice.