I confess that, being better equipped to speak using images rather than words, I am afraid this short text may demolish the last six months’ work needed to prepare this exhibition. What’s more, as words are used to justify everything, I never could stand people who went on about their own work. I have always thought that people who behave this way are afraid their work can’t speak up for itself.
Now, here I am in the limelight, running the risk of blowing my own trumpet and singing my own praises. What happens if I sing out of tune?
Artists have been the product of a spoilt society for years. Art is necessary only for those who feel it to be their raison d’etre. The public and spectator are, of course, very important in this process; they shore up this instinct.
Deep down, I need the public and the stage in the same way that I need others, those who are not like me. This is really why the images I look for and the ones that I am found by are so important – we have a silent pact, a relationship built around gestures. This is something I have found for myself and which I would like to share with the public, the spectator, if they agree.
Creating a work of art is like vivisecting one’s self.
The images I use and the images I abuse are forms that I add to and take away from, so that each piece is actually a self-portrait in the mirror. Each element I use is self-referential.
Books are my first source of inspiration. They automatically feed the fire, the fire that melts the candle. The candle is an allegory of the period of time we have been lent. The skull is like the final end of a form of painting, now understood in nostalgic terms. Each painting is like the result of an armed robbery. At the moment – I hadn’t thought of it this way before – I feel a little like Robin Hood. But I’m not into stealing from the rich to give to the poor because, actually, we’re all in this together: half of the piece is done by the artists, the other half by the spectator (nothing new here, I know. But when I work, this is my guiding principle). Despite the fact that I filtered all the choices I make, I never forget that the ones who eventually have to digest the work are my public.
And now we have come back to the gift.
Alberto, don’t you think that painting should be considered an artistic discipline - terrible expression - as indeed it is in the rest of Europe? Only in Italy (fancy that! Can you imagine that?) painting seems to have overstepped its sell by date, as if painting were the Cinderella of artistic expression… We mustn’t forget that Italy was once the United States of Europe. It is as if there were two well-defined artistic castes: on one side the, glistening, “conceptual” artists and then the painters. They are not always clearly divided into the first and second leagues but they are, nevertheless, castes… as if to say that the first “think” about their work without getting their hands dirty - they are the adults - whereas the second, who often get their hands covered in paint are the kids.
Don’t get me wrong here! I love a lot of what is called conceptual art. I’d even go as far as to say that I like it more than I like a lot of painting (you see, dear Alberto, I also get caught in the trap of using the same dichotomy that they have taught us). But I have to be honest. It seems ridiculous that painting should have to be defended by those who practice it just because you need a nail to hang it up (like someone who’s crucified). It is as if we were trying to hang up a dead body. From my point of view, from my hermitage in the mountains, in the province I come from conceptual art and painting have been dead for about a century. Even if, I have to admit, in the end I like all this necrophilia; it keeps me and my art alive and, as you know, I couldn’t do without it.
The subjects I use and those I have also used in this one-man show in Torino haven’t been chosen by chance. The work is a mirror for me: it reflects me and itself.
Hortus Conclusus grows out of this consideration, this defensive stance.
If painting is to be a gift so that this relationship can take place, there has to be in primis an act of love, a sacrifice, an act of possession that becomes salvation for all these cohabiting figures. You must kill the already dead body of painting and making it your own with a gesture that must be kept private and guarded within the four walls of the studio, the secret garden; you must escape from the plague that spreads in large cities to seek Decameronian refuge in the countryside, passing time telling stories.
There’s no irony in all this.
Dear Alberto, as you know, this high-medieval elation was once the prerogative of some artistic movements very dear to me: the Pre-Raphaelites, the Nazarenes, and the Arts and Crafts movement. It continues right up to Art Nouveau, where the fusion between art and craft, style and eroticism reached its apex, with that touch of ingenious rhetoric that, when you look at it, makes you laugh, but which I love.
In this exhibition, a large part of the bibliography contained in my work was taken from artists from that period of time that I have bound to my feelings for Torino, the city that chose to host my first one-man show, and which has inspired in me. This is the Torino of the King and the Holy Shroud; the Torino of industry and publishing; the light choral Torino and the black magic Torino, the Torino of the Egyptian Museum and Arte Povera…
I have tried to blend all these feelings to create a dialogue based on the double pleasure of uniting the creative act with historical research.
Dear Alberto, do you know what I’m going to say now? As usual, I have talked about my work too much. And I hope my voice was up to it.
So, it’s time to say farewell.