VITTORIO SGARBI NUNZIANTE
In the beginning it was De Chirico.
As if before and after there was nothing, or anything important, in the history of art, could pass without the mediation of its filter. As if the meaning of modern painting, and of painting in general, had finally been identified, ►
freeing post-nineteenth-century artists from the condemnation of having to resort to the precariousness of experimentalism. As if in the artistic, lyrical and intellectual dimension introduced by the Metaphysics there is all the available space for what an artist can be able to express, yesterday as today, today as tomorrow.
This is the premise, historical and metamorphic, that allows us to introduce ourselves into the art of Antonio Nunziante, of which I find myself writing again.
De Chirico, therefore, before anything else. But it would be wrong, I think, to believe that Nunziante has established with De Chirico’s work a strictly academic relationship, like a mechanical repeater to the infinity of his models, or that his maximum goal is to make of the “Neo-metaphysics” “, Even more than it was, often a bit ‘tired and self-congratulatory, which De Chirico has undertaken in the last two decades of his life.
For Nunziante, there can not be a “Neo-Metaphysics”. There is a Metaphysics, always the same from the moment of its brilliant discovery. Because the Metaphysics is something more than a simple artistic and intellectual experience of the twentieth century man, however important, one of the most remarkable and original stages of Italian culture of the last century, with its precise historical location, with its chronological extremes , like any other first avant-garde experience.
No, Metaphysics can not be just this, otherwise it would be a contradiction in terms. If it is Metaphysics, literally, then it is something that goes beyond the limits of materiality, therefore also beyond the boundaries of history and time, meaning with the first the recording of the alternation of the second. And it is also something that goes beyond the limits of geography, given that the initial reference to Italy, as far as Nunziante and us dear to us, has immediately become universalized, becoming a heritage shared by everyone.
If it is Metaphysics, if it is overcoming history and geography, if it is a heritage shared by mankind, then it can only be a category of the spirit.
No one can establish a “first” and an “after” for a category of the spirit. It is an absolute, an eternal present, with De Chirico still living among us through the language he has identified and which he has taught us to use. Can we say the same about Futurism or Cubism, to say of two coeval experiences, and certainly not less important from the historical point of view? I do not believe. They were new forms of language, among the first to identify in experimentalism the forced outlet of modern art, but to which the discovery of a specific dimension of the spirit is not matched. And as such, they have remained tied to their history, their time, their geographies. It is the heritage of the human race, but in a relative sense, as a memory of a past that does not have a direct impact on the present. They remained before Avanguardia, then a museum phenomenon, certainly very respectable, but closed under the roof. To say today to do Cubism or Futurism would mean to make of passatism, to recall something that historically had a precise beginning and end. To say today of doing Metaphysics, on the other hand, may very well mean actuality. Because Metaphysics, unlike Cubism or Futurism, is not just a language, nor just a style. Most of the Futurists would backtrack, overwhelmed by the delirium of a Great War they had hoped for, no longer recognizing themselves in the formal and aesthetic revolution they had triggered. After the years of Cubism, Picasso would have said that he did not seek, he found. De Chirico had already arrived before him, and in a much more stable and convincing way than Picasso would have believed: he had found, almost at the first attempt, and he had believed well not to move from that goal achieved. If Picasso finds, and I’m not always sure it is, he does so within an extremely personal artistic discourse, although understandable and appreciated by everyone. De Chirico acts in a different way from him: he opens the door to a new expressive universe, a new way of relating to himself, his imagination and the world, not rigidly linked to his personal sphere, but adoptable by anyone , as Nunziante himself demonstrates. This is the big difference. Picasso refers only to himself, there is no “Picassism” that we can all feel as something that is intimately ours. Those who want to understand Picasso must accept the centrality of Picasso on the world.
De Chirico, on the other hand, becomes one of the possible references within the special dimension of the soul, the Metaphysics, which he has discovered. It is as Savinio, as the Surrealism of Breton, Magritte, Delvaux, as the Italian Magical Realism and certain forms of the Neue Sachlichkeit, as the existential figuration of the post-war period, and all the artistic re-editions that these experiences have had in the following years, Nunziante included. It is as it could be many facts yet to come, new explorations behind the door that De Chirico has opened almost a century ago, discovering something much bigger than himself. Metaphysics is above this past, this present, this future, like a big cloud, like a big container of the spirit, always ready to move and change shape. And today that we are the constant beneficiaries of the Metaphysics, one wonders how it was possible that art took so long to open that door. Actually, in De Chirico it was the great awareness of something that already existed in his previous painting, as Nunziante knows very well, in Piero della Francesca as in Chardin, in Paolo Uccello as in Vermeer, in Baschenis as in the Symbolists, and so to infinity. Whenever an artist has proposed to be in relationship with the world not to reproduce his appearances faithfully, but to interpret and reinvent it, exceeding in rationality to touch his exact opposite, he has always assumed a metaphysical attitude. De Chirico was the first to understand it all the way.
Nunziante, therefore, metaphysical, but not necessarily dechirichiano. One of the most important aspects of the connection between Nunziante and the Metaphysics is that he comes to conceive it as an “a priori” not for passive adoption of a creed but through the empiricism of his own pictorial journey. A first moment of this journey consisted in the acquisition of awareness that in art the craft is always a necessary thing. It is also true when in contemporary artists the craft becomes something very unconventional, as is the case, for example, with Pollock and Burri. For Nunziante, son of a craftsman, the speech was simpler. He has never believed, as many of his colleagues do, that modern art is a means of emancipating artists from the obligation to possess manual skills. Nunziante must have always been convinced that the technique is style. For him, recent radiographic discoveries such as those that led to clarify what was the true technique of Caravaggio, not “to the first”, as had been believed up until yesterday, but sketching the figures with the white lead that covered by successive chromatic veils exalted the chiaroscuro contrasts must have been only partial surprises. Caravaggio is not an irrelevant name in Nunziante’s choices. If Nunziante is a painter of objects and environments that can do without human presence, while deeply testifying of it, it is undoubted that the first to do it was not De Chirico, but Caravaggio. With Caravaggio, the object becomes for the first time a subject, no less capable of expressing pictorial values of a mythological or religious history. But because the object becomes a subject, because the still life becomes an autonomous genre, a specific technique is necessary. The artist can only be a technician of expression, everything he can express is proportional to the technique he adopts. Caravaggio is first and foremost a technique, on which any other consideration depends. The fact that it took us four hundred years to clearly understand how Caravaggio painted, three of which after the discovery of X-rays, makes us understand how we actually preferred to interpret it according to something different from the technique. Caravaggio was and is first of all the whitewash sketch, and we are only aware of it now, while we thought we had understood everything about him.
Mai Nunziante has believed that manual skills can be acquired without referring to the technical and expressive lesson of the masters of the past. Hence the second moment of Nunziante’s journey, which consists in the study of the history of art. Nunziante is formed between Turin and Florence, is fascinated by the Renaissance, respecting the critical Vasarian line that recognizes Tuscany as the historical supremacy of Italian art, but does not lack passion for Flemish and Nordic art, the same and contrary to the Italian. Nunziante does not fail to wander also along the seventeenth century, century of the still life as an autonomous genus and of Vermeer, of the eighteenth century of Chardin, reaching up to more recent masters as without Böcklin, Dalì, Picasso and of course De Chirico. And here we come to the third moment, the projection in our present of art as a trade and as a story. The trade, when it refers to tradition, leads to history and history needs to be brought back to the present, if it does not want to remain a dead heritage. Language then becomes an equation with which to relate these elements: we must speak in a current way, but also in a way that does not cut the ties with the past, in the sign of an expressive continuity that is addressed to man’s interiority and that he has absolutely not finished telling all the things he can tell us. A language that is therefore based on the profession, because it is the technique that determines the way in which it is expressed.
The circle closes, we approach the goal: the solution of the equation is the Metaphysics as “a priori”. Only a dimension outside of space and time can allow our spirit to connect with other spirits, those of current events, but also those of the past and those of the probable future. Metaphysics is a step above language, it is the expression cum figuris of the spirit that attributes “other” value to the spaces and objects with which it manifests itself, outside the limits of their physicality. It is a lyrical and enigmatic expression, ready to surprise and enchant us, because lyrical and enigmatic is the creative and cognitive activity of our unconscious. And few artists could make us understand better than Nunziante, who always leaves the word “fine” in suspense.
The further vision.
For the twentieth century Italian art history, the Florentine exhibition of 1922 was fundamental. It was called Italian painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The curator Ugo Ojetti assisted by a team of commissioners chosen from the most authoritative art historians ►
and more brilliant of the time from Wilhelm von Bode to Hermann Voss, from Lionello Venturi to Roberto Longhi, he collected more than a thousand masterpieces in 48 rooms of Palazzo Pitti. From Bernardo Strozzi to Domenico Fetti, from Annibale Carracci to Guido Reni, through Gentileschi and Mattia Preti, Cavallino and Ruoppolo, up to Canaletto in Guardi and Tiepolo. No manual of history of art has ever been able to offer in reproduction what in 1922, at Pitti, was entrusted to real works.
The exhibition and critical focus of the event was “the immortal Caravaggio … absolute master of the entire eighteenth century” (A. Maraini, 1922). Virtually the entire corpus of Caravaggio at the time known was collected at Palazzo Pitti, including the paintings of San Luigi dei Francesi and Santa Maria del Popolo.
The titanic enterprise of 1922 wanted to show that in the classic and naturalist seventeenth century are the roots of Modernity. What Longhi and Ojetti, Matteo Marangoni and Lionello Venturi proclaimed in magazines (in Dedalo, on L’Arte, on Valori plastici), the painters welcomed him with enthusiasm and witnessed it in their works. So Felice Carena painted in ’26 the Apostles now at the Gallery of Modern Art in Florence, leaning on the canvas of similar subject of Caravaggio already in the State Museums of Berlin. Thus de Chirico invents sumptuous baroque still lifes which are textual quotes from Giuseppe Recco. So Giannino Marchig and Efisio Oppo, Achille Funi and Baccio Maria Bacci, Sciltian and Primo Conti.
The seventeenth century seduced the twentieth century as demonstrated by a beautiful and important exhibition recently closed at the Villa Bardini in Florence. Italian artists of the twentieth century understood that the century of Caravaggio and Guercino, Poussin and Gentileschi is our time, it is already modernity. Caravaggio had taught that all the visible universe unveiled by light can be represented, that there are no limits or hierarchies of values to the mimesis of the True because so much manufacturing is to make a good picture of flowers as of figures. It is the great Galilean revolution that underlies modern artistic history.
It is also the century, the seventeenth century, that with Shakespeare, with Cervantes, with Racine makes visible the abysses of the human soul; that with the great mystics (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross) experiences the silence of God and plunges into the dizzying abysses of further vision. It is the century that, in the figurative arts as in the theater, makes the universe of the passions, of the feelings, of the affections become protagonist of the representation.
All this to say that the naturalist and baroque seventeenth century is already Modernity. Thus the artists and critics of the last century warned and witnessed it. But Modernity – taught all of Giorgio de Chirico in Metaphysical Art, 1918 – rests on the vast silent enigma spread over the whole earth.
And here we are at the painting of the metaphysical (and Caravaggio) Antonio Nunziante. We are talking about a fifty-year-old painter who was trained in Turin and Florence, who has toured the world, which he has exhibited in Italy and Europe, in Japan and in America, gaining notoriety and public, critical and market successes. We speak of a cultured man who has read books and attended museums. Finally we speak of an excellent technician, a craftsman who knows how few in our days the virtues of the colors, the crafts and the knowledge necessary to make oil painting as good as that of the masters of the past.
Antonio Nunziante with this type of culture and training, uses the language of the past, that of Caravaggio and Böcklin, of Naturalism, of Baroque, of Symbolism. It is the language that has given him the academies, books, museums, which he has deepened, experimented, perfected in his work to make it his own, to master it as a mother tongue, to transform it into its modus operandi. In the same way, to write these lines, I use the language that was built by Petrarch, Bembo, Manzoni.
The comparison may seem risky and improper. Indeed it is. It can be useful, however, if it serves to give an image to a concept. I mean by this that an artist of today can use forms, iconographies, expressive ways of the past (of a past like that of Caravaggio that burns with flagrant Modernity) to witness ideas and sensibilities of his and of our time. It is a difficult and extremely dangerous path hovering over the always looming insidiousness of sterile intellectualism, of end-of-itself quotationism. It is a journey that Antonio Nunziante has been able to face with courage and intelligence. And with suggestive effectiveness.
Let’s take the painting titled Truth hidden oil on canvas cm. 60 × 70. We are in an enclosed, bare, deserted space that receives light from a window on the left. Perhaps it is the painter’s atelier, perhaps it is an unknown non-place that exists only to house the painting hung on the wall. It is he, the framework for now invisible, the hidden truth. A drape of coarse, worn, crumpled canvas and a tactile tactile evidence covers it. The canvas, the only protagonist of a scene that excludes any human presence, exercises on the relative a kind of hypnotic attraction. We would like to touch it, lift its flap and the truth would be revealed. It is as true as the shroud that welcomes the body of Christ in the Vatican Deposition, like the cloth that rides the young hooligan in the Amit vincent Amor of Berlin. While the dirty light that enters from the window is in all similar to the one that goes through the territories of the Roman tavern that houses the Call of Matthew in the San Luigi dei Francesi.
The environment (deep and light bruises as in the Decollazione di Malta) the brutal splendor of the true unveiled by the light, are a tribute to Caravaggio, but the hidden truth is an enigma offered to the deciphering of women and men of our days. That canvas that hides an invisible picture alludes to a dimension of the experience that lies outside or above our sensory and rational faculties. This wants to tell us the metaphysical Antonio Nunziante.
An environment similar to the one described above hosts, once again, the hidden picture. In this case, the painting already packed in an approximate plastic envelope is placed against the wall. Here too, a bare, desolate environment, no human presence, a prison light. But why was this oil on canvas by Nunziante (cm 60 × 70) titled Prometheus? There is a red stain on the floor just in front of the picture that we can not see. Are traces of color that the painter, leaving the studio waiting for someone to come to pick up the painting, he forgot to clean? On the gray-brown of the back wall a square of light is printed. It comes from a window or an open door on the invisible side of the room, the one behind us. At the center of that square is a circular trace of blue. A subtle set of allusions and omens governs this Nunziante composition. We are in the True and at the same time we can presage and antivise the beyond the True. We overlook the ambiguous border line between the artist’s atelier and an unexplored unknown elsewhere.
Antonio Nunziante is convinced that the highest point to enter what is above us and therefore in the dimension of the artistic language we call metaphysical, is the painting of reality. From there, as if from an outpost, one can scrutinize the universe of signs, enigmas and omens. This belief gave us an almost didactic example, a true manifesto of his poetics, in a great beautiful canvas (150 × 200 cm) in which he imagines the incursion of Caravaggio in his studio. We enter the atelier of the artist, vast deserted room. On the left there is the easel with brushes and colors, on the right a perspective escape of empty rooms. The beam of light that enters from the window to open the leaden gray and the dark shadows of the environment, frames, with the effect of trompe l’oeil, a detail of the Saint Francis in ecstasy of Hartford. A canvas enters the canvas, occupies the artist’s studio. The San Francisco of Hartford (object of other interpretations deductions and variations in the catalog of the painter) is a disquieting and yet fatal presence. As if Nunziante wanted to tell us that this is his primary and indispensable source of suggestion. A more effective tribute to modernity and indeed to the contemporaneity of Caravaggio (a concept dear to the critical sensitivity of today) is hard to imagine.
There are paintings by Antonio Nunziante who want to show us the permeability perhaps the inexistence of the border that divides reality from the dream, the thing from its symbol, the flow of Time from the suspension of Time.
In this sense, the painting entitled “Attesa” (50 × 100 cm) is exemplary. A tall and narrow object, of dimensions and vaguely anthropomorphic figure, stands against the wall of a deserted environment. It covers a heavy white canvas that goes along without revealing the three-dimensional image of the thing. That could be a work of art, a sculpture for example, or a piece of furniture, a piece of furniture, a car. The thing waits. It is a wait that perhaps has just begun but could last for an endless sequence of hours and days.
As if he were operating within an immobile time bubble, the painter became a relentless slow mirror of the true: the parquet floor shingles, the lead gray of the wall interrupted by the black of the shadows, each fold of the canvas covering the object, the light that spills from the glass, the tips of the böckliniani cypresses that stand behind the glass. The scene that the painter describes is absolutely true and also plausible. In an indoor environment that could be a workshop or a garage, one thing, suitably covered, waits to be taken away. Yet what is more dreamlike about this picture? The dream can be true like reality. What we call reality is perhaps nothing but a dream. They are the foundations of Nunziante’s poetics in this painting, expressed with splendid evidence.
Wherever everything is possible, one of the painter’s most beautiful works is entitled (100 × 100 cm). The place that the painter chose to experience pure happiness lies in front of the Böcklin Island of the Dead, on the shores of a sea that is that of the myth invented by de Chirico.
There is the pleasure of evoking the cultural and poetic roots of his art and there is the pleasure of the painter who, seated in the foreground in the act of drawing, minuscule figure against the incidence of the stacks, tells the miracle of a tumultuous sky and of the rocks that his eye caresses with prodigious ability to adhere to the given of nature. Finally, there is the distinctive character of all the work of Nunziante, the splendor of the True in the enigma of place and time.
Islands of Thought.
I was intrigued, I do not hide, certain aspects of the work of Antonio Nunziante dedicated to Caravaggio in the recent exhibition of Castel Sismondo in Rimini: concentration on a single painting by the Lombard master, the Saint Francis receiving the stigmata of the Wadsworth Atheneum of Hartford, Connecticut; ►
; the complex relationship between the artist and the inspiring masterpiece, made up of pieces of “faithful” copy – which then is not faithful – but also and above all of extractions, reinventions, alterations, exaltations in a tireless combinatory exercise inside and outside the picture, dismantling and reassembling, enlarging and transforming the protagonists and the environmental connotations of the lyrical nocturnal ecstasy. To the virtuosity that the Caravaggio had borrowed from the great Raphael, to convoke in the same picture three sources of natural light (the lunar reflection), artificial (the flame), supernatural (the ivory light of the angelic figure) – Nunziante added his in the many variations, now inventing a falling star to animate the indistinct darkness of the sky, now provoking a blood-red sunset reflection in the upper right, to act as a backdrop to a tree whose skeletal and gesticulating development is surprising. An approach, that of Nunziante to Caravaggio, full of tremendous intelligence and respectful inventiveness: yet also subtly animose, in retracing the same subject through the filter of his own expressiveness and his technique, that is to say without renouncing the drawing (and therefore in this distancing itself from the seventeenth-century model) and, on the contrary, revealing its graphic wisdom, the base of the turned and cerebral painting we know of it, from canvas to canvas.
With much more expectation I received the news of this exhibition in Fiesole, where Nunziante takes up the additional challenge of exhibiting alongside two great artists, who in their own way have marked the painting of the nineteenth and twentieth century: Arnold Böcklin and Giorgio de Chirico, the visionary tutelary deity of Fiesole, the other father of Metaphysics (who was conceived and created in Florence a century ago), both ideal predecessors of Nunziante who, thanks to the refined exhibition project by Giovanni Faccenda , import the magisterium into its own artistic universe and develop it there and continue it in a sort of greenhouse culture of an exotic but adaptable essence.
That the art of our predecessors give up its inspiring power in the creations of today’s artists is firm and consoling for me. If this were not so, I would find less sense in opening the doors of museums, organizing exhibitions, multiplying studies and publications: since knowledge, admiration, the same safeguard of the heritage of the past are not ends in themselves. but they derive the highest and most noble motivation from the fragile promise of the future that they thus enclose and protect, as the flame of a candle is enclosed and protected in the hollow of the hand when the night wind brutally tries to expel it. The paintings that Nunziante has painted, recalling Böcklin and reworking it in the figurative codes of Dechirichian metaphysics, are reassuring in this sense: that cultured and arcane message has not been lost, but, whispered by a different voice, survives manifesting itself in amazing metamorphoses.
Of his most famous painting, Nunziante Serbian talent for the interior clearly stereometric, profiled lights and thickened shadows, where every object – a cloth, a book, a shell, a picture packaged as seen from behind – spreads symbolic resonances comparable to the silent circles aroused in the water by a stone. Here his exact painting combines the Metaphysics with Hyperrealism, taking on the ancient illusionist potential of trompe-l’oeil.
At the same time, in the views of the seas and the countryside, now a frayed, corrosive, earthy painting in the landscapes and cloudy in the clouds is thickened, with light fluttering that is lost or drowned: a painting in which the memories of the seventeenth century, Caravaggio but not only, they embellish the dreamlike shots with creamy mixes and sparkling threads.
In these rooms and skies in a deceptive relationship, inhabited by shadows, the characters of the Greco-Roman myths are sometimes evoked, re-thought and rewritten in images. Of course, their return – yet another – is invested by a further symbolic enrichment for the mere fact of passing by the brush of Nunziante, a man of the twentieth and twenty-first century. As in the paradoxical novel dedicated by Jorge Luis Borges to Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote (1939), where the imaginary writer embarks on the task of rewriting the masterpiece of Cervantes word by word, becoming its author, also the literal adherence to a pre-existing text involves its conceptual thickening, thanks to the stratification of the centuries and of the events between the original and the rewriting. “The text of Cervantes and that of Menard are verbally identical, but the second is almost infinitely richer. (His detractors will be more ambiguous, but ambiguity is a richness) “.
In these last paintings by Nunziante, the iconographic repertoire inherited from the Ancient is combined with a new mythological element, an icon that is added with power and dignity: the Island, extracted from Böcklin’s masterpiece and, with the usual combinatorial attitude , remodeled, reduced, renewed, emptied, differently filled by our painter. The walls and the rocks remain, the waters and sometimes the trees. Yet the island is closing in on itself, it contracts in a semi-erupted tower, it can even become tiny in the hands of Odysseus, a pledge of insular nostalgia, a souvenir of Ithaca sweet and painful.
A long slit filters out impossible lights in the Isola-torre. The water does not surround it on the lake or river, but instead rises from its inside to spread out on the steps turned into cascades flooding the empty interiors, overflowing on platforms, flooding bays and cliffs. Perspective tree galleries, inside the Isola-torre, invite to thrilling walks. All the impeccable technique of Nunziante (is he himself that we see at work, crouched on a rock?) Is put at the service of these thoughts, ready to melt into visions, to evaporate in dreams, clinging and breaking up like moving clouds, yet stuck in the implacable lucidity of a painting that leaves nothing to chance.
You can be sure that unilateral and posthumous artistic friendships of this magnitude will open other paths, and that Nunziante will want to go on renewing them again. It will be a path of quality and charm, which will enrich the complexity of the art of the third millennium.
MARCO GOLDIN NUNZIANTE
Landscapes of the Light.
Just a year ago, in his study between the houses, railings of the time overlooking the mountains that gradually spread the blessed snow, Antonio Nunziante closed a very nice cycle, dedicated to the interpretation of a youthful masterpiece of Caravaggio. In the last painting of that series, while the intensity and the emotion in front of the subject grew, hand in hand, very human, ►
the painter felt as if by magic the desire to open and almost open his gaze to absolute nature. He, an artist of figures and busy traffic jams of history, of interiors struck by the bleak mold of the legend, set himself free before the manifestation of the events of light. It seemed to me, on that occasion, that Nunziante had taken his first steps on a different path, which felt strongly the vastness of the landscape – a landscape certainly interpreted – and that nature then became a tangle of the luminous consciousness. Looking towards the clear sky, towards the clearing from which flowers were born, crossed by a light. Everything was changing, until you perceive the precise moment in which the world was formed, because the attention of the painter was addressed precisely at the hour before the world.
From that picture, which struck me greatly for its power of novelty and announcement, we can say this exhibition starts. Which in its highest outcomes, is certainly the best goal that Nunziante has so far touched in his story as an artist. Exhibition that is in any case dedicated to the spread of light in the world, to its essence, to its expanse of expanse. And concretion in ravines and rocks, in clouds and descents of mountains, in gulfs and waterfalls, in moons and stars, in woods and flowering water lilies. The rooms have opened, the doors are torn by bolts, the windows are no longer needed. The steps are made in that world and the light is of an endless presentation, of a disposition to listening and to proclamation. We listen to the sun and the moon, their silent clang, the steps in the sky. Nights full of stars, apparitions and enchantments, perfumes and silences, trails that are perpetuated in the dark and mark an orientation, docks to which moor inside the black that sometimes does not answer, deaf.
In this way Nunziante created a new space for painting. It is not content to describe nature but invents it, the plasma blowing it into the spirit of life. With its brushed lights and all of them spreading the air, it very strongly wants to give the image of the time of the beginning of the world, that Edenic time that saw man walking for the first time on earth. Romantic spirit that is, sometimes close to the idea of Turner or Friedrich, it is incarnated and incarnated in the tangle of the initial essences, of the auroral splendors. Painting tries to give shape to an earthly paradise made only of light, in which the primitive and ancestral element is felt. It is by doing so that Nunziante takes his steps to that place where the education of gestures, the wisdom of painting and the power of creation are added together.
The romantic fact, as this painter understands it, is the overlap between the immense nature, not yet become landscape, and immense of the soul. Along this path, in its resonances and refractions, the destiny of the image is fulfilled. So that in Nunziante it is not the goal reached, but rather the journey of the spirit from one place to another and painting is done with the adhesion of light to the world encountered. This is the great change that is discovered here, now: to the stasis within the limits of a room, to the accuracy of the story replaces the endless glory of the constant movement, circular and equally descending and ascending. The light over a great mountain of the beginnings of time, is the first vision that the eye of man has had at the moment when he has consciously discovered that he is an inhabitant of the earth. For this reason Nunziante’s most beautiful paintings are from the enchanted wonder of those who appear on a threshold, and looking at admires the creation not yet modified by the action of the multitudes.
In these paintings one feels the density of an epic fact, which has nothing left of the game, nothing more than the exact arrangement of the objects on a plane. No longer that almost metaphysical smoothness of environments and volumes. Change is not irrelevant and we observe this new painting as a true fact of the mysterious and secret spirit. Where silence acts not as a tinsel but as the exact substance of wonder before the immense. And it is no coincidence that solitary figures walk, in some highly suggestive works, within the dilated boundaries of a nature that is of the gaze and of the soul together. Figures like those of Friedrich two centuries before, turn their backs to us and feel the growth of a moon, the rising of stars in the night air, the floating of mists. They feel all the immensity of the earth, which presses on every side like a feather. And if you draw roads, you can see the distant sea, you remain fixed in all that vastness that around you feel circular, imprint. Clouds of clouds descend to deep water and almost mark the sharp line of the horizon. Nunziante makes painting of terror and wonder, fully captures the romantic feeling that calls from ancient residences, from distant latitudes.
And it is to give voice to this instance of the remote time that he sometimes moves materials now almost abstract, in a sort of romantic sinking into the light of his pure and absolute state. But what is most striking is the reversal of this light in the territories of consciousness. The nature thus described becomes a self-portrait and, more still, an image of a self that transcends into the light, taking its form. A figure is a small point in the world, it is itself place and substance, memory and dream, presence and absence. From this double action Nunziante’s painting comes out strengthened. And we always wonder, as we write, about how the painter could conceive this daring of spaces, this inexhaustible calibration of hills and mountains, of skies and clouds, of mirroring seas. Because suddenly, and almost by a miracle, he left the playroom and stood in the face of eternal nature, questioning it. From this mute signification, he drew the motive for some works that return to the inaugural hour of the universe and has thus painted, with the right fear that the absolute is due, the world in its first image.
It will not be useless to remember how the picture that gave rise to this series, and the image, then revived, of a man, imagine the painter, who with a taut wire hooks a boat to the world because it does not fly away. Or perhaps, instead, stay there in the act of freeing up towards the sky that sailboat with a white sail, which does not sail on the sea but takes off into the streets of heaven. Inside storms and clouds, apparitions of sun and rains. This man, in all strongly poetic images, leads his way between sandy coasts and mountains, between headlands and lagoons. He always leads it by taking with him that thread which on the other side has a boat that is never completely seen. And in saying the other part, we feel, we know, that it is a beyond not only of places that bend beyond the horizon cap, but is beyond time. In the sum of what we have been, we are and will be. This boat that does not start and follows docile the painter who walks in the world, is the casket in which everything is guarded, the knowledge of the world, of himself and of things.
Inside these Turnerian skies, of gray and blue crossed by winds and storms, the resistance of time and of seasons, of light and of its upheavals moves. And we feel that a painting conducted to the point of pangs in this way is from the desire to become incandescent, syllable of the beginning and the end. Distance that is conjugated in the proximity. He made, Nunziante, a long way to get here. To stand before places that are all and nothing, being and its disappearance, are the past and the present. The painter becomes a demiurge, constructs the world with his thought, molds it, brings it to light, lets it not be plunged. Yet, he sometimes follows that world in the abyss and then tells it through a light that digs the earth.
But as for a need to catch back, to meet sweeter and more humane measures, it leaves those prehistoric, thunderstorm and thorny spiky vastness of clouds, to meet the light in its fullness and its distension of a great space that opens to the sea. They are then also large-scale paintings, so that the width of the canvas corresponds almost off of a music. Above all to the vastness of nature. Yellow fields of wheat that in a trail of land and light lead to the sea, the intense blue crushed and protected by the sail of the milky sky. Only emptiness and silence, only light and refraction of light.
Nunziante chooses to be a painter in this way. He who announces the place where all wonders can happen. Painting returns to its first instinct of representation, as in the Lascaux caves. Images that were scratched on the walls to remove the danger, representing it. Images that even now come from the dawn of time and are transformed in the sign of an immutable beauty, which binds the before and after of existence. League, with that thread joined to a boat, the earth to the sky, the torment to the joy, the contemplation to the story. It is thus that painting makes of the transitory what has always been, makes the appearance that the constancy and the sedimentation of eras disappear.
LUCA BEATRICE NUNZIANTE
The intelligible genius.
The cool mornings of late summer really sleep ideal for a bike ride, before the long winter break that will inevitably see it parked in the garage. A good excuse, in short, for a half-hour drive to Giaveno, where the master Antonio Nunziante works ►
in the historical center of the town in Val Sangone. His is certainly not a good retreat, but an intelligent logistic choice: he conceived his studio as a real company in which thirteen people work, from painters assistants to those who take care of the web, because his site is always updated and the Facebook page functions like a real window on the world. There are those who are dedicated to the organization (paintings to be transported, exhibitions to be cured), while the young wife Raffaella supervises a bit of everything and welcomes you with a bright smile. Nunziante is a really unique artist. His painting could be projected backwards, nostalgically anchored to a past far from us, yet his attitude is that of a man of our time, intrigued by every technological innovation and aware that the present offers many chances to make the work turn. worldwide.
Cultured and aware of his actions, he sometimes likes to polemize a little, perhaps citing Mario Vargas Llosa or Robert Hughes against the excess of contemporaneity that involves an art that is too mental and incomprehensible. Nunziante has collected important satisfactions in his career ‘doing everything by himself’, he points out. And perhaps precisely because of this spontaneous success, which has not been architected at a table, the system has relegated him among those too ‘commercial’ artists. In reality, this is a very short-sighted and limited vision, which finds fertile ground in art and much less in other languages: Nunziante works not so much for the pleasure of his subjects, which are often enigmatic and strongly symbolic, as for the quality of painting , where it does not stop experimenting with techniques and looking for new solutions. ‘I am 56 years old – he says mischievously – and I hope in the next 10 to become a good painter’.
His curriculum boasts exhibitions in important public spaces (the Cloister of Bramante in Rome, the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, among others), but this year his career seems to have reached a turning point. At the end of 2012 Nunziante arrives in New York, with a solo show organized at the 32 Fine Arts Gallery, in the Soho district. The success is surprising, especially the American public, who did not know it, has discovered a painter of sensitivity and talent, able to translate the classical image into something of contemporary taste. Many VIP guests present at the vernissage, including Ultra Violet, the former muse of Andy Warhol. The consensus continued during the next ‘one man show’ at the Italian consulate, where he was awarded along with Renzo Arbore and the former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo. But the surprise has yet to come. An expert of the Contemporary Art Department of Sotheby’s, visiting the exhibition, remains impressed by the quality of some paintings and chooses one, ‘Project for a journey still possible’, 100 × 120 cm, for the New York auction of 3 March. And it is record price: 62,500 dollars. A nice shot, more than doubled the price you normally pay in Italy. Collectors who have invested in Nunziante in these years will be happy. As we write, another passage at the auction is announced on September 25th, again at Sotheby’s with ‘Atelier sul mare’, valuation 40-60 thousand dollars. Not a straw fire, then. Meanwhile, in November, Nunziante will hold its first solo show in Dubai, at the Capital Club: an exclusive building that houses several galleries. ‘I believe a lot in these new emerging markets, destined to give life to a sector that is suffering the crisis. In a global world, limiting oneself to one’s own territory does not work anymore and therefore it is necessary to move in an international perspective. “In the new paintings Nunziante has developed a new poetics for him. More synthesis, a work that privileges spaces – he calls them ‘silences’ – instead of figures. The atmospheres are suspended, essential, the painting palette decidedly lowered, deliberately impoverished. And indeed the result is very fascinating and contemporary. Today Nunziante can compete with the great international figurative painting. ‘In the last years I have reduced production by about half and I try to work on quality’. It seems like a won bet, starting from the successes in the auction, but not only: the growth invests above all the beauty of his paintings, which make it a true artist, much loved by the Turin public.
The Neapolitan is, by divine right and by birth, not surrealist but extrareal.
A journey through time by Antonio Nunziante is the most suitable title that this Neapolitan painter has given to some of his recent works. He gave it, aware perhaps, with intuition for sure, for three different reasons. The first, undeniably the most attractive for the anthropologist ►
cultural, is that which refers to its Neapolitan origin. Who is born there can not be estranged from the historical conditions that shape it, can not but feel for a certain Greek, and since we know nothing of ancient Greek painting, can only try to invent it by taking up the stories that the literature of then wanted to broadcast. The ancient artist is tight and constrained in the vision that philosophy has transmitted to us: it is bound to mimesis, to the need to give back not so much the reality but the idea that reality is a source and from which thought is bound. In Naples you are Greek and Platonic anyway. And the idea that constantly dominates the creative psyche is that of an incumbent antiquity that rises constantly, which is alive well beyond any desire to quote. When Winckelmann
He made his journey to Paestum, went up to see and survey the ruins of the past, but in his romantic and modern mind he was attracted in an unstoppable way by the desire to find what was still alive in the past, the famous Paestum rose and the waters in which they were watered
the bulls of the gods. It matters little that as he was Polish he confused the rose with the oleander; but the oleander was so. different from the Polish summer roses to really seem the flower of an antiquity still alive. And little did it matter that the buffalo found in the marshes
they had just been imported from the Bourbon monarchy; for him, used to seeing peaceful cows in northern Europe, those were the direct descendants of the bulls of Minos the Cretan and the terrible Minotaur. And that is why in front of the temples of antiquity, extinguished in their ruins, appears in the paintings of Nunziante the rose and the palette that wants to portray it.
The other reason. perhaps reserved only for those who know and frequent the Neapolitan chromatism, the one that decorates the rooms of the palaces with the polychromies of the tempera that the eighteenth-century rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii made so natural as to make them appear present for survival and not for inspired quotation. Taste that of the tempera that was so pregnant as to give birth to a sequence of generations among the landscape painters who returned
to the curiosity of the traveler in Italy the memory of a light that did not exist elsewhere.
The third reason for Nunziante’s painting is existential, it is totally existential, so much so that it is a unique and possible support for the survival of the soul in that
blessed and cursed part of the most fascinating gulf of the Mediterranean at the same time. In Naples one lives only by denying the mechanics of history and absorbing in a baroque way the cyclicity of events that was discovered by the finest of the local philosophers, that Giambattista Vico that the world of today too often would like to ignore. The story is round and not dull, Nietzsche also perceived it and taught it with the mystery of his writings to the Dioscuri brothers of Metaphysics. Naples
it is the only city that legitimized non-belonging to modernity, in a sublime exaltation, already in Mancini’s painting and in Gemito’s sculpture. While the whole of Europe was chasing after the waves of the avant-gardes, these two long-bearded vaticinators decided on their own path, which could then appear out of context, but which the subsequent story found itself obliged to acknowledge, sanction and applaud. That road predicted, in the gloomy day of the
dying century, that the century itself did not exist except as a return of an eternal present.
Finally, remember, the Neapolitan is, by divine right and birth, not surrealist but extrareal. And if you find in Antonio Nunziante quotes that could bring back to Magritte,
to Dalì or to the De Chirico brothers, well, it is only because these at the bottom of the soul had a Neapolitan sedime, but they were not aware of it. Nobody had reminded him.
Art is not always informed; sometimes it is deformed, as is the experimental caprice of its history.
NUNZIANTE HANS HOLENVEG
The affinities with Böcklin.
In the work of Antonio Nunziante the famous motifs of Arnold Böcklin are omnipresent, first of all that of L’isola dei morti. This landscape full of mystery evidently represents for Nunziante a sort of island of the dream, a secret place of contemplation in which the artist would yearn to withdraw. ►
The steep rocky islands on the sea of Nunziante – a recurrent theme in his work – present a single cavity. There the artist would like to linger to abandon himself to his thoughts, his desires, his dreams.
In the last three versions of The Island of the Dead, Böcklin placed his initials “AB” as if they were carved in the rock above the only burial chamber on the rock on the right side of the painting. Evidently Böcklin also dreamed of finding peace in this place. In the work of Nunziante it is also possible to find other reminiscences of Böcklin. In his 2000 painting entitled Torment and Ecstasy, the artist borrowed from the youthful work of Böcklin Ebene mit Gewitterhimmel [Stormy Sky] of 1846 the stormy clouds that menacingly pursue the spectator as gigantic eagle wings. Also in this case, the rocky tower that rises steeply on the sea has only one opening. The painting Over there where everything is possible is an enigmatic work with an unrealistic treatment of light. Inside the wall of a ruin on the sea that recalls the late work of Böcklin Die Kapelle [The Chapel, 1898], among the cypresses, a spring flows on rock steps. An arcane and unreal light trickles from the background through the cracks created by the trunks of the trees. Steep rocky walls of a gorge frame on both sides this unusual scene, immortalized by a painter sitting on a flat rock in the foreground. The rocky bastion, the incidence of light and the source are a tribute to a work by Böcklin in 1881 entitled Quell in einer Felsschlucht [Source in a Gorge of Rocks]. Nunziante thus reveals his spiritual affinities with the dream world of the master of Basel.
NUNZIANTE JEAN-CHRISTOPE HUBERT
Journey in the works of Nunziante.
The forms, the associations of ideas, the power of the dream, the disinterested play of Nunziante’s thought is inscribed in the surrealist imaginary. A wall becomes landscape A wave crosses a picture to settle on a floor a cloud rests on an easel a ►
giant rose is abandoned at the foot of a luminous marina directly connected to modern art, the surrealist movement allows a new discovery of art, at the same time revolutionary and liberating. The foundations go beyond the will to change the artistic world, being animated by an authentic philosophy of life. The engine of their creations is the dream world, which allows the expression of instinct and controlled revolt. The movement is also based on the creative force, the stimulus to pleasure, unconsciousness and freedom. The tools of surrealist thought are dreams, automatism and occultism. The exploration of the unconscious is motivated by the surrealists by the subjective conception of the world. As with Surrealists, every painting by Nunziante is an idea. Situations and atmosphere are always poetic. The artist knows perfectly how to play with illusions. Family objects, newspapers are represented with much accuracy, but also with detachment. Nunziante leads us into a fantasy world, his universe is particular, with its typical codes, which undermine the laws of physics to overcome the real world. It is a universe where everything is possible, even the most unlikely vision. Here reside all the strength and talent of the artist who introduces us into his imaginary, poetic and joyful world, making us become a part, as if it really existed. Nunziante’s work is an opportunity to get carried away in a hallucinatory odyssey. The meticulous rendering of Nunziante’s technique and its refined chromatic pattern, the voluntarily measured style of the forms accentuate the provocative power of his arbitrary transpositions, aberrant analogies and visionary senses. The artist invites us to travel .. we just have to embark ..