… and finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. they are the dreamers.
(Milan Kundera, The unbearable lightness of being)
Dear Ugo, you know that I have appreciated your artistic work for a long time, which I have repeatedly called sorgiva (spring) because it is overflowing with visions that seem to possess the naturalness of dreams together with the total pervasiveness of music. Precisely for this reason I think of you not only as a significant artist, but also as an "expert" of dreams and visions. Dream and or vision? What is your relationship with these two words?
Everything that concerns me and artistic expression is something I have experienced as a world that is not only oneiric but that we can define as "imaginative" and associated above all with the time of early childhood, where creation is spontaneous and is not yet sifted by masters or other mediations. It is something close to the game. It is no coincidence that a philosopher (who is very "popular" at the moment) affirmed that man's maturity consisted in carrying out his activity with the seriousness that children put into their games. Instead, dreams may seem crazy, but they have a relationship with games, as well. In my "first" language: Neapolitan, the verb "to play" translates into "crazy", demonstrating the link that exists between the two human characteristics, and the transition to artistic expression is a mere consequence. Dreaming is an activity that always leaves you perplexed, but in fact it transcends our most hidden part and our desires giving you the possibility to dive into the symbolic world. In truth, I began to analyze dreams thanks to the discovery of surrealism and the thought of André Breton. At the age of thirteen, fourteen I began to confront these worlds also through such approaches as psychic automatism and the Freudian Es concept. Then I matured this look and this compositional technique that still accompanies me, in order to let energies emerge without external filters. I call it "surrealism at a reduced pace". Some elements and representations are mediated on one side and on the other side by a sort of rationality intended as an effort to keep all the components of the pictorial work together. The essence of the human being is double and my work is always double in its representations. A spontaneity which is lived, integrated, procedural, like a river which also associates experiences, thoughts and technical needs.
Speaking about “double”, we are in front of this painting, where next to a woman with a ram's headdress we can see an ancient altar with a ram's skeleton. Is there a central imaginary element in your works around which the other visions are then aggregated? Inside the overflowing of visions and representations there is a sense of magical unity and organicity. Your work shows us what I call "organic unity" or "presentational unity", that is to say you transmit a sense of imaginary projection that goes beyond the traditional distinction between representation and ideation, so that your visions are autonomously alive in front of a semantic gaze. Of course, there is always our re-appropriative tension, which is typical of the viewer, in their attempt to cum-prehendere (which means "embracing", "surrounding") the oeuvre, so I sometimes wonder, beyond the semantic aspect, how your creative process works. How the occasional intentional dimensions are intertwined in the creative genesis with the programmed-poetic or the mythopoeic ones. In fact, one perceives an intimate, internal coherence, a credibility right inside an amazing visionary radiance. Does this derive from this "symbolic logic" you mentioned?
Yes, it does. The work moves between the two polarities of the archetypal chaos of experience and an attention to the geometric and spatial balance of the painting. A compositional requirement in the Renaissance style, which helps to achieve the unity, harmony and credibility of the painting as a vision. The irrational appears thus possible, close, reliable. So does my painting technique, accurate yes but following the effort never to give in to aesthetic complacency or a hyper-real aspect, for the sole purpose of making credible what can only be imagined. Reality and the surreal are magically allied to defeat the obvious and the banal. An art historian at the end of the presentation of a catalogue of mine wondered if it was my real world, revealed and intuitable by those who had the gift of intuition, where reason serves little purpose.
An artistic expression that stands upright regardless of semantic tension. One understands that there are meanings in every imaginary component, in every figurative element, but the epiphanic-oneiric fascination is transmitted with such strength and immediacy that it leaves semantic absorption in the background.
I am the person who asks questions to those who look at my paintings.
You are the Sphinx!
The phoenix as well as and other beings! I think that once the work is finished it ceases to retain an intrinsic and univocal meaning to gain the meanings attributed by those who look at it. An incessant dynamic circuit is ignited. This interests me. This reciprocal reactivity between the work and future glances. It happened to me that someone told me: your visions are beautiful but they make you think "too much"! Although, I think that what is missing is the "abandonment", the lowering of the "immune defences" of one's ego in the name of an "other" reality, where it is possible to ask questions and at the same time ask oneself questions; where the contrasts stop contrasting in the search for a harmonic quietness.
This is a quality. It is the essential noetic dimension of the imago and the figurative process.
For them it was a nuisance for me it was a compliment. A certain audience finds itself disorientated in front of my works, loses its ontological certainties, feels embarrassed in the face of the freedom of depictions and destabilizing combinations. Surely vision, dream, realism and magic are not mere decorations or forms of furniture or escape. They are a poetic discourse.
Certainly, because in decoration there is a domestication and a prior recognition that cannot be found in visions like yours that are total, living, free eruptions. New worlds that reposition everything in themselves and into the viewer.
In the painting you mentioned before, Amelia o la pittura dal nome di donna (Amelia or the painting with a woman's name) there is an element that really exists, that ancient altar is a find in Amelia’s museum, where I exhibited my works in close contact with the archaeological finds; including the colossal bronze statue by Germanico. I started from that and from that I developed my contaminations. My "problem" is the opposite: each work is different. Always. Probably and paradoxically the limit of my works is that in each of them I always put all of myself. Every now and then I would like to repeat myself but I can't, I would like to return to works already made, to face time cyclically to savour the joys of the "return", but sometimes the time of my work takes on a "linear" aspect. I always have many ideas from which I draw and elaborate my own unique thought. I do not offer certainties but a labyrinthine path. I offer elements for a vision that the viewer will live. My work does not pose cryptic messages or signals and it is not even a rebus to decipher. What you see simply is. An imaginative process that wants to remain sincere, transparent, generous.
The labyrinth seems to me as a good metaphor for your creative pictorial process. Myth teaches us that the labyrinth is also a dance, a construction, a rite, an enigma. A Way that contains many others.
Yes, and it is also an archetypal figure.
Another significant and charismatic aspect that is captured is the specialty of your expressive time, which I would define "a-ionic".
Time, from a certain point of view, does not exist! The past is gone, the future still does not exist, and the present escapes us while we live it, continuously... What is time? Where is it?
The time of your vision seems to take in itself more times, including those of the myth, of the history of artistic expression and styles. In some of your works there are pop or comic signs juxtaposed to archaeological, Renaissance and futuristic forms. All within a continuous and firm time that is that of the dream/vision caught as still in progress, still in formation.
All the historical times of art and life are co-present and I freely draw from them, without seeing them as quotations from the past or the contemporary. There is a unity that brings together prehistoric art and street-art.
We are in a timeless time but often, and unfortunately, in the negative sense of indifference, indistinction and inconclusiveness. Your work -instead - transfigures the current emptying of time, bringing it back to a higher, instantaneous, vertical and abysmal balance.
Time takes on a sense of positivity when you manage to capture it and stop it in art. I seek harmony between order and chaos. The plural and complex spontaneity in which I abandon myself; also immersing myself in the heritage and the lived experience, requires attention for the balance of the composition. This second phase lasts for a long time and also corresponds to the meditative character of the drawing. Before painting I make a very detailed drawing. This is the moment in which the visual weights must be substantially balanced. A painting can also be disturbing or arouse particular emotions but my intention is to rediscover harmony. Either man seeks harmony or his life loses meaning. And harmony is also given by geometry, balance and spatial dislocation of the composition. In this respect I recognize the Renaissance aspect of my character.
Since yours is a global art, which expresses - as we mentioned - a plurality of times and a multiplicity of languages and styles, it is not easy to grasp all your artistic references.
My sources of artistic inspiration start from rock painting and go through the Baroque, Caravaggio, the seventeenth-century Naples and the alchemic-esoteric Naples of the eighteenth century. I lived my first youth in Naples, a place that has always based its charm on the contrast of the double, a "counter-exchange" city, where its "positive" is also seen as "negative", as black/white, paradise/haven, masculine/female, full/empty, water/fire. Under it lies a dragon heart. How not to love a city bathed by the sea and floating on fire? The Umbrian countryside, the hills, the castles also inspire a certain childish and fairy-tale taste for the Middle Ages, a time that has always fascinated me. But the deepest inspiration comes from the polarities in clash and tension.
However, in the end you put a limit to your imaginative process. And I feel a wisdom in that, too. You conclude a circuit.
It is then that I start the painting. Afterthoughts are rare. Precisely because, as I said, I offer much of the work to the development of the drawing. I leave the work to decant before savouring it with colour, like good wine.
You can feel this harmonic and meditative charisma. Joined to the dynamic of the dialectic that within the free vision, vivifies and challenges us. The work, therefore, conveys a sense of serenity and peace but it moving and it is not passive.
It seems obvious to me that I refer to the three main geometric forms: circle, square and triangle, which guarantee the meditative-harmonic sense in countless variations and contaminations. Also, in consideration of the psychic aspects associated with the conception of the figure, as it emerges in the psychological studies of Gestalt. Current scientific experiments confirm factors already present five thousand years ago. In the book "The Tao of Physics", Fritjof Capra explains how certain foundations and orientations of quantum physics agree with Eastern philosophies and Greek myths. A book that I always keep on my bedside table.
What is the difference between dream and vision?
I think they are different. Visions are "commanded". Dreams, instead, are free, autonomous. They come from the mystery and from our experience, from things we no longer remember having lived. Dreaming is an automatic expression, which is neither controlled nor controllable. There are different types of dreams: such as catharsis, as its transfiguration or compensation or another parallel experience. A vision can also be an enlightenment, instantaneous, but also something that belongs to choices, to a path taken, to an "I want to see" attitude, to posing the same conditions of the vision that will appear.
Some of your works seem to present symbolic-archetypal associative relationships such as Pulcinella and the unicorn in their juxtaposition in the sign of the horn, which is superstitious and proper of the fantastic bestiaries. Do you happen to proceed also by such associations? What kind of visual associations are they?
The visionary effect is always wanted, however, as we mentioned, sometimes behind the simplest images there is an aspect of mystery, of secret, of great truth. Isn't it called "the secret of Pulcinella"? It depends on how you put yourself in relation to things.
Is it not strange that a unicorn appears near Pulcinella, as if they were friends?
Absolutely not. I used a cow's horn, for a reason. Something apparently vile put on the forehead of a horse to turn it into a fantastic bestiary ... but it is a horn used in Naples in particular stalls where they sell cow offal that served with lemon and the horn was used to spread the salt with which it was filled. Visions are often associations of an experience that reinvents symbols as well as transfigures reality. I use the symbol as a visual language not as a dictionary. A living, spoken, spontaneous language. They are not a list of allegorical or artificial references that separate and connect the living side from symbolic repertoires. It is a living unit, instead. For me the butterfly is a sign that I love and one of the recurring elements in many works, but only later did I learn that for the Greeks it had a soulful symbolic meaning. For me it was already important before, according to my personal symbols.
In other cases you reinvented some models, which are slightly recognizable such as the vanitas with books and objects and the balustrades with carpets which are typical of certain humanistic paintings, as in Bellini and Crivelli.
Yes, and in that painting there is also an owl that comes from a Sumerian bas-relief! A living owl above a carved Sumerian owl. Everything is double as we said... And next to it we have a tawny owl's feather, a skull that barely appears. In that world based on competition, art can also show us through the "memento mori", that we can be fragile without necessarily being weak. Let us think about the film Non ci resta che piangere, the friar repeats several times to Massimo Troisi "remember that you must die". He reassures him by replying: "sure, sure, I'll write it down". I don't know if this is evident but in my paintings there is a certain ironic component. In a complete vision, irony and a certain lightness cannot be missing. Although, I have problems with its semantic definition, since I often find what others define as lightness very heavy.
You look like an airtight spirit. I always say: Hermes is the dream, the guide of dreams but the vision is Maia, who is still his mother. In your art I see both the dream and the vision in dynamic harmony. You have many of Hermes’ charismatic traits. You are like him: imaginative, fluid, multiform. And like Hermes you appear both fresh, graceful and fast, vigorous and incisive. There is a musicality in your painting that reminds me of Maia's son. When you said before that everything is double, you reminded me of the constellation of Gemini, ruled by Mercury, and the Dioscuri, hermetic epiphanies and the caduceus itself, which is one and double. The beauty of your visionariness is that it is neither static nor rigid, but in motion. Your own symbolism reveals itself free from any "ism": pure living symbolism that possesses the solar and allusive naturalness of a Bellini combined with the charm of the "individual rebus" of a Lotto. As if we were looking at a phase of an ongoing transformation. A vision accomplished, which - at the same time - leaves the beautiful impression and the added value that something is still happening within this vision, it is still developing. Your painting conveys two aspects of the dream: elegant grace and a necessary, inexorable rhythm. You can't remove or add anything to the dream!
And the vision then continues to move even in the various interpretations that it will assume in the eyes of those who will welcome it. It is also an interpretative movement.
Of course, it is. It already moves inside you. It instinctively feels a powerful "positional logic" of yours. Like the "sacred conversations" of the fifteenth or sixteenth century. They are recognized as such but what happened in them? One sees the presence of the mystery, not its solution. Sometimes one feels a subtle tension or something disturbing. A magical communication, spiritual, telepathic. Art as a conversation is both visible and invisible. It can also be understood as a form of music.
Of course, the rhythm of visual composition suggests sounds. Probably my works may seem like a perennial theater, they do not end with the idea that gave shape to the genesis, they are open to the solution that each one mirroring himself according to his inner world can define. George Bernard Shaw, a theatre author not by chance, said: "You use the mirror to look at your face, you use works of art to see your soul”.
A term I invented years ago, "mythogonic", for your work is perfect: a living synthesis of storytelling and movement, of energy that is revealed. Your vision is a vision of itself, of the same creative process that you express and visualize. A self-vision.
Do you know what my exhibitions were called years ago? Ondaperpetua (perpetual wave)... the path and the motion that the sea makes outside and inside us. Everything moves in the universe and art is a transmission of energy, there is no line that is not loaded with strength and guides the eye towards an unreachable "beyond", to collect the legacy of experiences that the past gives us for free.
Now I have to invent other words. Because when you try to understand an art you have to change your language. Art is a doubly initiatory process: for those who create it and for those who try to immerse themselves in it. When you explained your Bramante falconer and your eagle of Todi, which comes from the Etruscan founding myth of the city, I added value to a vision which was already present and vibrant. That eagle for me was simply Zeus who appeared in one of his cyclical epiphanies. In front of us it is alive and vivid. Now I know that Todi is also a part of your life. The compositional and very generous richness of your works reminds me of the original meaning of the Greek word kaos: that is, the breaking of the original Egg and the vital eruption of heavenly and earthly powers. A luminous cracking that gives the sense of a cosmic dynamis combined with the inalienable precision of detail, of the luminosity of each component but without losing the sense of the unity of the gaze, of the totality of radiance. The Egg remains the Egg, even in the declining of its potential. En to pan, said the alchemists.
Dear Giacomo, my artistic "making" is a discourse on imagination, it is the Egg that contains the history and legends of the world, in which the "automatic" surfacing according to the method and the surreal combinations makes the unity of real and fantastic, dream and wake, history and myth, more credible, tangible; it brings the past and the future closer. In short, a fantastic biography of the destiny of existence. Jung was adamant in saying that fantasy is still the creative matrix of everything that has made the progress of humanity possible. Nothing is created without having imagined it first.