Francesca Bottari: solo show On silence and transparency, Palazzo Pubblico, Magazzini del Sale, Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena – Catalogo De Luca Editori d’Arte, Rome


Vincenzo Scolamiero exhibits his large luminescent and golden works in Sienna, a town where gold is at home. It almost seems like a challenge, a test. Instead it’s a loving and desired encounter, the umpteenth proof of how the Roman artist’s research undergoes a creative leap when suggestions coming from other environments – those he loves: poetry, music, as well as practice, the first-born daughter of high craftsmanship – move his inspiration and push him towards mysterious and enchanted paths that he is anxious to plough.

Gold, therefore. However, unlike the song of the lyrical sirens that have long bewitched Scolamiero, gold has appeared in his works, emerging from more down-to-earth folds: the restorers’ studios, where Italian masters follow centuries-old traditions, translating them into a consolidated but never entirely unvarying praxis. Thus, the milk glues, colours and pigments that crowd Vincenzo’s Roman studio have been joined by metallic powders, which, ranging in tones from red gold, orange, reddish brown and, eventually, silvery grey, are used with expertise in conservation, restauration and gold-leaf workshops.

With these powders, as impalpable and luminous as desert sands, which when touched seem to evaporate between the fingers, the artist has embellished their application, bonding them with Arabic glue and other traditional adhesives, until they acquire the consistency of a manageable chromatic paste that folds into his modulated, wavy, vibrant and broad brushstrokes. Scolamiero has thus found new planes, spaces and volumes which, added to the surfaces and depths that are already his, create coppery or bronzed ripples and waves that react to external light with a glittering iridescence.

The ‘reaction’ it triggers off – almost like a chemical experiment – surprises and mutates beneath our eyes. The entrails of the earth in which Vincenzo has always immersed himself, entranced by the tracks that nature places on his path and which he collects and contemplates, seem to reveal mineral aggregates, magmatic crystals, almost deposits of nuggets and diamonds, as in the ancient fables. Nature and poetry, telluric shocks and gold dust, rocky ravines and reflective plates. For that matter, Scolamiero’s work has always followed and then absorbed the evolutive dimension of his material, abandoning himself to it while mutating it with his hands in an almost liturgical, perceptive and executive succession. Beginning with the spell of natural gifts (be it an acanthus, a bird’s nest, a branch that twists around its berries, a stone or a clod of earth) and those of lyrics or music, until achieving a figurative execution that goes through a slow process over time and space, guided by his painting and in which he trusts.

And now we get to gold, as a material, but also as a sacral enchantment. It invades everything, from luminous surfaces to the most obscure cavities, illuminating shadows and glittering in colours, that reflect the sun in its radiant path. Here on the ground floor of Sienna’s Palazzo Pubblico, how can we not think of the illustrious Sienese school which, from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, has taught generations of artists how to apply gold leaf to wooden panels, laying it on gently, tamping it in place and burnishing it to create haloes, the hems of mantles, picture frames and wings of angels. Gold leaf transforms the real into the sacred, as if in an alchemical process. Beaten in workshops into ethereal foil and then laid, at times tamped or blown onto prepared, smoothed and oiled wooden backings, it translates into an epiphany of the divine, a concrete image of faith. Every master, from Duccio to Simone Martini, the Di Bartolo brothers and Lorenzetti, then Sassetta and Matteo di Giovanni, followed and reinterpreted the teachings of Cennino Cennini.

Now, an artist of our time, forever in acrobatic equilibrium between the solidity of nature and the magic of poetic suggestion, has brought the realm of gold onto his panels, papers and canvasses. The dialogue is inevitable, unavoidable. Because he, too, like the great Sienese of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, is searching for the philosopher’s stone that will transform nature into poetry, reality into vision, the practice of craftmanship into a manifestation of the sacred, a craft into an abstraction. Thus, while he plumbs space seeking immense depth, igneous earthy reactions, secret ravines where an impetuous wind whirls, the artist entrusts in gold dust, rendered physical by his bonding agents, crumpled to the limit of flatness on reflective planes, almost a metaphysical barrier that opens our vision, but also obliges us to the respect and prudence that Nature demands.

For that matter, how often have we heard it said that Scolamiero trusts in his painting. Though he may be enchanted by the small natural things that surround him, or let himself be carried away by poetic and musical suggestions, it is then he who chooses his path and decides where it will lead him. Vincenzo follows it and humours it. But he knows where it’s leading him, he always does.

Those who for years have adored Vincenzo’s work, have come to terms with his colours, the many chromatic phases that have accompanied his spatial and temporal research. Alongside his earths, his whites and ash greys, we have then lost ourselves in his turquoises and reds, oranges and pinks, in all their possible tonalities. Now gold has arrived, in the latest years of his work, and his beloved friend, Her Majesty the Art of Painting, has accompanied him to Sienna. With courage, recklessness and temperance.


Francesca Bottari