Of silence and transparency

Painting, music, poetry and gold on show

Vincenzo Scolamiero, Siena, Palazzo Pubblico – Magazzini del Sale

Sixty large canvasses, works on paper, artist’s books, videos and other materials alternate under a canopy of medieval vaults, the fruit of a rigorous research inspired by the abstracting force of poetry and music that acquires form in slow and sedimented yet concrete and mysterious painting.

27 novembre / 9 gennaio 2022

A dialogue between painting, music and poetry boasts a solid Italian tradition. Music scores, antiphonaries, motes and pentagrams have appeared in paintings from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century; and countless artists, over time, have been musicians, poets, composers or performers, in a constant dialogue that only at the beginning of the last century transformed into the previously unknown language of abstraction, when painting found in the musical or lyric lexicon a mode for abandoning the forms of reality and with that mimesis.
Yet, in a huge environment of brickwork, a splendid example of a recovery of public spaces forgotten until half a century ago, some sixty works are exhibited in which the relationship between the three arts does not stem from tradition, nor tap into predictable reciprocity, but forms a new and highly vital expressive praxis.
The protagonists of Vincenzo Scolamiero’s personal exhibition – whose title itself, Of Silence and transparency, suggests in a beautiful archaic form the spirit that animates it – are a number of recent cycles of large canvasses and artist’s notebooks. Executed in various pigments, inks, Indian ink and sparkling metallic powders, the works comprise solid and flat forms, plates of colours and earthy folds, cut from light and disrupted by an ancestral wind.
The central theme is, of course, the relationship between music and poetry and celebrates the enchantment that the Roman artist has experienced in encounters with various major contemporary composers – among them Birtwistler, Ades, Reich, Adams and certain liturgical or minimalist music, besides his beloved Luigi Nono, to whom a section is dedicated – and with many much-loved poets, including some recently discovered ones, such as the Nobel Prize winning poet Louise Glück. However, for Scolamiero, music and poetry are neither echoes nor evocations of atmosphere. The relationship is necessary and reciprocal. His painting is nourished by it, draws sense from it and restores images to it in a fluidity of relationships and responses that seeks among the arts an immutable and eternal connecting thread.
In Scolamiero’s figurative research, every powerful new suggestion inevitably exalts already established forms and spaces, be it the primeval force of Birtwistler’s compositions that convulse clods like an earthquake and painted papers, or the obsessive cyclicity of the Medieval antiphon that ruffles the rhythm of some of his figurative series, or the telluric echo of Louise Glück’s verses that help the artist to explore the depths of shadow.
But a third protagonist ignites the canvasses on show. If poetry and music nourish their imagination and direct their forms, a recent material experimentation orientates their light (to paraphrase Leonardo) while at the same time restoring solidity and veracity to their ideal tension: the highly original use of layers of precious metallic powders, such as those used in gilding and restoration. With this Scolamiero accumulates another space, pushing towards the outer limits of paintings with expansive luminescent coats – mingling pink golds, oranges and greys – that fold sumptuously over each other like sheets beneath a mysterious force.

Gold invades everything, from the luminous surfaces to the most obscure cavities. It lights up the shadows and glimmers in the colours. And, on the ground floor of the Palazzo Pubblico, it seems to want to pay homage to the illustrious Sienese school which, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, taught generations of leading artists to gently lay gold leaf on wooden supports, then burnish it and pierce it over haloes, the hems of mantles, frames and the wings of angels.
In addition to the canvases are three cycles of artist’s notebooks, another rare model of a commingling of a musical or poetic lexicon with figurative expression. These examples are the fruit of a collaboration with the poet Milo De Angelis – which resulted in twelve unique works – and the composer Silvia Colasanti, which led to the production of seven musical score/paintings.
A third artist’s notebook was commissioned by the Federazione Unitaria Scrittori Italiani (Unitary Federation of Italian Writers) to mark the seventh centenary of the death of Dante Alighieri. It’s another of the special expressive experiments through which Scolamiero allows a fascination inspired by Dante’s great poetry to pour and flow out and then be channelled into the tight and rigorous process of artistic creation.
The exhibition is presented by the Sienna City Council’s Inner Room art curation project and realized in collaboration with Sienna’s Fondazione Accademia Musicale Chigiana (Chigiana Musical Academy Foundation), Rome’s Edieuropa Gallery – Qui arte contemporanea and the patronage of the Rome Fine Arts Academy and the Roberto Bilotti Ruggi d’Aragona Contemporary Art Museum (CS).

A catalogue published by Rome’s De Luca Editore d’Arte will be available at the exhibition containing texts by the art historians Francesca Bottari, Tiziana D’Acchille and Giuliana Stella.