The exhibition was born from the collaboration between Areacreativa42 and the City of Cuorgnè within the project “Artists in residence at Casa Toesca”, based on the theme “The presence of the ancient in the vertigo of the contemporary”. During the exhibition period, Elvis Spadoni created a work in the former church and the public was be able to follow the progress and admire the result at the end of the exhibition.

The artist was in residence at Areacreativa42, Casa Toesca in Rivarolo, from February 7 to March 11 2018: during this period it was possible to visit the atelier and participate in the workshops.

The exhibition, curated by the Areacreativa42 association in close dialogue with the artist, is accompanied by workshops aimed at students from local schools, focusing on the practice of drawing the human figure, a very important practice within the work of Elvis Spadoni.

The search for a definition capable of totally outlining the concept of “sacred” is one of the great challenges posed by Western thought: by relating ethical, philosophical, historical and anthropological implications, this research has engaged some of the most enlightened minds of the twentieth century. According to the sociological vision of the French Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), for example, the sacred is the transcendental expression of the power of society, a superior entity that arises from the convergence of the will of individuals, to which men attribute divine connotations. The phenomenological perspective of Rudolf Otto’s studies (1896-1937) instead identifies the sacred in the ganz andere, the “totally other”: it is at the same time imperceptible from the senses and inconceivable by the human intellect, although it can be experienced in an irrational way as a sense of absolute greatness (mysterium fascinans) and as a sense of powerlessness in front of a reality infinitely superior to human limits (mysterium tremendum); it is what the scholar calls “numinous” experiences, the experiences of the divine, which leave man annihilated. Starting from these considerations, the Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) comes to identify the history of religion, from the dawn of humanity, with the history of the hierophanies: this neologism, invented by Eliade himself, indicates any place, object, person or animal in which the sacred manifests itself, connoting it with a value derived precisely from the fact that it has transcended the profane and material nature by rising to a new sphere of being, that of the sacred, through that which, with a fitting definition of Durkheim, we could define a “level break”.

What all these cognitive paths have in common is the desire to escape the temptation to define the sacred according to the dogmas and precepts of a particular creed, trying instead to unify the global set of experiences that bind Man with the sphere of the unknown. Finally, it is a matter of trying to identify the absolute nature of the sacred outside the pre-established cultural schemes, tracing the culturally connoted experience of religion to the human and universal experience of the sacred.
In the works on display the concept of sacred coexists and dialogues that of myth, understood as the act of foundation of society, culture and the rational order of the things of the world: in myth, as well as in the biblical story (which shares a great deal of myth number of key elements), social norms and precepts find their own origin and unquestionable legitimacy, almost always thanks to the authority of the manifestation of the sacred. The mythical narrative is a transposition mediated by the sacred of social, ethical and moral instances proper to human nature.

Elvis Spadoni’s painting is in this sense a mythical painting; through it the artist reflects on the human condition, facing crucial moments in life such as mourning and motherhood or even aspects of character physiognomy such as vanity: the mythical and biblical narration bend to the nature of a vehicle for a message whose communicative power it derives from the cultural roots of the narrative itself. The anthropological and experiential dimension of Elvis Spadoni’s works is strengthened in the light of the fact that the figures that populate them are nothing more than portraits of the artist himself and his family: the pictorial practice in this sense also assumes a self-analytical function, allowing the artist to distance himself from himself by resemantizing his image by taking on different roles, as in a game of the parts in which he imposes on himself a character to be able to redefine himself from a different perspective. To all intents and purposes it seems legitimate to speak of “reflective painting”: the artist’s image, “reflected” in the canvas, becomes itself an occasion for personal reflection.
This creative path becomes a further reading key: through it the artist seems to invite us to imitate him by identifying us within the narrative, questioning us, taking on a role in which to recognize (or not recognize) a part ourselves, reaching an awareness of the deeper self. In the words of the artist himself: The exposed themes arise from personal biographical choices: as far as Narcissus, Ulysses and David are concerned, the stories appeared significant to me due to the biographical assonances. David who choosing the slingshot as a weapon focuses his challenge of the future on his poor skills, Ulysses who makes a choice of stability compared to an eternal wandering and Narcissus who seeks his identity in the reflected image, symbol of my self-portrait practice, they are all stories that I represented because they echoed my life.

In biblical themes, moral and social meaning is accompanied by a “genuine religious charge”: the artist’s attempt to put man in front of the hypothesis of a possibility of encountering the sphere of the divine and the presence of a reality transcendent to the the interior of our life, confronting us with examples of this encounter. Once again the image of Elvis himself in the painting is a useful tool to push us to the interpenetration between the characters and ourselves: by identifying with them we accept the possibility of sharing their revelation and experiencing the sacred as a factual reality and not as its representation.

Despite the absolute relevance of the figures, however, the first visual impact with the works of Elvis Spadoni forces us to compare with a permeating presence whose constituent component is precisely the absence: the “empty” space in these works takes on a clear material value, permeated as it is with an intense light aimed at forcing the sensory limits between the visual and the tactile.
This light is the formal reworking of Elvis Spadoni of the traditional anthropomorphic manifestation of the divine, so important in the tradition of Italian and Western religious painting and precisely for this expression of a culturally connoted (and / or limited) vision. Through minimalist candor, the artist highlights human limits in the perception and understanding of the sacred, translating the mysterium of “totally other” into visual terms and staging the “level break” in a pictorial sense: Spadoni chooses the renunciation of form as the only way to represent the unrepresentable. To the indisputable aesthetic appeal of the extreme contrast is therefore added an absolutely not negligible component of meaning. After all, even if on a superficial comparison with the work we would be tempted to relegate this luminous space to the role of background, it is actually the arrival point of a visual and analytical journey of which our encounter with the figure represents only the first step. The empty space, to which the greatest compositional importance is reserved, is a place of formal silence to which we are admitted through the character, whose clothes we have dressed for the occasion: a possibility of dialogue between the observer and the work of which the artist, having abandoned the pretense of representing at any cost, makes us a gift. Here takes place the final act of a journey through which the artist accompanies us, a “mystical” journey to the extent that the term leads back to its etymological meaning: “not having the words to tell”. Within this space there is a possible universe of expressive and semiotic resonances that transcend the limits of word and image to embrace the whole spectrum of the potential of thought and of those beyond thought itself: it is another space, the space of the sacred. The space of the sacred is not only the one inside the pictorial composition, but also that of art, a term whose absolute definition is as elusive as that of the sacred, as in past decades have shown the numerous experiences aimed at putting its status in crisis incorporation. The analogy with the sacred therefore becomes an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between art and the real world, in spatial and ethical visual terms. Elvis Spadoni’s works combine in an organic dialogue figurative naturalist tendencies and informal minimalist analysis in the monochromatic variation of large portions of his paintings, the result of research aimed at reflecting on the complex relationship between abstraction and figuration that characterized the artistic research of the last century .

This dialectical operation offers a last but fundamental starting point for reflection that could not be better expressed than with the words of the artist himself: I believe that all the painting of the last hundred years has at least moved by a strong yearning for the sacred understood as that “other” dimension with respect to everyday life and everyday things, creating images that were a different world from what we know, at times disturbing and disorienting. I think the flaking of the figure and the disappearance of traditional painting are to be seen from this perspective. I can introduce these white backgrounds because before me there were artists who legitimized this form of expression […] But also I believe that the human figure, in its “banal” and classic realism, is an element that should not be lost because it preserves the idea that the revelation of the sacred does not occur by “leaving” this world but rather in a logic of interpenetration between the top and the bottom. By bass I mean the crudeness of the object and reality as it presents itself to us, as a body represented “as it is”. This is why I am so tied to a realistic painting: it represents the acceptance of daily reality and the aspiration that “the sacred” is revealed not in the measure in which we leave the earth for heaven but in bringing them together.



Giorgio Bena