«The absolute immobility of the sea attracts me, but it is constantly in motion»
There was no an artist who managed to give the dimension of light and the relationship between blue, sea and sky like Piero Guccione. He was one of the leading figures in Italian painting in the second half of the twentieth century. Born in 1935 in Scicli, the last southern offshoot of Sicily, Guccione for over forty years, every morning, watched the sea trying to grasp the variations to find the soul of man.
by Umberto Garibaldi
Six months after his death in October 2018, the Mendrisio art Museum dedicates a major anthological exhibition – the first post mortem – to the Sicilian master, inspirer and animator of the Gruppo di Scicli, through the exhibition of 56 masterpieces among oils and pastels, from 1970 until the end of his journey, selected by the Museum in collaboration with the Archivio Piero Guccione, founded in 2018 by his daughter Paola.
In the silent and collected spaces of the ancient convent of the Serviti, where the art museum take place, Guccione’s works find perfect settings. On display there are extraordinary paintings such as, for example, Tramonto a Punta Corvo (1970), Ombra sul mare (1973-74), Le ombre della sera (1981-82), Ultimo mare (1983), La lontananza del mare (1994-95), Mare a Punta Corvo (1994-95), Piccola spiaggia (1996-98), La linea azzurra, Il nero e l’azzurro (2003), Luna d’Agosto (2005), La linea azzurra (2006-07) in which the blue is protagonist, infinity, divided and at the same time united, between sea and sky.
“The sea? I try to make it move to meet the sky. But the sense of heaven is that of immobility, while the sea is mobility. The sea is mobile fixity, the sky is absolute fixity. Unconsciously I try to get them to meet”. In painting the sea and the sky, he was attracted by the strength and color of that imperceptible line that divides the upper part of his paintings, the sky, from the lower part, the sea. It is this imperceptibility that he tried to bring back onto the canvas.
Alongside the 34 oil paintings, that trace Guccione’s artistic journey through the infinity of the sea, 22 extraordinary pastels are exhibited, depicting the beloved Sicilian landscape, the sea and the sky, of course, but also the plants of his land, the almond trees, the carob trees, the solitude of the stones, the birds in flight, the passage of the western wind. It was in the early 1970s that Guccione began to use pastel as a preparation for oils, but also as a means of expressing a more immediate and direct emotion, animating nature and transferring human feelings and passions to nature.
Guccione brought his research to the limits of abstraction, while remaining firmly anchored to reality. Even in the last works, where rarefaction is carried to the extreme and the sense of emptiness becomes the main quality, he wants and knows how to remain a painter of an ancient tradition rooted in the realistic, figurative. «My painting today goes towards an idea of flatness that contains the absolute, between the sea and the sky – he said – where the color is abolished, the space too. In short, a kind of flatness, that in some way contains a given of absoluteness, of something that looks like nothing and that looks like everything».
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog of 120 pages, published by the Mendrisio Museum of Art, with texts and contributions by Jean Clair, Simone Soldini, Elena Pontiggia, Paolo Nifosì, Barbara Paltenghi Malacrida, photographs and files, a selection of the artist’s most important exhibitions and a selected bibliography among the many critical texts, catalogs, writings, articles, essays, by some of the most important twentieth-century critics, writers and artists. Just to name a few: Leonardo Sciascia, Renato Guttuso, Enzo Siciliano, Antonello Trombadori, Giuliano Briganti, Dino Buzzati, Guido Giuffrè, Luigi Carluccio, Raffaele De Grada, Maurizio Calvesi, Roberto Tassi, Stefano Crespi, Giorgio Soavi, Giovanni Testori, Enrico Crispolti , Mario De Micheli, Alberto Moravia, Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Giuseppe and Paolo Nifosì, Vittorio Sgarbi, and again Michael Peppiatt, Michel Sager, Jean Clair, Susan Sontag.
The exhibition, open until June 30, is curated by Simone Soldini, Barbara Paltenghi Malacrida, Paola Guccione, Giovanni Giro. Mendrisio Art Museum – Piazzetta dei Serviti 1, Mendrisio – www.mendrisio.ch/museo