Critical Texts

i MULINI di DIO è stato scritto, CIRO PALUMBO
Stefano Gagliardi

i MULINI di DIO è stato scritto

From April 24th to May 7th 2015
Ex Ospedale San Rocco, Piazza San Giovanni Battista, Matera
Curated by Alessandra Frosini, Stefano Gagliardi
In collaboration with Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo.
With the patronage of: Regione Basilicata, Provincia di Matera, Matera2019Capitale Europea della Cultura, Comune di Matera, Arcidiocesi di Matera-Irsina

Project: Associazione Culturale ArToday Events - San Gimignano - Event organization: Pentagroup - Sponsor: Tenuta La Vallonea
In the sign of white.
‹‹The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters ›› Or: ‹‹Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels. ››   (  Francisco Goya).
The exhibition “GOD’S MILLS” presented in Nola (NA) this past October 2014 continues its journey in the city of Matera, to land in Florence and Ferrara during the next few months. In each of these other venues, Ciro Palumbo organises the itinerary, apparently completed in the Campania region, through the addition of new oil paintings, on both paper and canvas. The outcome evolves thanks to a project that is much more structured, both in formal and symbolic terms and in the syntheses of further contents. In order to identify the three different stages of pause and reflection, stimulated by the vision of the work “The Procession to Calvary“ by Bruegel the Elder, for Matera the chosen title was, “So it was written”. For Florence, on the other hand, the chosen title is “In the land of Man” and for Ferrara, the last stage, “At every time, in every place”. Three different titles associated with the same number of colours such as, with respect to the aforementioned venues: white, red and black. These colours represent three distinct moments that can be inferred during the journey and in the consequent prevalent metaphors. During the exhibition “God’s Mills” presented in Nola, I wrote that, if we were to carefully look at the work “The Procession to Calvary”, ‹‹The Flemish artist skilfully translates, from left to right in the painting, a journey of light that wanes off into the shadows while the blooming and benevolent nature slowly gives way to an increasingly dry and gloomy landscape. For the 16th century Dutch artist, everything seems to end with the sacrifice of the Calvary; for Ciro Palumbo, on the other hand, that end represents a new beginning: it is the victory of good over evil, of light over shadow, of hope over the deceit of solitude… This is the last act, the reconciliation between God and Men who can remember good and evil. ››
So, the dominant colour of the works, as for the desire of this renewed understanding, could be none other than white: sunny colour par excellence which, as the sum of all colours, rises up as a symbol of the absolute and of divinity itself. In all the colours of the rainbow, this colour of light expresses, better than black, the entire beginning and the entire end; a whole that is difficult to manage save for the commitment to face that silent voyage into spaces, at times abandoned, at times saturated, of our interior feeling; the prize being a veritable realignment of one’s conscience before the mystery of the divine. Palumbo accepts the challenge of the dialogue with the matter-light space, and the pictorial project definitely becomes more cerebral, full of surprising images in terms of formal syntheses and chromatic properties. Works in some way freed from the need for a descriptive tale and increasingly adherent to the symbolic language typical of metaphysical exploration. At the pictorial level, certainly the start of the creative gesture collides with the undefined white of the canvas, almost primitive vacuum and seat of ancestral silences and suspended moments. The artist’s palette is often permeated by the unease of fighting with a colourless colour that constantly oscillates between warm and sunny light to cold moonlight. Palumbo takes on the colour white, which transforms itself in the direction of light from East to West and feeds upon different symbols, according to philosophical and faith-related dimensions, now stubbornly aimed towards the earth, now outstretched towards the sky. To Palumbo, white is in any event a strongly metaphorical colour and, as in all cultures, it becomes a symbol of light and spiritual elevation. On the one side, it is light that comes from the East, that is born from the Sun and comprises all colours: white is the power of good that fights against the dark schemes of evil, white is the colour worn by the Innocent towards martyrdom and which becomes the Saint’s robe. Anywhere and anyway, white is still a privileged colour that brings with itself the high symbolic value of transcendence and of emancipation from matter: it is light that is present during both laic and religious rites of passage as well as during philosophical and spiritual initiation rituals. On the other side, it is light that dies in the West, that fades away, by subtraction, in the moonlight and in the gradual loss of all colour: it finally precipitates into a colour without shade, becomes opaque, livid, sadly pale, far away by now from its original whiteness and innocence. It is the paleness of the sick, of the sleepless, it is the silence of the mind and the solitude of the desperate; it is the opaque white of death that slowly takes possession of the body, it is the shroud of the Innocent. Palumbo thus avails himself of the “simplified” palette of white, which he uses on backgrounds saturated with white itself, with red and with black, and on which he projects exemplary visions in terms of symbolic synthesis and geometric construction. Here, the mills, the fallen rocks, the cloth, the cross, the nails and the crown of thorns of the martyrdom are isolated from any narrative context and placed in a timeless dimension, almost as if to say that today is like yesterday! and that nothing changes inside the wheel of time. Consistently, the work as a whole becomes stronger by projecting itself towards images and archetypes that reveal themselves to be distant from any chromatic preciousness and from artificial graphic-stylistic ostentations. In works such as “Il Mulino” and “Il mulino di Pietra”, this transition of synthesis is somehow brought to its extreme fulfilment: the two mills become metaphors of a drama that is unresolved and forgotten in space without time; they are highly communicative icons that transcend the need to use words. They are resolved in the white of solitude, outside the hope of a vital breath of a resolving wind. In the last works, Palumbo seems to underscore with greater strength that “The truth is never naked as it is always hidden in obviousness”, and precisely in accordance with this idea, strong and clear, the Artist adds a few symbolic elements, such as the impracticable rock by now lacking any accessible passage: in the previous paintings, it was represented as a solitary metaphor in the sense of the ascent; now, instead, it becomes the image of an inaccessible and spectral destination: wrapped in its own white moonlight, the mill is outstretched towards the last patch of light and hope. (Lassù). I wrote: ‹‹ From the top of God’s Mills, there is a clear and distinct vision of a humanity which has been repeating to itself through the centuries the obsessive mantra of its own mistakes and weaknesses›› and so that place is no longer fit for man: it is only a space of stone condemned, by the silence of man’s conscience, to live in the obsessive white, as if concluded, of nothing. (Nel bianco, nella luce, nel nulla – In the white, in the light, in the nothing). If, in the work ”Tre chiodi”, the essence of the drama of the Calvary is presage to God’s crucifixion, that which is certainly evident is the darkening of conscience and the violence of darkness: everything crashes down inside settings saturated with the colours of the drama, where denied perspectives take on the colour of death, the sulphurous yellow of the evil and the ash white of the ruins, like opaque light bent by destiny. And when everything seems to have reached the end: instead ‹‹…the fallen and stolen stones of the mills reassemble themselves in the crosses of the supreme sacrifice as if fleeing from the shadows of the earth.›› Here, with mastery, in the works “Il messaggio” and “I Segni”, Palumbo once again speaks to us of hope, of lightness, of a journey that is still in progress, of the soul that does not give up the ascent towards its own spiritual fulfilment. White stones, this time in the luminous white of light, in ultimate opposition to the space-time of absolute black. Boulders accompanied (works: Rimanenze; Segni) by the white innocence of the cloth: clear ‹‹…metaphor of the Holy Shroud and of the resurrected Body››. During the last stage of this journey ‹‹…the cloth replaces the mills, becomes a symbolic body, transforms itself into a white mountain, destination and spiritual place of the communion of the bread››. It is precisely in the work “L’ultimo atto” that we find once again the white of the cloth represented in the colour of light, sunlight to be precise, captured in the nuances of yellow, a colour that represents knowledge and the divine.
Galleria Gagliardi - 2015: solo exhibition by Ciro Palumbo' "I Mulini di Dio",   critical  text by di Stefano Gagliardi