Saturday, 27 October 2012


Mimmo Paladino is an international artist who still lives in the small south Italian town where he grew up. There's an exhibition at a villa in Sorrento which is all sculpture and installation, and I'm never quite sure what to make of his sculptures: sometimes they look wilfully archaic, sometimes just odd. It's his paintings and prints I really like. But I like these 'sleepers': I never realised they float on the water. Quite uncanny, the slight, gentle movement, in a state of suspension. (They just happened to be aligned perfectly at that moment.) Some years ago there was an exhibition of non-floating dreamers in the Round House in London, with a sound installation by Brian Eno. The villa is wonderful: not big enough to be ostentatious, but with enough space for all your beautiful friends to come to visit. & dance, of course.

Then I take the bus that patiently threads through the congested traffic of Napoli onto the open road between farmland, winding inland into the hills, to Benevento. About an hour. A real insight into southern Italy. I arrive just as school is closing for lunch. Clear fresh air and bright sunshine: I'm struck by how unusually energetic and cheerful and good-natured the high school kids seemed to be. An Italian, Carlucci I think, the chef and restauranteur, recently wrote that Italian schoolchildren go home for lunch: that's where they discuss their problems. I can't help feeling that this must be a great place to grow up in. No tango, perhaps, not yet.
Benevento's a treat after Napoli as there's hardly any traffic in the town centre. The main street has been pedestrianised, and the old town streets are very narrow. This tower at the town centre is magnificent, and incorporates pieces of older buildings. Buildings in the old town are like this too, carved Roman sculture used as part of walls. (I've seen this in India: the Jantar Mantar mosque in Delhi was built out of pieces of Hindu temples.) A tower like this seems to suggest many stories, just as its walls are built out of many images.

The Benevento museum is extraordinary: a bit like the British Museum in one big room. One big room full of Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculpture. Statues of Roman emperors as Egyptian gods, Greek-style sculpture made with stone from Aswan, Roman images of Isis, of the priests of Isis. Benevento at the southern edge of the Roman empire, surrounded by Greek colonies, and looking across the Mediterranean to Egypt for spiritual inspiration, and with an Etruscan past. (Nothing Indian here, although an Indian sculpture was found in Pompeii.) Pompeii, celebration of the worldly, Benevento where the concerns seem more spiritual.
There's an installation by Paladino here, the Hortus Conclusus. I really don't know what to make of his sculpture. But the prints? Here's a neat video of him making a lithograph, a print made on a smooth slab of limestone, at the Bulla workshop in Rome. Unfortunately in Italian. Bulla, I think, talks about the technical process. I don't understand what the artist says, but I like the print, and it's great to watch someone making something like that.

(Thanks to Rubieroart.)

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