IMPROBABLE, NOT IMPOSSIBLE
It’s something that you often read in the texts written on him. Behind an artist like Ciro Palumbo there are the titans of Metaphysics (De Chirico brothers) and Surrealism (Magritte and then Dalì, and also Max Ernst). Yet the reaction we feel in front of his works, taking up an expression of the critic Luca Nannipieri, «is not a feeling of recapitulation with respect to the past.»
Although in his paintings we find hints of the great history of art (just think of the presence of classical statuary elements and a representation of the landscape that winks at symbolism), there is nothing anachronistic or oppressive and, indeed, we find ourselves in front of something absolutely unexpected, spacious and, even when alienating, comforting.
The Moon among the trees in “Assenza” certainly brings to mind the one among the dark branches of “Le seize septempre” of René Magritte for the dreamlike nature of the vision, but the reaction it creates in us is not of anxiety or suspicion, but of curiosity and attraction. There is not a barren and endless land behind it, but a rocky embrace and a table that would be enough as a support to get to the stars.
The word spacious was chosen, certainly not in reference to the formats. Ciro Palumbo has no favorite formats and is able to be incisive in the small as in the big ones: in the small, despite the curiosity of seeing what he has managed to put on the canvas, the viewer does not feel nauseated; in the big ones there is never a sense of emptiness, lack, insufficiency. Palumbo leaves space, balance, fundamental ingredients to open wide the doors of imagination.
Today perhaps we talk less about De Chirico and more about Magritte, or perhaps there is simply Palumbo and the shadow of those Fathers is now fading.
In his Improbable Landscapes, which we do not know if they belong more to the mind or to the heart, Palumbo recalls the past, the themes to which he has devoted himself for long and that have marked his previous pictorial series: the myth, the theater, the game, the heroes, the warriors…
In his latest works, the artist had also looked at pop art: in 2018 the project “The strength of gods and heroes” had already thrown the marble Gods and Heroes of the classical myth into the most contemporary and Marvellian dimension, as if to tell them (and to tell us) “you did not expect this and instead it is really happening”.
Here, again, he lights up the colors of his canvases and the skies have nothing gloomy: purples, yellow-gold shades, reds, light blues and blues explode. Even where he paints in black, the soul is calm. In Palumbo the improbable becomes possible.
De Chirico and Magritte built dreamlike worlds, but the viewer was basically an outsider who contemplated them and tried to decipher them from the outside. The feeling, if there was (amazement, fear, curiosity) filtered out subtle and sibylline (Magritte himself liked to define himself as le saboteur tranquille, that is, the silent disturber).
Palumbo’s imaginary rooms and panoramas are not hostile and hermetic to the observer but, on the contrary, play with him calling him to an inner dialogue. Dreamlike geometries and natural elements meet happily: the mountain and the shore are firm landings to which the viewer can return after floating with his imagination among the fronds of stars, sly moons and toy towers.
Ciro Palumbo started from the pictorial lessons of the metaphysicians and surrealists to create in his canvases something absolutely original that no longer belongs to either one or the other: an extraordinary microcosm capable of looking out over the past history, the present and the future of art.
«This is the strength, this is the need for the individual style when it manages to impose itself as such: that is, to recognize a tradition, to recognize its paternity, its dependencies, its greatness, and at the same time to betray them, to overcome them. We are epigones of a tradition when we are not able to innovate. Instead, we are artists when tradition – the fathers – are recognized and overcome. We desert their field, after understanding it, to generate ours.» – Luca Nannipieri.
THAT MEASURED WONDER
Luca Nannipieri, art critica and writer
Palumbo’s works are hypnotic: they dialogue with the viewer’s imagination by challenging him to recognize the objects and clues scattered in those worlds. Little by little they reveal themselves, they let suggestions and details appear. You have to look at them once, twice, three times to maybe be able to notice everything and each time you notice something different: an element never seen before, a symbol, a color to which we had not given weight.
And then there are, as mentioned, all the references to the history of art or to the contemporaneity, which make each canvas a multiverse.
Alessandra Redaelli talks about the encounter with the work in the catalog that accompanies the exhibition: «Just as in the Renaissance, when everyone could enjoy the beauty of a Madonna with child: from the simple peasant who saw the image of a loving mother to the scholar who could read alchemical symbols and references to philosophy. The point is that here heaviness doesn’t exist.»
Palumbo, for example, scatters his canvases of starry skies or, it would be better to say, hides them, so that finding them is really a measured wonder, a caress in which to bask. In the artwork “Attesa“, the starry sky is at the window: for the viewer it is a small view of the dreamlike world, full of freedom but also of mysteries, and that is enough to see universes beyond the wall. In “Memorie del cosmo” the sky is inside a bathing-hut: there is also a life jacket, in case we want to dive.
Undoubtedly the irony in the works of Ciro Palumbo is not lacking, yet it is not a severe, pessimistic irony, but a good-natured and hopeful reverie.
«With determination and strength he has always decided to pursue a painting proudly far from the urgencies, often vacuous and ephemeral, of a certain extreme contemporaneity, placing itself in a timeless dimension.» – Alberto Agazzani
THE BALANCE, THE DREAM, THE FLIGHT.
Mise-en-scene. A fundamental word to reflect on Ciro Palumbo’s painting. Not in the sense of lies, but in the one of Theatre.
Palumbo’s works are theatrically scenographic representations, stories without history and without time born from the imagination of an eternal dreamer. In fact, the artist creates enigmatic stages, methodically chaotic, without space-time coordinates, nor geographical, which leave the observer disoriented but curious.
Palumbo plays with a sense of deliberate disorientation, not made by an omniscient demiurge but by the first wanderer of those worlds, he first focused on investigating them further. When Palumbo paints he dreams for us too.
Everything in his canvases is Theatre: backdrops, backstages, lighting effects, stage machines; even the perspectives, reminiscent of the anti-gravity ones of puppet theaters, with that somewhat boomerang vision of the horizons, which pull you in and throw you out, and with that stage that bows in front of you and asks you to get in.
Visual involvement becomes a vector for the mental and finally emotional ones.
We cannot fully understand what are the secret laws that govern its places, where are the threads that hold all those geometries hanging, yet it is an unknown that does not frighten us because it is populated by archetypal and unconscious symbols that we recognize because they belong to us despite not knowing where we learned them from, from starry skies enclosed in the comfort of a room, balloons and pyramids, smoky clouds suspended on toy architectures that seem to be graspable and dismantled like Lego from our child soul.
And again, the list goes on.
Trees perched on floating rocks, paper cards, Greek heroes, sailing ships, airships, winged hippos, starry goats, flying whales, moons on a leash, circuses.
Shells, cubes, little cubes, big cubes.
Empty chairs, white canvases.
Shelters, lighthouses, rock altars, windmills, temples.
Cherub wings, eyed-boats in flight, islands literally souspended in the air – with a taste that is not at all nihilistic and solitary, but rather a starting point and a landing, a firm port of imagination. In short, the balance, the dream, the flight.
Palumbo comes from the advertising world and, as his biography recounts, it was thanks to the experience in an art workshop and the meeting with some contemporary Masters that he was convinced to deepen the technique of oil painting with veiling. From the advertising world, the artist seems to have taken the persuasiveness of the story and the ability not to scare us despite showing incredible worlds.
«Observing Palumbo’s paintings means letting oneself be seduced by his pure expressiveness and free of conceptual conceptualisms.» – Alberto Agazzani
Short fun fact.
it has been said that Ciro Palumbo’s canvases look at the theater for their construction. Did you know that Palumbo really worked for theatre as a set designer? It happened recently, on the occasion of the show “ALDIQUALDILÀ tre maschere dell’aldiqua nell’aldilà dantesco” by Giovanni Del Prete and Ettore Nigro, at Teatro Sannazzaro in Naples.
We do not give the right attention to the fact that even the spaces where the artists work become large three-dimensional canvases, which reflect their compositional character.
Ciro Palumbo’s studio is exactly as we imagined it: a large tidy space.
Palumbo’s studio in Turin is characterized by the coexistence of several work in progressartworks, contemporary visions that the painter, a fervent mind, focuses little by little, detail after detail, as when we try to remember a dream. His atelier has many windows on as many possible worlds, although improbable. Always present and visible, a table full of colors and brushes.
Despite the extremely peculiar character of his poetics, the artist’s pictorial process was born and evolved with respect for tradition.
The easel, just like one of his floating islands, is the indispensable firm harbor that allows him to proceed safely. «My work is made up of different moments of construction. Indispensable moments for the success of the painting or a sculpture. The idea, the research, the drawing, the draft, the creation and the finishing touch, I live every moment as unique. Everything has its own process, a ceremonial […]».
There is certainly something unexpected. Some sculpture emerges from behind a canvas leaning against the column. Sketches and color proofs scattered here and there: inhabitants who, as the details of his paintings do, are born and reveal themselves to the eye slowly.
Ciro Palumbo was born in Zurich (CH) in 1965. His training as an advertising graphic designer led him to work for years as an Art Director in Advertising Agencies in Turin. It is during this experience that he discovers and increases his visual and compositional skills. After that period, the experience in a modern art workshop and the knowledge of some contemporary Masters, lead him to deepen the technique of oil painting with veiling. He began his exhibition activity in 1994 and has exhibited in hundreds of solo shows throughout Italy. In 2011 he took part in the 54th Biennale di Venezia, Piemonte Pavilion. Among the international exhibitions he took part in the Artexpo in New York, the Context Art Miami, in solo exhibitions in Providence (USA) and in Bellinzona (Switzerland). Some of his artworks are part of the collections of Fondazione Credito Bergamasco, at Galleria d’Arte Moderna G. Sciortino in Monreale (PA), at Museo MACIST in Biella, at Palazzo della Cultura and at MACS in Catania. Many important art critics have written about his works such as Angelo Crespi, Alberto Agazzani, Flaminio Gualdoni, Alessandra Redaelli, Aldo Nove, Ivan Quaroni, Luca Nannipieri, Luca Cantore D’Amore, Roberto Capitanio, Marcello Panascìa, Angelo Mistrangelo, Tommaso Paloscia, Alessandra Frosini, Alberto D’Atanasio, Stefania Bison, Francesca Bogliolo, Paolo Levi, Vittorio Sgarbi, Massimiliano Sabbion. His works are published in important annual publication and specialized magazines. He lives and works in Turin.