Seven established artists, most of whom received the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award during the past editions of the Florence Biennale, are going to exhibit their works in the crypt of the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence. Within the framework of this contemporary art exhibition they virtually represent the seven nations whose Ministers of Culture are gathering in Florence at the end of March 2017 to attend the G7 of Culture. As if any remainder were needed, the countries involved are the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. Initiated by Marco Ferri and curated by Dr. Melanie Zefferino with the managing direction of Jacopo Celona, this contemporary art exhibition is unveiling on 28 March 2017. Thereafter, it will be open to the public until 17 April 2017 with free admission.
The ‘G7 of Art’, however, also anticipates the XIth edition of the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Florence, themed ‘eARTh: Creativity & Sustainability’ to be held on 6-15 October 2015 at the Fortezza da Basso.
Partner of the UN Programme ‘Dialogue amongst Civilisations’ (2001), recipient of the Anne Archer Artists for Human Rights Award (2007) and of the ‘Silver Pegasus’ (2015) from the Regional Authorities of Tuscany, since its foundation in 1997 the International Contemporary Art Biennial of Florence has gathered artists from around the world. Artists at different career stages working with different media. Looking forward to celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year, the Florence Biennale has kept fostering cultural dialogue by promoting this unprecedented ‘G7 of Art’.
The United Kingdom’s ‘flag bearer’ in this event is Louise Giblin, Member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and famous for her body cast metal sculptures, examples of which she is showing at Santa Croce. Representing Germany is Eva Moosbrugger, who received many prizes for her sculptural installations in glass and metal, including the German Design Award 2017. From the United States Romolo Del Deo is exhibiting three stunning bronze sculptures, with which he gives shape to ‘fragments of memory’ while exploring the idea that the past haunts present. Japanese artist Yasumichi Nakagawa is showing his phantasmagorical giant masks evoking the Samurai heritage: they are mythical Tigers guarding the venue. Gary Barnhart, who is exhibiting his precious stone sculptures of ethereal beauty, gives new breath of life to the allure of the distant cultures he has studied thoroughly, from the Etruscan civilization to the Inuit tradition. Testifying to the cultural identity of France by displaying beautiful photographs taken on the ‘French way’ to Santiago de Compostela is Jean-Pierre Rousset, awardee at the French and Japanese Festival of Contemporary Arts. Through his images of castles, hospitals, and chapels, some of which listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, this author (also a member of the editorial board of the Festin, revue des arts et du patrimoine en Aquitaine) captures human beings’ struggle for acquiring conscience of the mystery of life, also through the sacred. Finally, Pasquale Celona, figurative artist, founder and President of the Florence Biennale, is showing his Annunciation. While paying homage to fifteenth-century Italian painting tradition, by exhibiting that altarpiece he aims to support the Mayor of Florence in his wishing that ‘the G7 of Culture may be the beginning of a new Renaissance’.
According to the exhibition curator, a British-and-Italian scholar with PhD from the University of Warwick, all the artists involved in the ‘G7 of Art’ show a sense of identity and belonging to their cultures. Cultures rooted in civilisation, and flowering also thanks to cross-fertilisation between different traditions. Cultures that have left their marks on sites listed as tangible or intangible World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO as bringing ‘the invisible into the visible’, quoting Maurice Merlau-Ponty. Such a heritage testifies to the existence of many orders of things, which art – through its many languages – allows us to perceive and understand.
The seven contemporary artists showcasing their artworks in the Santa Croce basilica virtually ‘sing’ in counterpoint to the Group of Seven’s Ministers of Culture, who will ‘debut’ on the Florentine scene in late March 2017. Indeed, with this exhibition the Florence Biennale renovate their twenty-year commitment to fostering cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary dialogue through art. All the talents who have participated in this biennial over the years, and more especially the outstanding masters of sculpture, painting, and photography who have made the ‘G7 of Art’ possible, honour Florence as a muse inspiring universal harmony since the arts conjoin in this city, where the past and present intertwine.
After the inauguration, on 28th March, the exhibition will be open to the public until 17 April 2017, but closed on Easter Sunday. Full-time opening, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., every day excepting on 2-3, 6-9 and 11 April, with afternoon opening from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
‘G7 OF ART’
THE ARTISTS IN THE EXHIBITION PATH
Gary Barnhart – CANADA
Born in Ottawa, Gary Barnhart studied Visual Arts at the York University in Toronto and University of Ottawa. While carrying out a successful teaching career, he received International recognition for his exquisite sculpture in marble, limestone and alabaster. He received the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award in 2011 and 2013.
Early influences on his artistic research can be found in the Primitive arts of the South-West Pacific, sculpture from Central and South America and the engraved symbols of Inuit art in Canada’s north, which still inspire his work. During his sojourns in Italy he could examine early Etruscan artefacts, which provided new inspiration for his own sculptures, as we may see in Etruscan Memories. More recently, travelling to Japan has strengthened his commitment to seek the inner self when he approaches the stone. He knows it has a life of its own, and that it is his gift to release the ethereal beauty of stone into the world of shape and form – something that he has masterly achieved, for instance, with Under a New Moon and Solar Moon.
Observing these pieces in the ‘G7 Art’ we may realise, as Brazilian artist Libia Bosker has remarked, that ‘Gary’s sculptures have a language with an infinite number of dialects. In his work we discover a new theory of forms, colours, emotions, beauty and the desire to know the unknown’.
Jean-Pierre Rousset – FRANCE
French-born painter, photographer and writer, Jean-Pierre Rousset works alternately in Portland, Maine (USA) and Hendaye (Southern France). He is a member of the editorial board of Festin. Revue des arts et du patrimoine en Aquitaine.
In 2008 he was selected to represent France at the French-Japanese Contemporary Art Festival at the Tamozawa Imperial Palace, Tokyo, whereby he received two Honorary Awards.
Within the framework of his project entitled Camino, he has immortalised castles, hospitals, and temples once destined to host pilgrims and knights on the Way to Saint James of Compostela. Leading to sites that have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage, that path represents the earliest ‘European journey through culture’, according to the artist.
From his Camino project, in the ‘G7 of Art’ Jean-Pierre is displaying four amazing photographs of settings that bear witness to faith, faithfulness, and fight in Medieval France. These images, as he asserts, ‘capture the light and atmosphere of a unique and fugitive moment’.
Showing through Jean-Pierre Rousset photography, which ‘is much more than a rational art form’ to him, is a feeling of disenchantment as well as a sense of hidden driving human beings’ struggle to acquire conscience of the mystery of life.
Eva Moosbrugger – GERMANY
Throughout her thirty-year career, Eva Moosbrugger has exhibited at foremost international art shows in Europe, USA and Japan. Her unique sculptures are in renowned private collections. Awarded with several prizes for her sculptural installations in glass and metal, she received the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award in 2009, was prize winner at the Baden-Württemberg International Design Award, and winner of the German Design Award in 2017.
Murano glass has been her passion since her early career, when she received a scholarship from the Austrian Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Vienna to train in Venice. She has created most of her sculptures with that medium, which she perceives as mystic. ‘It is a wonderful material: pure and pristine, with a mysterious life of its own’, she says.
In the ‘G7 of Art’ she is exhibiting Six Forms, first presented at the Veste Museum of Contemporary Glass, Coburg, in 2013. As Sven Hauschke, Director of that museum has remarked, ‘Eva Moosbrugger explores the different properties and perceptions of the material she transforms as in a kind of alchemic process. For instance, in Six Forms coloured glass looks like marble or pottery, while the steel is worked in such a way as to provide transparency, light and shade – properties which are otherwise associated with glass. This interplay calls into question established habits, things we take for granted and the casual, careless way we treat nature, life and health.
Yasumichi Nakagawa – JAPAN
Born in Osaka, Japan, Yasumichi Nakagawa graduated at the Tama Art University in Hachioji Faculty of Art and Design, Tokyo.
Artist and art teacher, he uses different materials and techniques for his artworks, including a dyeing technique that is most employed to colour fabrics for kimono.
He exhibited above all in Japan, where he also realised a wall painting in the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant. In 2013 he showed his works in two National museums of Poland.
He won several prizes, and received the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award for textile art in 2015.
In the ‘G7 of Art’ he is showcasing two giant tiger masks made of dyed textiles, paint, and wire on wood panels. The tiger is not autochthonous of the ‘land of the rising sun’, where the species and its myth was ‘imported’ from China, possibly in the VIIIth century. Dating to that period is the Manyoshu, the earliest Japanese poem in which mention is made of the tiger – still a symbol of dignity and courage. Tiger-shaped papier maché masks are donated as wishing well gifts during the Shinno Festival in Osaka since, according to legend, a tiger lived in the castle of that town.
Pasquale Celona – ITALY
Born in Bruzzano Zeffirio, he made Florence his home town after graduating in Natural Sciences at the University of Reggio Calabria. By then, he had already developed his flair for painting. In 1978 he was awarded the Trofeo Leone d’Oro by the Circolo della Stampa in Florence. He has exhibited his paintings in public and private venues in Europe, including the Yacht Club de Monaco during the ‘Month of Italian Culture (2014); the Chiostro di Sant’Agostino in Pietrasanta (2015), and the basement of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence (2013).
His works, blending figurative and abstract art, are in prestigious institutional collections, for instance that of the Museu de arte do Parlamento de São Paulo.
In the ‘G7 of Art’ he is paying homage the Florentine Old Masters of painting with this Annunciation. With his Sails of the Mediterranean he is also offering visions evoking Rabindranath Tagore’s Light poem.
Pasquale Celona’s contribution to art not only lies in his creative practice, but also in his commitment to serving as President of the Florence Biennale, which he founded with his brother Piero in 1997.
Louise Giblin – UNITED KINGDOM
Born in the Isle of Wight, she obtained her Sculpture BA Hons. at Brighton Polytechnic and History and Theory of Modern Art MA at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London.
Member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, at the Florence Biennale she received the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award for sculpture in 2015.
Louise Giblin is a world leading body cast sculptor.
Her subject matter is the human form and her models include Olympians, celebrities and war veterans. She affirms that ‘It is not my aim to capture a personality; all I have to go on is what my models choose to project. That’s their armour, that’s what I’m interested in’. Hence, she produces sculptures in clay with detailed imagery applied to the surface, then cast in bronze, translucent resin or cold cast metals like those exhibited in the ‘G7 of Art’.
Romolo Del Deo – U.S.A.
After training in his father’s painting studio and perfecting sculpture with other masters, he completed his early education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. Then, he obtained his Honours BA at Harvard University, and in 2000 he received the President’s Award for his contribution to the Arts at Harvard.
Recently awarded the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award for sculpture, he received honours from the Henry Moore Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and also won the Harvard David McCord Prize, the Harvard Danforth Award, and the PAAM International Award.
As Alexander K. Noelle, Director of the New Britain Museum of American Art, has remarked that ‘Romolo’s artwork exists on two levels: one of pure aesthetic balance and beauty, and another of mysterious and evocative narrative. His bronzes seem to be shards from an ancient culture, yet are hauntingly contemporary. Playing with the acculturated baggage of classical icons, Romolo’s work mirrors the present art world’s fractured individuality and inspiration. […] Considering life as bittersweet, he transforms perfect form into fragments that express the contrasting forces of perpetual beauty and passing time’.