At their most powerful the arts provide a doorway, gateway or bridge inviting us from one state to another, enabling us to expand our everyday reality and respond to something that is both greater than ourselves and intimately part of us. Some art has the capacity to shift or deepen the way we know and live the world… While present with such art, the grasping, holding, and judging of normal consciousness shifts toward beholding; distant observation becomes intimate participation; the separation between the knower and what is known collapses; the chattering mind becomes awareness; imagination soars; emotions flow; and light, space, and time transmute. While we might achieve such moments and knowing through compassionate service, meditation, love, and so forth, we can also be brought into this clearing through art.
Born in Trento but now living and painting in Rovereto, Luciano Civettini, an admirer of Renoir, Ernst, Dalí, Magritte, Peter Doig, Gary Baseman, Mark Ryden, is a wine that has aged to perfection.
The attention to details, the gracefulness, wonder, fantasy, innocence, the mysterious aphorisms and the unsettling threats looming over the primary subjects of his paintings, like an ominous storm, make for a unique and welcome contrast with the balloons, spots, butt plugs, underwear, urinals and dildos of professional, consumerism-drive provocateurs of the like of Hirst, Emin, Lucas, Koons, McCarthy, etc.
Contemporary art has now become a poker game for the richest men and women in the world. They are daring each other to raise the stakes and call their bluff.
Art critic Ben Lewis, “The Great Contemporary Art Bubble”, BBC, 2008
Civettini, who has exhibited in Paris, Rome, Naples, Bologna, Pasadena, Bielefeld, Turin, Milan, Salzburg and Dubai, is poles apart from “artists” whose chief intent is provoking, degrading and becoming filthy rich.
His Pop Surrealism artworks evoke, seduce, deepen our understanding of reality.
We encounter bears, rabbits, chimeras, deer, children, flying saucers, spectres, and a variety of mythical, dreamlike and fairy tales characters, without an ounce of plainness, predictability, conservatism, Manichaeism or naïveté. Ghosts, monsters, UFOs, atomic mushrooms and flying fortresses are menacing and yet startlingly discreet. Conversely, children and bunnies do not appear to be powerless or lost. They face a bittersweet, melancholic, seemingly hostile and potentially lethal technocratic/psychopathic reality with stoic resolve, collectedness and acceptance. They are not petulant, aggressive or vindictive. It is as though they were wise, ancient souls, fully aware that “this too shall pass” and that appearances are deceiving: if you don’t fear them, they have no power over you.
What’s not to like about such a fascinating and even admirable attitude?
How different from the trivial and infantile mood of celebrity artists strictly focused on stardom and money (Doyen of American critics turns his back on the ‘nasty, stupid’ world of modern art, Guardian, 28 October 2012).
Mieux vaut boire trop de bon vin qu’un petit peu de mauvais
“Drinking too much good wine is still better than drinking a little bad wine” [or vinegar].
Civettini has confessed that when he realised that his paintings would be “popular” and that he would never be able to do high modern art, he began to work with ease. My contention is that he is mistaken: his art is less popular than spiritual, which might be a problem in a world dominated by reductionist materialism, religious dogmatism, and hedonistic, New Age ultra-spiritualism.
This, indeed, puts Civettini in a bit of quandary, for his style is bound to be associated with childhood and childhood, to put it charitably, is not the epitome of coolness among today’s art patrons and critics.
Well, they are wrong. Children can be nasty and coarse, but they are also capable of the deepest empathy, the most insightful remarks about the unknown and about what, regrettably, goes without saying. Through their highly creative, innocent minds, they expose our prejudices and insecurities (if we are honest with ourselves…and most of the times we aren’t). They get to the heart of the matter and, in so doing, children make painfully obvious our weaknesses, our overwhelming desire to run from our shadow, fit in at any cost and be in control (and, therefore, right). They erode our comfort zone and reference points, force us to sink or swim. It is only at that point that creativity is unleashed and we can start to think outside the box of comfortable, fossilized patterns, beliefs and delusions.
I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
Matthew 18: 1-4
Grown men may learn from very little children, for the hearts of little children are pure, and, therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.
Oftentimes, they are wiser than us and we are in denial about that, as we are convinced that nobody can be that wise with so little experience under their belt (see Tobin Hart, The Secret Spiritual World of Children, 2003; Eugene C. Roehlkepartain et al. (eds.), The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence, 2006; Chris J. Boyatzis, Examining Religious and Spiritual Development During Childhood and Adolescence, 2009). They trust their hearts and other people, they dream big, they redefine themselves all the time, they love abundantly, they are curious and questioning, they have faith, they are genuinely spiritual, contemplative and compassionate, they sacralise the universe and have a finely attuned sense of justice, fairness, clemency and awareness.
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
In other words, they are very much like the protagonists of Civettini’s paintings: nothing to do with sour old wine
Hotel Rovereto will showcase some of Civettini’s paintings in the lobby, corridors and dining room until the 30th of November.