Diego Galizzi - "ACHEIROPOIETON" - exhibition Catalogue "Acheropita" - Bagnacavallo (Ra) 2018
“Io tornava dal Tempio su alto di San Miniato, dove parte per satisfare alla religione, parte per affermarmi a sanità, era mio uso non raro conscendere a essercitarmi” Leon Battista Alberti wrote, in a short aside in his De iciarchia (1468), to tell us about his peculiar habit of blending spiritual and physical exercise by walking to the Basilica towering over Florence. What this short story reveals is the quest for a complete well-being, which can only be achieved through physical exercise, practice and daily commitment. Come to think of it, this double function of mind-body well-being would be restated, about a century later, in the introduction of the work Spiritual Exercises by Ignazio di Loyola who, in his attempt to show the mind the way to reach God, could not but take into consideration man’s bodily sphere: « With Spiritual Exercises we intend each and every way of examining one’s conscience, of meditating, contemplating, praying aloud or silently, and any other spiritual activities. Just like walking and running are known as exercises of the body then, for spiritual exercises we mean all the deeds aimed at helping the soul eliminate all disarranged affections and, once freed from them, search and find God’s will in the organization of its life for the salvation of the soul».
Alberti’s anecdote introduces us as well to that almost oxymoronic coupling of the precepts ora et labora, upon which the daily life of the entire Western monachism is based, and likewise, even that of the communities of the Benedictine nuns who, until the 1970s, had found shelter in the same architectonic structures hosting these days Enrico Lombardi’s one-man show. The paintings by this artist from the town of Meldola, as stated by his clear reference to Loyola’s work Spiritual Exercises, are essentially pure meditation, or better, an instrument of meditation; something to help us relinquish a phenomenal world. Exactly like in those cells, where meditation was pursued, “with mind and soul turned to God”, in the footsteps of San Francis’s teaching; Lombardi’s canvases, so laically charged with spiritual implication, place themselves within these walls with essential and sensible righteousness, franciscally void of any unnecessary counterpoints, and so perfectly that it is nearly impossible not to feel, in this visual journey, a special and somehow unprecedented ideal continuity with the spirit of the place, its memory and unrelenting echo.
Exercises of the spirit, yes, that is true, but not only. As taught by a very long mystical tradition, transverse to all religions, spirituality inevitably comes from the body; it does not undo the senses but feeds off them. It is the foundation of any rite; a fundamentally bodily orchestration which manages the senses in a liminal and extraordinary manner, accessing through them the reality that transcends the Sensible World. Lombardi’s paintings pursue this precise ritual strategy. They imply a slow journey in the museum’s halls, as if it were a liturgical walk, holding a prayer rope whose beads are made of each and any of them, whose forms are obsessively repeated and compositions keep on looping although always slightly different. Each work exists on its own but it draws strength from and within the series. Moving forward in silence and with unbroken attention enables us to establish with these images an intense and familiar relationship, which soon becomes litany; rhythm and thus, vibration and estrangement. Lombardi’s work is somehow like a Sufi dance; it is the whirling of the dervishes, or better said, a pictorial mantra, which, with its combination of formulas repeated over and over, slowly takes body and mind to the original vibration representing the absolute and, as a consequence, to tune to something which is beyond us and painting both. It is a symbolism of the forms, bearers of an intrinsic meaning which proves itself beyond any knowledge we may have, and hence, the grapheme that occurs on the canvas is not so important for what it shows or represents, but for its aesthetical value; for the way it is read and pronounced by, according to Paul Claudel, the listening eye. These are canvases which in their own sequence of volumes; in those passages marked by light and shadow, where the eye at first penetrates and then gets lost and wonders, own the same ascetic strength of Hesychasm; of that Eastern monks’ special contemplative prayer which, with the unrelenting repetition of ritual phrases so finely-tuned to the ascending and descending motion of the breath, aims at an inner peace and the union with God. How many of those monks from the peak of Mount Athos, driving that repetition to obsession, have fallen from it attracted by the call of vertigo! And maybe behind the spatial compositions by Lombardi, it is the cult of vertigo that may be found; that same vertigo, transcendent and foreign, that the painters of icons would infuse in their boards by using the Tabor light that only gold possesses. It is no coincidence, in fact, that often the painters of icons would practice Hesychasm; those who paint what is beyond representation cannot but have experimented a spiritual dimension.
Lombardi’s painting has, in many occasions, come close to the world of Byzantine icons, with which it shares the same ritual strategy, entirely visual, aimed at prefiguring the invisible. Inside the Eastern churches we could in fact find not just the flashes of the golden backgrounds, spreading and diffusing a holy dimension, but the chant as well. A chant, telltale of the absolute, articulated in two simultaneous and complementary registers: the reciting one, that is the narrative part and the drone; a harmonic, monophonic effect obtained by a single note which, by gathering strength from the rhythm of the breath, was as intense as the breath of the Holy Spirit; and in Lombardi’s paintings we perceive the same chant. We realize that beyond the figurative description, obtained with simple spatial architectures such as cypresses; rooftops; and horizons too high to be concluded in the canvases, there is something which, for its own very meaning, has the same role of the golden background in the icons or of the drone in the chant, and that something is (the) light. A monotone light, purplish, low and primordial. And just like the drone supporting the prayer, here, this special light supports the entire figuration, or better said, the two expressive systems support one another and they are their mutual raison d’etre.
The outcome is an order made of harmony; a higher order, that to a closer look is the true muse of each one of these paintings. Paraphrasing and reversing the famous quotation regarding the question addressed by the Nazis to Picasso when talking about Guernica, “is it you maestro who made this horror?”, we could similarly hold Enrico Lombardi to account for these landscapes of the spirit, so full of harmony, peace and chant. Is it you maestro who made them? Actually no, it was not him. Truth be told, this painting is acheiropoieton.
Diego Galizzi (Director of the Museo Civico delle Cappuccine)
Translated by Angela Lombardi