REPORT about BIAGIO SCHEMBARI
By Flonan Hildebrand
History of Art — Monaco — Germany
Once an admirer went to Picasso and confessed: “Master, I love your works, but I don’t understand them”.
Picasso argued: “Do you love champagne?” The admirer answered: “Yes, of course!” and Picasso in return: “And do you understand it?”
Picasso was right and wrong. He was right because the figurative art is a perceptible matter. What’s the use of painting, even if elaborated very well, if the Eros of art does not come out and does not emit something in the observer?
As the great German impressionist Max Lieberman said about Van Gogh’s work: “a well painted shoe is better than a badly painted Madonna”.
Then it is a matter of form, not of contents, although well defined.
Picasso was also wrong, probably you wonder why.
Well, I could say because there will be no more art historian, and sincerely this will be not serious, neither so much the less the world will collapse. Seriously yet, if it is just to love art, that is, making reference only to pure passion, so any disquisition about art will be superfluous. But people, also need to understand it. As far as art is concern, maybe we could say: if we love a panting, we want to have the possibility of discussing it. Usually a work rises when we understand this love and we can explain it to ourselves.
Explaining art means essentially: to explain ourselves the relation to the art work.
So I need to give you, as an art historian, some observations about the painter Biagio Schembari’s works exposed, so that these paintings - you like and perhaps you love- you can be understood in some way.
Something interesting about Schembari, we cannot elude the native place of the artist: Sicily. So it was for me. The figurative world of the painter is imbued with Sicily; it is an uncommon thing to be so near to the European origin as on this land. Grecians and Romans, who clashed with Cartagineses for the possession of this isle, colonized it and left towns such as Messina, Catania, Agrigento and Siracusa. Later, Sicily was dominated by Saracens who molded it in a flourishing scenery of culture, making Palermo as one of the greatest cities of that world. Then Normans conquered the isle again for the Christian faith, realizing works as Monreale’s Cathedral.
After his trip in Italy, Goethe ascertained: “Italy without Sicily makes no image in the soul: here is
the key for all”.
Sicily was for my wife and me a very new sensation of Italy. We visited it during the last years, and Sicily,for us, was Art, Culture and History: sceneries filled with sun, lovable on the coasts, stony and bare in the interior.
All this, in particular, is present in the district of Ragusa, on the south-east of the isle, where Biagio Schembari lives and works. Nearby the baroque district, Ragusa is marked by a wide stony tableland with many caverns. The 500 necropolises of Pantalica, situated near Siracusa, are very famous and it is supposed they have been were the greatest prehistoric settlement of Sicily.
Why do I tell this to you? Because I recognize and relive in the paintings of the artist the scenery,
the towns, the architecture, the light ,the mythical and the archaic of this Sicilian land.
Sicily is the point of start for the work of Schembari.
If somebody wants to classify Schembari’s works into the classic kind of panting, then we can talk about landscapes. Images of landscape added up in form of real towers settled on a flat- bottomed and in front of an generally deep horizon.
Sceneries are not built by cubes but, generally by spherical forms, they are always lighted by a warm blow of light that hits every single form from the left, diagonally, leaving them coming out in a very plastic and compact way
In the majority of the paintings, the single round elements are unit in a landscape sculpture that
clearly rises from the margin of the painting.
Schembari’s landascape sculptures have an inside defensive feature and, with their walls and merlots, they recall fortifications.
Schembari’s landscapes are living and taking the shape of corporal individuals, appearing mythical over the individuality, and they play in a indefinable space of a very far time and eternal at the same way. Partially they recall plastic of archaic totems or powerful petrified deity’s simulacrums.
It should be clear that Schembari is not a modem view painter. If we are talking about Sicilian sceneries, we shall define that they are dreaming sceneries or spirituals, with evident surrealist elements.
Schembari’s abstract forms become surrealist by definable and realistic elements that the painter
makes up on his sceneries: heads, houses, stairs, animals, masks, windows and doors.
The painter adopts the surrealistic principle of thing’s metamorphosis; this way, before him, did
Marx Ernst or Salvador Dalì.
Surrealistic artists care about to inspect the human subconscious in art, using it, representing it.
Notoriously, the Freudian dreams meaning played an important part of it.
In a more intensive way than Freud, C.G.Jung took care about our dreams and our subconscious, connecting them to the history of the civilization of humanity.
Some of these “archetipi” are in the world of Schembari’s images, for example the unicorn that, in many cultures, is identified with a deep spiritual symbolism; in the Christian symbolism it represented purity.
Or the cock that was the symbol of the sun for Syrians and Egyptian, or the king, or the musk.
Schembari condensed these symbols into one his own and personal symbol of image that leave open many meanings.
But it is sure that his paintings are, just in the sense of C.G.Jung, individual “archetipi” as
“transindividuals” so that they attract people giving off something in them.
Schembari’s artistic roots, for contents and form, have to compute in the modem classic, without doubts.
I just mentioned the surrealism. Moreover, I think it is the heritage of another Italian
painter who gave the decisive blow for the surrealistic and neo-classicist currents of the last
century. I’m talking about Giorgio De Chirico.
He was, as the precursor of surrealistic, the first who, reproaching to his Italian roots, Giotto
justified a new painting which tries to build a “metaphysical psychology of things”.
The art historian Karin Thomas writes on her “History of the style of figurative art in the XXth
century”: The expansion of the meaning of art in mental spaces, on which the cultural, historical andsymbolist references are supporting, is for the first time after a lot of time, an European initiative
and no more American, on the international development of art.
On this process are participating, with Joseph Beuys, above all Italian artists of the “poor-art area”. The expansion of the meaning of art in mental spaces is considered as a necessary and sensitive alternative of art to the “technologically rationed” and “monodimensionality” of the modern civilization.
Well, of course Biagio Schembari is not a representative of poor-art. His paintings, precisely, let
glimpse that typical European mentality of the tie, such as the historical tie.
Contrary to the American artists, thinking about Jakson Pollock as an example, Europeans always automatically value the rich past of the old world. They “nolens volens” were born there. Do not marvel if:, in the tendency described by Karin Thomas, Italian painters are very advanced.
They, literally, have the evidence of the past everywhere in front of their eyes.
Looking to the Italian art, Italians over and over again draw on their history and give actual their close tie especially with the Ancient Age. From Italian Proto-Renaissance of Middle Age to the Italian Renaissance of the modern times, until the XXth century, to Giorgio De Chirico or just to Biagio Schembari.
I’ll close with a citation of the great Italian metaphysical De Chirico, which I think is appropriate for the artist Biagio Schembari: “Our spirit is pushed by visions that come from perpetual source. Shades put their enigma on the squares. Beyond the walls there are absurd towers increased by little variegated flags. Everywhere the infinite, everywhere the secret. But a thing remains so invariable, as its roots are frozen on the bottom of the eternity: our own will to be creative artists”.