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Paolo Rizzi

“There's a ghost running behind Biagio Schembari’s shoulders. It is something which grows, as if it was breathed by the wind: it takes in itself the rough hardness of Comiso’s stone quarries, but at the same it breathes the magnificent air of a near Mediterranean sea.

 

Here it is, this ghost, taking anthropomorphic aspects, becoming itself an abnormal architecture, visually stretched to a dreamlike dimension of existence. We remain astounded.

Behind that, there is a myth’s instinct, an irresistible desire of a utopian escape beyond Hercules’ Pillars of trivial routine.

Painting penetrates inside us and joins itself with our troubled conscience.

This is Schembari’s “truth”. I say "truth" because I always mean the primary adherence to a spirit’s geography: catching in the environment the symptoms of a culture even though it is hidden, though distant, but still alive.

Ragusa’s plague, in which the city of Comiso emerges, is a fertile ground for imagination.

From the excavated houses on the rocks, one can feel a strong sense of a primitiveness that traces times, that nestles in the proto-Greeks idola and perhaps goes back, right into the stunned Phoenician and Syriac appearances.

Here the classical world born; here the kouros moves his first steps towards the domination of Logos. This auroral moment of civilization is colored by Homeric glories with black and red rust’s colors and with an intense white, giving flesh to the pale limestone. The metamorphosis takes place.

Biagio Schembari taps into this huge repertoire that gently blows over his land.

Here is the secret that creeps into painting; and here is the feeling of being on the ridge between two great moments: that of ancient history and that of modern psyche.

Schembari is ready to take suggestions of an imagination’s shift.

He builds his magical islands, his stone oracles, his gigantic headlights, his animal-architectures, his figures which take shape from the coast. He plays on the “ambiguous” just because this is the humus in which the imagination is forged and in which the mysterious winding of myth creeps.

Through the inflated forms of a rock becoming organic, a Mediterranean panic unfolds in front of our eyes, mixing earth and blood, dust and water, corroded stone and Eros’ pigment, motionless fetish and moving flesh. But this monumental magnificence also acquires surreal thicknesses, pure metaphysical shivers, subtle concerns: it is ancient and modern at once.

The archaic is actualized: becoming our heritage, which is indissoluble.

The thread along which, today, the best painting is just suspended between the two depths of yesterday and today. It wants to weld the two already separated dimensions, by the historical rupture of avant-gardes. But it is around the world that it desperately seeks, in politics and in the economy, for a new balance with the past. The dramatic climate in which we live is in front of us: in front of these paintings that, referring to the ancestral sense of a Magna Grecia still deeply entrenched, also appear remarkably modern, rich of a fertile imagination, also filled of a "project" that involves men. The rough force that emanates from painting is appreciated; and the so proud myth’s transposition in the language of our century affects. The metaphysical and surreal matrix is seamlessly joined with the ethnic conception which is behind the artist.

We seem to relive the heroic moment in which the kouros loosens his embarrassment: advancing his leg, rotating his arm, softening his stiffness: Comiso’s rough stone  moves also, imperceptibly. We hear it breathing. Schembari’s enters inside us and leads us by hand over the cobalt blue sea, to the mysterious islands of an Eden that we have been longing for millennia"

 

Paolo Rizzi.        Art Critic - Venice

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