2018 Mantra

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Mantra

Ferruccio Ascari here returns to using the technique of fresco transferred to canvas, typical of his painted works. But there is an element of innovation: the element of writing, previously used episodically in the fabric of his works, becomes the key element of this work, which is also a text.

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The range of colours is limited to just two: a very dark green for the almost-black background, and gold for the words of the text flowing across twenty-seven canvases, hung not in a line but in a pattern that recalls a musical score. At first glance, the text seems unfathomable, but as the title suggests, it is a fragment of a mantra of Vedic tradition. The text is a threshold to cross, an enigma to decipher in order to reveal its content of truth. Mantra is part of a cycle of compositions the artist has been working on since 2017. They all fall within the same province: a spiritual tension, a questioning of the sense of our being in the world in this historical period of radical transformations. The sense of these works that refer to different religious traditions lies in their quest for a common core, able to preserve us from hate and intolerance. The message contained in Mantra goes in this direction, but not only. The artist’s formal choices are in themselves a declaration of intent: the drastic reduction in figurative elements as well as the gold and the dark green make this work an object of meditation with a contemporary slant and with an implicit reference – also via Malevich’s Black Square – to the icon and its theological as well as artistic significance, its being a ‘presence’ and not just a simple artistic depiction.
[BIAS 2018 – Biennale Internazionale di Arte Contemporanea Sacra delle Religioni e Credenze dell’Umanità (Padiglione Filosofico) – MUSEO RISO Cappella dell’Incoronazione, Palermo]

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Mantra. Fresco transferred to canvas, gold and iron, 27 canvases, 30×40 cm each, 2018

2017 Ex Voto

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Ex voto

Ex-voto 1, Ex-voto 2, Ex-voto 3, the three works located in the church of San Bernardino alle Ossa in the context of the personal exhibition of Ferruccio Ascari “Silenzio”, recall the authentic ex-voto offerings covering the walls in front of the ossuary. Here, the intentional choice of the artist has been to integrate these “soft voiced” works in continuity with this “special” place.

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This also permitted to avoid any overlap with the mood coming from this place. The three works intertwine a dialogue with the authentic ex-votos, thus suggesting to think about the likeness, but also on the difference, between the two: apart from a certain formal reference with those artifacts, which don’t pretend to be anything else than signs of devotion for some received blessing, these three works are situated in a different horizon, that of art as an interrogation, as the search for a sense and also as creation of a space further than that of the daily existence.

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Ex Voto I. Perforated alcantara paper, approx. 40×48 cm, 2017 
Ex Voto II. Plate of perforated graphite, 
approx. 17×28 cm, 2017 
Ex Voto III. Foil of perforated rubber, 
approx. 38×58 cm, 2017 

Ex Voto I. Carta alcantara traforata, circa 40x48 cm, 2017 Ex Voto II. Lastra di grafite traforata, circa 17x28 cm, 2017 Ex Voto III. Lamina di gomma traforata, circa 38x58 cm, 2017

2017 Luogo Presunto

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Luogo
Presunto

The exhibition “Silenzio” (Silence) started with this installation consisting in a series of spindly iron-rod structures and located at the center of the opencast space of the cloister of the Basilica of San Simpliciano. This exhibition has been conceived by the artist as a path twisting in the center of Milan and comprehending two other places of spirituality, that is the rectory church of San Raffaele and the chapel of San Bernardino alle Ossa.

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The elements of the installation, wiry and fragile architectures, were placed in the space with no apparent order, simply seeming to respond to a desire to spread out: “Archetypical buildings that could almost fly away from one moment to the next. A house between land and sky, a suspended shelter that avoids contact, perhaps protecting us even more than a sturdy construction standing solidly on the ground”, as the artist described his work. The title, “Luogo presunto” (Suspected Place), a quote from Borges, in fact refers to an imaginary place whose existence is uncertain, a place with the same texture as a mirage or a dream.

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Luogo presunto. Environmental installation, iron, variable dimensions, 2017

2017 Silenzio, Amen, Logos

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Silenzio
Amen
Logos

Silenzio, Amen and Logos are the three works placed in the central nave of the rectory church of San Raffaele, in Milan, in the context of the personal exhibit “Silenzio” (1) of Ferruccio Ascari articulated simultaneously in other locations in town, which are extraordinary in terms of historical and artistic value : the small cloister of the Basilica of San Simpliciano, where the installation Luogo Presuntowas located, and San Bernardino alle Ossa, with Ex Voto I, II, III e Rumore.

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Silenzio (Silence) – a large linen sheet hung at the start of the nave, bearing this word embroidered in gold in its center – was the first work that you encountered when entering the church of San Raffaele. Speaking of this work, Ferruccio Ascari stated: “More than the title of the work, Silenzio is the work. The title and the work are one. Silence says what it means, but not in a tautological way. My intention was to amplify the warning, making it resound inside the spectator, as I mentioned earlier. I liked the idea of the writing being small and at the center of a large neutral field where it could reverberate…”.


On high, suspended above the steps leading up to the altar, was collocated the work Amen, a tryptic whose entire surface was covered by the word “amen” in its original language, that is Hebrew. This decision to work with the word, with the written word rather than the image, alludes to the “unrepresentable” nature of the divine. The technique of the fresco mounted on canvas that characterizes Ascari’s painted is combined with a golden background: a clear throwback to Italian art of the thirteenth century, but also to Byzantine icons and their theological as well as artistic significance. As we will see in Mantra, the artist’s formal choices are in themselves a declaration of intent: the drastic reduction of figural elements, the golden background, transform this work into an object of meditation, in a contemporaneous way, with an implicit reference to – by way of Malevich’s Black Square – the icon, to its theological meaning other than artistic, to its being a “presence” and not only a simple representation.

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Logos
, a wooden egg covered with golden leaves, has been placed by the artist inside the ciborium, above the altar, in the holiest of places in the church. This work represented the final point of a vanishing point that started with Silenzio and continued with Amen: an ascensional path not only in visual terms, but also in a more intimate sense of whom these works represent the stages. With regard to this work, the artist stated: “I usually start to think of a title when I’ve finished a work, but in this case the word came first, and it’s a word that comes from a memory: ‘In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…’ (John,1:1-5). John continues: ‘All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…’. The idea of the golden egg came to me first and foremost from those words. I thought of the egg as a symbol of the most important Christian holy occasion, the Resurrection. But not only in those terms. The egg came to me, of course, as a ‘rebirth’, but before that, I thought of it as a ‘birth’, the birth of everything, as a cosmogonic egg”.

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(1) With regard to this exhibition, in an interview given in that occasion Ferruccio Ascari declared: “The relationship between the work and the space in which it is placed has always been a central element of my work, and this since the first environmental installations that I realized from the mid ’70s onwards: in many of these works the location represents a fundamental aspect of the work. All the more in this case. Here we are not dealing with simple exhibition spaces, but with places that for me represent the occasion for a special interior path other than esthetical. For the visitor this path should transform in an experience… The title (of the exhibition, editor’s note), Silence, implies a particular condition, a ‘being ready to listen’. Without silence, things cannot speak to our hearts; they cannot reveal their hidden significance. I began systematically practicing silence in India where I went to study for several years. The practice is known as ‘mauna’ in India, and it is an important element in self-awareness paths. And silence is a practice 
found in all great traditions…”.

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Silenzio. Linen sheet and gold, approx. 140×140 cm, 2017 [Church of San Raffaele, Milano]
Amen. Fresco transferred to canvas, 90×40 cm, 2017 [Church of San Raffaele, Milano]
Logos. Wooden egg covered with golden leaves, approx. 10x10x20 cm, 2017 [Church of San Raffaele, Milano]

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2017 Rumore

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Rumore
[Video]

The seven minutes of Rumore (Noise) simply present, frame after frame, a barefoot man walking through the city centre of Milan without ever stopping. The flow of images is, however, constantly ‘disturbed’ by other images that are overlaid, a film-within-a-film that interrupts the first one.[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]This element of discontinuity consists of unexpected intercuts that assault the viewer with images of poor down-and-outs, homeless people and beggars. The unfiltered parallel world of marginalization is revealed through the raw, aggressive noise of the city. Instead, the uninterrupted walking of the key figure through the crowd is accompanied by a particularly alienating soundtrack, taken from ‘Vibractions’, a sound installation by the artist dating from 1978. We never see the face of the barefoot man. During his wanderings, he enters three churches, and the noise of the world goes in with him. Each time a churchgoer is disturbed during their silent contemplation, and they shush him. Forced to leave, he returns to the outside world, the noise following him like a burden he carries. The last scene shows him walking away, disappearing into the sky. His identity is never revealed. The whole framework of the video develops as an investigation of an unknown person whose wanderings – in a crowded Milan, full of people shopping, everyone with their mobile phones ready to snap a photo or a selfie – are a disruptive element. The ‘request for sense’ that Rumore puts forward is urgent, forcing the viewer to reflect. The intercuts of the marginalized world disturb our daily lives, casting a crude light on a reality that cannot be ignored.[/read]

Rumore, 8’03”, 2017
Rumore, 8’03”, 2017 (teaser 0’26”)

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2007 apparente

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07

Apparente

Apparente (Apparent), a work made with 36 panes of glass arranged on six overlaid registers. The white silhouettes that emerge in each are captured as if in flight,[read more=”Read More”less=”Read Less”]blocked for an instant in a sort of snapshot that conveys only a partial image. As the title suggests, in its etymological sense — apparent is that which is evident, manifest — this is something that seems to appear for a fraction of a second in our visual field, imprinted on the retina, and then vanishes due to the force of an unstoppable movement.[/read]

Apparente. Enamel on glass, 36 panel of glass 25×35 cm each, 2007 [DG0076]

2003 Cuori (Ex Voto) III

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Cuori
(Ex Voto) III

Cuori (Ex Voto). Curcuma on paper, 50×70 cm, 2003 [DG0052]

Cuori (Ex Voto). Curcuma on paper, 50×70 cm, 2003 [DG0053]

Cuori (Ex Voto). Curcuma on paper, 35×50 cm, 2003 [DG0054]

Cuori (Ex Voto). Curcuma on paper, 35×50 cm, 2003 [DG0055]

Cuori (Ex Voto). Curcuma on paper, 50×70 cm, 2003 [DG0026]

2001 L’ordine dura un istante III

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L’Ordine Dura
Un Istante III

L’Ordine Dura Un Istante. Perforated paper, detail, 2001 [TR0006]

L’Ordine Dura Un Istante. Perforated paper, 280×140 cm, 2001 [TR0001]

L’Ordine Dura Un Istante. Perforated paper, 280×140 cm, 2001 [TR0019]

L’Ordine Dura Un Istante. Perforated paper, 280×100 cm, 2001 [TR0020]

L’Ordine Dura Un Istante. Perforated paper, 280×100 cm, 2001 [TR0021]

L’Ordine Dura Un Istante. Perforated paper, 280×100 cm, 2001 [TR0022]