By Cinzia Dugo - Translated by Susan Glasspool
Long life to Art at Ken's Art Gallery!
Windmills wheeling with fiery or unbelievable colour, spouting out scents and sensations that give way to thousands of spattered, dynamic and changing shapes in praise of profound emotions. Sequences of concrete images, in timeless suspension, lifelike dreams that evoke deep sentiments or excite intellectual curiosity. All this and more is sent forth with a cry of freedom, the freedom of expression and joy of life. It shows us the heights that can be reached through art and all its many forms. This cry is loud and vital, just like the one that is constantly emanated from the heart of Florence, which, once inside the walls and exhibition spaces of one of the most important centres of art in the city, seems to break up into soft voices, textural memories and contemplative sounds mingled with hypnotic and spell-binding song. It is impossible to avoid conjuring up such a unique and enchanting siren of art, like Ken's Art Gallery, especially now that, after years of hard and passionate work, it has an additional reason for satisfaction and pride. This year in fact marks the twentieth anniversary of its untiring 'navigation' in the seas of art, twenty years dedicated to this form of expression and its finest interpreters. The year 2000 is at long last giving Ken's its just reward, thanks to the fact that this Art Gallery is now famous for also having given life to an animated cultural centre and place for artists to meet. This is certainly also due to the precious and stimulating energy that it receives from its talented artists and the support of its many friends; it has moreover survived some really difficult moments, especially after the tragic bomb explosion which took place only a few yards away from where the gallery stands in Via Lambertesca. All honour and glory therefore to this artistic forge created by Walter Bellini, talented manager and astute talent scout, who has managed to transform his great love of contemporary art into a profession. He has done this in the face of the many people who say that Florence, always so closely linked (and only too naturally!), to the renowned splendour of the Renaissance, has been unable to produce anything since, and, unlike most of the other famous capital cities in Europe, is incapable of maintaining an open dialogue with contemporary art, thus offering fewer opportunities. The beauties of this Tuscan city should not be limited to a cliche', like the one that is regularly observed by crowds of tourists who dutifully visit all its treasure-filled sights. Florence should instead be held up as an example of the Renaissance civilisation. However the sensitivity of those artists who remember past glories but who are, at the same time, also deeply involved in the present and looking towards the future, should not be ignored. Utterly convinced of this, and refusing to accept the preconceived idea of a Florence forever tied to its history, the gallery owner decided, way back in 1980, to invest all his dreams in contemporary art and, with enviable enthusiasm as well as admirable courage, privately carry out a project that then, as now, could appear to be extremely daring. Regardless of the fact that he had no political or economic support, his idea was to offer young, unknown and inexperienced but talented artists the chance to exhibit, do all he could to create an ideal fusion with them, and set them off on their artistic careers. In spite of all the risks that this enterprise entailed, he was sure that it would eventually be the making of the gallery. The many unfortunate events that have taken place over the years have really put Bellini's strength and enthusiasm to the test. The bomb explosion was certainly one such episode, the most sensational, and was faced and overcome thanks to the support of the artists themselves. They stood by their patron and did all they could to make sure that the gallery was able to open again, even though it was closed for nearly a year because the street was completely inaccessible. His 'comeback' was sensational, thanks to his brilliant idea for celebrating the gallery's rebirth. He invited artists and friends to the inauguration of a non-existent exhibition hung on empty walls, which, in a subtle but heroic way, really meant, "we are ready to start all over again and these spaces are waiting to be filled", for he certainly did not expect any economic help. Thus the gallery started its normal activity again, continuing to encourage the contemporary art by well known artists and, above all, by young artists, that is so popular with the public, especially the many foreigners who have been regular clients of Ken's Gallery for years. We now come to 1999, with Bellini's the last 'rush' to salute the old millennium, which meant setting up at least 21 exhibitions, some collective, some one-man shows, a real tour de force dictated by his desire to promote new emerging artists and show their work to the public. The artists who made the greatest contribution towards the gallery's success deserve a special mention for having shown that contemporary art, in spite of not being an easy market, increasingly possesses an identity of its own and is capable of enlivening and renewing cultural life in Italy. A great many fine artists show regularly at Ken's (the painters Colli, Falzoni, Fusi, Lastraioli, Marietti, Meli, Mracevic, Nigiani, Pellegrini, Ruzzi, Suknovic, Talani, sculptors Bottaro, Chiurulla, Dobrilla, Galligani, Maggi, Marietti, Muratori and ceramists Montuschi, Staccioli etc.). Here, however, we would especially like to mention two artists, Luca Marietti and Tomaso Bottaro, whom Bellini's clever intuition tells him are certain winners. Although they are apparently very different, they do in actual fact have a great deal in common: Marietti has won fame and awards as one of the Italy's finest contemporary sculptors and painters, while Bottaro is as yet a rising star, haunted by his dream-like sculpture created with an explosively powerful, intelligent and sensitive talent. Marietti's work is based on a polyhedral idea that expands into various currents, painting, sculpture and archeo-engineering which cohabit, entwine and work together to elaborate an artistic conception that aspires to emulate life itself and venerate its dynamic aspects, changing character and unstoppable continuity. This fusion, combined with his love of experimentation, has created artistic machines in movement, fantastic objects constructed from an assemblage of materials which seem capable of penetrating the secret and hidden tones of reality and unravelling all its mysteries. Bottaro, after getting top marks for sculpture when he qualified from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, has also spent a lot of time on research and experimentation into forms in movement, which later developed into sonorized sculptures. This young man first made a name for himself when he won the Rinaldo Carnielo award organised by the City Council of Florence with his splendid "Corparmonico" (Harmonic Body); this sculpture is at present conserved at the Bardini Museum. The original design and revolutionary importance of this work, inspired by a Platonic myth, is typical of much of Bottaro's later work: his use of a wide variety of materials in the construction (copper, iron, wood, etc.), and combination of sounds and movement, create a close affinity with musical instruments. In his "Corparmonico" sculpture, these characteristics are meant to represent the sensitive elements within its intellectual soul. Thus, a contemporary interpretation of cosmic harmony and reflection on divine perfection was created through rational thought and mathematics which, when it was applied to music during the Renaissance (the theme of the competition), was used to design architecture and to compose paintings and sculpture etc. The sculptor has continued this type of research, carefully exploring the possibilities of the interrelated mathematics-music tandem and absorbing influences that come from his ancestral fascination with dolmens. These Neolithic monuments were to inspire the "Rumps", another 'musical machine in movement' that was also based on a combination of energy and rhythm (Ken's Art Gallery December '99). All Bottaro's work is the result of what can only be called a scientific elaboration and seems to be gifted with supernatural virtue. The inner core of each sculpture comes from typically cerebral operations that never come into contrast with their power to bring the viewer into contact with the primordial essence of life, the first dimension of our existence, through the contemplation of its movements or its fascinating musical sounds. It is almost as if the work of this young artist, who, after his initial sketches, has no trouble at all in passing on to the more technical and practical stages Ð from metal casting, welding, carpentry, plaster casts to whatever other specialised techniques are required - unites echoes of a life of the past, a distant and completely alien dimension that fatally attracts us and that we can picture passing delicately through what the sculpture allows our senses to perceive. It could possibly be the inner life of human consciousness, the same that sees its anthropocentric position wavering until it finds itself paradoxically enclosed in the static and immobile void of some particular object or element. What a sorry fate for the presumptuous human ego! Even so, the genius of Tomaso Bottaro comes precisely from this. He is somehow able to understand portions of emotional life. He creates a shell, a material body, for them, and his incredible mechanical instruments then help their souls to come to the surface. These objects are, to all appearance, completely lifeless, suspended in reality by an interior energy that appears not only to be taken on loan from the 'host' but perhaps also from the public that stops to look at them. Although the development and style of these two artists is very different, their preferences and inclinations are similar. These are two important discoveries for Ken's Art Gallery which not only likes to give young artists a start in their career but also offer them a place where they can meet, get to know each other and compare their work. This attitude towards art - variety and perhaps even eternity - has always been its main interest as well as its most distinguishing feature.