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“It is from the union, from the symphony I would say, from the perfect harmony of truth and love, that the authentic beauty arises, capable of arousing admiration, wonder and joy in the hearts of true men.  May you always be, with courage, with the wealth of your brilliance, of your creative energy,  seekers of the truth and witnesses of love.  May the works of art, with their beauty,  inspire in the eyes and in the hearts of those admire them, the desire and need to make the existence  a beautiful and true one.”

(Benedict XVI to the Artists)

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Il filo della fede, i fili dell'arteIt is the first time that our Diocesan Museum, born just a few years ago, faces the organization of a contemporary art exhibition.  It is undoubtedly a new and at the same time exciting experience, in the meaning that the Church, already opened to the needs and progress of modern times, now opens to art in a new way.

Perhaps we have been accustomed for centuries to see a standardized combination of religion and art (meaning the latter as the sacred art).  History has educated us to such a classical language, dating back to the Renaissance I would say, that there are still several of those who obstinately close to the new and modern.

Today’s language is technological, as it is that of communication also art, the utmost expression of global intercommunication, cannot differ.  Other than any language scheme and any character, it doesn’t require any particular sign, but it performs a tout court transfer on the spectator.  Art, as the joy of a feast or the pain of a mourning, speaks an universal language.

It is the new miracle of the Pentecost that, surpassing the ancient confusion of Babel,  wants to give humanity a new dream in sign of unity and restauratio.  Even in modern art.

It has been for us a sort of challenge and confrontation, of conflict I would say,  to open the ancient cloister and the museum’s halls to the “new” artists’ exhibition.

But as it is known the new needs (demands) the old, such as the crown its root, the head its feet, the flower its stem: in a continuum that finds its meaning in that idea that, providentially, sees us joined and tied (and it is not a metaphor) in a double thread.

So let us speak of the thread of faith and of the threads of art.

Opportunely the theme of this year, which affects and interacts across all pastoral activities and designs, is the “ball” (tangle) of faith.  Untying it would mean finding our tradition’s roots, those Christian roots that a certain secularist mentality stubbornly wants to obliterate.

The historian Benedetto Croce has already said: we in the West, and Europeans in particular, cannot but call ourselves Christians.  We only need to look around, walk around our cities, visit our civilization’s most important monuments in order to find the Christian mark.

If Tertullian was able, back in his days, to write “Hesterni sumus” (we were born just yesterday),  we cannot say this today, after a two thousand years Christian implantatio (implantation) of the man of the past and that of today, a delight for those who believe but a cross for those who don’t.

It is the new thread of Ariadne that, through Christ, the new Theseus, defeating the Minotaur (the evil in all its ramifications) gives back freedom and life to humanity.

Let us then re-start: that is let us get our dignity back, that, in the ecumenical respect of any choice of thought and action, aims to the bonum of the individual and of the community:  this is what, in parallel, we find in the works of the young artists that bet their chances of renewal and rebirth on the physical and metaphysical thread.

Thank you then to the intuition and to the strong determination needed to face this modern tournament, in order to give back the visitor a journey that, no longer a treacherous maze, will reveal itself as ironic and luminous, as it could have been the man at his paradisiacal origin.

Let us then retrace, not with the consciousness of the adult, but with the purity of a child’s eyes, this  intriguing and fascinating path that will lead us to the art’s world and to that of faith, not only through the comparison and the re-interpretation of an ancient theme (and this will turn out to be a real surprise), but regenerated, as neophytes (newcomers) in the lustral waters of Art, in order to believe again and to give once more a new sense to our history and to our life.

The project is ambitious, the exhibition is of an international importance, not only for the internationality of its artists (Slovakia, France, Italy) but also for its international tour in capitals such as Paris, Berlin, Brussels and our “provincial” Nocera, heir of the historical Nuceria from which Pompeii itself depended.

Gratified and proud of the choice of our Museum in Nocera as the location of the only Italian statio (stop) , we knot the thread of Faith and the threads of Art to the confidence of a success.

Don Natale Gentile
Director of the Museo Diocesano San Prisco

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“The Thread of Faith, the Threads of Art”

Five artists, Sarah Barthelélémy Sibi, Michal Korman, Joelle Bondil, Emmanuelle Leblanc, Gennaro Scarpetta, five different personalities, five ways to interpret the proposed theme, suggested in the orbit of the Leonardo project, born by the synergetic action between the French association “Kill oh What” and the Museo Diocesano of San Prisco in Nocera Inferiore.  The Threads of Faith is the leitmotif of an exhibition that seeks to investigate the peculiarities of contemporary art at a crossroads between the practice of acting and the lyricism of interiority.  Sarah  focuses on the luminist apparition, following the suggestion of the place: “Hélices” that is the projections and reflections of Gothic memory that exalted the solemnity of the medieval cathedrals, establishing the indissoluble marriage between  the Christian divinitas and the al earthly humanitas.  The reflection that the light beams produce recall and reinforce the Christian marriage, this time suggested in a cloister, the Baroque one of the imposing nucerinus building, in a way that the theme of contemplation,  renews, according to Barthélémy’s interpretation, beyond the spirituality of the temples of Christianity.  Then Sarah Barthélémey Sibi’s “Hélices” become those thin and very colored threads from which the artistic act takes shape and appears, in a process that does not tend to dissolve in a didactic exhibition but rather tends to introduce the viewer to a visual and hieratic catharsis, exactly as in the European traditio of the millennium  just ended.  Emmanuelle Leblanc supports the concept of the apparition: with his “Nymph” he repeats the ancestral myth of   the profoundness of the Western culture thought according to which Narcissus’ experience cannot be considered entirely completed.  New times and avant-garde techniques, the pond and the water that have characterized it give way to contemporary stigmatisms; remains though the mystery of a comparison between the self and the other.  Emmanuelle focuses his attention on the spirituality of the individual, on the continuous comparison between being and appearing, on the levity of the symbol that has its deep roots in the Helladic culture.  The eidolon of the ancient Greek thought reemerges in all its profundity, filtered by the still of an unusual religion which can although still be explored and analyzed.  Joelle Bondil, thanks to her experience in visual artist, recovers an ancestral technique of introducing herself into the ductus of the exhibition: the thread, the real one made of cotton that has come immaculately down to us, from the palatial (magnificent) experience of Minoan mythological ancestry, in a perfect religious syncretism crossing  the centuries and  different cultures.  The “Heads” that she has carried out through the obsolete technique (for the careless and nasty!) of the enduring ironwork, configure as disarming, common votive offerings (ex voto), of a society that absorbs and engulfs everything.  Joelle, through her thin threads, recovers the bond with the ancient vulgate of Europe.  She, in a very poetic way, reproduces the Mnemosyne’s wisdom, Uranus’ and Gaea daughter, loved by Zeus; she who had  discovered the great, immense power of memory, but also its transience (briefness) if unmarried to the act of Faith, the one that God’s Son has proposed to man as a way of salvation.  Theseus, then, is no longer the titanic hero who frees Ariadne from the Minotaur’s greed; according to Joelle Bondil’s proposition, the thread has the ability to keep the relationship with religion balanced; an ancient metaphor that renews each time the bond tends to weaken, when the contemporary anxieties try to take over.  As for the other two artists, the Slovak Michal Korman and Gennaro Scarpetta, the starting points apparently seem to differ: the former provides the results of an initiatory journey, made between 2005 and 2007 in the lands of Italy, seeking a comparison with an art culture different from his Mid-European education, following the experience of the Grand Tour’s founders, in the aftermath of Jacques-Louis David and Théodore Géricault.  Michal Korman elects Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot as his master during his voyage of the animus  and body, looking for that Aristotelian beauty that Italy still lavishes in the collective imagination.  Venice and Rome become polycentric terms of Korman’s inquiries and expectations.  The waters of the Venetian Lagoon, almost motionless in the slowness of their movement, and ,as a contralto, the copious fluidity of the Tiber’s waves that have seen the blood of Christian martyrs flow under the Roman bridges and the yearnings of the Civitas Aeterna, according to the Augustinian meaning, are the supreme protagonists.   In Michal Korman’s hands the wise and controlled use of the oil painting technique and of the evocative, nostalgic one of the “en plein air” prophets show a lightness of stroke that renews and revisits Corot’s painting.  Gennaro Scarpetta betrays, with his very colored accents and with his controlled introspection of his “pandering” puppets, the religious roots of his art trail.  He reveals, through the calmness of his new pictorial language, full of French accents and lately of the “esprit d’art” of Berlin’s conclave, his, no more academic, tribute to Giorgio Morandi, to Felice Casorati’s magical and dreamy realism and to Chaim Soutine’s vibrant and tender anguish.  The threads appear on the long canvas and in his works as strong and firm bindings towards a renewed secularism of his very personal faith.  They then turn, along the path of our exhibition, into the monocentric and polysemic cords of Art, at times apparently bent, but that in an minute, under the pressure of fair winds suddenly hoist for man’s redemption and for his final catharsis.

Teobaldo Fortunato

(English translation  by Daniela Zambrano)