The Collective Exhibition ”Matter becomes Art”, organized by the Mazzoleni Foundation, present in Bergamo from 22 April to 27 May 2023, in collaboration with the CCM Museum of Catania, sees the two organizations engaged for several years in promoting the diffusion of ‘Contemporary Art all over the world, paying particular attention to the new emerging talents and established artists such as the Designer, Painter and Sculptor Luciano Manara.
The artist is present with his new sculpture entitled “Europe asks us for it”, a work created to express all the discomfort of the current socio-cultural and environmental condition.
An all-round artist, Luciano, who has ranged in the field of Art for many years, having obtained numerous national and international awards, using in his experiments, multi-material components and out of the ordinary contents not aligned with the standards of Official Art. His eclectic creativity as an artist sees him present with his works in various fields, in “Design”, with his multiform modern and/or classic furnishing settings, or by reworking the “Vintage” or “Retrò” style, overturning the apparent canons of furnishings, which go beyond experimental research, into innovations of refined tastes, which enhance the customizations of the clients in warm logos of memory and the formal functional elements that compose them.
Thus his imaginative “Costume Jewellery” with original creations satisfy the users, in the refinement of jewels that have no equal in the most sought-after jewellery. Or in the context, as he defines it “Bourlesque” with his sandals enriched with precious decorations, such as to become precious decorative ornaments, combining with his imaginative light points. His creations are not limited to this, they are many and range from “Oenology” with its packaging and logos of fine wines, to “Leather Goods” with the refined creations of bags with tasteful decorative elements, in practical solutions .
But what is most striking about him is in the field of painting and sculpture, in which the artist manages to find aesthetic solutions that go beyond the chromatic compositions, shapes and materials used, in daring compositions, which I dare define rupture and denunciation ranging from Conceptual Art to Abstract Art and the imaginative compositional union with other forms of expression, up to bringing the user towards the knowledge and discovery of a new and engaging aesthetic language, which can be found in his totally innovative works and revolutionary, such as the “Christ freed from the oppression of the cross”, 2014, to the “Pen in the rock”, 2018, from the irreverent irony of “The wait” or as he defines it “The Bone”, 2017, to the cry of suffering from “Mamma forgive me“, 2018, to “The guardian of the soul” 2016, “Giro giro tondo“, 2016, “Do this in memory of me“, 2017, “Forward another“, 2018, “Chi di taxes hit, taxes perish“, 2019, ‘Waiting for a sound policy’, ‘It’s all a bluff’, ‘The big fish eats the small fish’, 2022, ‘Lampshade with treble clef and drawer book’, all latest series of “Crucifixes” made as a denunciation against the repugnance of war, of the health dictatorship, the control of minds, and other sculptures, wall works and public and private installations, such as “Oltre la porta c’è la vita” or as in “The Monastery of the ancient Orcio”, up to his latest creation already mentioned, entitled “Europe asks us”, which combine the strength of a direct message, a more cryptic, hidden content, and other , often linked to astral, alchemical and numerological symbols.
His research makes use of a conceptual aesthetic language of strong satisfying and critical artistic characterization, whose concepts and ideas expressed are more important than the aesthetic and perceptive result of the work itself.
In his creative progress, it is evident that he is a “witness of his time” and precisely in this, works arise, which, although irreverent for some, are instead for many, impregnated with an Instinctual Art devoid of sterile and slavish bigotry, founded on everyday realities, on thought, on the use of metaphors and not on a by now misunderstood and misunderstanding exploited aesthetic pleasure.
With regard to the thin borderline and the recognition of the “Designer” as an “Artist”, the discussion becomes more complicated and I think it is necessary to make a historical, technical and moral disquisition of the creative exercise, with the aim of fully understanding Luciano’s purposes.
In reality, the “evaluation criterion is strictly functional”, enabling us to understand its “meaning” and its “value”, as it proposes constant formal solutions” that go beyond the natural “human conceptualization”, but not against, its “function understood in the strict sense”.
The layout of the whole, for the Designer Luciano, with his “refined research” and the “elegance”, figuratively represent “their own function” as an Artist and demonstrate the precise intention of re-inserting in his “Design”, traditional elements capable of personalizing the “object of art” and giving it a stylistic individuality in the coherent stylization in the realization. But, also, in this case the process of “re-semanticisation of the object”, while being based on a “correct methodological approach”, relies on messages that can be deciphered within the restricted ambit of a “particular culture”, which is still a of elite”, but enlarged and as such able to deliberate, i.e. “take a part of something”, as well as in Latin it is indicated: “aliquid stat pro aliquo”, i.e.: “something stands for something else” a type of communication made up of allusions and subtle cultured references.
The “re-semanticization”, operated by Luciano in his works, is however linked precisely to that much that there is, in it, to be deciphered more than the intrinsic message of the function: for which it seems legitimate to speak about “figurative presence” , likewise, how can we speak, on the contrary, of an “abstract” and “conceptual” presence.
Within “Design” and beyond “Design”, the “significant of Art”, with its metalanguage, Manara therefore suggests: “the need is to qualify a cultural figure in the object, to define an operational space in which it is possible to recognize and recognize oneself”.
It goes without saying that “such a figure”, “such a space” or “Logos” compared with the “express object” in which they are inscribed, can give rise to a “unitary image” and “semantics”, in a ” simple and evident experience”.
It is, as Luciano’s passage suggests, a mechanism in which «the object is itself and the representation of itself», is an explicitly announced and declared encounter between language and metalanguage.
The “object of art”, created by Manara is extremely precise, “a technical desire for solutions that want, first of all, to be a demonstration of non-dispersion of the message”, and it is also “allusive”, that is, it speaks of a ” condition», which we want to affirm, in a “situation that very realistically” we want to define and clarify, but which, no less realistically, transcends the “art object” itself, in the most usual relationship, in which the metalanguage of Luciano, is rather «abstract» and «allusive» in the «substantial», between the «philological», «philosophical», «socio-cultural» and «practical».
And this particular internal dialectic, which strips the Artist of his “technical” being, to be ahead of everything, “user” like us, in loosening the marginalization from his “intrinsic meaning for a condition of cultural and socio-cultural rethinking cultural”.
Speaking of cultural problems of a completely different order, but of no different substance, Adorno vividly observed: «In the face of the objectivity of cultural social power, reason has taken refuge – entirely and hermetically – accused of arbitrariness by the arbitrariness of the powerful , who want the impotence of the subjects, for fear of the objectivity that is preserved only with them» and Manara rebels. The “space” that could be precisely the definition of a similar type of operation and intervention and make it coincide with a type of “culture seen in the living”, the “Designer” becomes a “historical” and “cultural” figure, passes through a “profession” and a “reflection”, which are “codified”, which arise as “conditions for an effective role” and as such in some way recognized, and we witness a precise “recovery of positive instances” and such to be built starting from a socialization but, in the way suggested by Adorno’s text, from a “conscious recovery of individuality”.
It is obvious that we are not faced with a peaceful solution also because Luciano is for some detractors, an «uncomfortable figure» as is «every individualistically qualified form» and through his Art, all that remains is to start by attempts a non-abstract recovery in ideologies that stimulate “creativity” and “not far from the very tools of operating with intellectual honesty”.
Reflect on the case of Bruno Munari, from the ancient “Useless Machines” onwards, as a continuous polemic against the “machine”, but in addition to this, against a rigid, one-way finalization; in favor instead of an “a-functionality” that “does not avoid the most careful study of the working method, of simplification of the means”, which leaves the object available to a variety of situations otherwise denied.
Nor should we forget a 1960 essay by E, N. Rogers, with the symptomatic title of “Memory and Invention in Design” and in which “Design” is defined as «conceptual drawing», and «memory» is set as the rediscovery of a “cultural and social value at the center of the discourse”.
Perhaps Argan was right to think, in 1955, of the “Designer” as the “user’s deputy to the manufacturer”, but it was not specified how identify the former and where to find the latter.
Instead, it happened that the reflection shifted to another type of question, it touched the «Designer-Artist» on overcoming the true notion of «profession and technique», it opened a series of discussions on Psychology of Communications, Mass Communications, of the “supply-demand” mechanics in Sociology, especially for the problems connected with mobility and settlement, with “continuity” and “discontinuity”, and so on.
Thus, while on the one hand there was a “historical-philosophical” “formalization”, on the other the need to set up a whole new series of situations and experiences, of “productive proposals and cultural dimensions” was expanding. In practice, it was specified how the functions performed by the “objects of art”, in the various scales in which they were placed, were now assumed by a sequence of “sub-objects”, of “mobile sets linked together by sequences” or “more ductile and elastic and less explicitly circumstantiable circuits”, so that we pass from a “formal objectification” to ways of intervening before the “formation of objects” or “sub-objects”.
As noted above, on the other hand, the tendency of «cultural mediation» was to constitute widely accepted “objects of art”, through an accentuated generalisation: as if «reality» were, precisely at that point, globalizable in “primary conceptual systems” placed in absolute evidence.
All this could only precipitate a crisis, which will remain latent until the moment in which it will be produced to “satisfy individual needs”, but will come to the fore when the commitment becomes more massive due to the multiple aesthetic languages that will derive from it.
The vicious circle “Production-Designer” will then reveal itself in full.
From all this the “expressive strength”, the “eclectic” and “multifaceted nature” of Luciano Manara takes shape, in the path undertaken which sees him involved between “Semiotic Values” and the phenomena of “signification” which are presupposed by the “concrete communication processes”. In fact the conception of “sign”, i.e. the concept of “entity” has two faces, “significant” and “signified” and the difference of this definition lies in the fact that the “sign” has to do with a “communicative artifice ”, the material part of the “sign“; an “Object”, the “Referent” to which the “sign” refers; and an “Interpretant”, that which derives or is generated from the “sign“, i.e. between the “Representamen” and the “Immediate Object”; as if to say that a “sign” generates another “sign” through a “process of interpretation”. This is followed by the so-called “sociosemiotic” which in recent years has made the attention of the discipline towards “social meanings” increasingly relevant.
“Sociosemiotic” is interested in the “social dimension of discursiveness”, that is to say it intends to start from “texts” and their “internal structures” to identify their “social implications”. On the one hand, therefore, attention must be paid to the context: “manipulations”, “strategies”, “attitudes”, “negotiations”, etc.; on the other hand to the “cognitive space” in which the “moves” and “counter-moves” are planned beforehand, which will be followed by the “Social Behaviors”.
In recent years «Semiotics» has increasingly dealt with analyzing different types of “social” and “media” discourses (journalism, science, advertising, religion, economics, etc.). in particular in the sector of the analysis of “advertising discourse”, of “marketing”, of “Spaces” and of “Design” from which the «Plastic Semiotics» and «Figurative» derive, a reference to two languages that reveal a “double significant nature of the image”.
On the one hand the “image means starting from perceptions of a purely cultural nature”, on the other it can be “bearer of further meanings” that have to do with its specifically “visual”, “perceptive” and “cultural” features or following a French terminology “plastics”.
The “Artistic Expression” that we find in Luciano Manara, is presented in an “energy dualism”: it is a “journey back in time and towards the future”, retracing artistic currents, “colours, polymaterials and objects” which makes life of new and exciting dimensions, with “multi-material” contributions of taste and brilliant creativity.
Canvases and sculptures, “precious gems”, which make us approach his production, always with a new look. An imaginary line that connects the different artistic latitudes, bringing us closer to the “most intimate knowledge of the artist” through the “dialectical contextualization of the work”.
A “new conception of dividing and organizing the history of art”, an “unconventional way of making art fruitful and educating about beauty”.
And if Luciano’s mission is to bring people ever closer to the “Culture of Art” and its language, today it can be affirmed, with absolute elusive certainty, that the purpose has been achieved, consigning his Art to eternity.
«Art is “Beauty” in its multifaceted “Symbolic and Semantic Values”»
(Prof. G. Paoli)
Viareggio, 29 April 2023
Designer Prof. Giuseppe Paoli
Art and Literary Historian and Critic
Historian and Critic of the Viareggio Carnival and in the World
Researcher at the Ministry of Cultural and Environmental Heritage
Researcher of the C.R.A.U.S. (Research Center for Higher Human Activities)
President and Member of various Literary, Poetic and Artistic Awards on the Tuscan and National Territory