An artist doesn’t simply create objects, write poetry, compose harmonies with seven notes, or paint canvases. Whatever expressive form they choose, artists actually look through matter — through what exists — and move beyond it. They absorb moods and emotions to recreate and reinvent them, generating new ones in those who admire the results of their creativity. Above all, though, theirs is an invitation to stand face to face with a slower form of time: an invitation to meditate instead of hurrying, to savor instead of taking a quick bite. Artists, in other words, invite us to reflection, and to take a stance instead of running and rushing while we are distracted by other things. In every work of art, we’ll find a reference, an inspiring prompt. What do I feel? What did the artist feel or what brought them to express themselves this way, what emotion is imprisoned in a sculpture or fixed forever in a portrait? Why does a photograph attract me and where does that two-centuries-old painting bring me?
Artists are also a bridge between past and present, a term of comparison with the artistic movements that preceded them, and a leap towards new horizons. They give us secret access to possible, or even just imaginary, futures. They are both what came before us and a preview of what we could become. But they also offer us a free, critical perspective on the world, a call to look into our conscience and think about who we are and how we live.
When we enter the Capitoline Museums in Rome, our eyes are immediately drawn to the fragments of a giant, colossal stone statue, whose face still commands respect and suggests power. It dates back to 313-324 AD, and this alone makes us think. Will what we build today last this long? Is this portrait of Emperor Constantine a sufficient point of comparison to nullify today’s vanities? Or does it tell us that the ego of the person who commissioned this statue — which was supposed to be 12 meters high — was only partially represented?
The truth is that, if we stroll through Rome, there are a thousand other things that can pique our interest. One of them is not far from the iconic Piazza Navona. Even before entering the studio of one of our capital’s leading contemporary artists, we come across traces of his work here and there: they guide passersby and stimulate their curiosity. And that’s how artistic experiences begin, because they always start with something attracting our attention, attracting our gaze; they always begin with us asking ourselves what’s about to happen. Then the meeting with the artist comes, and we take another step: we see his work and discover a piece of ourselves, of our time, of our environment and its re-elaboration. Now we see seven decades of activity and the ability, without captions or elaborate explanations, to convey a message. Ferdinando Codognotto’s art is imagination and know-how, manual skills and creation, nature and machine in a relationship of encounter and opposition, fusion and separation.
From the scent of Swiss pine wood permeating his workshop to the warm light of works that convey the urgency of communication through art. “I am the wood,” the artist — born in 1940 — said several times while talking about himself, thus making clear how visceral his relationship with the raw material is. He loves it because it is warm and opposed to the coldness of bronze and marble, neither of which he is too keen on, but also embody the final result of his creative expression. What does this tell us? It tells us that the experience this artist, born in Veneto but a Roman by adoption, goes through is essential, but so are skills, technique, and knowledge about his ancient material, wood, and carving it.
Then, everyone walks on stage holding hands with their own artistic sensitivity and taste: whether they find a connection with or distance from the work of art, whether they are attracted or disinterested by it, the experience still defines the observer and qualifies them. For this internationally appreciated sculptor, who dedicated his entire life to his passion, art is, first and foremost, communication. It is about being able to say something to everyone, from the simplest to the most refined person. And here lies a key to the creative process: it is dialogue, encounter, sharing. But it is also a narrative of a city, Rome, where marvelous works of a glorious past coexist with the modern inspiration of today’s artists who, using a precious alpine wood already en vogue in the seventeenth century, and carved with techniques that seem eternal, tell the story of the disorderly time we live in.