Dipinti sull’acqua. Da Magnasco a de Conciliis (1720-2017)

Demina, N & Pizziolo, M 2017, Dipinti sull’acqua. Da Magnasco a de Conciliis.(1720-2017), Il Cigno GG, Roma.

The detailed catalogue by Marina Pizziolo and Natalia Demina, curator of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, contains a long distance conversation between Italian painters who have dealt with the subject of water over the space of three centuries. From lyrical visions of seas, lakes and rivers describing landscapes of the past to water elevated to another dimension, as a way of reflecting on the eternal question of life.

Among the collection are masterpieces by Alessandro Magnasco, Carlo Antonio Tavella, Pietro Benvenuti, Achille Befani Formis, Leonardo Bazzaro, Guglielmo Ciardi, Pietro Fragiacomo, Beppe Ciardi, Emma Ciardi, Vittorio Corcos, Vincenzo Caprile and Piero Guccione. Particularly precious is a series of splendid paintings by de Conciliis, an artist capable of describing water in its natural forms without becoming lost in the descriptive narrative of a painter of places and without transforming water into an exclusively cerebral scenario.

“We are hungry for slowness, we need time to be able to hear, to be able to see and to understand. The paintings of de Conciliis are powerful stills. His placid waters are burning mirrors pointed towards us to make sure we know the world is the wonderful ark that will save us. And if the world can be saved, we too can be saved. Landscapes as protest painting? Yes, because where nature is attacked, man is also attacked. Painting the beauty of a landscape means invoking a humanity freed from evil.

Water is a strange dimension. It does not exist as a human dimension, because it is not one that man can define. It is a space, of course, but an atypical one qualified only by the motion that can pass through it, not from a stative position made impossible by its fluidity. It is a space that does not keep track of the passage of mankind. So its time is outside history. A perennial mutation that has no direction and therefore does not admit progress. Seas, rivers and lakes are non-places of a happening without history: the reign of a journey that when it is not a heroic crossing is introspective flight. But even in this flight the paintings of de Conciliis invite us to join, water knows how to remain water. Even when the horizon, as is the case of many of his most recent paintings, extends up beyond the space of the painting, the water remains river, lake or sea water. Water that flows, reflects and transports. We can smell the river, bask in the enchantment of the reflections, sense the trembling flow of the water and its shivers at the touch of the wind. De Conciliis gives us water as it is, without running aground in the clichéd description of a place. This is for me the splendid stroke of genius in his painting.”

Ettore de Conciliis, Marina Pizziolo and sociologist Pino Arlacchi at the opening of the exhibition at the Archeological Museum in Mantua