Contemplative consumption and… other stories
Written by Lorenza @lastanzettarosa
We enter the fascinating world of the Brescian artist Stefano Bombardieri, son of art, who has been present on the international art scene for more than thirty years, with countless experiences in Italy, abroad and two participations in the Venice Biennale to his credit; we do this with an exceptional guide: the illustrious architect, great connoisseur and art collector, Roberto Falconi, who will lead us into this forest that is anything but obscure, full of works of art depicting mythological animals, enormous pachyderms, small devices and strange machinery that elegantly and boldly tell the soul of the artist Bombardieri with a touch of surrealism, a marked conceptual matrix and a particular taste for divertissement played on disorientation and irony.
So let us dive into this parallel universe as we listen to the tale of two unique artists, who enjoy recalling their shared experiences, their meeting and their travels, united by their passion for art and a friendship that has lasted twenty years.
Lorenza: “Hello Roberto, a pleasure to be here with you today, please take the opportunity to tell us about the birth of this beautiful friendship and collaboration between you and Stefano”.
This is the story of an unexpected meeting and a particular coincidence: in 2002 I was finishing the ‘vat room’ at ‘Ca’ del Bosco’ in Franciacorta, this department was completing a much larger project involving the entire winery; Having created this technical space, very rigid and made of cold steel tanks, I felt the need to contrast this icy verticality with something surreal, unexpected that would break the mould, leaving the visitor certainly surprised and in a certain sense bewildered by a vision bordering on the oneiric. My idea was still very vague, I was looking for something but I was unable to give it a form, except that, walking in those days through the streets of Brescia, I arrived at the Church of S. Filippo e Giacomo where Stefano, whom I did not know at the time, had set up his own exhibition. it was there that, seeing his work for the first time, I received a sort of thunderbolt because that element so out of scale and out of context was exactly what I was looking for, finally, at that moment, my idea had taken on a precise form, that of an enormous hanging rhinoceros…
… next step was to track down the artist’s address, I went to see him and from there we got to know each other and began a long and fruitful collaboration.
Roberto: “SStefano, we are friends and I know the answer but for the audience the question I ask is a necessary one…why the rhinoceros?”
I certainly cannot avoid answering, when I am asked what I do for a living I say: ‘I live by hanging rhinoceroses’, so you can imagine how attached I am to this subject; the rhinoceros has been with me for thirty years, still today it is my most requested and desired sculpture.
My first meeting with this fantastic animal took place many years ago while leafing through a book on cinema. On it was depicted a scene from a Federico Fellini film entitled ‘E la nave va’ (And the Ship Goes), where this lovesick rhinoceros was being harnessed and loaded onto an ocean liner bound for America…
I kept this image for a few years, then one day I took it out of the drawer: I had to talk about myself, about how I was at that time, I had to represent the weight I was carrying inside me and
the rhinoceros at that moment was the perfect metaphor to explain my condition
the fact that it was suspended also described precisely how the perception of time changes according to one’s state of mind and, linked to time, the perception of existence itself.
Roberto: “You mentioned time, suspended time, in particular ‘the weight of time’, is a recurring theme in your work, can you elaborate on the psychological aspect of this quest of yours?”
Stefano: “In reality, I do not experience this condition by nature, as I consider myself to be a sunny and positive person, so it is not a burden that I have inside, or rather it is no longer a burden, it is a condition that I have processed and overcome over the years, in a way, let’s say that personal experience has turned into artistic research. Time and its perception is something that, even unconsciously, has to do with each of us.
My research always revolves around the same themes, themes that are universal, man is constantly searching for absolute truth and in certain situations, at certain moments, one feels truly close to it, it is the great mystery, literally suspended we observe ourselves from the outside, at that precise moment, a world literally opens up…
Roberto: “You are not only talking about personal experiences, in your career you have also dealt with social issues. In this regard, I am reminded of another important stage in your artistic experience, the 2007 Venice Biennale where you represented, as a guest in the pavilion of the Syrian Arab Republic, the collapse of the column in St. Mark’s Square and with it the lion symbol of the city, all in life size, a truly monumental work, the title of this installation: ‘Pale Mother Europe’ was among other things born out of an exchange of suggestions between the two of us on the theme of the collapse of all symbols.
Just because coincidences are never coincidences, after the Biennial my son Gabriele (an architect like his father ed) won a prize in Syria and so we all left together to visit an incredible land.
We had a really strong experience, visited places, unaware that they would be wiped out, destroyed, and met people whose traces were then lost, about a year later…
The journey, great theme!
You carry small luggage, which, as it happened to us, we also lost, but you come back full of experiences and your luggage becomes enormous… here I ask you Stefano, tell me about your luggage.
Stefano:I have travelled a lot, especially to Africa, and my luggage with rhinoceroses on it was inspired by encounters I had along the African roads where I saw people returning home with these huge, improbable luggage full of things, and I turned these memories into works. As you said, luggage is not material objects, it is experiences, pieces of life, memories. People in front of these works of mine identify themselves, they think about their luggage, what they would take with them and what they would leave behind… in a hypothetical journey.
Roberto:We have shared beautiful projects, you and I Stefano, among them I like to remember an exhibition in Ferrara where your crocodile was suspended in the centre of the Rotonda Foschini, a unique suggestion, again the relationship between Art and Architecture, a game of balances, of perspectives, of points of view, art that gives life to architecture and vice versa, a concept that I have always wanted to imbue my projects with; on that occasion, as incurable travellers, we decided to sleep on the van tarpaulin lent to us by my carpenter to transport the works, the blankets used to protect the objects were resting on the sides, in perfect order, all striped in grey, sand and brown, it was like being in a Berber tent, and then the decision to camp near a cemetery to replicate the silence that you can only find in the desert… (we all laugh ed.) Roberto: Finally, I ask you which of these moments fulfills you more: the inspiration, the vision of your idea taking shape or the sharing of your work with others?
Stefano: What gives me most satisfaction is thinking and creating the work in my head, the first mental image, already at this stage I imagine the dimensions, the places, more generally the atmosphere that must envelop the sculpture, then, at a later stage, certainly seeing that what I have created is very close to the idea I had initially gives me more input to continue my work… Sharing is also important, you often discover meanings and aspects of your work through the comments and impressions of others, you understand how many levels of understanding an artwork can be, it is nice that others also appreciate, but
the artist usually creates for himself.
Personally I say that for me art is a medicine that has helped me a lot, that has cured me.
Lorenza: We end this particularly emotional meeting in this friendly living room surrounded by unique works and breathing in refined yet familiar sensations that are certainly true and genuine.
Stefano’s art is for a heterogeneous audience, it is bewitching but also very intimate, you can clearly feel a deep sensitivity, the same that led another great Brescian artist, Omar Pedrini, to write the song ‘Gaia e la balena’ inspired by Stefano Bombardieri’s work of the same name, we could talk about another extraordinary encounter but… that’s another story.
Art embraces art, always.