A lesson in timeless composure
If it were possible to have some background music come forth when flipping through the pages of a book, I would have the images and words in writings about Mario Sironi emit all of the sounds of Richard Wagner that have for so many years seemed to be intertwined with the descriptions and stories about the life and works of this great twentieth-century artist. This would give the reader the feeling of beholding something that goes beyond a ‘simple’ book on the work of an artist, and more closely approximate a complete experience: a kind of theatre encapsulating all of the arts working together with the sole aim of creating a complete work.
Perhaps this is what an exhibition of Sironi’s work should strive for today: a stage made of rooms in which music, drama, dance and poetry come together in search of an ideal synthesis, as in the concept of a union of Opera and Drama theorised by Wagner in an essay in 1851.
Sironi’s works are musical and rhythmic movements that become images from which music emerges and boldly stirs up the feeling and intellect of the viewer, almost like a violent urge that gets out of control and brings the shadows of our consciousness to light.
The canvas itself is not enough to do this; the enclosed form breaks into an essential resurgence of mural painting, through a profound rethinking of art that leads to a grand and visionary reshaping of its concept and creation.
Sironi wanted his art to stand as a testament to a condition of excellence, glory, and power, and so the mural becomes ‘great decoration’ which, like the Raphael Rooms or the Last Judgment by Michelangelo, is able to induce a perception of eternity and the eternal greatness which encompasses its own perfection and is the absolute foundation of all things.
Sironi was not concerned with mundane time and its passing, and left no trace of it on his works (often making them difficult to date): Sironi was only interested in limitless time, an eternal time that is often bleak as only a sense of infinity can be, but one that certainly places his artistic endeavours conceptually among the most modern and full of meaning of any from twentieth-century Europe. His work is not only capable of projecting itself into a conceptual future, but also of making us think about and understand the contemporary world of the past.
It is not unreasonable, therefore, to define Sironi as a ‘monumental’ artist. But we can observe his monumentality also in his ability to make room for smaller works, such as those of his latter years when, lacking public commissions, he was forced to return to the easel and make do with the limits of the canvas.
Mario Sironi is perhaps one of the many monuments – from the post-war period of the Second World War – that Italy has not recognised or has not wished to restore in a way that he deserves and that would assure him the appropriate attention that each of our cultural assets has need of.
There is no longer any dispute that he is a figure of the first magnitude in the international art scene: his strength of expression and great dignity made him a truly unique artistic personality that went beyond ideological and political labels.
So we should walk through the rooms, listening to the notes, taking in the movements and dancing among his works without any bias. Let Sironi’s thoughts and acts create space in our contemporary viewers’ imagination and learn a lesson in timeless composure which our society seems to need, now more than ever.
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