The study of reality, through its phenomena and paces, is the cornerstone of Mortellaro’s artistic research. Thanks to his training as architect and engineer, his works combine the interest in many disciplines such as science, philosophy, music and literature. The drawing plays a central role in the planning opera, as a privileged instrument of synthesis and reasoning. The production of the artist is heterogeneous, as he uses different media (sculpture, drawing, photography, video and installation) to analyze the complex relationship between man and nature. A minimal and complex reworking that redefines also the technical tools of measurement invented by man, such as geographical and astronomical maps, pendulums, geometric figures and compasses. All about occult symbolism and art, Ignazio Mortellaro in conversation with Maria Abramenko.
What are the main themes and inspirations of your artistic research?
As a young man I was fascinated by big questions, perhaps because of my introverted character or simply because of the classical studies that brought me closer to philosophy and literature. You know those questions bigger than man like: where does it all begin? Where will it end and why? Why does Man exist within the wider system of Nature? Is there a distance between man and nature? These questions broke into an identity and a fragile body that asked for more, an infinitely smaller and more intimate scale, who are they? What should I do with my life? What is love? How different is the world inside from the world outside? Now that I am young and old, these two worlds have compressed and their immeasurable distance has been reduced, the macro and the micro world at times intertwine and overlap. Before I was looking for answers to questions, today I ask questions that are not even questions. Maybe my theme is just stripping the arguments, eliminating the objectives, making some thoughts hyperdense. Many times I happen to imagine myself in another form of life, with another time and another matter, such as a mineral or a plant, this helps me to change the paradigm.
Why are Sicily and Palermo so significant in your art?
Sicily is the land where I was born and where my roots are made. It is an island that is almost a continent in itself but is surrounded by a sea that has cradled many other cultures. It is a land of hard black and pungent rock born of volcanoes and destined to erode until it becomes dust as it will be for me. My relationship with Sicily is a relationship of identity, not only cultural but of nature.
Tell us about Matṛ [मातृ], your latest exhibition in Milan?
The exhibition hosted by Francesco Pantaleone Gallery is accompanied by a text by Domenico de Chirico and has a very troubled history. I was supposed to open in Milan on April 15 and the title of the exhibition was the Latin phrase “Nisi respirent twenty, vis nulla refrenet res”; it is not the first time that Nature surprises me and is guided by chance that it almost wants to play with me. This verse is a fragment from the liber VI of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, an attempt to explain the atmospheric and catastrophic events of nature: its translation is “If the winds did not cease, no force would hold things back”. I find it very nice that the idea of ceasing is expressed in Latin with a beautiful verb, Breath, as an action of rest. (It was a comment on the senseless race, in pursuit of the world, an invitation to stop. Because of the Covid we all experienced a moment of stalemate, in the end everything stopped, so many certainties collapsed and some more, some less had to to deal with the absence of motion.
After so many months my story had changed and also my urgencies, the exhibition could no longer be the same, after a long period of shipwreck I felt the need to return to my Ithaca, to imagine a future and rebuild a new world. The title Matṛ [मातृ] is a Sanskrit word meaning mother. There are some hypotheses according to which the term derives from the Sanskrit root mâ- “measure”, “order” from which the concept of maternal work (matṛ in Sanskrit meaning “ordering”). The whole exhibition is metaphorically understood as the figuration of a woman who generates and regenerates the world, a mother nature, hunter and priestess. The landscape is in the making, time is very far away, society does not exist beyond small groups scattered in a vast, arid and almost uninhabited land. myth is alive and has the appearance of a snake that insinuates itself into a temporal dimension marked by steps. The Maenads singing, dancing and wandering like animals in mountains and forests, go in search of men who venture into a nocturnal dimension overloaded by a desert climate Fate plays with knucklebones and has the hands of a child.
What about music and sound? What role does it play in your life?
Certainly a very important role, in fact I take care of the image of several underground record labels and, now more than ten years ago, I founded with my brother the Stroboscopic Artefacts label, a record label based in Berlin whose catalog ranges from experimental techno to ambient. Many of my installations and videos are born from the collaboration with musicians. The confrontation with them and with the underground world has always been very important, but I have always tried not to fall into practices of appropriation as too often happens in the field of art.
What are your future projects?
My last exhibition at Francesco Pantaleone will turn into a project in which one of my works will dialogue with a beautiful installation by Roman Signer, this makes me very proud and excited. Together with Valentina Bruschi we are coordinating as curators of the Radice eterna project four new exhibitions within the Botanical Garden of Palermo and with Izabela Ana Moren the series of residences that I host in my studio. With the talented Antonio Grulli we look forward to the new year to start planning activities at Casa Balat, the country house that I share with my brother near Noto and which this year I inaugurated with a group exhibition entitled “When the sky had no name”.
I also started a collaboration with Woolbridge Gallery, a new reality based in the former Lanificio Pria textile factory, a jewel of industrial archeology in Biella led by Patrick Saletta and Jean Le Guyarder, and with Cardi Gallery, I am ready to face this 2021 with a lot determination.
Artist: Ignazio Mortellaro / @ignaziomortellaro
Interview by Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko