Sculpture and Nature

Furio Colombo

There is nature and there is artifice. There are landscapes and there are manmade objects. There are mountains and factories, seas and dams, trails of breadcrumbs left by fairytale characters and there are motorways. And then there are forest beasts of the most unapproachable and mysterious species that leap up onto of the façades of cathedrals and turn to stone, posing as symbols, nightmares, monsters and chimeras. The whole path of development of art – as it rears its head and then retreats, discovers, invents, repeats itself, rushes ahead, turns back, dares and then regrets it, challenges an irreproducible and omnipotent god or attempts to ingratiate itself with it – is a continuous ebb and flow towards and away from nature.

Within this context, or rather, at the centre of this context, lies Bruno Liberatore’s extensive and splendid work. His artistic path, which right from the start, since his very first sculptural rendi- tions, has produced unforgettable and powerful forms, calls to mind, visually, the musical genius of Luciano Berio. In what way? In that like Berio, rather than presenting new concepts usurping old ones with barbaric brutality, his art emerges from a sophisticated exploration of skills, frequentations and a cultural experience of what came before. It rests upon a knowledge of the art that has already been created, upon an awareness what is aesthetic and at the same time instinctive and reasoned, and upon good taste, which is often a restraint, but in his case is an important frame of reference.

Befittingly Liberatore has been and still is a teacher. The path his art has taken is a school in itself, packed full of cultural presences and quotations. And yet his work – as it can clearly be seen in the magnificent artistic interlude he now finds himself in and which is far from over – is mysteriously and completely unique, new, different and destined to change the course of sculptural art. I shall endeavour to provide some reasons. I mentioned Berio. Berio focussed much of his attention on masterpieces left by great composers preceding him (his ‘recuperation’ of a few sketches that Schubert made and never used is memorable). And he was aware of the sense, value and power of silence within the space in which both noise and sound are generated. Liberatore knows that all the magnificence and splendour of art (of sculpture) that came before him is just part of a journey and that, as is the case in nature, no greatness can overshadow or prevent another presence or greatness from coming into being. He is an artist who sees and puts to clear use the lessons of nature and life. All life depends on, indeed, descends from the lives that came before it. But it is also true that all life and every action in life is totally new. It is something that did not exist before. It is even, when it is modern life, tantamount to a gong striking the start of something. The creative work that man’s existence is, has not been completed. It has been a long journey from art that previously made portraits of nature, then of the human eye and perception, in all its technical, physical and aesthetic aspects and which later opened up a laboratory that was as independent as possible from nature – or, rather, from the composition of nature – creating manmade works as a gesture and declaration of independence from what had already been created.

In what sense is Liberatore’s sculpture new and different? It is so in that this artist occupies an empty space between nature and invention, between beauty and greatness and the threats and mysteries of nature and pure invention. Liberatore, in one of those gestures that is not easy to explain and which are inherent to certain artists, undertakes the strange enterprise of making life and nature (the sense of splendour, grace and mystery) pass into his material and into his forms which – becoming sculptures and therefore works of art – breathe and exude life and are no longer manmade artefacts. All this happens without any excursion into what I would call “the outside” (forms of art that resemble nature) and without seeking an alibi in the formal affinity with what already exists. Hence my awe. You walk around Liberatore’s totally unique and original sculptures that are independent from previously created forms and you feel you are within a landscape that you used to know, something familiar, warm and alive, as happens when you are near to animals and trees. Even the surfaces of his works are like a skin, inspiring a strange sense of tenderness and of continuation of life.

This is why you do not feel the weight or the size or the bulkiness of these works of art that occupy a landscape and form a landscape. You feel – by watching and touching – the heartbeat and the breath of life. I know it is mere suggestion. But this only happens when art is art. It is the point of arrival that gives you a feeling of euphoria and a strange sense of affection and makes you want to get closer while you are beside works that are physically very large and charged with energy. But you feel that it is a great and benevolent energy. It happens rarely. It is called a masterpiece.