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Padre Pio and the Gargano Corradino Mori editore
Florence, Italy
1986

Tommaso Paloscia

 Catalogue introduction

PADRE PIO AND THE GARGANO

     I can still see the Gargano lanscape and recall my fatigue as I drove one hot day, hot as only those mid-summer days can be, between San Severo and Monte Sant'Angelo, before plunging into the cool refuge of the Umbria Forest.  Thinking back I can see the road between the rocky coasts dotted with sun-dried bushes and visualize the faint yellows faded by the implacable light of midday.  With these memories recurs the thought of Padre Pio da Pietrelcina who, within the protective walls of the convent at San Giovanni Rotondo, lived out his saintly apostleship in prayer, acclaimed and besieged by the faithful: two diverse moments united in memory.  They are experienced anew through Antonio Ciccone's work as he produces drawing after drawing, painting after painting for his upcoming London exhibition. 

     Padre Pio's mystic presence is felt in the drawings which are full of humanity and religious absorption. This presence communicates to the landscapes quiet hights where silence unites both earth and sky; and there is a revisiting the past - bittersweet - of the land of the artist's childhood.  This land once knew him as a shepherd boy climbing wild upland paths with his herds, journeying through a rugged boyhood which had accustomed him to the loneliness of the mountains and taught him to converse with the wind and the colors of the rocks. 

     Ciccone, with outstanding draughtsmanship, reproduces detailed scenes of this land of his childhood: there is an excellent series of landscape paintings in which a gradual build-up of chromatic values produces stupendous aerial perspectives.  He displays here a veritable whirlwind of emotions, from renewed astonishment to intense nostalgia; and certainly a great love of solitude which perhaps lies deep in memory far from present reality, a pretext to paint, to express his inner-most self.  A means, indeed, of rediscovering something of himself, of his own image: the "Pittur™" or "Little Painter", favoured by the holy monk and called to paint his first fresco dedicated to St. Francis in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. 

     One now feels that the artist is retreading paths from the time of that extraordinary event, in search of a lost opportunity: that of conversing in his maturity with the great personality to whom Providence had entrusted him as a boy so that he would become a man - in the most Christian sense of the word; and from whom life's fickle circumstances would later distance him.  For this reason I think that in the search for the "true" image of Padre Pio there is regret on Ciccone's part for not having been better able to communicate his feelings to his great benefactor: because as a boy of the fields he could not entirely express those feelings in words; nor to have received from the holy man greater comfort than his quiet gaze observing him while he drew, his serene face absorbed in prayer - yet this for the young painter, was ample reward. 

     Today Ciccone is in the process of reproducing the full image of Padre Pio on the summits of the Gargano - those hights which graze the sky and dialogue with the white clouds borne high by the wind - of Padre Pio who wished him painter perhaps for this very purpose, to be realized eventually through faith and memory.  Ciccone paints the air and the voice of the clouds which skim the peaks, each time fixing on the unexpected apparition of a man, whose gaze is both gentle and penetrating, who can just be seen in a half-open doorway.  These "portraits" from memory and suggestion are laid down almost furtively in charcoal, separately from the paintings.  They are intentionally realistic recreating the actual environment which alone can evoke the desired images. 

     But it is possible that all this occurred and occurs in so far as Ciccone's work suggests it by means of the delicacy of his symbols and colour: almost explicit indications of rapture, that is of a particular condition of the spirit which allows the artist to see and to contemplate what we ourselves cannot see.  A reality emerges: which is simply the crystallization of that moment in which the desired image (the ultimate aim of the search) frees itself from all ambiguity and reveals itself in some way.  The correlated themes - Padre Pio and the region of the Gargano - reflect upon each other, and I think this is precisely what the artist intends: to make a new statement in which the physical (the landscape) and the ideal (the figure of the saintly monk) interact in the acrylics, the oil paintings and the drawings, to tell a metaphysical tale of great beauty.

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