May 16, 2022

Hardwood Paroxysm

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We learn to look at the sky, suspended between art and science

I saw Silvia Iorio’s first work several years ago, in a gallery in the historic center of Rome that I think no longer exists. It was a monochromatic shade of intense and lustrous blue, whose metallic reflections evoked the motions of a Byzantine robe and hinted at a secret space, beyond the surface. Later, it was the artist who told me that he mixed gold powders, metallic scales, and meteorite fragments of which he had an array of colors. In this color I remember a kind of mystery that moved the gaze by subtraction, beyond matter: a kind of mirror-like quantum space in love in the starry sky that stretches for light years beyond the heads of our dreams. The microcosm and the macrocosm who loved the Neoplatonist philosopher of the Renaissance so much. Over the years, Iorio’s plates and papers have been filled with stars, galaxies, symbols, and signs. An artistic progression that expands due to inflation, as in the cosmological theory that the universe is accelerating after the Big Bang, and in fact, rather than the “Big Bang,” the agitation of the then-new verse would look more like flipping out of a robe, into circles formed by throwing a stone into a puddle of empty spacetime.

Mystery, which is so typical of art, and seemingly alien only to science, now comes to mind that I am pleased to organize a small competent exhibition of Sylvia in the Roman Co Gallery, also in the Historic Center (Thursday 17 March to 29 April 2022), an almost distant echo, Deja vu is amplified at first glance. The exhibition is titled “Astreia – The Sky Beyond” and takes its name from an unknown Greek deity, Astreia or Astraia, daughter of Astreo, ancestor of the winds and Eos the giant, personification of the dawn. In short, movement and creation. Astreia, the starry night, is the goddess of precision and purity. It seems to me that it sums up Sylvia’s painting well, in a “quantitative” balance between inspiration and careful observation. It is also the paradoxical way in which humans always raise their eyes to the night sky, in romantic ecstasy and accurate calculations. Ancient peoples such as the Sumerians and Egyptians erected deities in the planets (Sumerian Enki, teacher of men corresponds to Mercury, as later with Hermes and the Roman god who presided over wisdom as well as trade and thieves), but they also used the stars to calculate times of harvest and divide the area on land and roads on the water, Today we use satellite navigation to navigate the maze of urban traffic.

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The artist, Astro, in ancient Greek reminds us of the same root of abstraction. Abstraction is the basis of mathematics as well as art. The same root as astragalus, the bone or bronze game rolled by the Hellenic children and from which the modern game of dice is derived. In the show, a series of cobalt blue dice exploded in the Big Bang and a famous Albert Einstein joke, according to which “God does not play dice with the universe” are winked. They also refer to the Uncertainty Principle formulated by Werner Heisenberg, the observation affecting the observed particle, the creative idealism that is part of the back door to equations.

16 works on display—including two lacquered velvet chairs and a watercolor coffee table that make up an ecological installation—recall Iorio’s artistic “inflation,” from one of his first monochrome, “blue square,” in honor of Casimir Malevic, to cosmology on paper. And the canvas refer to the celestial charts of Andreas Cellarius, but also to the mysterious handwriting of Cy Twombly and the dancing lines of Brice Mardin. Even the alphanumeric symbols that weave the spiral of a spiral galaxy. In this way, using celestial bodies, signs, and coordinates, the artist develops a language that asks questions rather than giving meanings. With punctuality. Thus opens the way for a new encounter between art and science, towards another sky.