Fortunato Orazio Signorello
International Critic Art
Salvatore Morgante between Abstractionism and Figurative.
“Notabilis” – March/April 2016
In the Italian contemporary art scenario, there is a whole generation of Sicilian artists slowly standing out. Salvatore Morgante (Agrigento, 1976) is one of them. He confidently manages to express himself – showing talent, eclecticism, executive ability, unquestionable intuition – with an innovative style, especially when it comes to the abstractionism characterized by an actualized revision of Pollock’s heritage, which highlights the artist’s creativity and how able he is to handle – diversifying, in his visual research, styles and methods – the techniques he uses.
The heterogeneity of his production makes it difficult to place Morgante in a specific movement. Even if he is part of the Meta-Dimensionist movement, he believes any inclusion in a fields, tendency and movement is merely indicative. “Formal abstractionism – the artist says – appeals to me more than other artistic forms. I do not feel the need to belong. The harmony with myself is the best creative contact I know”.
Salvatore Morgante is an all-round experimenter that goes from the gestural abstractionism, showing artistic virtuosity and proposing original aesthetic solutions through researched chromatic contracts, to the figurative, drawing his attention to the star system icons and men’s existential condition. His works have already caught famous art critics’ attention (among others, Nuccio Mula, Luisa Trenta Musso and Paola Simona Tesio), who highlighted how the source of the artist’s creative invention – whose research continues through the primary elements: sign, surface, gesture and matter – is moved by the willingness to interpret the emotions and feelings of the moment, each time.
You easily go from figurative to abstract painting. Are you more inclined towards figurative or aniconic art?
I think of myself as an abstractionist, my vocation is the aniconic painting. This does not automatically exclude the possibility, in specific moments of my research, of an approach with the figurative; in any case, it is characterized by the matter, chromatism and abstract details. On the whole, there could be an intentional reference to the figurative, although the basis is a merge of these two Art visions.
Concerning the Figurative, is the centrality of the star system evident in the subjects you portray?
The icons of the star system clearly have a relevant effect on the public and I think the thematic centrality I find in such an acknowledgement is due to the strong impact of a well-known face on the subconscious. When I come close to a person to portray, I look for the individual, to my bond with it. That is exactly what I portrayed of well-known people, in light of the personal bond between us, offering my personal vision in paying them homage. The same is true for “common” people I came close to with respect and emotion, to celebrate the features that make them special. I seek individualism, even in who is immersed in the globalization, since there is always a character hiding behind each person, and vice versa.
The work “Nippy” you recently exposed during the XI International Biennal in Rome is dedicated to Whitney Houston. Tell me about this painting.
“Nippy” is the result of my love for Whitney Houston. I discovered her and her music when I was 9 years old and it was love at first sight. Whitney, with her music, has always been part of my life: her voice is the leitmotiv of my daily life. I do not need to really listen to it, it is within me, I know every breath in her songs. The title “Nippy” is the loving nickname her family used to call her. I was lucky enough to get to meet her personally, behind the public eye, in moments of private life. The image I got my inspiration from is a frame of the musical video “Miracle”, inedited for the conception of a work. In my choice, I used a little help from some friends (Italian, English and American) with whom I share the same passion towards her, in order to make such homage something more than a portrait. The colours I used as the singer’s favourites and they recall her essence. A homage to a woman, her beauty, her Art and her way of being.
It appears, by looking at your heterogeneous production, that you think of art as the result of an innovative research more than an endpoint. Is it true?
Art undoubtedly is a research, just like in Leopardi’s poem “Il Sabato del villaggio”, what lies underneath the production of a work is the most beautiful moment, pure creative ferment. All part of the matter, the colours and the gestures come along. It is not an endpoint, every work is conceptual and it represents a moment, a feeling, a departure.
What are the boundaries of the artist’s creativity?
This question is an oxymoron to me. Creativity is the very same boundary the artist is constantly called to compete with, to overcome it. The creative freedom, instead, has to confront the artist’s ethic. An ethic, not merely a deontological status that allows the distinction between the good and the evil, but something deeper able to question the artist’s conscience as he is about to show his own Self to the world. Art and Freedom are words that go along with beauty and courage.
Photography has also become a constant element of your expressive research. When did you start taking the first pictures? What are your favourite subjects?
I started taking pictures as part of my job in marketing and while managing, as an art director, several marketing campaigns. It was a short leap from there. Holding the camera allowed me to easily realize the ideas I already had in mind and to develop more. My first pictures depicted models or other subjects for advertising purposes. Once I developed technical skills and got to know the limits and perspectives of the “job”, a whole new world opened up to my eyes. The subjects I like best are the people, especially faces. I love capturing places, but the human presence is essential in my vision of photography.
Is there a reason for the black and white preference?
Black and white photography gives strength to the image. At the same time, it leaves room for imagination and allows to better experience the expressions, the volumes and the light. It makes the image eternal, freeing it from contaminations. It is as if it evolved from subjective to collective, ready to be reinterpreted, by communicating with the observer.
How do you handle the contrast with different mediums?
With absolute spontaneity and freedom. Every form of expression, may it be photography, painting or any other, carries different meanings. Through photography, I present my vision of reality, refusing fiction and I allow people to “look” through my eyes. In painting, instead, it is different: the eyes of the observer are towards my Self, my emotions on the canvas.
The heterogeneity of your production makes it difficult to place you in specific movements and tendencies. With which artistic movement do you feel closer to?
Freedom is one of the keys to understand my production. Even though I am part of the Meta-Dimensionists, any inclusion in a field, tendency or movement is merely indicative. I love interpreting the feelings and the emotions of the instant, moment after moment. Formal abstractionism appeals to me more than other artistic forms but, as I said, any definition represents to me a starting point and does not intend to become an endpoint. I do not feel the need to belong. The harmony with myself is the best creative contact I know.
In the current artistic and cultural scenario, what are your points of reference?
The historical moment we are in is going through abundant contrasts and mediocrity. We live in a time deprived of great points of reference, in which feeling lost is the clearest indicator of such condition. The disorientation I feel allowed me to focus on myself. I reject a society homologated to great multinationals with one, widespread line of thought. The mediocrity I witness everyday upsets me. The points of reference need to be researched in self-awareness and I find them anytime I acknowledge it in the eyes of those I look at.
What is the distinctive trait of your painting in your opinion? How would you define, from a formal point of view, your style?
The distinctive trait is the action. However reflective, impulsive, thought or improvised, it is not relevant. My painting is made of the matter; moved, thrown, posed, dragged… The style could be defined “informal” but at the same time, as I use this definition, I acknowledge how restrictive it is. It is more precisely a free creation in which emotions find their expression. If, one day, my style had to be defined with a precise word, such word could very likely become obsolete the following day.
Is there an artist with whom you find a particular stylistic affinity?
I follow the work of many contemporary artists with great interest. Of some of them I appreciate the technicality, of others the use of colours, of others the impetuousness. I love Art all-around and I approach it with humility and curiosity. The “Greatest of Art” have the power to petrify my soul. I still remember with emotion when I first saw Bernini’s “Transverberazione di Santa Teresa d’Avila” (The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa) in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, as well as Caravaggio in Piazza del Popolo or the “Virgin of the Rocks” at the Louvre Museum. These are the most vivid memories I have, I have never felt a stronger shock ever since. The stylistic affinity I seek is the emotion and whenever I feel it, there is the Artist I find it with.
What do you really want to communicate through your art?
I want to communicate emotions: serenity, glee but also pain, regret. I want to share the emotions that keep me alive and that are life themselves. I just wish my art could speak to people’s hearts, minds, but, mostly, souls. To me, soul lives through the work of art, in the eyes of a portrait, in the depths I leave in the bight of the matter.
Prof. Fortunato Orazio Signorello
Editorial Director, art critic, cultural promoter, organizer and curator of art exhibitions.