Sicily: Identità Siciliane

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Sicily

The Plural Island
The expression Sicilitudine – which can be interpreted as embodying distinctive Sicilian traits or as a metaphor of the condition of the spirit, an anthropological habitus but also the symbol of a special identity – is commonly attributed to Leonardo Sciascia. But as the painter-poet-writer Crescenzio Cane recalled, it was Sciascia himself who clarified the misunderstanding during the presentation of the catalogue of Cane’s first exhibition, held at the gallery Arte al Borgo in Palermo in December 1972: “Crescenzio Cane is the inventor of the word ‘Sicilitudine’ that distracted readers, and worse than distracted critics, unfairly and unjustifiably believe to be mine. I clearly said that it had been coined by another Sicilian writer of the avant- garde; but virtually no one paid any attention...”

Andrea Chisesi - Porto Vecchio Marzamemi (2016)

This word that is so important to the island and the whole culture of Italy has come to embody a strong bond between literature, art and society, oscillating between the proud assertion of a diversity that sometimes retreats pathologically into closure, and openness to the world that is born from the recognition of a common, often tragic, existential adventure.

Sandro Bracchitta - Proteggimi (2015)

For Andrea Camilleri, Sicilitudine is above all “the lament of a Sicilian about himself.” The creator of Montalbano recalled how Vittorio Nisticò, founder of L’Ora of Palermo, used to say “that Sicilians are divided into two broad categories. The Sicilians of the rocks and the Sicilians of the open sea. The Sicilian of the rocks is he who only manages to go as far as the nearest rock. The open sea Sicilian instead takes off and leaves.” Speaking of his friend Sciascia, Camilleri added that “Leonardo was a Sicilian of the rocks, there is no doubt. But his rock was so high that he could see the world from up there. He could not stay away from Sicily. The first time he went to Paris I have been told: Leonardo has caught influenza three times in a row and won’t leave the hotel. I called him: how do you feel? Answer: very bad. And I asked him: because of the flu? Yes, yes the flu.” Then he added: "sentimmi ghittato ‘ca a Parigi.” Do you see? Abandoned here in Paris, as if he had been exiled to a Third World country. Sicilitudine is a condition highlighted by certain details. It’s as if we are pleased to be isolated, to feel different. But we’re not, different. We are simply separated from the mainland.”

Daniele Alonge - Tutto da rifare (2015)

Giovanni La Cognata - Giulia (2015)

Moreover, Sicily has always been at the centre of migration in the Mediterranean, a source of fascination for the people who have conquered, occupied, exploited and enriched it, each time leaving traces that have embedded over time. As Karel Čapek, Czech writer and inventor of the word robot, acutely observed: “The Spanish influence is the last; the first is Greek, the second and third are the Saracens and Normans; the Renaissance barely touched here. Combine these various cultural elements with a blinding sun, an African earth, a considerable quantity of dust and incredible vegetation, and what you have is Sicily.” It is a land where nature subsides into myth, and myth coexists with history and memory. A place of contrasts and dual polarity: light and darkness, comic and tragic, visionary poetics and reason.
A land of enchantment and disenchantment, which, as such, has given so much to literature and Italian culture. Indeed, it was here that poetry in the vernacular was born around 1230, at the aristocratic court of Frederick II, where many members of the secular and educated society gathered and cultivated literature. Taking the themes of Provencal literature as a model, they sang of courtly love. But in the completely new language of the Sicilian poetic school.

Piero Zuccaro - Incerto e oscillante (2015)

It was an example of the Sicilian ability to bring a new approach to comedy and human tragedy that has continued over the centuries, from the verismo of Verga, Capuana and De Roberto, to Pirandello’s talent for exploring the individual and the Hermeticism of the Nobel Prize winning poet Salvatore Quasimodo. And of course, the original contributions of Elio Vittorini, Vitaliano Brancati, Gesualdo Bufalino and Leonardo Sciascia. Or, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of Il Gattopardo (published posthumously in 1958, translated as The Leopard), which was the first work in Italy to exceed sales of one hundred thousand copies, and his cousin Lucio Piccolo, a European poet in contact with Yeats, Montale and Pasolini, “shut away in Sicily”, but not, on that account, isolated from the great literature of the twentieth century.

Sergio Daricello - La Nuit (2016)

Sicily, moreover, has always captured the interest of visitors from the North, who came to explore the places and monuments of the past. Interested visitors who appeared in the eighteenth century, in the wake of German scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who understood the key role of Sicily in Greek and Roman classicism, and Johann Hermann von Riedesel, author of the book Reise durch und Sizilien Großgriechenland (Journey through Sicily and Magna Graecia), which became an essential text for those who were preparing to make the Grand Tour. A fact also evidenced by Goethe during his trip to Sicily, in 1787, who cites the “excellent” von Riedesel as his perfect mentor.

Vera Carollo - Fossi-li (2016)

Goethe had no doubts: “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the key to everything.” The key to classical art, certainly, but equally to the natural beauty that in his Italian Journey he describes in softly visionary terms: “I could not describe in words the vaporous light floating around the coasts when we arrived in Palermo on a beautiful afternoon. The purity of the contours, the whole sweetness, the gradation of the tones, the harmony of the sky, the sea, the earth... he who has seen them once will not forget them for a lifetime.”

Simone Aprile - Nzuliddu (2015)

Desideria Burgio - Tell me how you feel about Palermo (2015)

A privileged cultural and geographical landscape, the “strange and divine museum of architecture” of the French writer Guy de Maupassant, which nurtured numerous twentieth century Sicilian artists – from Guttuso to Consagra, from Accardi to Pirandello, from Trombadori to Isgrò, Migneco, Guccione, Sanfilippo, Marchegiani and others – who, by joining or resisting movements, from divisionism to conceptual art, from futurism to abstraction, gained the international spotlight.

Giuseppe Colombo - Fiore di cardo (2015)

Giuseppe Puglisi - Costellazione dei Gemelli (2015)

Today, the story of Sicilian art continues through numerous spaces dedicated to contemporary art. For example, public museums such as the MacS – The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sicily, which is located within the small abbey of Saint Benedict Monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage site), in Catania, and Palazzo Riso in Palermo, whose permanent collection includes works linked by the strong common theme of their bond with the Sicilian territory.

Massimiliano Patrizio Milia - Humpback (2016)

A number of private institutions also play an important role in the understanding and dissemination of art today, such as the Fondazione Puglisi Cosentino at Palazzo Valle, a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque architecture built in the first half of the eighteenth century by the architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini of Palermo, and the Fondazione Brodbeck, housed in a nineteenth-century complex originally used for the production of liquorice, both of which are to be found in Catania.

Franco Polizzi - Distanze (2016)

Then there are places where contemporary art is resolutely bound to the Sicilian territory and its memories. In Gibellina, for example, where, between 1984 and 1989, Alberto Burri created the ‘Grande Cretto’, a work of Land Art in the old town that was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1968. “I was very saddened, – recalled Burri in 1995. I was almost moved to tears and the idea immediately came to me that I could do something here. This is what I would do: we would compact the rubble that was, in any case, a problem for everyone, and covering it with cement, we would create immense white blocks, which would provide a constant reminder of this event.”

Giuseppe Piccione - Femme No 313 (2015)

Francesco Branciamore - Apre e chiude (2015)

In creating a collection dedicated to contemporary Sicilian art, Imago Mundi has chosen to extend participation to writers, visual artists, musicians, designers, poets and architects, with the ambitious aim of illustrating the many facets of a beautiful and difficult land: periphery and centre, a concentration of the extreme passions of the soul, often suspended between the representation of reality and its own myths.

Claudio Cavallaro - Beautiful Sicily (2015)

Rosario Antoci - Trama e ordito (2015)

The “Sicily-nation, whose people survived every abuse and conquest; the Sicily-island, proud and sequestered; the feudal Sicily of municipal disputes, possessive jealousy, rural culture,”
to use the words of the historian from Catania Giuseppe Giarrizzo. And above all, the Sicily of today, once again a point of confluence between continents, nations, religions (a potential “Mediterranean Brussels” for the Israeli novelist Abraham Yehoshua), that increasingly functions – as the curators point out in their introduction to the catalogue – “as a test bench of the main European issues: transformations in the landscape and society, migration flows and the relationship with the Mediterranean.”

Egidio Liggera - Love your neighbour like yourselfie (2015)

The Imago Mundi artists each propose a personal vision of the evolution of the Sicilian identity. A mosaic of imageries in the 10x12 cm format: 220 different works, all of which aspire to expressive freedom, the ability to surprise the viewer, the desire not to remain stationary on the rocks.
A collection of inspirations, representations, situations, ways to explore and take action, visions, dreams and colors, which make me think that that special Sicilian condition – Sicilitudine – is, quite simply, complexity.

Franco Sarnari - Geometrie del cielo (2015)

Credits: Story

Art Direction, Photography and Production

—Rosario Antoci
—Laura Barreca
—Valentina Bruschi
—Ornella Fazzina
—Francesco Lucifora
—Paola Nicita
—Carmelo Nicosia
—Francesco Pantaleone
—Virgilio Piccari
—Agata Polizzi
—Ambra Stazzone
—Gianpiero Vincenzo
—Mario Zito

—Giorgia De Luca
—Barbara Liverotti

Editorial coordination
—Enrico Bossan

—Luciano Benetton
—Rosario Antoci, Ornella Fazzina, Francesco Lucifora, Carmelo Nicosia, Virgilio Piccari, Ambra Stazzone, Gianpiero Vincenzo
—Laura Barreca, Valentina Bruschi, Paola Nicita, Francesco Pantaleone, Agata Polizzi, Mario Zito

Editing and translation
—Emma Cole
—Giorgia De Luca
—Valentina Granzotto
—Chiara Longhi
—Service Scibbolet
—Pietro Valdatta

Art Direction
—Marcello Piccinini

—Marco Zanin

—Marco Pavan

Special thanks
—Leoluca Orlando
Sindaco di Palermo

—Andrea Cusumano
Assessore alla Cultura e agli Spazi Culturali, Comune di Palermo

—Antonella Purpura
Dirigente Servizio Musei e Spazi Espositivi, Comune di Palermo

—Enzo Bianco
Sindaco di Catania

—Mario Zito
Direttore Aba, Palermo

—Virgilio Piccari
Direttore Aba, Catania

—Gianluca Collica

—Paolo Brodbeck

—Rita Carbonaro
Direttrice Biblioteche Ursino Recupero, Catania

—Ornella Laneri

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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