Contemporary treasures on the 40th Parallel North

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Contemporary treasures on the 40th Parallel North: Armenia showcases italian art from Basilicata

curated by Aniello Ertico, Melanie Zefferino e Lilit Hovhannisyan

An ideal ‘silk thread’ stretching across the old way between East and West, and over the 40th parallel North, connects Yerevan (Armenia) and Venosa (Italy). The two cities can be regarded as strongholds of long disputed lands, where ancient fortresses and monasteries overlook silvery volcanic lakes surrounded by wildlife in rich nature. For centuries pilgrims, merchants, and soldiers crossed the Basilicata region as well as the country of Armenia, both of which share the Hellenistic heritage. Yet, they also bear witness to pre-historic settlements, civilisations that rose in more archaic periods, and the presence of communities in which ethnicities of either Jewish or Islamic faith coexisted with Christians until the Middle Ages. Thousands of khachkar (carved memorial steles with a cross and other symbolic motifs) rise amidst the Armenian woods, where the pagan temple of Garni, built on basalt foundation perhaps in honour of the sun god Mihr, stands still. Besides, the Knights Templar cross and other sacred and esoteric signs, including the hexagram, are carved in the stones of many castles and churches of Basilicata. For instance, they decorate the unfinished basilica of the Holy Trinity in Venosa. Located near the archaeological site preserving a memory of the origin of the city, built by the Romans in honour of Venus, that Paleochristian basilica testifies to the role played by the Benedictine monks as well as the Norman and Lombard rulers in the Medieval history of its context.
Venosa is the seat of the Porta Coeli Study Centre for Mediterranean Culture, which i also an art academy, publisher, and art gallery. Since its foundation Porta Coeli has focused on art forms representing the spirituality and aesthetics of different cultures. While being a resource for their own community, Porta Coeli has reached a wider audience through National and International exhibitions.
It should be reminded that in 2016, upon proposal of Concillor Aurelio Pace, the Basilicata Region was included amongst the names of the ‘Righteous for the Armenians’ within the Wall of Remembrance in the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex at Yerevan.
Building on that precedent, ‘Contemporary Treasures on the 40th Parallel North’ is meant to be part of a project designed to strengthen ties between Armenia and Basilicata. In October 2018, in fact, artist Arman Nur is going to be the protagonist of an anthological exhibition at Porta Coeli in Venosa. Meanwhile, the works by artists from Venosa will be exhibited in the heart of Yerevan, at the Nur Art Gallery, whose aim is to act as a portal between East and West for contemporary artists of different cultures.
The same applies to Porta Coeli, on this occasion acting as a ‘gate’ to Armenia for artists from Basilicata who have been able to interpret with different media their own way of seeing the world, starting from the land to which they belong. All this can be seen in the Contemporary Treasures on the 40th Parallel North’ curated by Aniello Ertico (Director of Porta Coeli), Melanie Zefferino (art historian and curator also teaching at Porta Coeli), and Lilit Hovhannisyan (Director of the Nur Art Gallery).
The artists participating in this group exhibition stand out for their personal style and the ability to bring the past into the present through art. Antonio Saluzzi, an emerging artist who has won many awards with his bronze sculptures (made either with lost-wax casting or earthcasting) brings pieces with a high symbolic value, namely the Passiflora and Pomegranate. Salvatore Comminiello, who combines experimentation of new materials with a refined language of signs, shows some new mixed-media panels whose reliefs embody leaves so as to capture, virtually, the mystery of nature in form and colour. Manuela Telesca, ‘priestess’ of jewellery art, showcases gems in precious mounts with symbolic meaning. Nisio Lopergolo, an established artists, gives shape to stories from the Old Testament, in particular the Genesis, through his ceramic sculptures painted with manganese oxide smalt and gold. Karmil Cardone, a young photographer, stirs imagination with his highly evocative black-and-white photographs of architectures from the past. Finally, the video Scirocco (2017), directed by Aniello Ertico as inspired from his own book, will be projected.

PORTA COELI

is not merely a place: it is an avant-garde idea generated and nourished in an Italian province, quite far from huge capitals.

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