UGO ATTARDI – ULYSSES: LANDING IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM

1510
Exchange of presents beetween the meastro and governor George Pataki (on the right Minister Charles Gargano and Vice ministro prof. Paolo Palombo)

I began working on this sculpture of Ulyssesa paradigmatic figure of Western culture – before I knew what its final appearance would be and whe­re it would be placed. I did not know what eyes would be looking at it nor what sunlight would touch it to bring it to life.The sea and sea routes – the roads of my dreams – have forever fuelled the myth and fascination of the Ulysses tale. To listen to the echoes of his voi­ce. I have, from time to time, delved into the exploits of the Achaean warrior, sailor, discoverer of unknown coasts and sculptor.A burning desire to begin the rite of bringing to life this hero of adventure, this searcher of know ledge through plastic art. has pursued me like an unbroken dream since childhood.I remember my first attempts, not by way of an artistic creation but rather in my childhood games. However. I consider play an aesthetic exercise, a dream about art and life since it chooses, recites and anticipates the themes of human existence – war. the hunt, the snares of betrayal, the pain of birth, adventure and travel. That being so. do for­give me if in order to describe important imprints in a piece of sculpture I get a bit autobiographical. My father – prisoner of a political regime he disliked – sought to rise above his bitter dissent by dreaming of escapes, returns and philosophical victories over his opponents. The existence of the new Suitors, carrions hovering over every new democratic freedom, oppressed and offended my father.In the rare moments of peace his ills granted him. hewould breathe in the light summer breeze whi­ch apparently did no good to his ailing lungs, and tell me about the vitality and courage of this sai­lor. of his wisdom and stratagems (the clever tricks of an inventor and hero), of the destroyer of Troy. Listening to him. I could hear the clashing of arms, the cries of the fallen. In my excitement. I would identify with the ancient Greek hero and weep without shame over the loss of his compa­nions. After all. the heroes of the ancient world wept too. I lived his visible irrealities with him. Then with time I would see them more clearly and become convinced of art ’s magic duplicity, of that revea ling power which runs between reality and fiction. In the end. in order to win. even Ulysses became a sculptor.I was six years old when I got lost at sea. In Paler mo I used to go with the family to the small bea­ch at Acqua Santa. Every evening I would set out over the great expanse of sea. paddling my small boat in search of a cave, the so-called ‘Queen’s cavern’ which opened onto the reef of Arenella. I was attracted by wide open spaces and myths whi­ch I idolized as I did women (strangers of a myste­rious beauty). So at dusk, in that magic flickering light. I would follow the hallucinating vision of the Queen who. they said, used to bathe in the waters of the cavern. A light side wind slowed me down. With difficulty I passed the swell marking the outer limit of the bay of the poor city beach and turned my boat to follow the reef which stret­ched out to the west. The evening light had beco me even more decisive and sweet. Tired and sweaty. I finally reached the cave but hesitated to go in. An obscure force suddenly drew me towards the rocks which, sculpted by the work of therose up before me like giant jaws, wide open, ready to bite. chew, swallow and digest me. I fought to get away from the merciless evil under­current for a long time. That night I discovered myself to be out at sea. exhausted, cold, shivering, lying in the bottom of my boat, counting the gho stly figures that appeared in the black spaces of the sea as it slowly rose and feel like the breathing of some powerful animal.There u«as no way of calling for help. Alone in the dark, I did not feel it would be fitting to start barking at that immense emptiness like a frighte­ned dog. Dignity, acceptance of my state of aban­donment and pride in solitude forbade it. I ended up wanting to become fictional: to hide from myself, to become the page of a book, a story, or a dreama dream that was already a memory. Ulysses. (I was found in the morning and taken back to shore. Since I had been wept for. I received an hysterical maternal beating only then to be fed a hunk of bread stuffed with an omelette.) Here is the statue: the body, the helmet, reason, elegance, outrage, fiction, courage, the voyage. Through the bronze I have tried to give life to the figure’s carnal quality, its daringness and vitality, as well as geometry of dance and the unrelenting thirst for knowledge. Through the means of pla­stic art I have sought to bring out the many echoes of the voice of Ulysses: name. myth, tale and pre­natal dream. A voice evoking shadows, words, emotion and thought processes cgpsubstantial with the skies of remote times (»when only beauty was sacred*) and yet still present in our insatiable mind, contemporary with many eras, with the idea of a pre existing future. There is an irradiation of fascinating shadows and sounds but perhaps also an enervation in the mechanisms of an art committed to bringing to life in the bronze the power of the myth and the energy of the ancient, crafty, shrewd hero. Unre­peatable voices unless we turn to the experience and historical memory we have gathered through our constant migrations: wretched and adventu­rous. noble and shabby, vibrant with chants, with melancholy and stubbornness. So. I have not nar­rated. as I could have, a special event of the Great Poem, or clashes and vendettas, or nostalgia for the wife and loves, by making use of the text and thousands of  readings and interpretations made of it. Rather, with the language of hands that mould clay and hammer bronze. I set to knead my figure into a form animated with the magic of a Golem that is alive, noble, malicious. A free ima­ge then, free of literary connotations which, now writing about it. I must inevitably fall back upon. A figure. I hope, full of energy and warmth which, together with Jean Noel Schifano. I would define as -modern Baroque». Ulysses Nobody often won by hiding. And so the body fierce with beauty and Hellenic elegance (here I mean to contradict the consequences of Hellenism by associating the impetus of fierceness with the idea of beauty). is united to and contra sted with the helmet mask which hides and reveals weakness and complexity in the face of the war­rior hero. A dark mask, a chameleon-like piece of armour resounding with aggressiveness and outra geous pride, a warped metallic translation of a face to instill panic and hide fear; the sounding- box of wild cries, a shield of bone, bursting thou ght. calculation, crudeness and pity. As I talk, constrained by words. I return to the interpretation of the epic. I refer to the Poet ‘s sug gestions who while he writes «with the walls of Troy having been brought to the ground• and -having won the greatest prize therefrom» shows us the hero embarking on voyages with ships unsuited to catch the wind while the plot for his return is already woven. Upheld by reason and steadfastness, he challenges the jealousies and tempers of the Gods, the enmity of the seas, the inhospitality of the shores and the greed of man. Now in taking into account my toil and the outco­me of my conception of Ulysses. I must for a moment reflect on the inner destiny of the sculp­tor. My conclusion is that in translating the dreams and visions that are awakened at the sound of Ulysses into a tangible art form. I was confronted with my primary obsession – that of making fiction real and of rendering a character given to us by literature present and powerful by way of far-off visions and rhythms, by returning as  during a sea voyage to one’s own experiences and recklessness, to the power of reason and animal instinct, to vices and aesthetic virtues. I have always known, in fact, that the sculptor in seeking to give life and warmth to his vision in sto­ne through his strokes and passionate caresses ends up giving life to an appearance that is never totally lifeless. He may reveal some universal or personal truth but also constructs an appearance which vaguely resembles a sublime deceptionan art object that relates to Ulysses who. warrior tur­ned sculptor, fashioned a trap statue as a game to defeat his enemies, hiding behind the form and the seductiveness of art. The fatal bulk of the horse-gift he built was also their aesthetic sublimation of a wagon with a belly full of armed men who. greedy for sacking and rape and having overcome the distrust and walls of the enemy, could destroy «the hight city of Priam-. And hence the sculptor’s anxiety: that of getting close to instilling an appearance with the totality of life (both material and abstract) without ever really succeeding: of remaining on the winning side by having overcome his own temporality by permeating himself with and having a general con­science of the dynamic immobility of a statue. Far au>ay. then, from Ithaca, even for the sculptor for often in his debilitating, exalting path, enga ged in restraining the winds of the imagination in order to give plastic significance, voice, breath and shareable emotional results to dreams and mental obsessions, it may happen to him that on his way. it is the narrow bureaucratic environments rather than the predictable conceptual barriers that beco­me so dense as to block his path. But perhaps I am more fortunate than others. I have cast two examples of this statue of mine. The first has been living permanently now for more than a year under the lights of the New York Sky. in Battery Park City. Manhattan, thanks to the cultural interest of the Governor of New York Sta­te. the Hon. George Pataki. Now. the other copy has been sited and put on view in Rome, in the atrium of the Palazzo Valentini. thanks to the enthusiasm and the lively cultural awareness of the late lamented President of the Province, the Hon. Giorgio Fregosi. and all the honorable mem bers who make up the Provincial Council. An artist always has some certainty about himself, even among his doubts, exultations and fears. However, the ability to display the outcome of his own conceptions and his own labours is a vital satisfaction, by no means just a secondary part of his reward.

I offer heartfelt thanks and greetings to all those who have aided me in this enterprise.

Ugo Attardi

1506
Ugo Attardi in his studio with Carlo and Anita Ciccarelli.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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