Luigi Ontani: “Hooray for Art! Sometimes I wish to say things but then I forget."
Author: Elena Agnese Sorrentino
If you try to call on the landline of his studio, the same as Canova’s, the message on the voicemail sounds more or less like this: “I am away! Hooray for art!”. If you instead are lucky enough to meet him, you will feel like being in a tableaux vivant. He always shows off sober and elegant looks, in Oriental style and Indian silk, rigorously monochromatic from head to toes with odd footwear. Luigi Ontani has translucent hands, whose gestures dictate Oriental rhythms, and spread the smell of myrrh throughout the room. “Orient right away!” Paolo Rumiz would say.
He has been travelling back and forth, he has spent much time in Taxco, Mexico, attracted to the art of silver and of the history of man, in Sri Lanka, then in India, where he “came into contact with all the negative in the world”, then in Aden, now it is Bali’s turn. Like a stranger, he moves to places outside of time, ignorant of the languages, observing gestures and behaviors. He does not avoid the West as a plague, he has also “often and lengthily stayed in New York, when this city was exploited as a generous whore, when Pop Art was a big hit and lived inside a building in Soho”.
If, instead, you are not lucky enough to meet him in person, you can observe his artworks: there is a huge permanent mosaic at the Mater Dei subway station in Naples. In these days, until 5 May 2019, he is taking part in the group show Dream. Art meets Dreams, curated by Danilo Eccher, at the Chiostro del Bramante, in Rome. “Heliondimio” is the name of the space installed by Ontani as if it was a holy temple: a splendid bed with two big carved masks that represent symbolically the way that leads from the West to the East, the pathway towards light, opposite from that of the Sun. The mask of the Sun is adorned in the wooden headboard, the Moon in the footboard facing the floor. The sun is a despotic symbol of death, instead the moon is calm and eases sleep, rest, and dream. In this way, he creates a connection to the ancient practice of sleeping nearby a sacred place, a practice that originated in the Middle Ages both in the West and in the East. In Gaul, the worshippers used to go to sleep inside the church of Noyon to obtain the clemency of the Saint that appeared in their dreams, and to wake up in a faithful spirit. The Archangel Saint Michael made dreamlike wonders in Constantinople, and the Saints Cosma and Damiano, the medical saints in various sacred places, did the same.
The “innocent and crazed Narcissus”, as Goffredo Parise defined him, or the artist who is always in pose, ditches transvestism, after having interpreted himself all the Olympus gods, the Indian saints, and even Christ with the crown of thorns. After having played also with the ancient iconography of Janus, the two-headed god capable of seeing both the past and the future, particularly dear to Luigi Ontani, after the big success of the solo show at the Academy of San Luca in Rome in 2017, called “SanLuCastoMalinIconicoAttoniTonicoEstaEstE’tico”, he leaves the past to welcome the present.
The two Luigi Ontani’s temperas, on sale on Wallector.com, are born from the artist’s awareness of and meditation on hot themes of current events. Cittadino Italiano and Balyndigeno Genio Danzante of 2012 show on the back the unmistakable handwriting of Ontani with neologisms and swap of lowercase and uppercase letters to confuse the hierarchy. Visit Wallector.com!