ALESSANDRO RINALDI

DMAV_social art ensemble

Borders in free fall – the evolution in the work of Davide Grazioli –

Borders in free fall in Grazioli’s work.
At the beginning, it was the journey that guided Davide Grazioli’s work. And as so often happens, the journey soon brought along the themes of the Other and the Elsewhere. An early encounter with the painter Aldo Mondino (Torino, 1938-2005), to whom Grazioli became assistant and with whom he went on the first painting trip to India, was also crucial.  “Mondino has always portrayed a fantastical Orient as a dreamlike and magical elsewhere,” the artist recalls, “but soonafter falling in love with his way of making art, I realized that he would be the last of the Orientalists, and that there could be no more in our times.”  Rather than searching for suspended time that is often impossible to find in the West,  it was time for him to travel to the East and look for the contemporary vibe. That is how Grazioli initially started to travel as an integral part of his work. The idea of an atelier that was always on the move, always in new places and ready to immerse itself in new materials and discovered themes was born. ”Found”, “encountered” — these words are recurrent in his work. “Dieux trouvés” is in fact the title of  one of the first works in which the Gods of every “brand,”  as Grazioli calls them, exchange places in a digital collage that reveals apparently improbable symmetries. That work took shape almost by itself after he compulsively collected  paper icons from street temples in India. They portrayed the hundreds of little figures,  “with so many more forms of the divine than I was actually able to conceive in my mind,” he says. Perhaps that is why he started to feel the necessity to simplify them. Instinctively his work became “being available” and in doing so,  time after time something would happen. “Paintings happen,” Mondino used to repeat,  and that’s exactly what Grazioli started to experience on his own journey. The work had to be done constantly: the deep listening, being open to the here and now, the focus on the flow of perceptions. For this reason, Asia has remained so vividly present in Grazioli’s work. “In Asia, what to our Western eyes often seem seem like the ultimate techniques of concentration and revelation of the Self, have actually been considered as routine as daily bread for at least four thousand years. This is how the work evolved, allowing the many themes that fascinated the artist to be introduced one by one, or all together. At the beginning they appeared like the naive imaginings of a typical Westerner’s quest for a better and more authentic form of spirituality. After that phase, something started to stir. The borders between the many concepts began to wear thinner until they disappeared. That’s when Grazioli’s body of work, which seemed rich and varied thanks to the inclusive and assimilating character that is typically Indian , over time began to reveal itself as deeply interconnected and flowing into a single macro theme. “All the brands of spirituality that danced around me like in a Hermann Hesse dream became one, without borders or Icons” says Grazioli.

This process, which started in the first years of 2000, enabled the blossoming of what would become the central theme for the artist : the Environment and life on the planet as the only possible true object of worship. It is the environment and the miracle of life just like that “oneness” so recurrent in the Oriental way of perceiving the universe. An idea that initially seemed so distant and so alternative – the Whole- all of a sudden had become a clear presence in the artist’s perception. With that early intuition and the love of authors like Tiziano Terzani, he set out on a journey as a means to free himself from conditioning, and discovered that borders between cultures are never as marked as they are often depicted, but rather, gradually transform themselves into points of arrival. In Grazioli’s work we see borders in free fall, borders that dissolve the more we look at the work in depth. “True sacredness can be found in nature before it is found in culture,” the artist is emphasising, and “true blasphemy is challenging that.”  Even the war theme that appeared in his work in recent years in the embroidered uniforms is a twist on this same idea. Every war scars mankind and nature, destroying every form of interdependencies in the biosphere. Grazioli works deeply on the concept of “healing” along a trajectory where ethics and aesthetics are joined back together with the urgency of a rip that needs to be restitched. 

The result is an invitation to a collective meditation in order to come back to that inner vibration of our Self that the artist recognises as a true expression of the Sacred, as an element of resonance with the energy of the Whole. A meditation as unique and urgent healing, an antidote to the emergencies the planet is facing. It is through this process that the incense, gold, and myrrh burnable sculptures saw the light. They are powerful art pieces, but at the same time they are impermanent, able to evoke the illusory sense of possession. These are works that carry within themselves the ability—literally—to go up in smoke, which makes them difficult to possess. They hang in the balance between two dimensions, between what is here and now and what used to be but has gone up in smoke or unravelled forever. The metaphor is that of being poised to photograph the present.The challenge is to generate that empathy that can save the delicate balance between ourselves and the planet. Grazioli tells us through his work, whether it is sculpture, paintings or unravelled embroideries, that we are neither guardians nor rivals of nature, but an expression of it.  

Throughout this journey, the artist in recent years has connected up the idea of the therapeutic effect of the artistic process with the concept of “social art.” This has manifested itself in his cooperation with the collective social art ensemble called DMAV (Italian acronym for “from the mask to the face”).  It is another step on the path to the deconstruction of the centrality of the ego in favour of a dialogue and an exchange in which art is placed in a concrete manner in the service of the community in order to enable change. Once again, the intention is stitch back torn fabric and look for a common thread.