The subject of large-scale migrations is a very topical one in Italy. As a country which has in the past exported so many of its inhabitants to the Americas and, closer at hand, to Belgium’s mines and Scotland’s cafes, the theme is particularly close to the nation’s heart. At last, Italy is relieved to know that the European Union realises that migration is not a phenomenon/problem peculiar to Italy but is affecting the whole continent, indeed the whole world. In particular, the boatloads of human merchandise at the mercy of criminal gangs of scafisti (the Italian word for those extortionist criminals who man the fragile craft facing the Mediterranean crossing from Africa to Europe) which have inflicted their desperate human cargo onto its shores since the 1980’s are now recognized to be a European rather than just an Italian issue.
The theme of migration is such a massive question in Italy (over two thousand drowned in the Med since last Easter) that it is deeply affecting many artists. In last year’s Bagni di Lucca arts festival Anna (Sharane) Darlington’s take on the issue was particularly poignant (see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/bagni-di-lucca-arts-festival-three-times-lucky/ ).
The issue has affected the recent exhibition by Antonella Prontelli at the comune’s Atrium (see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/a-new-artist-reveals-herself-at-bagnis-town-hall-foyer/ ).
In Vezio Moriconi’s exhibition entitled ‘Sulla China dell’arte’ (on art’s Indian ink), which has just opened at Villa’s Shelley House and continues until the end of June, the migration theme is again all-pervading. The theme of the huddled masses, transported like so many egg-cartons and squashed in the depth of ship holds (where they are often left to drown) is paramount in Moriconi’s exhibition.
There are also allusions to the caporalato (work gang bosses) illegal work system whereby clandestine workers are subject to slave conditions at subsistence wages and without any hope of escape in mafia-run farms and factories.
Even when some kind of home is found the refugees are thrusted together in tiny spaces. Here the Corbusian dictum of houses as machines for living becomes transformed into boxes for ‘living’.
There is even a quasi-humorous hint of possible future migrations to exo-planets with bodies climbing up ladders to get their place in the salvation space-ship.
A few of Moriconi’s works move away from the huddled masses theme and concentrate on lonely figures:
(Phantasy to Power – Don Quixotte and Sancho Panza)
Others reduce the number in the multitudes until individuals are able to dance, Matisse-like, and have some fun in increased space, like animals released from zoo cages:
The figures are drawn in a particular semi-grotesque, cartoonish style and their prevalent nudity emphasises their vulnerability and exposure in an unpitying world. Even the appearance of a tie on males and a bra on some females just increases this sense of human defencelessness.
All Vezio’s works in the Shelley House exhibition are done in Indian ink (which in Italy is called Chinese ink). There’s a pun here on the Italian word ‘china’ which means ‘descent’ as well. There’s also an allusion to the restorative quinine plant which is used for certain Italian aperitifs.
A few words about the artist: Vezio Moriconi was born in 1971 in Camaiore where he lives. He graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti of Carrara and also studied sculpture at nearby Pietrasanta. Vezio has exhibited in several European countries and many of his works are in private collections.
Vezio’s facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=vezio%20moriconi