Geography of an artistic “excursus”

In the span of human life, there comes a moment in which one must draw up a balance , also mentally sifting as through a sieve, the sand and other loose rock in search of the nugget confirming the goal already reached or still to be reached. It is the outline of an activity in which we pledge our faith, enthusiasms, dejections and the sufferings we had overcome.
Even though this is certainly not a final balance either as to our earthly or artistic presence, yet it is that which adamant time consigns as a documented record of our cultural contribution to society.
It is perhaps what we call “the hour of truth”, i.e. a tangible record of a fifty-year old course which, removing short cuts, accelerations and a rough path hindered by thousands of obstacles, gives us the conclusive though not the final sum of our artistic past.
It is consequently natural for me to go over this course in the contrary sense, starting from my particular bent which revealed itself right from the elementary school and later, in the middle and high school when my inner urge took a graphic form: the volume of my latin syntax filled with numerous illustrations, is a proof thereof.
My choice of classical studies deviated me from artistic studies and I spontaneously began natural self-teaching which has ever since been my artistic “iter”.
The very first expression I recall in this sense, was a mural painting on the wall of our house terrace I executed using the paints left by the house-painters working in our house in Via Celso in Palermo.
The fascination of painting was “in embryo” and it increased as I constantly observed the painters of carts working in Bagheria where I spent my childhood and adolescence.
It was precisely there that the uncontrollable urge took place, when I visited the summer studio of the painter and family friend Nino Garaio. I was mesmerised like a serpent in front of his creations and my vitality was transformed into a partaking meditation. Later on, my first (1951) attempts of pictorial expression were performed on the discarded bed sheets, when each work seemed to gratify my creative fever. Years later, after interruptions, meditations, dejections and the creative ardour which marked my initial course, having moved to Rome in voluntary exile, I acquired a new regenerating lymph, thanks to the encouragement of my famous friend Renato Guttuso whose personality was like a beacon for me in the complex artistic world.
Our warm friendship and my intense work aroused his appreciation and esteem to the point that he presented the catalogue of my first personal exhibition in Rome and he was also present at the vernissage of another two. On the whole I held 47 exhibitions.
Many years before, I made a long stay in Paris – the Mecca of Art – to inhale the exciting atmosphere of the “ateliers” of Montmartre and Montparnasse. I discovered the value of figurative art by studying the Masters of all times. To live this “routine” had been my cherished dream for many years.
From this experience that so impressed me, began my real qualification as painter which, at the same pace, revealed the hidden writer and poet. These activities are natural for me till this day and it is therefore my innate trait to express myself in both.
After my stay on the banks of the Seine, started the phase I call “moments”, characterised by some particular interest.
Thus the ”yellow moment” which frankly had already started in Sicily, when I attempted to grasp the drama of a humanity inserted in a lunar landscape of a sulphur mine, indicating a life of slavery.
This was followed by a “Parisian moment” intended as a discovery of an artistic sacrarium to pay homage to.
The “lunar moment” suggested by the fascinating human exploration, allowed me to unbridle my imagination of a new lunar world and to create imaginary subjects.
Then there was the “eolian moment” of Mediterranian landscapes of some small Sicilian islands having a particular characteristic owing to a non extinct volcano. Perhaps it is there that we would like to live and die. This significant moment of my painting gave birth to that of the “wreck of a boat” left to die on the beach in a poetic halo of luxuriant floral vegetation covering it. That moment perhaps represented one of the most expressive moments of my painting. Most certainly it was the transfiguration of my ego.
However, literature and painting moved at almost the same pace. I dedicated myself to both through the years with discreet success judging by the recognitions I received on a national level, particularly as regards poetry. I made several publications through the years and now collaborate with numerous Italian and Russian literary reviews with articles on art criticism.
Referring to the “moments” described, I must indicate those of complete inactivity necessary for a mental summary and meditation. I consider this inner silence as most constructive because it leads me to other forms of expression.
To-day I am living the moment of “stone men” seen as the petrifaction of human sentiments and the oppression of human rights in so many parts of the world. My voice, though unheeded, is that of a civil denouncement.
My great and inconsolable regret is that of not having followed my great passion; archaeology. Stones speak in their exclusive language: through them we read the history, art, life and even sentiments of disappeared populations. I transferred these emotions on canvass and I described just as many.
My artistic life glided on these foundations between painting and literature and I expressed through them my inner self for fifty years.

Rome, June 2006

Mario Tornello

Mario Tornello (21.10.1927, Palermo – 2.02.2010, Rome) painter, poet and writer.
He held 47 personal exhibitions in well-known Italian and foreign galleries and was invited to participate in over 250 art reviews in Italy and abroad.
His second-last Exhibition was organised in Moscow in 2004 in the Palace of the Nations where he was invited as the first Italian artist since the foundation of the institution.
He is amply represented in publications specialised in art.
His works are to be found in various private and public collections both in Italy and abroad.
Important art critics have written about his artistic activity: F. Carbone, R. Crivello, A. Cremona, R. De Grada, S. Gatto, F. Grasso, R. Guttuso, B. Caruso, E. Mercuri, M. Monteverdi, D. Morosini, S. Orienti, N. Ponente, A. Rigoli, A. Rossi, G. Sternheim, L. Venturi, M. Venturoli and others.
He won numerous national and foreign art Prizes.
He carried out 10 mural paintings in several Italian cities.
In 1988 the “Prisco Production” film studio in Rome made a documentary film “Memorie isolane di Mario Tornello” with the critical text by Renato Civello dedicated to his artistic and poetic actvity.
He is the author of collections of poems and stories: “L’isola della memoria” Ed. Sciascia, Caltanissetta, 1984, presented by Vito Riviello; “A braccia aperte” Ed. Fermenti, Rome, 1994, presented by Marcelo Venturoli;” Il Signor Piazza ed altri racconti” Ed. Aracne, Palermo, 1989, presented by Renato Civello; “Comu petra supra ‘u cori” Ed Leopardi, Palermo, 1995, presented by Santi Correnti; “Il fiore sul vulcano ed altri racconti” Ed. Leopardi, Palermo 1995, presented by Lucio Anzalone; “Rhapsody in blue” Ed. Il Vertice, Palermo, 2001; Calori di Sicilia” bilingual edition of Italian-Russian stories and poems, Ed. Marina, Moscow 2004. presented by Lolly Zamoisky with translation and critique by Irina Barancheeva.
He was awarded the title of Academic “Honoris Causa” by the Sicilian Norman Academy of Palermo and Monreale in 1997 and besides received the Cultural Prize of the said Academy in 2001.

Translated from Italian by Assia Boutskoy