Critical Judgements

Renato Guttuso

Tornello belongs to the meditative Sicilian race; rather solitary and pensive. He attentively tries the same motif several times. For a certain period he was fascinated by the possibility of organising the space on his canvass autonomously, though always based on something deriving from nature.

Raffaele De Grada

Tornello’s exhibition is not only a certain number of pictures, it is something different and new, it gives you the impression that he is pouring out his heart, just as in some contemporary stories. There is no ceding to decoration, of beautiful painting. Tornello uses the sign, the colour, as though they were letters of the alphabet. He does not see the sign as ugly or beautiful, there is just the sign there is no attractive mixture of colours, there is simply the association of colour.

Giacomo Porzano

Tornello’s topical interest, his stupefying critical sensibility makes him to-day a “socially valid” artist in the sense that he culturally contributes to the innovating process of the Sicilian figurative tradition. The sun, the light, the taste, I would say, of a land which has become a new fable or invigorated by the result which the artist proposes to us.

Paolo Mannoia

Mario Tornello expresses in his paintings his love for his land, just as Ciardo does for Apulia and Tosi for Lombardy.

Giuseppe Bonanno

Mario Tornello is an autodidact, a painter by instinct who draws from his palette the strangest colours, just as he feels them. A painter who has matured gradually imposing on himself a discipline and after a period of research has achieved his personal language.

Aurelio Rigoli

The artist has never failed to follow his free personal interpretation of reality; and reproducing it he always expressed his moods, both when he painted “the salt mines”, or the less reproduced quarters of Paris which were nearer to his sensibility, or when he depicted the typical Sicilian courtyards or the countryside of the island, the churches, the factories, or even the typical figures of pedlars, miners, seamstresses etc.

Francesco Carbone

His painting is born as a sentiment, as a poetic fact: his gaiety and his optimism are the result of his particular sensibility. His cultural interests derive from it, just as his initial pictorial realism not exaggerated in manner, but rendered both as drama and poetry in the language of his colours, in the chromatic solution of the canvasses, in those post-cubist thickly laid volumes, in the articulate design, in the resolute backgrounds, sometimes soft and sometimes monochromatic. His pictures were exposed in numerous collective exhibitions together with those of Guttuso, Greco, Attardi, Caruso. For Tornello, however, superior to any other prize, is the fact that Picasso, when organising an exhibition in Rome, Paris and London invited him to include also two of his important drawings together with those of Morandi, Guttuso and Capogrossi.

Franco Grasso

Tornello proceeds slowly, without sudden exaggerations, he always keeps an eye on the right direction even in bad times which had waged under our skies. Having left Sicily, the Roman entourage pressed him to create a solid occupation, eliminating all that could be considered mannered, not authentic in his art and to keep an eye on the development of modern problems, without sacrificing his native enthusiasm, his faith in art, his love for colour.

Elio Mercuri

It seems that a vision incarnates Tornello’s sentiment; a vision which every return of spring is awaiting for him in his far-off island of Sicily, that of a wreck of an abandoned boat within which grows a marvellous plant, like the small green plant in the ankylosed hand of an Indian fakir, that force of nature which bursts out uncontrollably and expands and makes us live and sweeps aside melancholy and the primary fear. Our fear of living.

Simone Gatto

From a volcanic landscape to a lunar one, from the lava to the fossil, the passage is short, but above all it is inevitable for a Sicilian like Tornello, who wants to reach the extreme consequences, forging ahead without repentance or hesitation.

Pietro Buttitta

Tornello, presented by Renato Guttuso, seems to be interested above all in the human figure. The stylistic means, however, through which he tries to visualise with nobility his feelings and his emotions, according to Guttuso, is a sort of archaism drawn directly from the prehistoric grottoes of Addaura and from the traces left in Sicily by the Phoenicians and the Arabs. The effect for the spectator is comparable to that aroused by similar operations made in Italy by such painters as Campigli, Sironi, Cagli, Mirko etc.

Bruno Caruso

The painting of Mario Tornello and the material of his pictures have become petrified with time in an irreversible process of hardening like that of the solidifying cement; almost as if the poetical effect of the liquid humours , evanescing langours, the humid softness of just evaporated colours, wanted to reach a point or a moment of a stony and essential hardness. Following this path, i.e. the procedure of Tornello’s work, we see the yellow sulphur mines of Sicily studded by black holes like some antique necropolis, then the white Eolian houses surrounded by Indian fig trees, the deserted beaches with green spots which arise spontaneously in clusters. Then, suddenly, these landscapes have disappeared as though buried by the lava of a hypothetic volcano which burns the last bushes of life and implacably covers the surface of that strip of an ideal land which the picture encloses, suffocating above all the hope of the message which is always hidden in the painting.

Melo Freni

Tornello has become one of the most vivid personalities of his season. He is technically impeccable, both in the tempera and in oil paintings. One should rather speak of the poetical interpretation of Sicily made of Stromboli and wind, an enchanted dimension of space where lines and colour stiffen to give the painting a new and mythical effect, fruit of the lessons Tornello has digested to offer his own experience as an artist.

Renato Civello

The island without time, the happy and bitter island is still music to the heart of the artist; and it is ever in his thoughts like a subtle diagram which reassembles all the sense of reality. It is in the deformed canvass on which mountains and waters and villages dazzled by the sun in its zenith will take consistency, as a place of memory and invention. Mario Tornello, the Sicilian of Rome, loves this space devoid of structures which he will fill with life; the most scrupulous professional approach, equilibrium of prospect, dosage of light, a strict process of laying colour are the basis of his language, both concrete and visionary, made of things and indefinable vibrations.

Renata Usiglio

It was after the award of the Tettamanti Prize that I heard of Tornello. Someone had proposed him for a prize (later awarded him) and expressed his opinion of the artist and we spoke with Quasimodo of the fate of an artist who is born too early (or too late) with regards to the ideal trend of his time. I then remembered what I had said some time before to someone I considered to be the most famous Italian sculptor: “What luck for you to have been born in 1908! Had you been born some years later, you would never have become Manzù!” It was Tornello’s destiny to be born in 1927, to appear in his world of art only at the twilight of a fervid season, which many facts made one think would have been his. The fact that even in his most dreamy symphonies of colour, he never renounced form; that in the present ostentation of an ideological and a conceptual void he always had the idea and the will to express it; and finally his passion for archaeology and for the art of the past centuries which he wished to retain and to continue the lesson they had given.

Giovanni Cristini

There is in Mario Tornello, just as in his painting, a frenetic urge to express himself and to communicate, an inner readiness to love and to be generous

Santi Correnti

The poems of Tornello are not read with the eyes but with the heart because they are written with the heart of a devoted son and an enamoured artist.

Gabriella Sobrino

I recall the evening he presented himself with a bundle of papers. I immediately thought they were new drawings. What else could I think knowing Tornello, the painter? I remember well it was I who suggested to him to publish his poems which I immediately found very beautiful. Since then I became the “secret reader” of Tornello’s verse.

Pino Giacopelli

In Mario Tornello’s poetry you can feel the wish his soul seeks and which he transforms into an offering of his spiritual sensations that in the poem “Littra a dda Sicilia buttana”, reaches the apex of a poignant lyricism.

Aldo Gerbino

Is the island a geographical condition or something more? Perhaps it is a continuous rage, a tormenting bitterness, or perhaps a “sweet” poison which season with literariness the grey and monotonous days which imprison the existence of most of us? The twenty compositions of Mario Tornello entitled “L’isola della memoria” (Ed. Sciascia, 1984) form both a temporal (1961-1983) as well as a geographic (Palermo-Rome) itinerary. The themes are those of Tornello, the painter: that obsessive rhythm of time – that time which is that of memory and of time gone by.

Lucio Anzalone

Mario Tornello is a poet now considered as a firm and compulsory point of reference in Italian culture.

Salvatore Di Marco

When speaking of the Sicilian diaspora, Turi Vasile, the well-known director, playwright and writer, born in Messina, asserts that to-day the true Sicily is not found on the island but in its diaspora. Taken literally, Vasile’s idea sounds like a provocation, but it is more truthful, I should say, when considered in its metaphoric value. Mario Tornello, painter, writer and poet, born in Palermo, who calls himself a Sicilian exiled in Rome since 1960, has vividly conserved his Sicilian sentiment. He passed his childhood, adolescence and youth in Bagheria and Palermo. And to-day – paraphrasing Turi Vasile – there is more of Palermo in his writing than can be found in that city ( or, I imagine, in Bagheria) to-day. This element is present in many of his stories (in syntony with such Sicilian writers as Vincenzo Consolo, Andrea Camilleri, Turi Vasile, Antonio Castelli, Melo Freni and some others) and can be read both in “Il signor Piazza ed altri racconti” (Palermo, 1989) and in “Il fiore sul vulcano” (Palermo, 1995).

Alfredo Muzio

Mario Tornello expresses in his own way his sentiments and his concept of reality: had he acquired the technique, he would have expressed them in music, but words have no secrets for him and he manages to describe in a marvellous and disarming poetical language all that is universally valid in his personal sentiments and memories.

Irina Barancheeva

In his lyrics as in his painting, Mario Tornello expresses himself freely and courageously, never following any current, trend or group, and if painting reflects all the sides of his nature, even the most hidden ones, poetry renders the ideal and the highest part of his soul.

Giorgio Tellan

“Very few artists have the privilege of realizing their ideas: Mario Tornello is one of them .The ideas are brought to him on wings of history which he interprets not only rationally but also with a particular and manifold imagination rooted deeply in the millenary culture of his native Sicily.
Heir of this great tradition, which at the court of Frederick II became the cradle of the first Italian literature, a meeting-point, a crucible of all the greatest minds of the period, an “ante literam” example of the artistic-cultural ecumenism, Tornello, painter, poet and writer, has the gift (characteristic of great souls), in spite of the noise of modernism, of listening to the chirping of a sparrow, the whisper of the tide, the splash of the waves against the boats on the shore.
His curious eye attentively watches nature ( when not yet destroyed by man), the change of customs, of traditions but also the destruction of harmony provoked by many sculptors and architects: therefore there arises a cry of rebellion of both man and artist appealing to stigmatize the suicidal folly of this society which, with its frenzy of gain, does not only rob our children of their dreams but also the Earth of its future”.

Anna Ventura

Mario Tornello has been an affectionate and sincere friend, a valuable man of letters and a man who lived his life well till the end. His memory will comfort us for the loss; his many writings, his painting, will certainly outlive him. I shall remember him as a very special person, of great human and cultural value.

Elisabetta Di Iaconi

My personal memory, based on a few telephone calls and few contacts, is that of his gentlemanly manner and goodness of heart.

Giovanna Tornello

Mario Tornello had been a painter, a poet and writer. Born in Palermo, he started his artistic life as a painter. When he moved to Rome, where he lived for half a century, he held personal exhibitions and participated in over 200 exhibitions in Italy and abroad. However Tornello always loved his Palermo and whenever possible returned there. He was well-known in the city. He collaborated with literary reviews and his works have been translated in many languages, especially in Russian by his wife Irina Barancheeva, Rome correspondent of the “Literaturnaia Gazeta”. Those who loved him, remember him in his studio always vivacious and radiant, with the enthusiasm of a child. He continued his artistic activity till the end.

Translated from Italian by Assia Boutskoy