Giulio Delvè

Giulio Delvè, “Enigma”, 2014 (dettaglio). Courtesy l’artista. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante. | Giulio Delvè, “Enigma,” 2014 (detail). Courtesy the artist. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Photo © Amedeo Benestante.

An eclectic artist, Giulio Delvè (Napoli, 1984) easely ranges from sculpture to installation, from photography to performance. He is a voracious and inquiring observer, driven by an empirical approach, drawing the materials and inspiration for his works directly from the world around him, always starting from real objects refashioned and reinterpreted with new functions. His is a manipulatory approach that seeks to reassemble pieces of pre-existing realities in new contexts, essentially by making them express new meanings. “For this reason,” says Delvè, “if I wanted to sum up my research I would use the expression ‘lateral thinking,’ because my works are nothing more than a collector of apparently disconnected meanings.” His personal mythology is thus rooted in everyday objects, whose meaning, purpose and position often extend beyond their mere practical function to enter into another order of ideas, seemingly incongruous but highly symbolic, capable of creating possible new associations.

Enigma (2014) is a site-specific project emblematic of this working method, conceived for the museum’s “music room”(the lounge area of Madre’s café), exploring the many similarities between musical and sculptural practice. The artist redesigned the whole room, covering it with a row of sculptures/monoliths made from casts of acoustic panels, used in the rehearsal room of a Neapolitan band. The negatives thus obtained in plaster contained all the information and memory of the object copied, a process of transmutation enhanced by the choice of the material used: plaster, which in turn passes rapidly from the liquid state to the solid, an oxymoronic material, whosedurability is inseparable from its inherent vulnerability.

Inspired by the concept of “self-similarity” underlying Fractal Theory, evoked earlier in other works, Delvè assimilated the form of the sound-absorbing panels to the façade of diamond-pointed rusticated stonework of the church of Gesù Nuovo, one of the most important basilica churches in Naples, unique in the history of the architecture in southern Italy. Built before the more famous Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara by Novello di San Lucano (1470), it was originally erected as the residence of the princely Sanseverino family of Salerno – of rare magnificence, declare the chronicles of the time – and was then confiscated at the behest of Philip II under the vice-regency of Don Pedro de Toledo, because the family supported the uprising against the introduction of the Tribunal of the Inquisition to Naples (1547).
Purchased by the Jesuits, the building was gutted, converted into a church (a masterpiece of the flourishing Baroque Neapolitan season) and consecrated in 1601. The façade, slightly modified for the needs of worship, is the only evidence of the building’s previous life. Quite recently (2010), it has been discovered that there are twenty symbols in Aramaic engraved on some of these stones.
They refer to alchemical symbols: some argue that these symbols served as “channels of energy flow,” others that they were used to identify the different quarries from which the stones were extracted; others connect them with the powerful corporations of the maestri pipernieri (“master masons”); others, finally, hold that it is a pentagram open to the sky, a musical score renamed by its discoverers, precisely “Enigma,” a baroque concerto for plectrum instruments lasting about three-quarters of an hour. These same symbols are rendered by the artist in the form of neon lights that function “alchemically” to illuminate the room.

In relation to one of the principles underlying the whole Per_forming a collection project, namely the ties between the museum and the region, here expressed in relation to the neighborhood in which the Madre is active, the Enigma seats – all different and originally created as prototypes – have been recuperated from one of the oldest Neapolitan families of wood carvers and craftsmen producing chairs in period style, whose shop in Vico Limoncelli, a short walk away from the museum, is one of the last survivors of a long-standing generation, keeper of an artisanal knowledge that has been handed down from father to son and fated soon to disappear for lack of descendants, and perhaps surviving only in this “music room.”

EV