Napoleon’s Inheritance (film locations “seen” by Francesca Groppelli) “ N “
The project we propose aims to investigate the relationship between art, nature, and landscape “through” the character of Napoleon.
Despite the bicentenary of his death, I consider him to still be a part of my personal life.
During my studies at the Brera Academy, I would often spend my breaks in the large courtyard, at the centre of which stands a statue of Napoleon sculpted by Canova, where he is represented as Mars the Peacemaker, in heroic nudity and holds in his hand a small “Nike”, the symbol of victory.
This statue, simultaneously solemn and familiar, made a lasting impression on me, and I marked it as a significant landmark in my artistic training.
When I found it again at Elba, my adopted home, I read it as an important sign.
My research led me to broaden my horizons from sculpture to Public art, understood as the conception, design, and implementation of creative works as a means to restore “locations” that are characterized by a strong history.
In this case, I tried to “revive” a great person by creating a new image that would emphasize the beauty of Elba’s landscape.
The first question I asked myself was:
“Who is Napoleon? Why is there this bicentennial fascination, why does this legend seem so eternal?”
To answer this question I began studying his person at a historical-cultural level, and came to this conclusion:
“Napoleon symbolically represents a man who, thanks to his ability and his luck, riding on the waves of a revolution, has attained both success and glory.”
Then I asked myself:
“How has his image reached us?”
Thanks to my research and my study of the writings and portraits by the greatest artists of the neoclassical era (Ingres, Grosz, David, Appiani e Canova), I’ve been able to give Napoleon a physical identity.
I’ve thought a lot about Napoleon and the use he made of his own image.
Napoleon has skilfully used his image to communicate, and used himself as a political “tool”.
I, being an artist, decided to use Napoleon’s image as an artistic “tool”.
It was with this mind-set that I approached Napoleon, challenging the force and solemnity of his image, trying to interpret it through modern techniques, paving his way to reality by investigating the links between the past and the present.
I began thinking of Napoleon’s PRESENCE/ABSENCE in Elba in these terms:
Throughout his time at Elba, Napoleon had been actually looking beyond; his mind was already considering when, not if, he would return to France and reconquer his empire. On the other hand, even after his departure, he left on the island an imprint so deep that we can still confirm his everlasting presence there today.
The piece I propose intends to express this concept:
Napoleon, at Elba, would look beyond, and today we can look through his eyes.
Is it possible to portray something invisible?
Using contemporary methods (computer, photos…) I select an image, and focusing on the concept of Presence/Absence, blur the image until it disappears, leaving only its silhouette, depriving it of the main body, which becomes “ABSENT”.
The empty silhouette becomes a catalyst in the eyes of the observer, Elba’s landscape is “seen” by both the viewer and by the silhouette itself, “N” becomes a lens that guides our vision.
The landscape, engaged in an eternal dialogue between man, art, and nature thus becomes the protagonist of the work.
The image of Napoleon, standing on the granite stone, facing the landscape extending before him, guides both the sense and direction of our own contemplations.
The man who had conquered the world, and who had been relegated by the winners to the modest kingdom of Elba, must surely have experienced his moments of melancholy, besides his dominating thoughts of “re-founding” his imperial power; which were in reality only the last rays of a glorious sunset.
I therefore propose a sculpture / installation made of an iron plate, 10 mm in thickness, 3 meters in height, and 1.20m wide, in which the outline of “N” is cut out.
This would lean against a mass of granite, symbolizing Elba’s “cliffs”.
“ N “ shall be placed at a vantage point, such that it will be possible to look “THROUGH” him and see the landscape (the sky, the sea…)
The wind will pass through the interior of his figure, and through our imagination, we will be able to hear the sound of his voice.
It will be the “dematerialization” of his character.
The silhouette will act as a curtain, opening up a new possibility in Elba’s landscape:
to act as a window that allows, whoever looks through it, to let their mind wander….
Through “N” you can explore the locations where the short film “Elba: L’Eredità di Napoleone”, was filmed.
WELCOME “N”, Welcome to Elba
NAPOLEON BETWEEN DREAM AND REALITY
Art Projects by Italo Bolano
Italo Bolano, after the exhibition organized by the Tuscan Region at Waterloo in 2002 which was inaugurated by President Martini and later became a travelling exhibit covering Italian and foreign cities, has critically been claimed to be the greatest contemporary painter of Napoleon.
Who would be in the best position to penetrate Napoleon’s character if not an islander and a dramatic romantic like him?
It must be taken into account that, in addition to painting all his life – the first exhibition dates from the age of 14, supervised by prof. Alfonso Preziosi – he has been an art history teacher in public schools and has studied at length the Napoleonic classical painters who preceded him, from Jacques-Louis David to Jean Antoine Gros, to Robert Lefèvre, to Théodore Géricault and so on until Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808.
His studies were assembled and presented at a conference in 2000 on the island of Elba in the Centro Congressuale De Laugier. In addition, the artist has specifically focused on the places that have inspired him, from the landscape of Waterloo to the tomb Aux Invalides, to savour and dream the sensations that radiate from these places.
To date, the Elban artist has produced approximately 200 works of Napoleon including oil on canvas, acrylics and watercolors that were integrated from time to time in the exhibition that began at Waterloo.
In Marina di Campo, his village of choice, that hosts 6 of his monumental public works including the Museo di Arte Sacra in San Gaetano, the Municipality organized the exhibition “Napoleon from reality to dream” open in the months of July and August 2014 .
Bolano is constantly studying the figure of Napoleon in his studio in Prato near Florence, the city where he studied and in his Open Air Museum in the Island of Elba, one of the greatest paths of Contemporary Art in the Region of Tuscany together with the Giardino dei Tarocchi in Grossetano and that of Spoerri on Monte Amiata.
Among his four cycles of paintings concerning Christ, Napoleon, the poet Mario Luzi – who was a friend – and the “Donna-Isola”, Bolano prefers to work on the figure of the Emperor for his affinity with the dramatic personality. No coincidence that the teacher likes the music of Beethoven.
In the never ending quest to create the character, interpreting him in his thoughts of wisdom, philosophy, etc., both in times of war and peace, from the small formated works to large canvases of 100 x 150 cm, Bolano fuels his “Progetto Napoleone” by also integrating it with historical lessons with references to the works in this exhibition, where the catalog also contains the works of private collections in Paris, Dallas, Monaco, Munich, Turin, Milan etc..
The exhibited works bear a title and often have captions taken from his autobiography.
The exhibition Elba of Marina di Campo occupies the entire school Teseo Tesei and reveals expressionism with references to the reality of Italo Bolano and his abstract expressionism.
In this passage the artist, through his chromatic research, takes a pictorial journey that transcends reality to reach the abstraction of the forms where it is the only color to suggest all images already recollected in memory.
We think his best criticism is all in a sentence that Bolano wrote in 1970: “When an object for an interior need moves away from reality, it starts to become the subject, to belong to the artist and through the filter of his soul lives the fantastic new reality of the art transmitting magically and mysteriously the inner feelings, the true language of the artist.”
The works stand out from the walls with violent contrasts of color, sometimes true and real slashes of color, two personalities in comparison.
The exhibition will continue its journey indefinitely in various cities. In the meantime, the master Italo Bolano has joined the project Elbamovie.