MANA: THE SPIRIT OF NATURE
Winter 2013: Los Angeles, or rather Lancaster: during a private visit at the Moah Museum, accompanied by my friend and colleague Andi Campognone who enthusiastically tells me about the project she is about to realize with 10 Californian artists.
This may sound like the opening of a movie script, but it is really, on the contrary, the beginning of a project where precisely a movie becomes the protagonist of an exhibition and the means of virtually uniting two oceans and two very different natures through art; artistic action and the product of creativity, intelligence and human sentiment.
The Mediterranean “hosts” the Pacific, merging with it on a cultural, conceptual and artistic level. The project also sees two institutions, the Moah Museum of Lancaster and Art1307 of Naples join forces to explain how, in spite of geographic and cultural distances, the spirit underlying nature and the ocean and the energy it unleashes may eventually converge in a work of art.
The meaning of this visual and perceptive “adventure” may be summed up as a search for a philosophy of communion with Nature which underlies the life and activities of artists and surfers. A communion of intentions and behaviours, a communion of spirits: a spirituality which is the foundation of both artistic creativity and surfing.
It is a matter of a “system” of life, a “system” of tackling life which the sea contributes to teach, namely absolute respect for our surroundings. The ocean demands to be respected, it instils fear, but it constantly gives and renews life. The basic concept which inspires this exhibition is linked to the relationship between Nature and Art: indeed, this movie is not a documentary on art, surfing or Hawaii; what the movie proposes is a serene and meditative spirituality which is to some extent linked to the principles of ancient pantheistic Hawaiian philosophy based on a serene relationship with nature, which is transferred into a special relationship between things. Zen philosophy and the principle of doing art as expression of spirituality, respect and humility in the approach to Nature and to Man, form a common narrative underlies everything. The artists are free to express themselves as individuals, but at the same time they become part of a natural and mystic scenario, where the mystic dimension has no religious connotation if we exclude a religiosity which is closer to the principles of the “New Age” of the Sixties, united to Nature, which gives this art, in spite of its wholly and profoundly modern character, a “primitive” and uncontaminated dimension, in the sense of a spiritual way of doing art. It is a matter of a profoundly “Western” and modern mystic dimension where the spiritual attitude to the production of the work principally derives from the abandonment of constant intellectual superfetation and is aimed at achieving an almost infantile and naïve approach to artistic creation. The technical experimentation of the individual artistic trajectories do not interfere with a sense of belonging to a greater whole, that gathers and unites.
The new pantheistic mystic of belonging to a whole, as absolute value, is the true common denominator which unites all artists present. A spirit free from intellectualistic compromises and an instinct which “attacks” – or perhaps we should rather say “manipulates” – the matter: this is the inspiring attitude, whose only aim is to express a reality where spirit and matter merges: “I create works of art like nature produces “things”. A lesson about life, about the relationship between art and nature on the one side, and humankind on the other; a “philosophy” which centres on “feeling” nature, listening to it, tackling it and adapting to it, and on “feeling” art with respect, interest, emotion and abandon.