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Tamanini, Settimo - VM - Elizabeth Kwant

Settimo Tamanini: Trees of Great Mothers

To the Roots of Life

by Elizabeth Kwant

Entering into the Church of St Ignatius (Rome) from the vivid sunshine of the street, its soft contemplative light, hallowed, invites stillness in the viewer. I'm drawn into the majestic domed nave of the baroque basilica, not only for the beauty of its richly ornamented altars or the frescoes on the ceiling ... but for the trees! Copper branches glisten in the light, stretching up to the vaulted ceiling, twisted, contorted, of varying sizes and shapes, some endowed with fruit – apples, figs and pomegranate – others bathed in fire, referencing Moses and the burning bush.

Baudelaire wrote:

Nature is a temple in which living pillars
Sometimes give voice to confused words.
Man passes there through forests of symbols
which look at him with understanding eyes.

The sheer scale of Settimo Tamanini's Trees of Great Mothers: Fruit Trees from Palestine, entices the viewer to contemplate their rich symbolism through the physicality of an immersive experience, echoing the call of wisdom in nature itself. From the almond tree – Tree of Amazement – to the fig tree – Tree of Hospitality – Tamanini references the rich history of trees in the biblical narrative tradition. Of the almond tree he writes: ‘The almond tree is the first among the trees to blossom. It is par excellence the sign of spring and rebirth.’

Tamanini remarked: ‘Art as a way towards beauty represents a great challenge and responsibility for contemporary artists: that of offering, through its universal language, a visible image of the fertile and silent activity of invisible wisdom.’

Tamanini is not alone in his pursuit of beauty, sustainability and human responsibility. Frederico Pelicon, the exhibition’s curator, cites the early speeches of Pope Francis, who from the beginning of his pontificate ‘has invited us to safeguard creation, at times speaking forcefully of our need for custodians of beauty, and encouraging us to be on guard against greed so that we may overcome it.’

Indeed, it is noteworthy that on the occasion of the Great Jubilee in 2000, John Paul II chose to address artists with a letter: ‘None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when – like artists of every age – captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.’

Entering the sacred space of St Ignatius, meandering beneath the copper branches reflected in deep shadows upon the ancient basilica walls, I am reminded of the power of image and symbol to penetrate our hearts, reintegrating word and image. ‘And when image is done well, the image speaks.’ (Liviu Mocan).

I pick up the exhibition catalogue and read the opening lines...

On a winter day
A desert father
Asked an old,
Black and withered tree:
"Talk to me about God."
And the tree blossomed.

(Unknown author)

*******

Settimo Tamanini: Trees of Great Mothers - Fruit Trees from Palestine2016. Alla Radici Della Vita / To the Roots of Life was shown in Church of St Ignatius, Rome from 18 February - 3 April 2016.

Image 1:  Almond Tree “Tree of Amazement”, 2016, pure copper blowtorched and forged by fire, 350 x 350 cm.
Image 2: Olive Tree “Gethsemane Tree”, 2016, pure copper blowtorched and forged by fire, 350 x 350 cm.
Image 3: Pomegranate “Tree of Prosperity”, 2016, pure copper blowtorched and forged by fire, 300 x 200 cm.
Image 4: Chestnut Tree “Tree of Generosity”, 2016, pure copper blowtorched and forged by fire, 500 x 450 cm. 

All images copyright © Mastro 7 by Pierluigi Cattani Faggion.

Settimo Tamanini (Mastro7) was born at Mattarello (near Trent, Italy) on 2.12.1943, where he lives and works as a sculptor and jeweller. He has exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include “Oradea” or “Guardians of Soul”, Romania 2015. The “Italian Pavillion of Trentino - Alto Adige”, 54th Biennale of Venice, 2011 and “Roots of Light” Trente, 2007. Further Information: www.mastro7.it

Elizabeth Kwant is a practicing artist and curator based in Manchester (UK) where she curates The Alexandria Library Exhibitions programme and is an Associate Member of Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces and a member of Rogue Artist Studios. She has an MFA from Edinburgh University. Further Information: www.elizabethkwant.com

ArtWay Visual Meditation April 17 2016