Giovanbattista Vico claims that history is but a cycle of occurrences and recurrences. In short, in history there are some constants. This latest viral pandemic, Covid 19, is certainly not the first that humanity has had to face. Writers and painters in different eras found out how to describe these tragic human scourges (for example, the Black Death of the 13th century that Boccaccio described in the “Decameron,” or Palazzo Abatellis’ fresco in Palermo; Strozzi and Crespi on the plague of the 16th Century; or Apollinaire, Klimt and Schiele on the Spanish flu, to cite just a few.
The same thing is happening today in Italy and throughout the world.
Giacomo Cuttone, in the time of Coronavirus (paraphrasing the book by Gabriel Garcia Márquez “Love in the Time of Cholera”), living in quarantine like the overwhelming majority of Italians (and others), has spent much of his time painting and has truly made his own the words of Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) that “Painting is a ritual that can halt the arrival of death.” The power, magical and salvational, of art. Its ability and capacity to alleviate human suffering in a creative way.
Cuttone wanted to capture on his canvas or on his pages this pandemic that has suspended people’s lives because, in a few years, when this torment is finished, there is a risk that all that remains will be the cold statistics that the survivors, if they are interested, will be able to sift through like a sad page of history, long over and done with.
Now let us undertake together the different stages of this journey.
First stage “Bat in flight”
It all began with the bat (the indicted and alleged diabolical agent….!) Now it flies free in the skies. Reality has two horizons that meet at the margin of the painting. The area between one horizon and the other is depicted as a darker, black space. The virus moves at the bottom – like the sea mines used during the Second World War – in fluid reality.
Second stage: “The black swan”
A black swan dominates the water, taking up almost the entire space. We humans are left only with the space inside our houses. The black swan is a metaphor, or, more simply, an image that symbolizes an unexpected and invisible event which has significant effects, and that an artist represents visually through form and geometry. The theory of the black swan was developed by Nessim Nicholas Taleb in order to explain the disproportionate importance of certain extremely rare events that have great impact but are difficult to predict.
Third stage: “King Covid 19/Poisonous Life”
His Majesty, the king, the despot. The virus has a crown on its head, while through its suckers, it siphons our lives.
Fourth stage: “Quarantine”
The scene, viewed from inside a room, seems surreal or metaphysical. There is no human presence, only long shadows. All seems suspended; abstract, colorful forms float on the surface. The enemy, the virus (the Outside), waits patiently for the propitious moment to attack.
Fifth stage “We’ll make it”
Houses, houses, and…..houses, first dark and then, gradually, ever more colorful as they move towards a horizon dominated by a huge rainbow. It’s a joyful landscape, intentionally naïve, seen through the eyes of a child (the game of life that goes on; hope looking toward the horizon of events). [I actually like “the horizon of events” better because of the play between the philosophical concept and what is expressed in the painting]
Cuttone’s brief journey is a drop of beauty and hope for the future, that suggests: “It is life, more than death, that has no limits.” (Gabriel Garcia Márquez). (Tr. by Anita Hotchkiss)