The “Montale out of the house”. The art of Emilio Isgrò, for the love of the word

The artist Emilio Isgrò has just published the poetic collection

The artist Emilio Isgrò has just published the poetic collection “Yes to the night”, published by Guanda – Archivio Emilio Isgrò

“Often love is a breath that remains / in mid-air, suspended in the dust / of things thought but not said / for fear that they are insane desires”. They are verses taken from First love, one of the 265 sonnets of Emilio Isgrò’s latest poetry collection: Yes to the night. The volume published by Guanda (276 pages, € 19.00) is presented today at Palazzo Reale in Milan on the occasion of the “Montale fuori di casa” prize, literature section, which President Adriana Beverini will deliver to the Sicilian poet, artist and writer. Eighty-five springs and the smile of youth that illuminates the gaze: for over sixty years the word has been at the center of his creative path, the spoken, written word and the canceled word.

Yes to the night was born during the pandemic. What message do you entrust to these pages?

What I wanted to say, in the end, the reader must say. Otherwise the author would speak only to himself. An artist, a poet never really knows what he wants to say, as the all too quoted Borges affirmed. Because poetry is a sort of social responsibility, and the community turns to it to draw on a transcendence or spiritual goods that are lacking today. Starting from love, sacred love and profane love, which runs through these verses. I wanted to build a book in which, with the recovery of the sonnet, the word returned to the foreground.

Yet his art is in the sign of the la erasure, has to do with the negation of the word. Of course, not as annihilation, but in the radical attempt to grasp the essential, to seek a center, a question, an authentic meaning, an unveiling … Because those black lines, spread over thousands and thousands of words and pages, hundreds of canvases and panels, they are not small graves in an infinite cemetery, but an invitation to adventure. A research that leads where?

I have never deleted the word for an iconoclastic taste, but to signal its importance. After all, the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart wrote that only the hand that erases can write the truth. We then think of God who hides himself before Moses, somehow cancels himself behind the burning bush. Everything that matters must be at least partially invisible because only in this way is it possible to grasp it with the heart and not with the epidermis.

The poetic discourse arises at the beginning of his creative path and feeds it: it is from 1956 Southern fairs, which will be followed by eight collections and the fruitful season of “Visual Poetry”, in the surprising, joyful and sometimes provocative dialogue between word and image. In her, poetry has to do on the one hand with the mystery, something that becomes present, that questions us, but which never reveals itself fully, and on the other hand with love (the gifts she offers to Scylla, his bride, are always verses). Because poetry is so central to his path creative?

Because the word is central in my life. It is not by chance that I started out as a poet. And when, at the beginning of the sixties, I brought the words into the paintings or I deleted them Americans, I wanted to drag the instances of the word into the world of the arts, where it had never been seen in these dimensions and in these measures. Today works by European, American and Chinese artists are full of words more than Joyce’s Ulysses. There will be a reason for this. The truth is that visual art risked becoming, especially if managed with the criteria of Pop Art, a form of universal approval. When I met Pop Art, which I also admired a lot for its expressive power, I understood that the word would be the end. And a question spontaneously arose in me: the leaders who have been able to transform European emigrants, of very different languages ​​and cultures, into a new great people, thanks to comics and cinema, do not want to extend this experiment of homologation to the whole world ?

And this is exactly the case if we look at the first great globalization, which is not in the name of goods, but of the arts: through Pop Art (with other purposes also through conceptual art) America tries to impose its own cultural model. Andy Warhol makes consumer objects real icons and at the end of this process the great religious symbols, which refer to the Beyond, are supplanted by the logos of the big multinationals. Everything becomes flat in the horizon of the new god: the god of profit celebrated by the rite of consumption…

Yes, but compared to the first globalization today we feel the need for a spirituality that frees us from a vision that reduces man to a pure instrument of profit. Consumption must be done for man, not man for consumption, to paraphrase Jesus. The Church has always known how to value the difference of cultures and peoples, especially since the Second Vatican Council. Why shouldn’t secular society do it? Why does everything have to be approved for the consumer society? The Jews say that where there is conflict there is God: a conflict of emotions, ideas, values, certainly not of warring war. Don’t be afraid of the difference.

In Yes to the night she writes: “It is only permissible for poets to blaspheme.” Thing It means?

Only a world that accepts even uncomfortable artists is a world that is saved. Because it accepts the madness of the world, and the madness of the world sometimes coincides with mysticism. And if there had not been those who, even within the Church, had bordered on heresy, a new language would probably not have been possible to tell the usual truths. Francis is a pope who dares, and precisely this daring of his makes those who do not believe think that God exists, whereas once it was the laity who made religious doubts.

You have embraced all fields of art. What is art, and how is it possible today to express beauty?

“Art is a way to restart the wheels of the world when they are sunk in mud, and in this sense, even on other levels, it is no different from religions. In difficult moments, art is a form of education in beauty, not so much understood in the traditional sense, but as an affirmation of human values: the beauty of justice and freedom. Beauty is seeing things that always amaze you, it is the possibility of tapping into the authenticity of the world and of man. A beauty that only touches the eye is of no use to anyone. True beauty is that which strikes the hearts of men to free them from their prejudices ”.

The “Montale out of the house”. The art of Emilio Isgrò, for the love of the word