ONORIO BRAVI: Major Arcana
by Gianfranco Lauretano
When facing the subject of the Major Arcana and their endless, fascinating, and mysterious gnoseological implications, Onorio Bravi proceeds according to his method, by now so consolidated, as to have become his own distinct style; namely, that of proceeding in cycles, maybe even obsessions, which have been lengthily explored, at length sought out, watched and investigated. It is as if a fourth language has been added onto painting, sculpture and drawing, which are the three main art disciplines we witness in this great cycle which is time. Or else, maybe for Onorio Bravi, time is just another material, like the mortar of his graffiti or the colors of his paintings. But, in order to achieve the accomplished effect of the final work, one must know how to use it, both in terms of quantity and quality. The twenty-two Major Arcana are, therefore, explored through all the expressive potentialities of the artist, and the result is an extraordinary variety and quality of beauty and reason. The artworks, nonetheless, are not many, maybe four or five, considering even the smallest graffiti and the preparatory drawings. What is amazing here is that every cycle corresponds to a whole body of work, from which it is not possible to remove any single "piece", to underline even the idea of "obsession", of its permanence in the duration of the artist's work and the application of his own thinking to a world, both fantastic and real, in the process of knowledge that takes place in the making.
A classical example, of the fact that time itself is a material, is given by the xylographs, where, for the first time, even color makes its appearance. The entire process that brings a xylograph to its completion is long and trying, full of stopovers, of pauses and restarts. It is not wasted time though, we should call it then "technical" time: it represents the chance of looking at a single sign, at the gesture of one's own hand, an absolute and undisputable gesture in its impossibility to commit a mistake, and at the image, which slowly rises with a rhythm belonging to the past (for an art, surely, with an antique and pre-industrial flavor), as if it were invented at the moment, designed at the same time of its own making.
The fact that the manual work is at the same time spiritual, that of meditation, which transcends the concrete act, can be easily seen in the etchings as well, characterized by the light sign and the anthracite gray. Even in these etchings an outmost refined and careful work is mandatory, there is no double thinking here, beginning right from the traces left on the matrix plates; hence, gesture and thought must necessarily blend, to achieve both the depth and the lightness of the journey, which is, once more, made of time and matter, slowness and precision of the gesture.
The twenty-two graffiti, made with a layer of mortar and lime, and then, skillfully placed inside a theca, remind us of another peculiar quality of Onorio Bravi's work: time, here, as a recall to archaic evocations, to a chronological depth and distance which seem to draw directly from the origins of the artist's first human gesture. There must have been a moment in human history when man, eye and mind all met, and from that meeting, a sparkle, no longer just animal, but finally metaphysical as well, was born. Going all the way down, towards that beginning, seems to be a constant call for this artist. In the smaller twenty-two graffiti, which can be seen together with the bigger ones, and only apparently "minor", a desire to synthesize is actually so strong as to immensely strengthen their being beautifully essential.
Lastly, there are the twenty-two paintings, which probably represent the most narrative moment of this series of cycles. Here, once more, we witness a great interest in the research of colors and in the game of putting them next to one another; a game which has prompted Bravi to consolidate, here as well, his own uniqueness, his own unmistakable style. We could single out a work by this painter just by considering the choice of a single color, which serves the story of a single Arcane, or the symbolic recurrence of each color (just think of the use of green), to testify to the full achievement of his style. Hence, not only the figure, but the color as well, tell us about the Arcane and, at the same time, tell us about the gesture which is creating it.
But why the Major Arcane then? Well, they seem to be well tuned with Onorio's working wonders during the making. They well agree to a fantastic world; they function as a door to a higher world, whose approach, in the poetics of this artist, art has been appointed to. The artist himself has stated that «art is function beyond daily life, it forces us to meditate about higher aspects». This is why we appreciate so much meditation and contemplation of the figure as it is molded by one's own hands, and the time necessary for something to come to life. Something new, which is not simply the work itself, but also a new knowledge; a new discovery; a new contact with a fantastic world, which in turn, by acting inside of us, finds in art a powerful external expression.
This is why the critic Janus has spoken of «highly emotional and surreal works »(meaning "beyond the real", and thus, we could say higher) and of their creator as «a sower of emotions», and of emotions which do not exist just for the sake of themselves, but as part of the intellectual journey into one's own mystery, in so much as the critic himself compares Onorio Bravi's work to that of a farmer or a miner, who is used to descending into the mine of one's own inner light. But what will the artist find in that mine? Nothing that could be exactly confined, but a light, nonetheless; a light of hope that one can see from the distance, in a reality so full of tragic events. And furthermore, we could say that, it is hope rooted into fine and absolutely dignified joy, the joy of colors and signs, as evidence of another distinct aspect of Onorio Bravi, for whom the work of art is always the «fulfillment of a moment of freedom».
Translation Angela Lombardi