by Giulia Venturini
An enigmatic artwork, laying between the snow-white walls of an unfinished church in Foligno: a cosmic union between sacred and profane.
In the nave of a church dedicated to the Annunciation and suspended between Baroque and Neoclassicism – its beauty and simplicity combined into a space of great symbolic and cultural significance – visitors are awed by a body of time-cancelling perfection; an artwork of historic value for its enigmatic and strongly characterized aura: the Calamita Cosmica (Cosmic Magnet) by Gino de Dominicis.
A monumental mostrum
Time has stopped upon a mighty white skeleton twenty-four meters long, perfectly replicating the bone structure of the human body; the skeleton has a thin and pointed nose, splitting the body in half and introducing conflict and division in the delicate lines of the face, making it some sort of monumental mostrum and generating a sense of inferiority and littleness in the observer. The eyes are sunken into a deep inward gaze, the arthritic hands and the long spindly fingers hold their own mysterious elegance; the only thing that breaks the purity of the white bones is a golden shaft, the so-called magnet, nine-meters high and balanced upright on the phalanx of the right middle finger.
The magnet that tells the time
The name, Calamita Cosmica, derives from the existence of a profound relationship between the white skeleton and the cosmic world: the golden shaft also known as magnet or gnomon, can tell time. The magnetic field created by the shaft pervades the whole skeleton – he is the creator and the beneficiary.
The artist could feel the weight of the human condition and was obsessed by the reality of age and by the cosmos: in his letters on immortality he wrote: «Aging is an illness […] corroding body and mind […] it is a tragic problem […] by stopping time at a chosen age and interrupting age, man would break the spell of the most mysterious dimension regulating the universe, and this would be the first step towards the possibility of a larger comprehension of life».
The masterpiece was shown at Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples, at the Mole Vanvitelliana in Ancona, at the Royal Palace in Versailles, in the square of the Royal Palace in Milan and at the MAXXI Museum in Rome, finding its definitive location in the former church of Holy Trinity in Annunciation, in Foligno.
The unfinished church of Foligno
The church itself has a controversial history and background. It was built between 1760 and 1765 – when it was consecrated – to be one of the most beautiful churches in the Foligno area. It bares the prestigious signature of Carlo Murena, scholar of Luigi Vanvitelli, and was meant to embody the highest architectural ambitions, topped by refined plaster decorations, but was instead left unfinished. From the beginning it had been destined to be a church, instead it was also used as a granary and a warehouse; today it has become an exhibition area. Probably, its bare and unfinished architectures is what makes it such a fascinating space, where time feels still and suspended.
Two realities so far from one another, yet so close. Two completely contrasting styles: on one side, the neoclassicism and perfect architectural design by Carlo Murena, on the other, pure innovation of an immense white skeleton.
Two different and opposing destinations: sacred and profane, two similar yet contrary natures creating the perfect unity in one of the most characteristic cities in Umbria.
Gino de Dominicis
In the second half of the Twentieth century, Italy is enriched by an eclectic artist: Gino de Domenicis (Ancona, April 1st, 1947 – Rome, November 29th, 1998). He studied at the Art Institute in Ancona; in 1968 he moved to Rome, enlivening its artistic scenery by displaying his artworks in the streets and squares. De Dominicis has always been the main custodian and defender of his artworks: with lucidity and relentlessness, during his thirty-year long activity, he tried to subtract them from the homogenization of the mass media and the artworld, escaping any attempt of classification of his research within a specific current and opposing any publication of catalogues and books about his work. Regardless, his artworks were admired in the private galleries and public museums from Rome to Paris, from Grenoble to London, in New York and at many editions of the Venice Biennale.
Especially through his art, but also with verbal declarations and communications, he has always claimed for the visual arts a special mission and condition of existence: his is not an art reflecting on art, but an art that reflects on life.
His artworks reclaim the power of image and tackle the fundamental questions: death, mystery of creation, the end of history and art as a practice to stop time. The objects had to be durable and immobile in their existence, so they could resist; the Calamita Cosmica, immobile for years inside the ex-church of Santissima Trinità in Annunziata in Foligno, perfectly embraces these principles.
N. Bryson, The Buddha of the future in De Dominicis. Selected works on the art and the artist, by Gabriele Guercio, Umberto Allemandi e C. Torino, Stamperia artistica nazionale, 2003, pp. 28-29; G. di Pietrantonio e I. Tomassoni, Calamitati da Gino. Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea di Foligno, 26 November 2011-14 January 2012, promoted by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno, p. 4.
G. Guercio, Raccolta di scritti sull’opera e l’artista, Torino, Umberto Allemandi e C. Stamperia artistica nazionale, 2003, p. 73.
G. di Pietrantonio e I. Tomassoni, Calamitati da Gino, Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea di Foligno, 26 November 2011- 14 January 2012, promoted by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno, p. 3.
G. Bosi, Foligno, una stagione: la città tra Otto e Novecento, Foligno, Orfini Numeister, 2009, p. 100.
Filiberto Menna, De Dominicis o della immortalità in De Dominicis. Raccolte di scritti sull’opera e l’artista curated by Gabriele Guercio, Umberto Allemandi e C. Stamperia artistica nazionale, Turin, 2003, p. 13.