The present article is a shorter version of the original that appeared in Italian: “La bellezza e’ made in Sicily: Carlo Coniglio, il designer che seduce ispirandosi a Dante”
Baroque, flowers, and the poetry of Dante, the Supreme Poet: the photos of the event “Infiorata di Noto 2021” went viral in the last weeks and they attracted international media. The concept of Beauty itself had an important starring role in the graphic project proposed by Carlo Coniglio, the Sicilian artist, who loves mixing tradition and contemporary art. From fashion to paintings and design, Carlo Coniglio’s experience is respectful of the Italian cultural heritage and points towards innovation at the same time. And from the alleyways of Ortigia Island (Syracuse), where he lives, the designer confirms that his art is inspired by Greek masterpieces, Leonardo and Andy Warhol.
Beauty is made in Italy. Often, in Sicily.
How did the project in Noto come about?
“I had already been involved in one of the previous editions of the event in 2018. That time the theme of the stairs was China.
This year I was invited to create a graphic project whose main theme was Dante Alighieri and his wonderful masterpiece.
You know, I am attracted by strong contrasts and symbolism. I like to break standard schemes to evoke new ones. So, in this case I did want to blend a pop representation with a contemporary performance.”
Why do you think you hit the mark? Your work was highly appreciated by both Sicilian and digital visitors.
“Honestly, I cannot explain it. From the beginning I conceived the stairways to be a sort of stage to tell stories.
And I also wanted the viewers to be part of the show, too. Now, people visiting Noto can still go up and down the stairs, take pictures and change perspective.
I also wanted to include Covid-19 in the images. It is represented in the stairway of Hell through skulls, horned devils, a “crown”, dark roses, and flaming wings; a creepy character with a surgical mask surrounded by syringes and snakes.
The color of Purgatory is yellow, my favorite color. I usually combine it with the concept of “transition”.
A row of characters awaiting their turn, an egg on a column capital and a hand symbolize the path of transformation while a naked woman above is ready to take flight.
And then the Paradise is blue like the Sicilian skies in May. A Greek column with a sort of Beatrice / Madonna/Popess in ecstasy on it. On the top a sacred heart, the so called “ex-voto”, and the wings of a dove.
At the bottom, a garden of red roses and three sleeping golden figures. That’s peace.”
How did you combine the beauty of literature and the location with disruptive and digital Beauty? What inspired you?
“Noto is already a source of great inspiration. Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” as a theme is likewise very inspiring. Both things, which I sum up in the expression “Divina Noto”, somehow boosted my imagination.
Dante’s circles reminded me of the baroque architectural shapes, the theatrical vision of churches, the entire prestige and power of buildings.”
Sicily is history, art, culture. Like most of Southern Italy, it seems to be somehow reluctant towards contemporary art. What is your opinion on this?
“Sicily is a sacred place. Millennia of history and so many cultures have made the island unique. Even with its contradictions. Here blood, tears and art can flow together like the magma of Etna. We are geniuses and artists, saints and warriors, writers and demons. strength and weakness, beauty, and self-destruction. Perhaps Sicilians are terrified by what is new.”
Art often means transformation and regeneration. It merges symbolism with contemporary feelings. Do you believe that (from an artistic point of view) the Made in Italy has an advantage in this?
“Nowadays the future of our country is art. Unfortunately, politics does not take this truth seriously into consideration.”
Is art mere beauty and contemplation or is it also responsibility?
“In my opinion, art is personal. It depends on you and your inner soul. It is like a mirror. You look at it and you read it through yourself.”
Who are the masters that inspired you?
“I’m Italian, we breathe beauty from the time that we are born. I started to draw when I was very little. As a child I wanted to be a magician or an inventor. Well, I made my dream come true: I create “things” with a touch of “magic” today and this makes me happy.
About my inspirational sources, I’m crazy about Greek art, the Italian Renaissance and American Pop Art.
Fidia, Leonardo and Andy Warhol are my masters. I remember clearly that my life changed in 1990 after visiting the Warhol exhibition at Palazzo Grassi in Venice. That day I understood my way to art.
Warhol is the best example of the extraordinary Pop Art. It is impressive for its simplicity, for its “pop” communicative power; but it was also disruptive because it subverted the rules of art. It codified a recognizable style, which mirrored the culture of that time perfectly.
Your career is a long journey through art. What does your research aim towards and what are your future projects?
I approached fashion, communication, graphics, photography, painting and sculpture more than thirty years ago (sigh!). Today I also deal with interior design, which gives me the chance to mix all of them. Next, I would like to open a new creative studio where I could concentrate energies together with other artists.”
Is there anything, outside art, that you have not experienced yet but you would like to dare?
“Well, I would like to own a sort of bistro full of stylish armchairs and sofas, where people could listen to good music and drink excellent cocktails”.