Exegi monumentum aere perennius
Miquel Ambròs i Albertí
Theologist and expert in oriental sciences
introduces the book “Approach” on Dettoni’s art 2001
Exegi monumentum aere perennius. This verse from Horace reminds me that there are works that gain fleeting success and works that endure, asserting themselves, ultimately without creating too much fanfare. And so, Crones devours his children, demonstrating that what seemed everlasting is instead short-lived.
Contemplating and holding the work of Guido Dettoni allows me to understand that a real work of art discovers, clearly reveals -like aletheia, the “truth” in Greek- those decisive forces that each of us carries within and that perhaps were lying hidden. His work establishes itself, not from the external, but rather from what is derived internally by whoever holds and contemplates it. Such artwork unveils the latent unity in the temporal three dimensions: it has roots in the past which it recreates, it is installed in the present, and it is laden with the future. It does not affirm itself by surprise effects, but by means of its ability to entice, which also implies a critical capacity. By this I mean that this artwork, apart from its capacity to amaze and fascinate, actually transcends and transgresses.
It transcends its creator, slipping out of his hands and acquiring a life of its own, to the extent that future generations may forget the name and identity of the artist, but not the artwork which will instead remain.
It transgresses by not following the rules which time (the fads, the customs, what has always been seen and what we expect to see) has converted into norms of acceptance for what is “artistically correct”. In other words, a work of art should be revolutionary and perhaps also artistically incorrect. It is one thing to be carried away by the spirit of the time, and another by the spirit itself. As Hegel writes: the spirit is not something which lies still, but it is something absolutely restless, pure activity.
Approach to Guido Dettoni’s art
The Netherlands / 2020
To approach the œuvre of a prolific artist still creating, is a daunting task unless we limit ourselves to describing the essence and origin of his artistic work: namely that he discovers several human scenarios –spiritual/emotional/cultural/symbolic- through shaping matter in his hands. With only the hands seeing, Guido has created in many works tactile iconic shapes that reflect the pre-verbal awareness and states of being: combining the cultures he has been immersed in with the zeitgeist of a shared now, so that the viewer/holder and the artist/creator bridge the experience of an outer touch from the hand and eye to an emergence of inner awareness.
Guido’s artistic-self is revealed in the park of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, where he played as a child with the mud at the foot of a fountain. On so many days he would begin his adventures in a spirit of game-play and joy, his child-self modelling the mud into shapes, appearing and disappearing between his hands as he named them with each new discovery. That simple beginning near his childhood home in Milan would be recreated one day when his hands, shaping with eyes closed, stopped at one shape, only to discover that in this one shape were realities born inside him, appearing like film frames generated by the different viewpoints. He also realized that the shape contained in his hands -once enlarged- would be able to contain his body. We contain what is containing us: metaphysical concept becomes physical reality.
This act of rebellion in creation, of shaping matter without sight and without a defined intention, was set in motion from early on. Watching his mother, a sculptress and his father’s entrepreneurial inventions he could feel the art crouching inside him, but demanding expression outside his comfortable surrounding given by the family and its tradition. At 15 years old, Guido left the Jesuit school of San Carlo Borromeo in Milan and migrated to Germany. He started to work in a factory near Düsseldorf continuing the practice of the arts determined to find his inspiration and independence.
Since that first journey from home in 1961, Guido Dettoni della Grazia trained in the traditional pencil, colour and art schooling to create from experiences of the eye, only to return to his fascination with matter being shaped within the hands. In his journey as an artist and human, he would one day once again see with eyes closed as he did in his childhood, as if time had stopped. The same lack of intention (or his guessed intentions) and the simple state of being, became a place of creation, a window into inner awareness, spirituality and memory thru the shaped clay and wax.
The inspiration of each creation, made manifest with the medium which best expressed his artistic vision, has continually led Guido to rebel against restrictions on his vision, his spirit and his art. Across all his work, whether in two or three dimensions, that encompass mediums of canvas, clay/wax, and digital reality, there is an infusion of Guido’s continued sense of inspired adventure into perception, awareness, states of being and the Divine.
His work awakens our own sense of wonder and becomes a tool of our spirituality inviting us to join him on his journey of discovery.