Muséo Bellomo Syracusa, Italie, 2003

La mise en place de la sculpture pour le Muséo Bellomo a été jalonnée d’incidents. Le lieu prévu à l’origine, à l’intérieur du Musée, dans la cour intérieur à été écarta en cours de route car les portes et escaliers risquaient de constituer des barrières physiques impossibles à franchir. Mais il n’y avait pas que des barrières physiques, mais aussi psychologiques, l’introduction d’une œuvre contemporaine dans l’enceinte du musée a été vécu par certains comme une ouverture sur le monde moderne, par d’autres comme une faute de goût. J’ai vécu de pareils aventures quand j’ai proposé de mettre une pièce dans la grotte du jardin Balby à Versailles. Un compromis a été trouvé et la sculpture mise en place devant le Musée sur une belle place, mais de façon temporaire. Elle a été déménagée et restructurée pour le château de Ragusa.

‘Paysage Emprunté’; Textes: Gluckstein, Elizabeth Sara (Also curator) and Greco, Vera; Galleria regionale di Palazzo Bellomo; Siracusa, Italy; 18 December 2003 – 22 February 2004 (Vera Greco is director of the Museo Bellomo)

To set contemporary art against the backdrop of its precursors in a historical museum to demonstrate that art is unique, that the chain that connects the minds of the people in time and space does not break; to understand that the emotions reflected in the minds of each of us speak the same language, to read history as an indispensable network into which we weave the contemporary routes of art, to unite in one place, the art of different epochs and to make them one with our soul.
These are the ideas and desires behind Peter Briggs’ proposal to install a contemporary art work that intends, by means of a specifically made composition of mirrors to capture the light, the main actor of all artistic expressions and to amalgamate the shapes with our thoughts and emotions.

Just as we cannot appreciate contemporary music without having assimilated the music of past centuries, we cannot understand contemporary art without the knowledge of its precedents. We need to be able to place things in a context. For this reason, the actual experience of viewing new art work becomes important to us because it represents the beginning of a new period inaugurated by the museum. We find ourselves as we identify with these works and their place in time. This becomes apparent with the museum’s current renovation program, which will highlight the collections and enhance the art works in a prestigious modern architectural project.

Director of the Museo Bellomo


Beyond the Mirror
Over the years Peter Briggs has dedicated his work to the study of the reciprocal relationship between the material and the processes of manual fabrication. The result of this is that he generates a strong tie between a scientific-theoretical basis of his work and a sensorial capacity for exploring the fragments, the traces, the particles of what reconquers his visible entity only within the context of total remembrance.

In the small forms to which the artist made at the beginning of the Nineties, the manual gesture is everywhere present. The traces left by his modelling inform us about the mental destructuring process which is followed by the material re-composition provoking an equivalent process in memory. The large number of objects, sculptures en miniature, the walldrawings, glass pieces and silvered stones bear witness to the craft production of former times and of lost techniques which are given new importance by their transposition from the pre-esthetical level to that of sculpture. The menagerie of these splendid objects where cuts, broken margins and fragmentation are destined to interrupt and diffract the light which will become matter itself, once the art work has lost its visible shape in our eyes.

Nevertheless Peter Briggs’ work is not only orientated towards an artistic-esthetical register but also towards a pedagogic criteria of reception: as the artist practises the visual memory of a fragmented element during the elaboration of a work, the spectator is invited to exercise his gaze in order to explore and rediscover the invisible consoling universe of what does not exist any more, and to complete it, in the sense of an opera aperta, according to Umberto Eco’s definition, in which he indicates infinite interpretive potential.

From 2000 the artist refines his complex analysis of the concept of sculpture and his relationship with the space. His many working trips to India reveal new aspects of his artistic consciousness. Peter Briggs starts again from the first tenets of the art of surfaces, by rereading the important lessons of Rodin, Medardo Rosso, Brancusi, to Moore, Wotruba, Guerrini, facing however new challenges which are increasingly connected with a vision of space. History, the landscape and his experimentation with materials which are functionally innovative, are the premises that generate these sculpted landscapes evolving from the architect’s view, from the historian’s vision and from the landscape architect’s plans. Spaces becomes for Briggs a physical reality and therefore a determining factor of realisation.

The first example of this approach to total art which finds it expression through the relationship with space, with architecture, and through the use of precious materials, is the sculpture Paysage emprunté, planned for the Palm Garden in the Museum Bellomo in Siracuse. In the course of many years the artist has studied English historical gardens which are structured on the basis of a postulate: to create a green artefact in the centre of a pre-existing landscape and metaphorically to open windows with a view on this landscape in order that they be reflected within the hortus conclusus. This genre of gardens was inspired by Claude Lorraine’s paintings, who himself worked in the countryside around Rome. He was equipped with a convex mirror in smoked glass which concentrated and reduced the different reflections into an image that was nearly black and white.

As a parallel action to the mirror in Claude’s hand the artist projects the landscape into a minimum of space, the space of the palm of the hand, an intimate space, a tactile one, in which it would have never been visible without the exercise of memory narrating what cannot be seen. It is the same dialectic construction between the visible and the invisible which can be applied to the sculpture project Paysage emprunté. A block of asphalt stone, brought in from elsewhere is relocated in a small rectangular garden situated between tow palm trees in the museum courtyard.

In this hortus conclusus of absolute perfection the stone worked in a vertical form and with particular attention to the exposed surfaces, becomes a geographical mark while the elements in blown silvered glass which are placed at the base of the vertical stone piece, capture optically the invisible inside the architectural closure of the garden which, however, offers an unencumbered view of the sky. The elements, shaped in the form of a comma provoke two different effects: the spherical part embraces global space while the cylindrical parts reduce the view into a series of parallels. The fascination of Paysage emprunté stems from tow antithetical factors, by the rhetorical conflict between closure and opening, coherence and incoherence, the visible and the invisible.

The slumped glass, silvered mirrors exhibited in the open-air halls near the Palm Garden refer back to the significance of Paysage emprunté, the topic of spatial transformation, its expansion by means of volume and the qualitative extension of the surface. The convex mirrors invite us to cross the border, not to cope, in the meaning of Lacan, with the structural crossing of two roads, but to take advantage of the mirrors’ phenomenology: here the body’s perception, the thinking, the consciousness of one’s own subjectivity, the mirror’s experience as a phenomenon of border and semiosis represent moments of the same creative process, imaginative, symbolic and in the end semiotic.

Elizabeth Sarah GLUCKSTEIN