No one was more icastic than the French writer Jean La Fontaine (1621-1695) in representing human virtues and weaknesses with bitterly humorous tales centered on social customs interpreted by animal personifications. Epigono of a rich national tradition of comic and satirical stories, he brought together in his work adaptations of ancient texts (such as the fables of Aesop and Phaedrus), coming from the classical Latin, Greek and even Indian culture. Emphasizing with ridiculous situations the consequences of ignorance, greed, hypocrisy, madness and any other deviant behavior, La Fontaine highlighted the eternal dilemma between ethics and cruelty of the natural order of things, which in his work was resolved in a profound and conscious acceptance of the human condition with all its magnitudes and miseries.
The transposition of human peculiarities into the animal world is also a consolidated trick to express without reticence what could be unpopular with censorship or that could be too unpleasant or provocative for the common opinion, as George Orwell has masterfully demonstrated in “The Farm of the Animals” (1945). The stainless vitality of this translation therefore lies in the explosive mixture of irreverent impunity, lucid critical intelligence and compelling narrative immediacy. In recent years this particular kind of moral fable is going through a further phase of creative exuberance thanks to the work of various street artists able to condense imagination and raw realism in a new genealogy of humanized animals that loom over the walls of cities to reproach the beholder the alienation of contemporary society. Also Sardomuto and Ericailcane fall into this category, both internationally renowned muralists who, since the beginning of their careers, have carried out a refined graphic production in which the iconographies and themes addressed at the urban level adapt to the small page format without losing power and incisiveness.
At the Portanova 12 gallery, the two artists present the self-produced publishing project Proverbial Beasts, a mocking catalog of intelligent bestialities that reveal the wonderful incoherence of homo homini lupus. The animals that are the protagonists of the illustrations (in the exhibition we find the original black and white tables made with graphite and pigmented feathers) are identified once again in human beings to interpret mottos and proverbs of Sardinian and Colombian popular culture. The series tells about the study and research that the two artists constantly carry out on the territory in which they operate and highlights the extraordinary affinity of sign and sensitivity that unites them, so much so that only a very careful observation will allow to attribute each table to the respective author. Sardomuto stands out for his vigorous hatching and for a more caricatured expressiveness that recalls the synthetic style of engraving, while Ericailcane is characterized by a subtle and accurate sign that makes the contrast between the “beautiful illustration” and the causticity of the his look at the world even more alienating.
In the gallery the visitor finds himself surrounded by a tragicomic parade of humanized wildness: donkeys, mice, roosters, pigs in uniform, dogs that feast, hares, oxen and crows, each associated with a motto in dialect that reveals how the deepest impulses of the human nature is rooted and ancient, given that, despite the extreme technologicalization of recent years, the most effective metaphors for depicting them are still to be found in the atavistic animal kingdom. As in La Fontaine, the drawings of the two artists combine a pitiless observation of human pettiness and an uneasy solidarity with the depicted characters, whose weaknesses appear as inalienable features of their existence, which unequivocally matches ours. The eyes of the animals, from time to time wise, vicious, stupid, sly, vacant, selfish but always intense and empathic, are fixed in our eyes, nailing us in front of a grotesque mirror of vanities from which it is impossible to escape.
Ericailcane & Sardomuto. Proverbial Beasts
March 8 – 29 2019
Via Portanova 12 Bologna
Sardomuto, Magnendi chi setti gani (mangiando come sette cani)
Ericailcane, RATA: Ladron, malandro, mala persona (TOPO: ladro, malvagio)
Graduated in art history at DAMS in Bologna, city where she continued to live and work, she specialized in Siena with Enrico Crispolti. Curious and attentive to the becoming of the contemporary, she believes in the power of art to make life more interesting and she loves to explore its latest trends through dialogue with artists, curators and gallery owners. She considers writing a form of reasoning and analysis that reconstructs the connection between the artist’s creative path and the surrounding context.