The story of the mountains, the snow and the ice of Africa quadrimensionally characterizes the work by Angelo Bellobono. A story which, more than any other, casts light on the most visionary and unusual aspects of his work as an artist as well as of his private life. A baffling mixture that blends together his nature of painter and ski instructor in order to develop what is perhaps his most ambitious project, that is establishing a new concept of humankind, places and borders, and also building codes and frameworks of communication to relate, both profitably and humanly, to the place and to its community, intertwining life and professional skills under only one name: Atla(s)now. [download pdf][ read more ]
Originally conceived with such outlooks, Atla(s)now is a project that talks through the voices and the work of hundreds of people contributing to widespread the project throughout the territory, but before listening to them, we should start off from his works which have led the way to the institution of the first museum whose construction is the result of a painful analysis, reflection, critics and reorganization of his own artistic practice and of the substance of his actions.
Hence the same question comes once again – the fear? – that the work will not have a place to be installed or, if it does, it will maybe be removed, destroyed or lost, despite the agreements previously concluded. His double identity as an artist and ski instructor definitely provided a relationship-wise approach, both functional and objectual, which allowed his relationships to be so long-lasting. That allowed his work to take roots more easily into the conservative sensibility of the people involved in the project. Resistance, therefore. A word that, after three years from the first settlement in the Imlil village (Marrakech, Morocco), reflects the long standing of his art works, still there where they were conceived for the very first time.
Painting, thanks to its old and contemporary, immediate, complex, concrete and visionary spirit, was a medium easily understood and which therefore contributed to the crystallization of this genre. A medium that, in the artists’ research, is expressed through such qualities, which were so powerful to build bridges, contents and relationships with the community, which is also the backbone of the whole project.
Thus, starting off from the impression that Toubkal, the highest peak in the region, left on Angelo Bellobono was like laying the foundation stone of this architecture made of strong relationships.
Using recycled plastic sheets, the artist created his art work to capture through the painting those mountains, their steep hollows, the fullness and the veins of its rocky flesh, the same that metaphorically covers the inner identities of those Berber villagers who everyday climb the mountain to bring food supplies to the several hamlets uphill.
Starting from the visual stimulus of such scenario experienced everyday by the community, the artist draws on his own stimulus as a ski instructor as he climbed several mountains, and which today, as an artist, is summarised in that stimulus.
A deal with himself, therefore, but which has somehow meant an agreement with their interiority, through that rocky filter on which they are reflected. Those large sheets are part of a smaller production in order to find the intimacy in the wooden surface of old small walnut boards used in the Berber culture for the record of the agreements. Along with the local carpenter, the artist launches into a huge production of those boards on which he engraved a series of portraits of those people involved in the project. Painted in front of their presence, just like during the drawing up of an agreement, that is in presence of the two parties. Finally offered as a symbol of that collaboration, from which another would derive, but this time of a more human type.
With some of them, such as Alì the muleskinner, the moment he received the portrait stroke the deepest chords in a touching intensity as, gobsmacked, for the first time he saw himself portrayed on that small support. The portraits now are in their houses, after several years they are still there where Alì, the muleskinner, decided to install his own. The inner and private feeling of the landscape resulting from his approach towards the adults of the village, is something that has found in the involvement of the local children a relational appeal with a more educational outlook. Thus, a painting workshop was created, where children were asked to paint, without any further instruction or limit, on the stones collected together across the village. Every day the kids returned to that place, the Dar Toubkal, to resume from where they left off the day before. The use of brushes and colours was a new experience for them. Playful and, at the same time, educational which helped them become familiar with those rocks that together formed the biggest and snowy rock that everyday stands out in front of them. The most interesting part was how the girls, at first sent away by the boys, were gradually accepted and then involved in that game. These stone now are part of a collective installation that we can admire by the entrance to Dar Toubkal, the art residency centre, marking the ascent to the mount.
In such combined logic of painting, ice, skis and identity and intense activity, the work on the Djellaba has given voice to this blending, merging pictorial research and laboratory work. Initially worn as they skied with the mountain guides and the instructors during the lessons in Oukaimeden, they embraced the abstract pictorial elements on recycled plastic objects, transparent blocks where identity is frozen, but at the same time is imbued with the surrounding landscape. The "journey of the djellabas" is a work deeply related to the identity of their national traditions. A warm textile outer robe worn by local men, but similar to that worn by the women and which at the same time resembles the Franciscan tunic. A combination of forms, senses and symbols that represent the complexity of those invisible cultural bridges between West and Africa, men and women, evident in the works resulting from the artist’s research. One of his artworks was included in an installation for the 2012 Marrakech Biennale; another work, Suspended cloister, has become an acknowledged symbol of the widespread museum. Set up in an open-air place in the Kasbah du Toubkal, the ruined place was cleaned up of all the items that piled up over the years, today has become a venue with a new direction, where today an art work blown by the wind surrounds it with a deep emotional feeling.
(Text by Alessandro Facente)