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The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas

Fresco Portraits by Fabrizio Ruggiero

Limonaia di Villa La Pietra, New York University, Florence

26 April -15 June 2017



A few words about my work:

As a child, I was captivated by the fresco paintings from Ercolano and Pompei which I saw for the first time in the Museo Archeologico of Naples, my home town.

I was amazed by these paintings and I knew that the ancient Greeks considered the very feeling of astonishment, literally meaning - thunderstruck- from the Latin extonare, to be the origin of understanding and knowledge.

The technique of fresco attracted my attention for it was a creative language unto itself, mysterious and complete.  So I adopted this language in my own work and my search spread in various directions including close-up portraits.

Usually, when we speak of a portrait we mean the portrait of a person.
in Latin, the word persona originally meant "mask".



Any given portrait is ultimately an interpretation of a face, a kind of theatrical mask, where the masking deceives the gaze of  the viewer, captures it to let him see something else, which is first and foremost a Identity that makes the person recognizable through the representation of his figure, to which often a name is associated.


A portrait is always the presence of an absence since the sitter is not there anymore, so a portrait is an image in the original sense of the word . Imago in ancient Rome was the Mortuary mask, the mould cast, shaped on the face of the dead. The moulds were kept in a special cabinet or cupboard at the entrance of the house and opened in special occasion so the exhibit the lineage of the family and the moral values embedded by the ancestors.

A human face is like an open territory, I feel compelled to render it like a map where the viewer may find the path leading to the soul.
In this way painting, the act of painting becomes (the one of) drawing a symbolic geographical space since the portrait is reduced to its simplest elements, -the volume to the plane -.

I consider the thick layers of my high impasto as a signal of the failure of picturing, of the inevitable material otherness of the artwork from anything it may propose to represent.
The reason is very simple, we as living beings are everlastingly changing from moment to moment...Life is a process of continuous transformation...


For me, these are effigies rather than portraits. The term “effigy” conjures up a symbolic image. It comes from the Latin verb effingere, “to represent in relief" which describes well the three dimensional texture of my paintings with their layers of tints and overlapping thickness.

In my eyes, the term “effigy” is almost mythical as are these contemporary inspirational figures who line the wall of this magnificent space.

Pliny the Elder, in his Naturalis Historia, tells us: “that the art of painting originates from the habit of tracing with a line the contour of the human shadow…”   Then, painting as a process to develop awareness. It marks the borderline between light and shadow, the known and unknown, order and chaos, craving  and aversion , marking  a middle path, a search for balance and equilibrium.



From this point of view the art of painting is always modern. The term “Modernus” was used for the first time in the VI Century AD, by the writer Cassiodorus. Modernus means in Latin “in this very moment, right now”. “Modern” is the borderline between the past and the present. The art of painting as a process captures the attention of here and now: it is a wonderful way to freely live the creative instant, free from tomorrow and beyond.

Fabrizio Ruggiero




Terence Ward, Fabrizio Ruggiero, Ellyn Toscano, Davide Lombardo, Idanna Pucci, opening The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas,Fresco Portraits by Fabrizio Ruggiero, Limonaia di Villa La Pietra, New York University, Florence

Limonaia, Villa La Pietra, NYU, Florence

Il progetto Ideas, People, Change di cui la mostra fa parte è stato coordinato da Davide Lombardo, NYU Florence.


Idanna Pucci

Idanna Pucci and terence Ward

" The transformative Power of Art"

United Nations Visitors Lobby, New York. June 2015