Paola Zanchi – 2012
“Entering the ‘Soul of Things’ to discover aspects that go beyond common seeing so that my deep understanding can focus on a transfigured composition.“
This is the movement that guides Piero Leonardi’s sharp and poetic gaze.
Footprints, Traces Transfigurations, Plots, Stratifications, Splits are composed and re-composed in his photographs in a game of combinations where the material, the “earth”, returns all its archaic expressiveness and where the light, with its vibrations, writes evocative landscapes.
Perhaps there is something primordial in this return to the rock, crystallized impasto of time, where unexpected grids absorb and reflect the spectrum of light. Is this the arcane, ancient language of nature? Or perhaps there is something dreamlike that pushes the imagination beyond the confines of traced forms, to see and transcribe signs of an alphabet that only sensitivity can recompose?
Yet there is something extraordinarily contemporary in that graffiti made of rocks, encrusted colors, warm/cold, cold/cold, full or “bare”, like the most neutral sands; in that treatment of material surfaces as expressions of a language that is abstract and organic at the same time (the sudden split in the rock, the sinking shadow, the vibrating light).
A bit poor art, a bit land art, a bit spatialism, a bit Kiefer. Proof that Piero Leonardi’s photography is pure representation, a rewriting of the naturalness of language: a search, selection, combination of signs hidden in nature and within ourselves.
A visual calligraphy, as he himself says, made of light, a lot of light.
Roberta Foglino – 2012
The artist envisions prints, traces archaic stratifications of the rock throughout a piercing travel among the marble caves in the Apuane Alps in 2006, giving birth to the collection COLOR ON THE ROCK.
The ancestral rocky texture, carved by time and nature, absorbs and reflects ghostly lights and primordial networks.
Emotional graffiti is the “printigraphic” result of Piero Leonardi’s photography: the year 2006 is the one of the photographer of the earth, or the engraver, of the quarrier carving deeply to extract buried images.
The focus on “the soul of things” deve-lops through material discoveries, since the artist takes up a development during which he pierces through the rock, he visually carves the marble and infers images by means of a perceptive approach, of a transfigured use of the detail and of the graphic and carving power of the light working both onto the surfaces and into the rocky clefts. In COLOR ON THE ROCK the photographic telling takes on a meta-physical coreboring.
Sabrina Falzone – 2010
Color on the Rock is the name of the photographic series by Piero Leonardi entirely dedicated to the suggestive “conceptual landscapes” that can be found in the marble quarries of the Apuan Alps, full of history and culture, and capable of creating extraordinary aesthetic scenarios.
Following in the footsteps of the great masters of the past such as John Singer Sargent, Lorenzo Viani, Carlo Carrà and Pietro Annigoni, Piero Leonardi too has been fascinated by the great steps of the marble basins of Carrara to the point of sealing their beauty in his photographs.
His photographic study thus becomes a cue for reflection on an Apennine area that gathers two thousand years of human history, evoking the artistic imagination between the 19th and the 20th century, as well as the action of man on the environment for mining exploitation.
Leonardi’s surreal panoramas reveal, however, a new perception of the Apuan landscape, inclined to the identification of the pictorial values of stone penetrated by symbolic brushstrokes of geological matrix.
Francsca Vergari – 2008
“He who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil. And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet”.
Where man’s hand has intervened to draw lymph from raw matter, lead-coloured dust, similar to slashes of wind during a winter storm, appears impressed upon ivory walls in the silence of the crevasses of the Appenine Mountains.
Collages made of drops of rust and mahogany spots are framed by the cracking of the diamond blades of the machines.
These very colours, the typical colours of the Lunense, Pentelic and Parian marbles, blended together in a game of reflections and elegant passages among the quarries of the Apuan Alps, are part of Piero Leonardi’s study Colour on the rock, which belongs to the wider exploration of the Soul of things, begun in 2000.
Just like an exhibition of abstract art in the open, the marble streaks offer themselves to the ecstatic contemplation of the visitor. A soul responsive to beauty can be nourished by this iridescent spectacle created by the opalescence of the Carrara marble, ranging from the more aggressive tonalities of ochre and apricot, to the bluish-grey and pink madder lake shades. More in the specific, the aim is to interconnect the apparent ideological contrast between the defilement of uncontaminated nature and the photographer’s ability to extract its inner beauty.
“I discovered that the mountains had only apparently been disfigured: in actuality, man’s intervention has revealed their original and intact inner self.”
These are mountains with a personality that confirm the value of existing, of being versus appearing.
But although the display of the marble quarries in the Apuan Alps is accessible to everyone, the originality of Piero Leonardi’s study is evident in his capacity to read the details of the quarries, which are not necessarily three-dimensional: works of art that are already present in the heart of the mountains, not created by the hand of man, works of extemporaneous art that will exist only until the next cut of the diamond blade.
“To observe and to photograph them: a process that cannot conclude itself with a single exhibition. My research is open and infinite. The quarries have existed for two thousand years and continue bto be an inexhaustible source of images and study.”
Therefore this is not reportage, but research, which keeps being nourished nourishment by the quarry itself, as it welcomes the photographer to be immortalized in an ever new shot: a photograph that respects the nature of things, in a sort of relationship between peers, thus maintaining the dignity of the mountain and supporting it hidden personality.
Bouncing back and forth between the world of macro and micro, the totality of the lines impressed on the film confirm Leonardi’s innate inclination towards the culture of images and the power of observation. This results in the creation of works of art that are two-dimensional, that from far away look like abstract paintings, although contained in gigantic natural sculptures in stone.
As if by magic, slabs of rock, which in people’s imagination are metaphors of cold detachment, of cynical harshness and of aseptic nature, are transformed into explosions of granitic shivers, in staggering sketches of monochrome percolations, in vivid speckles of distinct nuances.
The free and renewable show of nature: in fact, the sharp reaping of the blade is simultaneous to the variation of the walls of the marble quarries.
Snapshots which have stolen landscapes which will never repeat themselves, shows of variegated colours and shades and tones, scars due to millions of years of the planet’s history, recalling memories of past eras, upheavals that are now subdued.
Those same fissures, which are painful wounds inflicted by nature, become the protagonists of natural polyptychs in which the clever brushstroke of an anonymous painter has defined unique traits, as unique as a religious belief.
“On my return trips from Genoa, I would often go by the Apuan Alps, and was always bewildered by their whiteness, even in summer. I thought it was snow. Then I realized that they were the sides of the marble quarries: their whiteness glowed from afar and seemed ice to the unaware spectator”.
This attraction was instinctive, but became a trustful involvement. The next step was the beginning of this present research, in which the spectator is left free to imagine the milk-like variegations that pierce the olive-green and burnished walls like fiery thunderbolts; the strokes of China ink on mother-of-pearl slabs like sinuous folds in precious cloths.
And the amber scratches on the white walls, just like the signs left by the claws of mysterious creatures, interrupted by artificial terraces, appear similar to saffron-yellow lacerations in a rhythmical alternation of blood-red and sepia gashes.
The essential message of the photographer, which is engraved in his imagination like a photographic plate, remains constant: to search for a continuous tension tending to overcome our limits.