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Gian Maria Tosatti’s Neapolitan soul machine

19.12.2016. Art & Culture

Contemporary artist Gian Maria Tosatti’s long-term site-specific project Sette Stagioni dello Spirito (Seven Seasons of the Spirit), whose fourth and fifth stages the Sirenuse Journal covered in September 2015, culminates this winter with a major show at Naples’ MADRE museum.

For Tosatti, cities can be read as copies or doubles of the human soul. As in Rome (Devotions, 2005-2011) and his ongoing New York project I’ve Already Been Here (from 2011), Tosatti’s Neapolitan work engraves a visual narrative on the fabric of the city – specifically, on or inside a series of seven abandoned or long-closed buildings. Supported by contemporary art foundation Fondazione Morra and leading Neapolitan gallerista Lia Rumma, Tosatti’s seven-part “symphony for the city and its inhabitants” aims to “connect moral absolutes with our historic present, a time marked by conflicts and lacerations”.

Inspired by Saint Teresa of Avila’s 16th-century devotional work The Interior Castle, in which the human soul is imagined as a castle divided into seven mansions, but also by Dante’s Divine Comedy and by Tosatti’s desire to “understand the limits of good and evil in man”, the project began in September 2013 with the installation ‘The Plague’, hosted inside a city centre church that had been closed since the 1940s.

Gian Maria Tosatti Sette Stagioni Dello Spirito

Since then, Tosatti has occupied and transformed six more long-closed historic fragments of Naples’ dense urban fabric, culminating in June 2016 with the seventh and last chapter, Terra dell’ultimo cielo (‘Land of the last sky’), housed in the chapel of the city’s former military hospital, inside the sprawling convent of Santissima Trinità delle Monache. Certain elements – sand, trees, birds – link back to the third chapter, Lucifer, as if to suggest that Heaven and Hell are not so far apart. For the artist, this final stage of his three year spiritual and artistic journey corresponds to Dante’s very human consternation when confronted, in the final canto of Paradiso, with a vision of God: “my own wings could not take me so high... in that instant my imagination lost its power”.

Seven Seasons of the Spirit

Now MADRE, Naples’ leading public contemporary art space, has mounted an exhibition (running until 20 March 2017) dedicated to Tosatti’s three-year project, which aims both to document its seven stages and, through videos, texts and other materials, to take us behind the scenes in order to delve into the artist’s motivations, inspirations and thought processes.

At the same time, visitors who missed the final installation in June will be given another chance to see it. Until 7 January, Terra dell’ultimo cielo will be back on view in its original location at the Convento della Santissima Trinità delle Monache (Via Santa Lucia al Monte, at the corner with Via Pasquale Scura, Napoli; closed Tuesdays and Christmas Day; for information, call Galleria Lia Rumma, +39 081 19812354).


Sette Stagioni dello Spirito
17 December 2016 – 20 March 2017
Open 10am-7.30pm, closed Tuesday

Photos © Gian Maria Tosatti

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