Inside a citrus grove he has traced enigmatic signs in a 140-metre mosaic and now the artist Adrian Paci returns to Radicepura for a workshop on the observation of nature

There is so much Adrian Paci in Radicepura di Giarre, in the province of Catania, this late summer that for Sicily - between fires, blackouts and lack of water - has put a strain on local communities.

Read also: A garden festival at the foot of Etna

By the artist - famous for his always very busy work on social issues - there is, above all, a beautiful work, inspired by the words of a guest of the Sant'Egidio community and called Compito #1. And there will be, from 25 September to 4 October, an interesting workshop open to the public (info and registration at the bottom and here) in which participants will learn to look at plants as a reality full of suggestions and enigmas, to then start a dialogue with nature and its elements.

The cultural mission of Radicepura

Created and cared for by the Faro family, Radicepura is a large botanical park between Etna and the sea that brings together centenary plants, rare plants, a collection of gardens and open-air works of art.

To restart after this difficult summer - say the Faros - it is good to do it with projects that feed the imagination through the relationship between humans and the natural world.

Like those of Adrian Paci, to be precise.

Who with Compito#1 created a large lava stone and marble floor mosaic of 140 square meters, positioning it in the center of a growing citrus grove, and who in the development of the laboratory to combine the observation of nature with mosaic techniques will be joined by Franc Paci.

Tell us about the genesis of Task#1?

Compito#1 was born as the fruit of a process that begins with an invitation from the community of Sant'Egidio in Rome, which continues with meeting Maurizio, one of the guests, and seeing his notebooks and I was strongly struck by the strength that those enigmatic pages contained.

All of this coincided with my interest in investigating the spaces and tensions between codified forms of communication and what is non-codified expression. The insufficiency of language to exhaust the expressible is a territory that I find fertile as an artist.

There was something organic in the marks that Maurizio left on the notebook and so I imagined bringing it back in the form of a mosaic and placing it among the plants, stones and citrus fruits of Radicepura.

We saw the work during the inauguration of the Garden Festival, it is wonderful. Do you hope that the viewer will approach this work of yours with a particular mood?

The encounter with the viewer should be an adventure for the work and not something predictable. I hope the viewer has this tension to be taken on a journey, but also to be taken on a journey to work.

I don't really like authors who force the viewer to obey pre-established rules or who treat them as containers to be filled with information. Art has nothing to do with information.

You yourself were a 'spectator' of Maurizio's diaries, can you tell us about your first meeting?

Precisely. Because I consider myself a spectator, I consider the author-spectator relationship a necessary duet to experience the work. The meeting with Maurizio did not last long. He didn't speak to me.

He didn't talk much to anyone. He obsessively wrote in notebooks his enigmatic signs that filled the pages. I was fascinated and asked if I could have one.

They told me they had a lot since he filled them up quickly. I started looking at them, then copying them, with a pencil, then with a pencil, then with a brush, on paper on ceramics, then I tried mosaic, wool weaving… and so on.

Always trying to penetrate these signs and investigating their potential bringing them to different territories of matter without ever claiming to 'understand' them.

How important is 'not understanding'?

Understanding is our natural drive towards the world, the external one but also the internal one. There's nothing wrong with that.

However, often understanding tends to coincide with the breakdown of the relationship, with the attainment of knowledge that brings the end of desire and attraction towards the other.

Here then is that always keeping alive a space of not understanding is not simply a game of roles but an awareness of the complexity and being in the making of things.

Let's talk about nature, earth, roots. How does the natural world enter your artistic research?

Nature, the earth, the roots are not only objects of representation, they are conditions in which our life but also our language takes shape.

Although this form is the result of our ability to create artefact, therefore fiction, it cannot fail to deal with the energy that comes from vital experience which is capable of generating but also of questioning predefined codes and narratives.

Here, as an artist, therefore a man who makes artificial things, I try to maintain this vital tension that comes from the organicity of nature of which I feel not only an external observer, but an internal part.

I like to see my research as a continuum where transformations are not lacking, but where I mainly try to develop intuitions that have been present for a long time and not improvise works made for the occasion.

In this sense, I believe that the experience with Radicepura is slowly nurturing and carrying forward this path.

Observation seems to be a central point. “From observing to doing” is the title of the workshop you are presenting in Radicepura. Can you tell us what you want to stimulate?

I have always been interested in the possibility of art to re-enact something considered stupidly disappeared or obsolete. In that sense, resuming a technique like that of the mosaic seems to me a way of restoring attention to something that doesn't demand anything from you, but which, if you listen to it, manages to amaze you.

Like certain elderly figures you meet by chance in a provincial bar who can give you a breath of fresh air more than the cliches that circulate in certain cool circles.

With the girls and boys who will participate in the laboratory, we will try to look at plants not as something obvious, but as a reality full of suggestions and enigmas, as something from which a fantasy could start or discover something profound.

This dialogue with plants will then leave space for the dialogue with stones, with the hammer and the log of the mosaic. It is an invitation to meet the porosity of the other but also to feel empathy with the body of plants as well as with the body of the materials we use.

Can an art that looks at the encounter, at the relationship with the other (human and otherwise) teach us to change our extractive and consumerist approach towards the planet? In a world on fire, do you think there is any lesson we can make our own?

I immediately feel like answering yes. On the other hand, I have always tried to keep away from a certain paternalistic attitude of those who see art as a tool to teach someone something or to improve the world.

I no longer find the attitude of the conqueror interesting, even in the territory of language.

The avant-gardes have accustomed us to the continuous search for the new, but perhaps this drive has somewhat exhausted its energy. I think there is a need for an attitude of listening, care and the desire to cultivate in dialogue with things. I find this a fertile territory that activates fantasies and gives images.

The workshop "From observing to doing" will be held in Radicepura from 25 September to 4 October. Registration by September 16th.