Rolando Stefanacci

The Alchemy of Elements

Rolando Stefanacci foto 1…”la verità è come un grande albero,
più viene curato e più da frutti; e più si
scava nella miniera della verità, più vi
scoprono le ricche gemme che vi sono
sepolte”…
M. K. Ghandi

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Rolando Stefanacci was born at Vernio (Prato) on August 5th, 1931 and lived in the ville “Il Gabbiano” in Comune of Vaiano for several years.Rolando 1 Not flattered by his own artistic exhibition activity (although satisfactory and successful) Stefanacci has made several sculptures and ceramics on commission of Comune of Prato, Monghidoro, Agliana, Monteverdi and various other Tuscan towns, as well as in Germany and the USA. He’s a sculptor that has chosen an alchemic way of interpreting his own works, arisen from the knowledge of esoteric philosophy and of the masters of life from all over the world

The Discovery of Painting

Love for Ceramics

A Choice of life;

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The Discovery of Painting

Rolando Stefanacci foto 2

Paesaggio

                 “As soon as you get to knowledge death comes up”.
It might sound a big and subtly conceited sentence. Rolando Stefanacci tells so in strong belief, as a man that has left materialism behind, to give himself up to spirituality. It’s just clearly symbolic, in order to underline how his search, through esoteric studies and alchemy, later related to his sculptures of the last 20 years, is based on some beliefs come to surface and then exploded out of his alchemic, cabalistic/hermetic knowledge and of his reading of Egyptian hieroglyphics that put it on a mental dimension overcoming and even forgetting the traditional criteria of reality, to impose a strictly personal perspective, what himself calls “his own reality”.

A preface which will turn out necessary on coping with the analysis both of his life and of his artistic work, just because symbols, the essence of things, are the ground of his search, or better his

Rolando Stefanacci foto 3

Pensieri e Simboli

initiatory message. An alchemy that consists of transforming metals into gold, but that means fundamentally the transformation of man into pure spirit, and that also represents human evolution from a merely material condition to a spiritual one. Here lies the link to Stefanacci’s search, often so hermetic both in his expression and in the representation of his works that it sometimes disconcerts the viewer or whoever may want to analyse his message thoroughly or try to reach its most hidden meanings.

It is therefore necessary to stop and medidate long, especially on the small and big sculptures which have been or are travelling around the world, all deeply imbued with pregnant spirituality, where the alchemic process is just the path of his work, never allegoric but always symbolic.(1)

A remark that cannot ever be trivial because it helps stimulating a desire to come back to the ancient splendour of virtue, knowledge and wisdom in anybody who watches as well as in the one who analyses.

Rolando Stefanacci foto 4

“Il nonno” (1985)

A long anticipation before going along Stefanacci’s path through the gradual growth of his being an artist, maybe conscious to be so since childhood, when he had artistic aspiratons that would bloom later.

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Rolando Stefanacci foto 5

Rolando, the seventh of eight brothers managed to perceive the secrets of nature surrounding him by paying the utmost attention to the human material going to focus his interests afterwards, especially when his troubled search would somewhat get rid of its aesthetical dimension to privilege inner life and spirituality only through an alchemic approach.

Rolando Stefanacci foto 6 Un’opera grafica simbolica del primo periodo

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And already as a child, at school, he would love to paint his fellows and relatives faces, which represented his first discoveries and that perhaps tempted him unconsciously, just because on watching them he felt more inclined to inquire about states of mind rather than study shapes or somatic features. This being already an intuition of his future research. In his childish mind the hope to become a painter was perhaps growing. But he had read somewhere that “he who lives on painting dies at the retired people’s home”, and thus the wish to to get the so called “position” prevailed somehow, and young Stefanacci devoted himself to work and dealt with the stuff that had made Prato’s fortune since the 16th Century; wool and its hundreds of elaborations, renamed all over the world so much to make Prato the “Tuscan Manchester”

Thus his youth painting attempts were put aside for a long time.

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Rolando Stefanacci foto 7

Ritratto di Mannini (1969)

But from the “Gull’s hill”, a rock over la Briglia, where his family had moved from Vernio, powerful came the call of the art which was inside him, and which urged him so much to drive him back to handle brushes and colours again. Many years had gone by, but what had been a youth gift hadn’t faded: in the early Sixties he had exhibited his works at Giorgi’s gallery in Florence for the first time, which had got his first review thanks to those Tuscan landscapes of melancholy and those faces carved by suffering, generally belonging to common people, and manners portraits and magnetic-eyed ladies.
Stefanacci admits to have been fascinated by the great masters of the past, Impressionists above all, from Degas to Manet, from Renoir to Toulouse-Lautrec, up to the greet ‘800 Neapolitons, on visiting French and Swiss museums. He had perceived in their strong colour contrasts, a subtle symbolism and, although by intuition, he had transferred it into his own works, driving Cecilia Toschi to write in a clear article on October 7 973 “Eco d’Arte” that “…an echo of this figurative world of ours remains in some works of the artist, though revised in more homogenous and relaxed emotions, leaving more space to colour details and chiaroscuro resonance…”; and then tell about on “the warm colours that the artist manages vigorously to exploit to his own advantage, by focusing with light touches the core of the work, the theme he cares the most….

Rolando Stefanacci foto 8

La Rinascita (1960)

Stefanacci nearly hedges when he is asked to tell about the milestones of his life, especially the early ones, so far in the memory by now, and from today’s researches all aiming at more real targets. But this too belongs to a story, to a path, yet we can say that it’s just the ground of a wide range search such as Stefanacci’s has always been by a constant suffering, yesterday painting and ceramics, today sculp ture born by the meanders of inner life, elicited by deep studies linked to the Real Art, that’s alchemy, nothing but a natural mirror of revealed truth, or psychical metamorphosis art.It’s a time, the one between the Sixties and Seven ties, of great fruitfulness, even though Stefanacci doesn’t attend Galleries because he works almost exclusively for himself only. But it’s a work that doesn ‘t get oversighted: his “old people” with their carved faces where the suffering of an entire mankind seems to come to surface, filtered by their dramatic looks – on inquiring about human condition- are pointed out by critics, and Stefanacci gets listed in “Quadrato”where Wilson Domma writes that “…in his pictures a variant can be noticed necessary to increase the emotions that helps dramatize the subject, to suggest it again according to a new scale of more effective values…” And it’s also something that foreshadows a natural shift to sculpture by its plasticity due to Stefanacci’s inner disposition to give matter a shape.In the meanwhile, already since the end of the Fifties, Stefanacci faces deep alchemic -philosophic studies by meeting masters of research from all over the world: these studies, which modify his way of thinking partially, get mixed to his recovered artistic search and influence formal and content results heavily, both about oil paintings (abandoned later) and about graphics, ceramics and buildings as well as stone and bronze scuIpture. It’s a gradual upsetting of ideas that gets total gradually: its external, let’s say aesthetic feature, that has never played a main role, turns into symbolic meanings embodied by a deeper and deeper study of alchemy meant as a ‘godless’ knowledge-based mysticism.
1) “True symbolism implies that things different by time space, shape, and other circumstances, can shore the same being. “(T Burckhardt)

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Love for Ceramics

Il Gabbiano

Il Gabbiano” primo
rifugio di Stefanacci

“Il Gabbiano”, the villa on the Vaiano hills where his son lives now is flooded by the ceramics that Stefanacci has ” baked ” in the stove he has built in his garden. He has got to ceramics gradually, to experiment his research about other materials that might offer him the opportunity to express his own innermost emotions, maintaining however that “art doesn’t makes emotions but just awakens everybody’s hidden ones”. Such emotions have then found such a ground in his deep hermetic-mystic studies, paral lel to his passion for initiatory doctrines (whose ritu als he examines, whose meanings in turn can be often found in his works) that the traditional epressive rules of art get “upset”.

 

His points of reference along his search for truth are Ermete Trismegisto, Eraclio, Filatete and all those who have trodden the path of knowledge. He is so involved in his studies that he calls his stove “Athanor” (2) and often talks by enigmas. Right as enigmas are these ce ramics of his, made lively by brilliant colours, by often swollen shapes that nevertheless have always got a hid den meaning ofRolando Stefanacci foto 10 their own among the folds of an idea that comes from such far-fetched meanings as if they were taken from the Emeraldine Table by Ermete-Thot. (3) “The aesthetical contents of a work -Stefanacci says- can be judged or interpreted, but the message of the symbol is not to be discussed about, because it’s perfect: you know it or you don’t”. In the deep belief about this Stefanacci neglects finishing touches and proportion rules and cares more about con tents through essential symbolism. He is so much a master of the material of the new technique that Leonetto Tintori, one of the most named artists in restoration, frescoes and a hundred other things’ technique, beside being the Founder of Vainella School at Figline of Prato where students from all over the world are taught all techniques, promotes him consultant, entrusts him with tasks and works with him on some projects.

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Tintori’s judgement on this artist who tries to unlock the knowledge of his works by a symbolic reading key is important “because in his works he works out his own man’s and artist’s torment by transfiguring everyday reality, even the simplest one, into symbols. ” Thus, beside his laboratory at

Stefanacci con Leonetto Tintori (al centro)

Stefanacci con Leonetto Tintori
(al centro)

“II Gabbiano”, Stefanacci opens a new one in the old cinema in Figline, next to Vainella School. He will keep it From ’87 to ’93, until he moves elsewhere.Leonetto Tintori has already got an international name and when he has to accomplish a public work in Comune of  Monghidoro, Bologna, he calls Stefanacci to help him: the former makes some ce ramics picturing ‘the village, the latter, a 3 meter tall image of a man immerged in nature, among animals and vegetation. And the same Comune of Monghidoro entrusts him with the making of a big piece of ceramics decorating the front of the Alpini’s Mausoleum. The ceramic pictures the climbing of a group of Alpini that, with the help of the mules, are carrying tools and food. Inside he makes another piece of ceramics where some Alpini are drinking wine from a barrel to celebrate the rest they have deserved.

 

"La caduta del gallo"

“La caduta del gallo”

The year after, together with Leonetto Tintori again, he decorates with some ceramics the swimming pool of Iolo, Provincia of Prato.

His staying in Figline drives him later to decorate with his ceramics the inside of Pubblica Assistenza’s Building, where he builds up a piece of ceramics picturing the Big Father blessing two men handshaking (which is the symbol of the above mentioned association ) over a scene of men drawing carts, once used as rudimentary ambulances, surrounded by a crowd of people come to praise the commitment of such a pitiful action. Then some ceramics situated inside Misericordia Association’s Building, picturing Partisans’ sacrifice (4); and finally a piece of ceramics picturing a young boy busy with study in the Primary School’s building. Stimulated by these activities he puts a ceramic suggesting a sport path in the building of AVIS, via Ciliani , Prato, beside several ceramics in the schools of via Galilei, Prateo.

 

L'istallazione della ceramica a Monghidoro

L’istallazione della ceramica
a Monghidoro

Stefanacci is shy about making himself known, but orders come all the same. His first truly symbolic works, which will even stimulate arguments, are those made for Comune of Agliana, Provincia of Pistoia. He has to decorate the chapel of the new cemetery and Stefanacci is asked to do so (and he will disin terestedly, as usual: “I haven’t given this work owing to a vain search of glory – he says – on the con trary to leave a footmark, a message to those who come after me…”) beside leaving some more works in the Comune’s hall, under the loggia outside the village’s technical school.

 

 

 

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The big ceramics in the chapel, a decoration picturing a serene vision of human life from beginning to end, is labelled as a message of hope. Here is how Professor Antonio Pagni ,interprets it, after a long talk with the artist: “…in the middle of the chapel’s fronton, on a red brick background a big egg lies, the symbol of any beginning of life; from the white uncovered cell a newborn man comes out. On the right inside wall a slender Eve stands and scatters human beings on the Earth, with natural prolificity. In front of Eve, on the left wall, Abraham walks solemnly with a step made steady by the promise of justice he is entrusted with. Behind the altar, on the front wall, the sunset of life, in the shadow of the sacrificial wood. The Dead’s spirit hovers about in the valley and aspires to rejoin the bright universe. On the entrance wall a Pelican, a symbol of love and sacrifice, closes a path characterized by bright tones and shines.

L'opera realizzata per il comune di Monghidoro.

L’opera realizzata per il comune
di Monghidoro.

Thus, even in the place bound to the suffering contemplation of death, Rolando talks about life through the symbols of a Nature purified by love, in its upward move towards the spirit of the Father that, in the chapel’s sky, watches over and waits.”The school’s kids too, in an article on their school paper, entitled ” Thanks Rolando ” try interpreting these symbols which however hold a message addressed to the young.

 

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And Tintori again, in the attempt to explain Stefanacci ‘s artistic vocation, says that ” the artist soothes by love his bitterness about the unhappy existence of man in search of the mysterious reason of life, in a strain meant to understand and communicate. In a simple elegant plastic interpretation, he transfigures any simplest everyday reality into meaningful symbols. The lively images sprung from his intense, deep meditation surface, lit up by a rarefied light. And to those who ask the artist from Prato about which joy this work can give him, he replies that “The creation of a work of art makes easy to me the separation from the material dimension and the shift to the astral one, to animity”

Il particolare della ceramica di Stefanacci

Il particolare della ceramica
di Stefanacci

In the meanwhile in the Comune’s hall, in a 3 meter high piece of ceramics, he draws the tall picture of a young man as the symbol of Comune of Agliana (young as far as its recent history, although of rural and Middle Ages origin) that holds a scale, Justice, and a dove, Peace, in his hands. Under the loggia of Capitini School he carries out a work where a boy is pictured, whose feet are set on the Earth’s sheet, where biblical scenes are visible, from Cain and Abel’s fight told about in the Genesis, and in other zones there are scenes to be interpreted differently by the public.

 

 

Il restauro del Palazzo Verzoni-Bizzocchi

Il restauro del Palazzo Verzoni-Bizzocchi

Here is therefore the depth of Stefanacci’s research, who invites the public to solve enigmas on which his philosophic and esoteric studies are based.

The closeness to Leonetto Tintori drives him to carry out some restoration works too: the former in 1989 at Villa Azalee of Florence where the ceiling was nearly about to give way: Stefanacci intervenes with a substantial work of consolidation and restoration of the marvellous frescoes of the vault. The year after Palazzo Verzoni Bizzocchi – the seat of Unione Commercianti, via S.Trinita, Prato needs his work. It’s an allegoric fresco ascribed to painter Stefano Catani from Prato. Stefanacci sets to closing the cracks on the surface first, eliminated by ‘injections’ of cement and substances specifically prepared for conservation. He then restores the lower part of the painting that had already come off at the end of the XIXth century; then he retouches figures and stuccoes. A model restoration work during which Stefanacci has used the painting techniques of the time by making use of even eighty different colours.

His name has already gone over the boundary of Italy and actually a task comes to him from Germany in ’92: he is asked to decorate the Hotel Lindenvart, Erfurt with his ceramics. A job that keeps Stefanacci busy for a long time. At the entrance he puts 2 ceramics picturing a female and a male image as symbols of opposed polarity: in the inner hall some other ceramics picturing old age wisdom, a female figure mixing up waters, an old man standing with the help of his stick (5) and a man busy working with Nature.

L'intervento nell'Hotel Lindervat in Germania

L’intervento nell’Hotel Lindervat in Germania

In the meanwhile Stefanacci lives in symbiosis with his works invading the inside as well as the outside of his villa “II Gabbiano”: fountains have become sculptures, wrought out stones evoking mysterious figures outcrop the geometrical shapes of the orchard and of the garden. Stefanacci has in fact met stone and bronze after ceramics and continues to work this material.

 

 

La grande ceramica per la Misericordia di Figline

La grande ceramica per la Misericordia di Figline

They are new expressive techniques that will walk aside ceramics, mixing themsleves up with it to give borth to something homogenous where Stefanacci unchains his imagination, which never oversights the implied meanings of his deep knowledge of western philiosophies, of Martinism, of catholic studies, of exorcism, of the meetings with Tibetan Lamas and with the Masters of Knowledge from several countries and the reading of Egyptian hieroglyphics that he says have “opened to me the doors of my inner life”.

 

“Do know, stay unknown”; this sentence, carved on a piece of ceramics on a wall of the villa Il Gabbiano, is a sort of warning about Stefanacci’s reservedness that will have to yield necessarily owing to the subsequent decisions of the artist, who builds up a sort of personal museum that does’ nt allow him to hide or rather to withdraw inton himself any longer, in a world where he only exists, facing infinite’s mysteries to find in it the signs able to drive him on the path leading to knowledge.

NOTE
2)From the Arabian ‘At-tauner’, the name the alchemists give to the furnace where they get their elixirs prepared.
(3) The three-times-powerful Ermete, who is the Aegyptian God Thoth
(4) In the days before the town liberation from German and fascist troops, twenty nine partisans were hanged in the village: the cermaic aims to exalt their memory.
(5) The figure of the old man is recurrent in his sculptures: The model of these images – Stefanacci says – “is an old man I met a long time ago on the Calvana hills over Prato, a surly and wild being that was over 80 and had always lived amid the woods. His attitude and his penetrating look had struck me”

The year 1993 is important in Stefanacci’s life: it’s the year when the artist makes a decision bound somewhat to give a different address to his existence: the total abandonment of material things. In his wandering also in search of materials that may be of some use to his sculptures, he finds an 18th century villa, immerged in a big park of forest trees at Monteverdi, a small hilly village of etruscan origin. It’s the villa of “Querciaiole” at a kilometer’s distance from Monteverdi. Stefanacci buys it and leaves Prato for ever.

 

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A Choice of life

 

Stefanacci al lavoro

Stefanacci al lavoro

The new environment becomes a source of inspiration for his new work, more and more addressed towards an exasperated symbolic research. The environment his favourable to him: Stefanacci builds a big oven there, to bake his ceramics, melt bronze and chisel stone. His vision gets wider, ranges over the environment surrounding his estate, especially a wood of age-old trees, rooted on a rocky soil, rich of stones of any dimension coming to light during the wood setting job. Blocks of limestone that will be useful later for two reasons: first in order to re-adapt and outline again some ruins that have already been shaped, transforming them into elegant stone little villas whose architecture has been projected by Stefanacci himself.

Maybe the idea is to transform the place into a farm holidays zone, but Stefanacci hasn’t yet thought about it, busy as he is with decorating with his ceramics both the inside and the outside of these rooms where arches and structures ed on ancient architectural principles can be found. And then,

La Villa delle Querciolaie a Monteverdi

La Villa delle Querciolaie a Monteverdi

on large blocks of lime- stone, he has put his monumental sculptures that fit nicely with the undergrowth and the plantation of trees pointing out, with their presence, an artistic path where all the main features of Stefanaccis research can be found .

 

 

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An image particularly loved by the artist is the one of Father and Son: a little baby on his father’s lap, looking upward in the attempt to join him. The father’s left arm wraps and holds his son to protect him while he holds a stick, symbol of power, in the other hand. As for the colours, the son is naked, devoid of all vices and emotions, and wears lust a light blue garment to show his mother s origin. The father is wrapped in an orange mantle, representing his full sunny spirituality and his head is white, meaning the pureness of thought.

 

Stefanacci davanti a "la riconciliazione del figlio col padre"

Stefanacci davanti a “la riconciliazione del figlio col padre”

 

Here is therefore the progress of the artist s initiatory path, always ‘tormented’ by a desire to talk by symbols. In the meanwhile the images of the moon and of the sun, dealing respectively with an emotional message or a synthesis one, can often be found in his works.

Conscious of how easily emotions can be produced, the artist embraces this reality with a great variety about his choice of themes and means: the material isn’t either limited or limiting because “he who works by Synthesis” -Stefanacci says- “needs everything, and excluding anything would make the Synthesis apocryphal and unfinished”. In fact working with the entire matter means enhancing knowledge.

 

 

 

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The regular moving of Nature in the network of heavy and subtle elements’ forces is related to the same mobility about his choice of means and materials. Thus the beauty of iris colours impressed by the brush on the canvas has left space to as much beauty, the one of shapes and colours hidden in the heart of stone. Its surprising how some simple black lines impressed on a white surface can represent the some shapes present in Nature although concealed. the artist tries to observe these shapes and bring them to light.

From the commonest clay through a shaping work, pictures of images living in our mind con be drawn out thanks to the union and harmonious association of the four elements of Water, Air, Earth and Fire.

Accomplishing the making of a ceramic means to Stefanacci- realizing an alchemic transformation process starting with the decomposition of mineral earth substances, the moulding process through water, the drying process through air and the fixing of colours through fire. “In the artistic expression -Stefanacci warns- any mean necessary to aesthetic gratification can be used; nevertheless a perfect harmony of strength, beauty and synthesis con be achieved only by using the Square, the Compass, the Plumb line and the Trowel. And he adds that these simple tools have got in themselves the laws that rule the whole Nature’s plan, and that it’s thanks to the knowledge of these laws that the great masters of the past have managed to create everlasting and magnificent works of art to teach all good will generations who have followed. (6)

 

One of his latest works is an ancient and lost symbol, forgotten in a Southern Italy (7) showcase and few centimetre high: unknown to everybody. The artist has wanted to bring it back to light making it of bronze, some two-three meter high, not with the aim of copying its shape, yet its meaning, symbolizing the ascent of Man From the Earth to the Sky. Stefanacci has called it “The Alchemy of Elements” and has put it on a cement and stone basement in one of the most suggestive corners of the park in front of his villa, situated so that the sun stresses its own meanings: in the lower part the Four elements (Air, Water, Earth and Fire) decomposed can be noticed, each containing the other but in an unbalanced way. The light in the middle represents uprightness; the stretched arms symbolize the man who starts getting rid of passions and watches the whole Nature and is in harmony with it at last. Upwards the two opposites disappear, he transcends dualism and gets pure (pureness is symbolized by the crystal in the middle).

The awakening of symboli has produced an awakening in the artist himself, to be hoped also for those who will be able to interpret this work correctly “Art -Stefanacci says- has thus the new meaning to remind mankind about the traces and messages handed down along centuries by our fathers in order to lead us in the darkness towards light, from Hell to Heaven and from profane to sacred”.

In fact in Stefanacci’s works both the rise of Man towards God and the motion of the earthly ground are represented in their struggle one against the other in a chaotic whirl of creation and destruction. Thanks to his varied choice of means and materials, he had lately devoted himself to the creation of fountains, in order to represent the motion of waters and of their vivifying and destroying action. These, visible in the gardens and squares of some countries in the world, remind constantly about the strength of clear waters mixing with putrid ones, in the continuous cycle of regeneration and destruction of Nature and of any living being. “I’m contemplating, I don’t think any longer” Stefanacci let out in a moment of detached contemplation. And then we wonder whether Stefanacci has managed to achieve his inner symbolic self control. But it won’t be his duty to give the answer, his works will, which can open a wide road to Knowledge

NOTE
(6)Here is a coming back to the iniatory doctrines on which Stefanacci’s research is based, since he has never neglected the deep esoteric meanings, as well as the alchemic methods of the research itself, on creating his works both in ceramics, bronze and in stone as well.
(7) Excavations and Museum of Santa Restituta in Lacco Ameno, where the several cultures of Isola d’Ischia are visible. The symbol stood in a showcase, nearly forgotten and without any precise reference. And it had appealed Stefanacci thanks to its shape.