MOSTRO…IL DIAVOLO – A CRITICAL ANTHOLOGY
For years their shop has been the focal point for passionate collectors,including people from even as far as Japan,who preferring to avoid the hubub of San Gregorio Armeno,visit La Scarabattola,so called by the Scuotto brothers, half way along the Upper Decumanus. Here they may admire the immense care and passion that is imbuded in the creation of each unique piece, whether dressed in brocades or plain materials-they are a feast for the eyes of those who visit their workshop.What is the reason for this commercial success?What part do tradition and innovation play? We may be sure, the “pastori” of the Scuotto brothers are a high quality crafted product.Unique pieces,but is this enough to explain their success?The truth of the matter, is a new perspective – they have learnt how to re-invent the world of the figures of the “presepe”, without abandoning the formal tradition, but not, however, conforming to the stiff,rigid representations of the characters. Their task has been to re-invent and refresh. The characters are taken from real people,the people who inhabit the heart Naples. The proof lies in their trademark mask of Giacomino.In their “pastori” we find a multitude of faces, attitudes, with happy, lively expressions which may be seen everywhere on the faces of the citizens of Naples,strengths and weaknesses,warts and all!!And they never fall into the trap of tiresome repetition. So, to sum up, the “pastori” which Salavatore and the brothers create have nothing more in common with tradition apart from their creation by hand.The figures and scenography are completely re-invented,their characters represent a living,lively world,of the moment,rich in their individuality-not just idyllic dolls, -and as we may see, the “presepe” is enriched by the addition of a new personality-the Devil. There is an uncertainty about this figure, as he is not only the Devil of religion, but he carries with him the transposition of our dreams and nightmares,both past and present,the embodiment of the fight between the body and power, life and death, destruction of the body and an emphatic languor,at times erotic. This draws us to him yet terrifies us. The way this theme is treated brings to mind the numerous cinema horror films-very close, in fact to the last animated poetic anti-presepe production,set in Naples, by Vincenzo d’Alò.
Let us say,the Devil,in so many words, is a metaphor of our society, of the evil which exists in our urban suburbs and of the fear which exists in the most secret recesses of the soul…
Gerardo Pedicini,in “Mostra…….il Diavolo” catalogue of the exhibition at Chiesa di San Severo al Pendino, Naples 2003.
Text by Giulio Baffi
So, will this journey amongst the fascinating yet horrific diabolicol representations be something real? Will these explorations be something true, and do in fact the bodies spring from ancient evil scriptures?They take form, before our eyes, of imperfection yet great beauty, evoked by ancient secret scrolls and mysterious cabals,rare insights and exorcisms hidden for centuries. They move forward,unexpected visions made whole by these young artists.Seductive,yet perverse, here are the demons ready for the extremities of a sensual battle which is uncertain in its victory,a defeated sexuality. Dominio, Mistral, Faust, Soldo, Iapsus, Sinco, Democriso, Dusghenia,Eiudia, Bersyl, Flagromor, Metusete, Raptoreves, Lividus, ready for the extremities of furtive pleasure. Was it only feverish and nocturnal visions which vanished at the light of day?And if it were only the extremeties of the curses of desire, impossible to ignore, despite the sacrifice of the last of the devils, crushed for ever by the huge weight-can only a woman conquer this weakness?
Visionary imagination, an ancient knowledge which returns to deceive the surprised glance, who disturbs with forbidden desires. Illusions of impossible perfection, seducers of marvellous imperfection.Unforgettable diabolical visions.
Giulio Baffi,in Mostro…..il Diavolo, exhibition catalogue, Chiesa di San Severoal Pendino, Napoli 2003
The craftsman found again
In the concept of the “presepe” by La Scarabattola, around the central scene of the Nativity,which shows a highly detailed and representative scenography,there is a myriad of people. In these “characters”, real strong expressions by the “master,” which he ceates with a crude, and sometimes astonishing realism, there are symbols of all the moments, the illusions, the vagueries, the desperation and the ostentation of an all-suffering people. The make up of the scene as conceived by La Scarabattola is a flow of extraordinary, exquisitely sculptured figures. The masters of the workshop,in the way of the great actors in this city’s theatre of life, hold hidden alchemic secerets, throw themselves into the people they create,who in turn become unique, rounded people. They know them. They give them a life of their own.They know how to live the lives of their creations, when at the end of a mysterious and unrepeatable process,they are able to give them a visible,real character,dress and adorn their bodies as appropriate, with airs and movements of stupidity or nobility.It is not,therefore,a slavish repetition of traditional models,as unfortunately certain producers in the sector still offer us, but an educated and at the same time traditional methodology, brought into a contemporary reality. The faces, the characters, and the types of figures are those of the rowdy and characteristic alley ways of our city. One finds, at last, faced with an effective and understandable innovation, that while respecting a past with a high level of culture, a new modus operandi can be offered,that is again, successful. After decades of degredation of artistmanship,for various reasons, including the industrial scale of production, these artists are beginning to take control of a rebirth of art and creativity. And in this sense, we believe, the workshop of the Scuotto brothers is a model to be studied and followed.Their works are classifed as figurative, but yet are sublime in their form and content. Though highly artistic,yet they are a scientific product,and their expressive language is a product of the theories and ideas of their creators. The works are the result of an analytical and synthetic production, and achieve the highest moments of pure poetry.
Massimo de Chiara, “L’artefice ritrovata”, in “Mostro….il Diavolo”, catalogue of the exhibition, Chiesa di San Severo al Pendino,Naples 2003)
Who seeks, finds. We Neopolitans have always joked, mocked, and never taken seriously the traps which ensnare us.Our traditions do not deal actually with the malevolent, but with the danger of relaxing a moral code which we are used to recognizing, and the sense of guilt for having swapped duty for pleasure,care rather than prevention, and living for the moment instead of considering the future. What is Pulcinella,if not a conscious victim and an enjoyer of temptation. He has the time and means to be able to defeat the evil that comes his way and pass the guilt and the consequences onto others, becoming tempter and cheat at the same time. Disillusioned by years of sugar coated promises for centuries which have promised redemption in exchange for the soul, for the Neopolitans a devil does not seem so rare and terrible. In daily calamities, the devil plays his part yet leaves time to play and maybe win the jackpot.Not all devils are sent to harm us.
Giancarlo Maresca, “O ‘Riavulo” in “Mostro…..il Diavolo”,exhibition catalog.San Severo al Pendino Naples 2003