Franco Accursio Gulino was born in Sciacca in 1949. He qualified for teaching Art, Geometry and Architecture at the University of Palermo. After working in Milan and Ferrara between 1970 and 1973 he now lives in Sciacca and Rome.
Gulino continuously changed studios but he has always had two: the painting one and the thinking one. A “cave” in the old town centre where he paints and a retreat on the headland that looks over the African sea where he thinks, plans and writes.
I personally met Gulino a few years ago and I immediately fell in love with him. I fell in love with his work, his ideas and his generosity.
So I asked to interview him for the italian magazine I work for, I love Sicilia, and we started talking and talking and a social, moral, ethical and aesthetic story came out.
As I wrote in that interview, Gulino is a unique voice in the contemporary Sicilian and Italian art scene whose resonance, through the years, has reached from New York to Nairobi. He has the charm of a '70s rock star, with long hair, un uncultivated beard and a tsunami of stories, fantasies and dreams be spoken.
He is one of the guardians of the island's anthropological narrative.
From the classical figurativism of the beginnings, reminiscent of the pre-Raphaelite one, to the abstract expressionism of the last periods, Gulino chooses how to express his ethical, political and social story. The great themes are: the migrations of the peoples, the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, the italian controversial intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ferdinandea the thinking island. Each macro-theme contains endless stories that Gulino translates into symbols drawn from his imagination: a difficult, tiring job that leads him to having to rest.
"Art is in the idea", Gulino often tells me; his art, as well as containing a formal research, is social and never a mere form of matter.
One of the Gulino's last exhibitions was a collective exhibition in Rome about the Italian intellectual Pasolini. Among the other exhibitors we also mention Pistoletto, Kounellis and Baruchello.
For Inkakì, Gulino has granted us a selection of small paintings that tell three moments of its macro production: "Cellule", "Ferdinandea" and "Lettere Clandestinus".
Below the english translation of the interview with Gulino published in the magazine I love Sicilia.
Franco Accursio Gulino has the charm of a 70,s rock star, with long hair, an uncultivated beard and a tsunami of stories, fantasies and dreams be spoken. It is exactly in the 70's that Gulino's output underwent a major change: the classicism, that until then, had permeated his entire figurative discourse, takes a step back, to make room for the Gulino that we now know.
"I was painting a St. Sebastian on a canvas three meters high by one meter and a half wide (10x5ft). I had thought of doing the lower part of the figure starting from the pelvis, the point at which the most classical painting would have started, and it was at that moment that I entered into a crisis. I could not reproduce that idea was in my mind. My research began there and lasted four long years, in which I no longer painted anything. I went to Florence, to the Louvre. I tried to understand the human figure, but above all the morphology of color and of matter. I used Wood's lamp ( a Wood's lamp is a small handheld device that uses black light to illuminate areas of your skin). I wanted to understand how color had been spread throughout the paintings of the great masters. After four years of research I finally managed to complete my St. Sebastian which I have kept as an icon, it totally changed my vision of art and painting. This is to say that an idea is certainly the first engine of art, but if it is not supported by study and examination we can not get anywhere because we will find insurmountable walls to stand between us and our concept of art.
However, your art, in addition to containing a formal and social examination it's never a mere form of matter. The theme of the "Camminanti" (The Walkers), for example, currently has a long history and contains within it a prolific series.
My study derives from urban endurance, survival and existence. With Sellerio, I have had two exhibitions in New York on the subject. Then I did another exhibition in Nairobi, Kenya, entitled “Camminanti" (The Walkers) referring to transhumance. I've been dealing with it for thirty-five years, long before the landings in Lampedusa. It's always been within me. You see, in Rome I met people who were subsisted solely on wine. They ate wine, not bottled, but from cartons. It didn’t cost much and it gave them the comfort and calories needed to survive. This is marginalization, because there is nothing more shocking - believe me - then to see an eighteen year old girl with her body half inside a trash bin. Art must be its witness. It is in this moment that a new form of enlightenment is needed.
And Sicily fits perfectly into your artistic discourse.
Absolutely, I am Sicilian. If you think about it, right in Mazara del Vallo we have a clear example of what I have been talking about: an Arabic culture which lives within Sicilian culture. We must not forget that the first emigration that history recalls was the flight from Egypt. A transhumance due to a tyrant; that is still happening now, due to new tyrants.
There is one of your works that depicts Sicily, the island I mean, with beautiful women's legs and high-heeled shoes. It seems to be going somewhere ...
Actually, that painting was inspired by the girls of Nairobi. I saw them descend in high heeled shoes from the red sanded hills of the desert that led from the villages to the city. It was their dream, the American dream of these girls. It might seem absurd, but it was perfect that way because they were just girls and young people should never be denied their perception of reality. All young people dream and fantasize, why should it be any different in the Kenyan dessert?
Another important moment of your production is dedicated to Pasolini, this the fortieth anniversary of his terrible death.
Pasolini is the ultimate in intellectual transparency, a kind of Alpine river that enters on one side and then overflows and is found on the other side having assimilated all the flavors of the earth and the people. I have always been fascinated by his art, especially the literary one. It is very difficult to understand, because if you do not really understand it, you risk entering into pornography. “Petrolio” (Oil) is an example of a text that opens many plots, from ethics to politics, forcing us to reflect through dialogue. Today, however, our mind is hijacked by images: we must not forget that the power of images is what the politics of power feeds on, otherwise know as propaganda. This is reflected in recent years with the terrible programs shown on television.
Another current theme of your prophetic production is the one dedicated to the “Isola Ferdinandea” (Ferdinandea Island)
Ferdinandea is a volcano that emerged off the town of Sciacca, between it and Pantelleria in 1831. Given its strategic position in the Sicilian Channel, it was immediately taken, first by the British who called it Graham, then by the French, who called it Giulia - that's why my daughter's name is Giulia - and then in the end by the Sicilians who called it Ferdinandea in honor of King Ferdinando II who claimed the island as the territory of the Bourbon State. At a certain point, however, something unexpected happens: the Island, a witness to all this arrogance, decided to submerge and retreat back into the abyss. But the most poetic thing in all its history, is that during the period when the island emerged, the passing sailors used to grill sardines on the embers of the volcano. This is a wonderful thing. This is why I called it "Ferdinandea The Thinking Island" because it had its own dignity, it welcomed the sailors, and as a good Sicilian, rejected the many possessing flags. Now they want to drill right nearby. This is the work of ignorance, because Ferdinandea is only the final part of a much larger submerged volcano called Empedocles. Drilling on a minefield is like stomping the tail of a sleeping dog.