Ad Personam for our friend Sergio Mario Illuminato, Prof. Giuseppe Modica


Sergio Mario Illuminato was one of my students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, both before the pandemic broke out and throughout the lockdown. Prior to practicing art, he traveled on a parallel cultural track that allowed him to remain in tune with contemporary artistic debate, studying and absorbing much of what was being discussed on the international scene. As an attentive observer, he honed his critical thinking, clarifying with introspective analysis the reasons behind his feelings, making precise choices in the varied and vast landscape of contemporary art. He immediately identified his masters and reference points in artists such as Antoni Tàpies, Anselm Kiefer, and Claudio Parmiggiani, whilst enriching his knowledge with theoretical and philosophical arguments from scholars and maitres à penser such as Martin Heidegger, Gilles Deleuze, Jaques Derrida, Gianni Vattimo, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and others. It is around these reference points that his language takes shape and develops, taking into account what has already happened in recent art history but identifying a path that has its own recognisable physiognomy. His poetics feed on data and motifs of time and existence: a direct connection between art and life, of which he occasionally perceives not only the energy and exuberant vitality but also its painful agony, precariousness, and fragility. And it is no coincidence that Sergio Mario Illuminato turns his attention to places that welcome discomfort and suffering, as he himself says, contemporary Cathedrals of Vulnerability: prisons, asylums, hospitals, boats… And indeed, his exhibition project Corpus-et-Vulnus opens precisely in the rooms of the former Castello prison in Velletri. Sergio Mario Illuminato immediately grasped the semantic value and disturbing and controversial charm of this imposing and now abandoned building, where many court archive files are found stacked in chaotic, disordered disarray. Erased, scattered, and nullified lives, traces of human existence, unspeakable despair, transcribed in ruinous files. It is in this context that the sense of his work, which brings aesthetic and ethical aspects into close harmony, becomes clearer. There is nothing decorative or aestheticising in these works, but likewise no complacency nor ideological flirtation. No narrative-journalistic temptation and no desire for symbolic representation, but rather a living of painting in its elementary, primary, and original language – form-light-color-material– that obeys the specific and proper reasons of painting itself, free from useless formalism and mental attitudes of rhetoric and pretentious commitment. He retrieves those now historical references of informalism, and within this area, this introspective and meditative phenomenology, he embarks on his pictorial journey full of unpredictable events and in so doing, listening to the deep reasons of man. And this listening is recorded and impressed in the weave and sedimentation of this painting, which surprises for its poetic outcomes and the sense of adventure, without pretense or intent.

Prof. Giuseppe Modica, painter and painting professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome