Azzinari, at the age of 14 years, abandoned his town, San Demetrio Corone, Calabria, and began to travel throughout Europe, with a long stay in Normandy and Paris. In France he came under the influence of the great impressionist painters, particularly Gauguin, Van Gogh and Monet. In 1978, back in Calabria, his love of the Mediterranean landscape developed to its fullest artistic potential. "A stroke of lightning! – says Franco Azzinari – In these places, I have learned to express myself through color and realize the long- ago dream of childhood: the wheat fields blowing in the wind." The mayor of the small medieval town of Altomonte, the Honourable Constantine Belluscio, was so enthusiastic about the art of Azzinari he allocated the Torre Pallotta, a treasure of Norman architecture, as a "Franco Azzinari Museum", where permanent exhibition of 40 paintings shows the most significant works of the past thirty years.

Azzinari in Altomonte - Costantino Belluscio

museoFranco Azzinari was 27 years old when he first came to Altomonte. He had already travelled extensively taking with him the deep emotions he experienced as a child and which are carved in the faces of Calabria's country folk set in a background of local colour in his paintings. But he was virtually unknown in Calabria. I became fascinated with this artist when I saw an exhibit of his in his hometown, San Demetrio Corone. His works gave me the same strong sensations and this is what made me invite him to visit Altomonte, to spend some time with us, to paint and show his paintings. Two years prior, I had begun a successful, exhilarating but difficult cultural experiment in Altomonte, then a little known village in the interior overlooking what was ancient Sybaris, that didn't even have a proper road leading up to it. Of course, there were the signs of ancient glories, but it was all hidden behind a curtain of oblivion which also protected repeated incursions by bands of thieves who were able to do what they liked. It seemed right, at the beginning of this new era, to have Azzinari with as, sure that he would feel at home.

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It was during a walk in the Country that Azzinari felt newly awakened at the sight of red poppies mixed in with the tall green grass, gently waving in the wind in a kind of dance to Nature. I remember that all of a sudden he said: «That grass reminds me of when I was a boy and I used to try to catch lizards or rolled in it looking for bird's nests because I liked to think of them as the source of life; sometimes the tall grass hid me from an irate farmer who had caught me eating figs on one of his trees. Ever since then there has been a deep, almost mysterious bond between Nature and myself and this has envigorated my desire to convey emotions brought on by the environment». As time went by that grass, whether brightly coloured or changing depending on the season, became an inspirational source for the painter in addition to the blue of the sea, the yellow of the hills, the mountains full of mystery, remote farm houses, agave so tall they seemed to touch the sky, the brightly coloured flowers and the gnarled old olive trees showing every bit of their age. Azzinari has said upon returning to Altomonte, «I have often imagined that my landscapes, like the ones I find here, conceal an important persons, for instance a Greek hero, who, like us, has a bond with the colours of Nature». Now he says that he feels he must discover everything he can about the places connected with his childhood, which are also the scene of myths and legends. This is why he has recently visited many places in Sicily and some as yet unexplored parts of Calabria and Greece, wherever in the Mediterranean area he can still find values worth discovering and painting in this new artistic phase, which might be called his challenge of mystery. There could be no better place than Altomonte, where at 27 Azzinari rediscovered the colours of his childhood and the perfume of Nature, to have a permanent exhibit of his works such as the one in the Torre Pallotta. It is the perfect beginning to the discovery of the silent observer who, in an aura of legend, takes one beyond the folds of the earth which he feels are the typical scenario for the myth. Altomonte has played a significant role in my life and I love it more than anything else on earth. Today it is a well-known spot whic, thanks to my interest in introducing cultural activities, has been able to rise above its state as a long-forgotten village like the rest of the south. Altomonte is proud to be the background for Azzinari's new interest in exploring the places so dear to mythology and is very glad to welcome a great artist home again.

The Soul's Landscapes - Susanna Tamaro

tamaroIn our society today, Nature, or its identity, moves between two opposite extremes: on one side, Sick and Threatened, on the other, Threatening. We all have seen the pictures of the oil-slicked cormorants during the Gulf War, and later the images of the ruined hulks of bridges suspended in thin air after the earthquakes in Los Angeles and Kobe. The images in Azzinari's paintings are like a small tear of sunny, archaic beauty in this anguished, reductive vision of the world. Man never appears – unless indirectly, through the presence of planted fields. Here the plants, the skies, the endless hues of wild weeds have the upper hand. There is no sickness, no catastrophe. We can just barely make out the hard labour of growing in the twisted trunks of the olive trees. There is, however, a gift now rare and forgotten: the ability to observe detail. A meadow where one sees only the colour green is a meadow and nothing more, identical to countless others. It stirs no emotions, nor will it ever be envisioned among all the others through memory alone. But a meadow in which I can call, by name, broom shrubs in the background, and poppies in the foreground,, is a different meadow. It is mine, with that special light, those particular smells. It is no longer alien, or external. It is thanks to the accuracy of detail that botanical varieties are transformed into a landscape of the soul. I remember the beginning of a fairytale I read as a child, where the main character began his story by entering into a painting. Upon observing Azzinari's paintings, I have felt the same desire. I thought: it would be enough to hang one on a stark white wall, stare at it and slip inside. Then walk for hours, deafened by the cicadas, through the tall grass and prickly pears, towards the sea.

Azzinari's Simplicity and Discretion - Alberto Bevilacqua

bevilacquaOf Azzinari, I appreciate, above all, the discovery of simplicity together with the modesty with which he illustrates nature. This, which may seem an ambiguous formula, must be explained: no naturalism not even a resembling copy. Far from this, it is a process which must be clarified if only for that title – Landscapes – which the artist himself gave to a folder containing a collection of fields and floral plains. Much more precisely, that title should have read "Feelings of Landscapes"; in fact that which emerges from the composition, from the colour, is a nature which has previously been seen in a dream (a place such as can be seen in a fairytale, of mysterious adventure and so therefore not at all naturalistic, but filtered through the onirical) and then illustrated within this dream.

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Hence that feeling of windy airiness which seems to lift from the earth, abandoning human figures yet at the same time maintaining a suggestive environment to a point where the brightness of the colours is perceived, above all, by the eyes of infancy. A landscape is distinguished by the feeling that we can obtain from it; a feeling which is always a transfiguration of the objectiveness which it transmits: in the case of Azzinari, for instance, the solitude which in a pure and simple landscape, would be rendered as close as possible to the real thing, through feelings (of the place, the time, the vision) comes to life, it does not remain flat and empty, it is rendered as if through the imagination of he who upon observing it imagines small mystical figures inhabiting it, fauns, elves but also modern-day lovers crouching and hiding from our view in the tall grass. But we can hear those lovers. From the landscapes of Azzinari - indeed from the feelings of these landscapes – we can even imagine sounds, the suffocated laughing of he who does not exist or the capricious whooshing of the wind that swells the masses of grass. And a comparison can be found in certain concepts of a musical score, to the way in which we interpret the vision of painting: Azzinari's paintings suggest an analogy with the "symphonic splashes", the sonatas for the cello and the piano. The colours then recall the musical notes; the blares, the shades of red, for example, that flash above the symphonic stretch of green. Classical forms are preferred but in them we can capture variations and notes of folkloristic music that at a glance suggest again a hinting dimension, with its suggestive horizons whether of the sea or purple mountains or houses partially hidden amongst the vegetation. Azzinari nurtures a strong belief of lyrical emotions. He should, therefore, be pushed towards a more precise liturgy of painting one which allows a minor expansion of meaning and brings closer the symbolic element in order to give major incisiveness. I mean that Azzinari is heading towards a style which soon will fully favour the strength which at times, now, is diluted in the undoubtful beatitude which is offered by the painting upon observing it. The ability with which Azzinari is able to depict emotions is about to acquire that extra bitterness, I daresay, that amount of anger which purifies the melodical line of an excess of consolation, in favour of thought, of a more lacerated sentimental intimacy. But how can the sensual abandonment of these, which I would still define by using musical terminology, painted motets be denied? How can we not feel a calming sensation in front of views of the world chosen for their clear, absolute neutrality? I cannot say if the neutrality of poetry can redeem itself completely in its influence; I believe I can affirm that influence is already a step ahead, a discreet means of provoking to see, to hear: beyond the boundaries of daily consumption.

The Secret Order of Nature - Paolo Rizzi

rizziWhen he paints, Azzinari is always "sincere", by which I mean true to himself. He obeys his instincts without letting anything interfere with them and the result is purity of vision, something which is far more difficult to achieve nowadays than perhaps it has ever been before. We are habitually influenced by numerous consumer models and patterns of behaviour: the real artist must be familiar with them and maybe even study them in detail, just as he must be familiar with and study everything to do with culture, but when he expresses himself he must be, above all, himself. I believe that Azzinari is a completely instinctive artist: he immerses himself in nature like an insect burying himself in the warm dark earth, building his nest and revelling in natural contentment.

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And here lies his artistic value: the ability to let himself be guided by instincts while at the same time managing to remain a master of technique. His instinct, as expressed in his paintings, hints at an underlying concept which is both ancient and modern: the secret order of the natural world. It is essential to grasp this concept fully as it is one of the most important aspects of Azzinari's work. Science teaches us that behind the apparent disorder of nature there is a secret code that we only partly manage to decipher. Biologists study the structure of organic cells and tissues through their microscopes: the movement appears to be haphazard, even chaotic, but the scientist knows that somewhere there is order in it, a general rule, a universal law. To some extent the artist is like a biologist looking through his microscope: he too is trying to understand but his methods are not scientific or experimental but pure intuition. Recent fractal geometry is illuminating in this respect. Fractals, the experts tell us, are "the objects of chaos": the jagged profile of a cliff, snowflakes forming a pile of snow or clouds dispersing in the sky. How can science measure these phenomena efficiently? Fractal geometry attempts to find a mathematical model for such phenomena. The foliage of a tree may appear inextricably tangled, with no geometrical sense, for which it would be impossible to find a model. Yet it has been demonstrated that the bifurcation of one segment, infinitely repeated, becomes the basic rule underlying its fractal geometry. In short, that which appears to be incomprehensible eventually reveals itself as part of a higher order. What this higher order is, and whether or not it can be identified with the concept of God, we cannot say. Biologists, physicists, mathematicians, chemists and philosophers are all working to untie this essential knot. Now and again we get a glimpse of something and this something satisfies our curiosity for the time being. The results of scientific experiments and the intuition of artists are gradually beginning to converge. The painting of Franco Azzinari also helps us in our quest to find the hidden order of life. His work reflects the natural, organic qualities of man. His eye penetrates the apparent chaos of scrubland, of wheat fields, meadows and thick undergrowth; it examines the formal and metamorphic characteristics of tree trunks, olive groves, giant agaves, prickly pears and daisies scattered over fields; it analyzes the pulsating intricacy of nature in the depths of the warm earth and moves slowly upwards driven by natural, vital forces. In so doing, it grasps that there is order behind the apparent chaos. The artist takes up the tangled threads of nature and attempts to weave them together. On the secret order of nature he superimposes his own order, which is just as secret and equally difficult to decode. He imposes, in other words, his rhythm, his graphic and chromatic harmony and his structural order, all of which add up to something very similar to what is normally expressed by a term which should be used very cautiously, namely "style". By this I do not mean a style made up of clichés and formulae, like that of many artists or pseudo-artists. Theirs is at best just a clumsy imitation of style. I am not alone in deploring the fact that many are unable to distinguish between real style (as, for example, in the work of Morandi) and the repetition of clichés (the imitators of Morandi). The starting-point must therefore be the "biological truth" I referred to earlier, the authentic expression of instinct (which we could also call the chemical, hormonal aspect of the artist). With Azzinari all this appears to me to be evident: there is, as it were, a direct line of transmission, with no troublesome interference. This is why I am convinced that he can be defined as an authentic artist.

There is no man, actually Man - Fulco Pratesi

pratesiMen, or rather Man, is nowhere to be seen. The human figure does not appear in Azzinari's paintings. Or so it seems, to those who do not look carefully. Those who are familiar with the landscape of southern Italy, those who have wandered the gullies and clayey hills common to that part of Calabria, where its torrid rivers rush down to the Ionian Sea; those who have seen all this can recognize the traces that man has left. For more than six thousand blossomy springs, dusty summers, misty autumns and frosty winters, man has worked the land, scratching, clawing, hoeing, harrowing, digging, ploughing, grazing and burning it: clearing it of all its original nature, its proud oaks, ashes, elms, ilexes and carobs, to replace them with those wretched pastures, parched fields and greyish olive groves that characterize Azzinari's paintings.The blue-grey colour dominates these landscapes, so reshaped by man: the blue-grey of arthritic, tortured olives; the blue-grey of the winding agaves that came from Mexico; the blue-grey of the plots of pungent prickly pears; the blue-grey of broom shrubs overflowing with yellow corollas.

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And then, triumphant and arrogant, the so-called "weeds": Weeds of every kind flourish in the Calabrian countryside, where they find a sort of festive redemption, and escape the pesticides and herbicides belonging to the death industry of modern agriculture. Violet speronelles, rosy mallows, white daisies and purple catchflies occupy the stage: a simple, priceless court, multicoloured and ruled over by the regal poppy, which stands out like an insolent, audacious counterpoint to the orderly ranks of the crops. Another abhorred weed also finds redemption here: the splendid, virginal wild oats which carpet the edges of the fields with a light, airy veil and, pushing even into the furrows, raise high their candid, transparent banners. But it is not only the triumph of this "Mexican" Vegetation that Azzinari illustrates. Even in his seemingly "wilder" landscapes one can sense man's reshaping hand: the clear clay banks, stripped bare by grazing sheep, stretch out red and crimson; the arid patches of sierra dominated by yellow broom shrubs that remind us of ancient, and frequent, pasture fires; the twisted shrubs that have survived the axe and pruning shears, to be tortured by the teeth of the omnipresent grazing goats. And men, or rather Man, appears only as a threatening, outside presence, in the silhouettes of the hovels that appear on the horizon, defiled and partly covered by vegetation. Of course, some concessions to human activity are permitted: fruit baskets and orange trees, twisted olive groves and blooming orchards… But Azzinari's heart beats, I am sure, for the 'others': the plants which, like stealthy clandestines that have stolen into a foreign land, contend with man for the earth and the water, the sun and the wind. And it is to them that he dedicates his art.

Return to Nature - Giorgio Celli

celliWho is Azzinari? What type of painting is his painting? From a certain point of view he is certainly a little imprudent, his works could be tagged as a 'return naturalism' as they seem to refer to 'pre-impressionism', substituting the impression, the instantaneous with a more lasting, more circumstantial, more careful perception. This attention - as attention is precisely what it is about, in a very precise sense of the term - reveals a recovery of things, which we can consider one of the peculiar components of the so-called 'post-modern'. But I do not intend to create misunderstandings: when I speak of 'return' I do not want to indicate a pure and simple re-visitation of the past. To put it simply, Azzinari does not take up naturalism again, filming backwards as if in slow motion the succession of styles, but he applies a neo-naturalism which has passed through impressionism, and which can no longer be 'what it used to be'.

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Let me explain: his blazing poppies are not in the style of 'Monet', but they recall Monet, and so belong to the other side and not this side of that pictorial revolution which in the second half of the last century radically transformed our ways of interpreting and realizing art. All things considered, it is inevitable that this is the case, due to the fact that even if we wanted to, it is not possible to invert the course of History by going' a rebours' and in addition, Azzinari does not at all intend to start searching for lost time. Consequently, the post-modern under scrutiny in his case, is not to be interpreted as a confutation of the modern in favour of the mythical golden era of a permanently-on-display painting, but a dialectic change where modern ness is placed in siege, and to some extent, called to attention and once again placed where it can be seen by the elementary eye. It is no coincidence that Azzinari paints in an age such as ours, which can no longer make of nature a mere aesthetic object, to be translated, transfigured less oneiracly into a work of art, but which has been faced with saving nature or, perhaps in a less dramatic tone, with safeguarding its integrity. In a wider sense, the "aesthetization" of nature has been over-turned in the naturaliazation of aesthetics, and works of art, cultural product par excellence, have taken on a dignity equal to that of an age-old sequoia growing in Yellowstone Park, or of the marsicana bear that roams the mountains of Abruzzo. The monuments of the History of man are loaded with naturalness – the colonnades of gothic churches are re-converted through the filter of this new sensitivity, into a petrified forest – while the monuments, so to speak, of the evolution of life, re-conceive a natural value, they erect themselves like statues of flesh and not marble, of cells and not metal, in that immense atelier that ecologists call 'biosphere'. Consequently, Azzinari's landscapes cannot be interpreted in the same way as the green English county side of a Constable or as the fawn-coloured country sides of Pisarro, they evoke something more: the regret of the future, the pathos of emergency. In fact, as today we are no longer allowed to treat nature in philological key, because philology has been replaced by philogenesy, and philogenesy is placed at the service of ecology, the artist is called to the attention of the present, he is asked to take a stand, or better 'make and effort'. But, I warn, this re-found effort is no longer that of past times, whose ideological motivations were exclusively social. The effort I refer to is de-ideologicized , or better, it has become ecological, and as magnificently written by Enzo Tiezzi, we have moved from a 'conscience of class to a conscience of species', from a social to an environmental revolution. Azzinari has then been witness to, and has created a painting style that wants to be eye-witness, so to speak to the world's innocence and beauty. And while in the past, the painter who held a mirror to nature, as quoted from Hamlet, painted with confidence, cherished the idea that the world was eternal, and would have lasted through time. Azzinari introduces the inquietude of nature's precariousness into his paintings. Hence, Azzinari, a witness of the beauty of the world, but this does not suffice. We must add: of a world on the brink of a catastrophy. If this is the case, then the painter, with his hills captured at sunset, with his fields bespeckled with the ignis fatuus of wild flowers, with his contorted olive trees, wants us to mirror nature so that our admiration, our ecstasy induce us to a collective confession of our sins, realizing that man can never do without that beauty. After all, man does not live by bread alone, nor by technology alone. Man is, still deep down, that totem creature that roamed the African savannah, or much later, within the wild of Dordogna or the Cantabrici mountains. If we have shed our ape's fur and doubled the volume of our brains, if we are proud of Plato's Dialogues or Einstein's Relativity, we have never completely emancipated from our animal origins, and every Sunday in our cars, challenging traffic jams and other over crowded situations, we go towards the trees and the waters, which still remain our fata morgana, our reotest avatar. What excites us in Azzinari's works is possibly that voice which arises from the depths of the well of the past and that, as I have already said, whispers its fears for the future. In short, Paolo Rizzi has every right when, in the introduction to a book on Azzinari, he draws attention to ecology and the harmonious dialogue that the artist has taken up with the world. Seeing to love and showing to make others love could be his heraldic motto. But I intend to conclude this text with an unusual observation: Azzinari describes a planet where man is a fugitive at large. Only a few traces of him remain: an abandoned farmhouse, a left-over strip of land, a ramshackle ox-cart that no one seems to have used for ages. Or else we come across those 'tasks and days' that Hesiod ascribed to the farming man: ripened wheat (tragic allegory), ready for the sickle, a horn of plenty overflowing with those fruits which, right from the dawn of the Neolithic period, human agriculture had rendered larger and juicier, the rows of blue-green olive trees… One has the impression that man has only just left the scene, drawing the curtains of history within himself. I am struck with the idea that in the end Azzinari is, in his own way, more optimistic than we might believe. Might he not be suggesting to us that nature, notwithstanding our Hiroshimas and our Chernobyls, is always ready to retake possession of the world? Perhaps that damage we do to nature we are doing mainly to ourselves. Nature, mother earth, will always be reborn, like the mythological Phoenix, out of our ashes.