An Art Exhibition at Il Centro: “Through the Eye of the Needle: The Marble and Granite Sculpture of Lorenzo De Francesco”

by Anna Foschi Ciampolini

Lorenzo de Francesco’s seventeen sculptures currently displayed at the Italian Centre’s Museum focus on the theme of the perpetual search for the ultimate essence of our life journey. A biblical reference inspired the title of this exhibition: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Indeed, De Francesco’s sculptures accompany the spectator through a series of soul passages, anguish, struggles, and defiant hopes. The reward of this journey, its ultimate triumph brings to the discovery of self-awareness, the repudiation of materialism, and the re-embracing of the simplicity we knew as children.

De Francesco’s visual expression centres on verticality. Forms stretch out to reach up to the unknown. Shapes are bent, twisted, and broken up, yet still boldly surge forward like the “Bended Broken Cross,” a large sculpture in gray granite. The stone’s plain colour intensifies the dramatic impact of the cracks, or better, the wounds that the artist has carved on the cross. In the trilogy “Awakening,” “Awakened” and “Solid Mind,” slender marble columns surmounted by a circular shape symbolize the progression towards self-knowledge. The elegant yet menacing spirals of “The Knot” and “The Snake and the Rope,” two limestone sculptures, suggest the struggle between the spiritual and the material. Perhaps, the most intriguing work is “St. John the Baptist” a sculpture made of granite and basalt. At a distance, its oval and roundish shapes elevated on an elaborately knotted column seemed to radiate a sense of serenity, but at a closer inspection, the reassuring egg-like form reveals to be a severed head resting on a small round pedestal.

There are multiple references in this artwork, depending on what side you look. From the back, the Baptist’s head may recall an ancient war helmet, while from the opposite side, the figure’s closed eyes and relaxed features evoke a nirvana-like peacefulness. In “The Veil,” De Lorenzo gives a graceful fragility to the draped veil of this marble and basalt sculpture that represents another departure from the angular, thin, and vertical shapes present in most of this collection. The stark, essential, clean lines of the “Sentinel” summarize the main elements of De Lorenzo’s inspiration and highlight his mastery in the use and colour combinations of his favorite stones: granite, marble, limestone, and basalt.

Lorenzo De Francesco was born in Rome, Italy. He worked as chemistry lab technician in Germany and worked and travelled extensively in the U.S.A. before settling in Vancouver, where he graduated with honours at the Vancouver School of Art, now known as ECUAD. In 1987, he had his first solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery. After working at the Alexander Street Studio for some years, he then built his own studio on his property in East Vancouver.

Through the Eye of the Needle: The Marble and Granite Sculpture of Lorenzo De Francesco

The exhibition can be viewed by appointment only at the Italian Cultural Centre’s Museum, from January 20 to March 30, 2021.

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