Project by M. Bordin


Making of




On painting
Interview in Paris on February 26 and 27, 2005
by Philippe Villaume and Pascal Bordenave
Translation from French to English by Jacquelyn White


P. B.: Mauro, your painting dedicated to Hiroshima after the bombing is a work that is truly enormous, almost 30 meters in length. When did your start this painting?
M. B.: I started in 2001 and I finished it in 2003, with a few pauses in between. It's a work that I wrote a project for, it's not “only” a painting... I wanted to create a truly spectacular exhibition to pay homage to large-scale human tragedy.

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“ Hiroshima ” is about thirty meters long and two and a half meters high. It's an enormous puzzle made up of 220 assembled parts. The project consisted of two distinct phases: “breaking up” and “reassembling”. In the first phase the exhibition of the work is followed by the sale of dissociated parts of the puzzle. The idea is that people can buy a part of the painting during the exhibition, therefore letting empty spaces appear in the work until it is progressively deleted. In this way I try to illustrate, or better, to make the mechanism of memory and oblivion tangible. The second part of the exhibition, which will take place in an unspecified number of years, will be dedicated to the reconstruction of the work.

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P. B.: But it will have to be an incomplete reconstruction...
M. B.: Definitely incomplete but emblematic of memory that is erased. Some parts will probably be damaged, others lost forever... But this is part of the mechanism of collective memory. Each one is a depository for an individual experience, represented by a part of the painting, which for however small the abstract entity drawn from a figurative work, represents being part of the event. By reconstructing the work I intend to underline the need to feed memory and to assert that in the face of tragic events in history what counts above all is solidarity, the need to get people to agree in order to reach something constructive.
Therefore the project stages a metaphorical and ritualistic representation of man's destructive actions together with the possibility of reconstruction through memory.

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P. B.: A new dimension can be seen in this work compared to your previous one: a stand is taken towards the history of humanity.
M. B.: That's right. I started working on “ Hiroshima ” at the time of the war in Afghanistan , but I didn't want to create a work directly tied to this country. I preferred working on a past tragedy that implicitly enabled me to express my disagreement with events taking place in the present. I was born in 1970 and I grew up in a country that taught us to reject war. But it seems things are different today. For this reason I felt the need to speak about it, to throw light on the present by showing the past and in a way, to exorcize it.

P. B.: What did working on such an unusually sized painting give you?
M. B.: For the first time in my career I worked on a painting that was too big to be seen in its entirety, so in a way I felt like the buyer who would have only seen a piece of the work in his house. Therefore I had to work on it by imagining the final result. I only saw it intact when it was first shown in Padua in 2003. Until that moment I had no idea what the outcome would have been. I was forced to not concentrate too much on detail and to always keep the whole of the work in mind.

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P. B.: How did “ Hiroshima ” make your painting evolve?
M. B.: First of all, compared to the previous series of crucifixes, it is a more “optimistic” work, even if that seems like a paradox. Hiroshima is a very delicate subject, I was afraid of speaking about something I didn't know, since I hadn't experienced it. In my opinion it's important for an artist who has never experienced the tragedy of war to commemorate and at the same time to give a message of hope. I tried to make this clear through the choice of color; this element represents energy that circulates, life that counterbalances death. In reality, the choice of using many colors to paint the ruins is an idea I got from a passage of Se questo è un uomo by Primo Levi, which describes the sun setting on a concentration camp. The contrast between the beauty of the sky and the absolute squalor of Auschwitz perfectly underlines the total indifference of nature to human tragedies, contrary to an “expressionist” approach, which consists of representing the participation of nature, an approach I wanted to avoid.