‘First and foremost, the stone is. It is unchanging, it subsists, and most importantly, it strikes. Even before man himself can pick it up to strike with, he stumbles over it. If not always with his body, then at least with his gaze. And so he perceives its hardness, its roughness, its power. The stone reveals something that transcends the precarious human condition: an absolute way of being. (…) In its size and hardness, in its shape and colour, man finds a reality and a strength that pertain to another world, distinct to the profane world of which he forms part.’1
Since the dawn of humanity, stone has been a medium that enables us to enter into dialogue with the gods. The masters of the classical world used marble and limestone in the works they designed with pretensions to eternity. In Islam, Kaaba (Arabic: الكعبة, ‘the cube’) was the first building on earth, where Muslims place the centre of the world and where Abraham, its builder, geographically located the heart of man. The worship of stone in many cultures, both in the East and the West, is not directed at the stone as a material per se, but ‘at the spirit which inhabits it, at the symbolism which makes it sacred.’2
This exhibition features a total of 13 works in stone. Through them Francesco Arena offers us another way of conceiving time, an opening up of the notion of History, in which the historical and the personal are constantly intertwined. Made between 2018 and 2022, the pieces in Measured stones explore the infinity of stone through other measurements: those of the artist’s own body (Ash Horizon; Stone Head; Collo; and Il dito e la luna); those of objects (Stair and Cube (Mrs. Dalloway)); and that of space-time (Marble between 1 year; Granito con minuto (triangolo); La settimana; Senza titolo (un metro di libri letti); Angolo duro (Hommage à la mort de Eva Hesse); Pietra con linea di sigari; and Francesco). The coming together of what we perceive as eternal and ephemeral in Arena’s work gives rise to a reading of the past which allows us to witness irruptions in the course of events where once there was only a single, straight line marked by cause and effect.
Speaking of the specificity of this material and its importance, Arena comments: ‘An essential part of a piece is the impression one has of the material, of the process by which one arrives at a finished and final object in which information is embedded. Engraving an inscription in stone is different from engraving it in clay; the materials and the people involved are different, as are the stories and meanings that each material brings with it.’
1 ELIADE, Mircea, Tratado de Historia de las Religiones. Morfología y dialéctica de lo sagrado, Madrid, Ediciones Cristiandad, 2000, p. 332
2 Ibídem, p. 352