The Sensing of the place.
Dreamtime and project in Francesco Geronazzo’s Temple
Like travelers, sailors and explorers during the Elizabethan Era and in the advancing centuries, there have always been adventurous individuals driven by the thirst for knowledge, for the discovery of uncharted territories and for the settlement in a virgin stretch of land. Abandoning their laboriously acquired securities, they depart in search of the unknown, mostly shaped as a world that promises the positive and unexpected to come, a kind of surprise, the hope for the better. There are exciting life stories to be narrated like Francesco Geronazzo’s one who let himself be carried away by the waves of destiny creating quite a stir, from the northern to the austral hemisphere. The artist originated from the Veneto decided to plough the oceans towards the Australian continent, as he could not amalgamate the ideal situation in his homeland to perfectionate his art. So he configured a remote island where he finally succeeded in collocating the project he had imagined for such a long time. Separated from the world which was such familiar to him, he had to come to terms, in a very realistic manner, with the hard initiation of a “colonial” experience.
Similar to English poet and writer John Milton, the Italian artist, when he decided to leave Italy, still believed in a world rising from the ashes, in the depth of the human soul and in the divine light. The admirable step he undertook to renew his life and his creativity, gives proof of great courage, but also of the knowhow to plan and to create, and of his profound expertise in seriously menacing moments. This is a kind of rationality redeemed from time and from history, an antidote against the delusion of being associated with a consuming and superficial society, with urban crowdedness, with human conglomeration in the metropoles signaling moral malaise. The image of the contemporary world is overthrown and reflected in a lackluster mirror.
The rare qualities Geronazzo brought to Australia, are a concentrated blend of knowledge, understanding, sensitivity, intelligence, perceptiveness, curiosity and good will, taking profit of the distance calculated in sea miles. The austral territory represents a perfect antipodean world, perfect in the framework of the image of a world fallen out of its frame. So, some years ago, the gifted artist reached the Western shores of Australia, settling in the area of Margaret River. From that moment he started to forge his new
identity, open to change, to fail, to resurrect. Margaret River became an important part of his life path. Here is why.
The traditional owners of the Perth region, the south-west of Western Australia, are the Noongar people, one of the largest Aboriginal cultural blocks in Australia. According to their traditional beliefs, Noongar people have been living there ever since. Archaeological evidence from Perth and Albany confirms that the region has been occupied for at least 45000 years, which is also acknowledged by funds like the caves at Devil’s Lair in the hills near Margaret River, showing human habitation from 47000 years ago. Noongar people’s spirituality lies in the belief of a cultural landscape and the connection between the human and spiritual realms. They pay respect to ancestral creators, showing the close relationship which he Noongar people cultivate with the spiritual beings associated with the land. Their cultural union with the land is thousands of years old and fills everything across the vast landscape with meaning and purpose. They care for the environment and for important sites, spiritually and physically. It is their strong conviction that everything is fluid, the past, the present, the people, the land, the sea, flora and fauna. Their attitude is holistic and all- encompassing.
The Noongar people have always practised sustainable
farming, hunting and gathering to assure the survival of the plants and of the
For many years, Francesco Geronazzo has been engaged in the research of vegetal morphology, studying the external aspects of the infinite variety of plants, flowers, blossoms, petals and leaves. By means of his peculiar cataloguing of botanical species and his ingenious skill of drawing, etching scribing and printing, he created a natural inventory of various project areas, for example Botanical or Aquatic Gardens. His manner to dissect the dried plants and to etch the fragments on paper or on textile fabric with the help of pigments, frees botany from the patina of traditional illustration. His making contemporary art intends itself as an art of the making. The precision of the draughtsman, his steady and irreversible gesture goes hand in hand with the sophisticated techniques he operates and the innovative materials he uses. In the middle of a profound ecological and ontological crisis of the world, the appearance of plants in contemporary art means a wake-up call. His unique landmark is sort of a silent but determining minimalism, that constantly reminds us of the existential union between the vegetal realm and Man’s survival and of the cultural background of the human
Last year a fortunate constellation of premises and the creative collaboration with a philanthropist favored the genesis of a monumental land-art work in a natural site, a vast private farmland near Margaret River, where Geronazzo carried out an amazing project entitled “A Temple for Locals”. Fascinated by the immensity of the space and by the dynamics of the nature, Geronazzo follows pioneering American land-artists of the Sixties and Seventies who explored natural areas and alternative modalities of artistic production, far away from the art market and commercialization. What began as a trend in sculpture to incorporate natural materials like dirt, rocks, and plants, quickly grew into a process-based approach to art-making in which the artist would make excursions into the surrounding environment to either collect objects or perform site-specific interventions. Certain artists made minimal and temporary interventions in the landscape. So did Francesco Geronazzo.
Having cultivated an intimate relationship with nature ever since, the artist explored first of all the vegetation in the surroundings of his laboratory and got especially inspired by the morphology of a species called Xanthorrhoea or “Balga”. The Grass Tree, a typical Australian tree, grows in sand, loam or gravelly soils in the region around Margaret River.
aboriginal people across Australia as a highly valued resource providing many practical uses, from the resin to the flowers. The cultural history of the Aborigines, their star lore and their spiritual rites and traditions, on one hand, and the studies of the vegetation on the other led Geronazzo to plan a site specific monumental installation of encyclopedic substance, getting benefit from various life lessons he had been taught by the local territory, such as the fact that the humbleness and the beauty of nature have been one of the most inspirational idea for the humans. Nature is an integral part of our lives. Natural forms are not created by a single force or events, nor by the simple co-existence of many parts, it is the interaction of each part to its immediate surrounding that initiates
Another basic condition for the planning of the installation was certainly the confrontation with indigenous people and their culture; secondly the studies of the nature, as already mentioned before; thirdly the choice of the site for the building of the temple; fourth the transversal reading and the sensing of the site; fifth the reading of the night skies and the research of the rising star which determines the final orientation of the architectural layout.
to a height of five meters
This species is of particular importance to
Noongar people have traditionally hunted and gathered food according to their six seasons, by the practice of sustainable farming, to assure the
survival of the plants and of the animals. Geronazzo started his project in autumn 2021, in the season of Birth, October and November. December and January refer to the first summer, the season of the Young. February and March mean the second summer, the season of Adolescence. April and May are autumnal months, the season of Adulthood. Every season offers diverse natural aspects according to the atmospheric dynamics and the interference of the agents. At the beginning of the realization the colours were saturated, the land was green but with the arrival of the summer the meadows turned
yellow and the plains burnt by the heat await the season of the rain falls.
The Aborigines were the first astronomers in Earth, as the sky has been remarkably important to Aboriginal culture for millennia. Star gazing has always been an essential activity for navigation, for the distinction of the seasons, for the revelation of the mysteries of the Dreamtime, for gathering food, for the understanding of the movement of the animals, and of their own movement. By using various images of the skies Aborigines narrate the constellations and asterisms, explain religious doctrines and historical events.
Watching the sky over Margaret River, Francesco Geronazzo connects with the ancestry, with the Dreamtime and with the celestial stories of the Northern hemisphere. His eyes discover the constellation of Boötes, with
Arcturus, first Boötes represents a herdsman, an ox driver, the inventor of the plough. The
There is plenty of evidence from various sources that the so-called heliacal stars, are just visible at their rising before their light is overpowered by the rays of the rising sun, or setting while still distinguishable. The use of an heliacal star observed in connection with temple worship, was to enable the priests to be ready for the function at the exact moment of sunrise.
But let us have a more attentive look on the creative genesis of Geronazzo’s project which undoubtedly was influenced by the process of Aboriginal Dreaming. His installation is characterized by numerous layers of knowledge in diverse fields, scientific techniques and artistic values which altogether build a nearly inexorable polysemy. Geronazzo’s concept is based on the trunk of the Grass Tree which is a hollow ring of accumulated
the fourth-brightest star in the night sky, the orange giant
catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.
neighboring constellations, rich of mythological legends, are Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, Corona Borealis, Draco, Hercules, Serpens Caput, Virgo, and Ursa Major. Ancient Greeks oriented their temples
according to the position of heliacal stars.
leaf bases. Following his usual method, the artist produces different molds of tree roots and trunks, by using silicone rubber as basic material. The models generated by means of this technique are assembled in a vertical way to form different kinds of stele, asymmetrical and aesthetically not homogenous columns tracing the demarcation of a spiritual place like the archaeological rests of a Greek temple, the Western ideal of sacred architecture: a pale, soaring but simple structure standing mostly on a hill in isolation. The panoramic view of the entire installation sticking out from behind the trees invites the visitors to linger a while. At the dim and distant past, temples represented places where human beings were allowed to take refuge, deposit their unsolved issues, meditate, pray and place their trust in the presence of the Gods. The Italian artist whose work is an extraordinary contribution to unite cultural heritage of different origins, hopes his temple will become beneficial for the entire community of Margaret River, a place of encounter to listen to one’s inner voice. When locals frequent this special site of “timeless time”, of a beginning that never ends, they will make the experience of Dreamtime and discover the harmonious silence which reconnects Man with his origins and essentially with Nature.