We would like to point out to readers that during the Christmas period, in the rock church Madonna delle Virtues of Matera, in the old Sassi area, from December 2004 to January 2005, the Ascoli Piceno sculptor, Giuliano Giuliani, exhibited his impressive work in travertine, Crib , at the invitation of the art critic Giuseppe Appella of Rome. In the same city, he also presented works in paper, drawings and mixed techniques at the Circolo La Scaletta. I met Giuliani before and after the show.
I could see how much he worked on this work, how much he held you. Travertine is his favorite material, he knows how to face it, how to support it; he knows all the secrets. Technically, as he says, he realized "a place of a circumference of three meters consisting of eight slabs of travertine with a thickness of a few millimeters where valleys, hills and caves are determined". The characters dominate the place. In the foreground, above the cave, there is the Nativity that from the top of a hill dominates the whole place. The Nativity is defined in symbolic formula: a veil of stone that is modulated in transparencies. It is the most spiritual of the figures, so it occupies the highest place. Then the crib degrades in a spiral movement along which the characters are placed, made more and more real in relation to their spirituality or physicality.
The most spiritual realities are symbolic, the other more descriptive. The ox and the donkey are on the same level as the Nativity and the manger or Jesus participating in the same event. The ox and the donkey are two completely empty elements; they contrast with an idea of fullness and are opposed to each other. The figure of Jesus adheres perfectly to the manger, in symbiosis like an imprint. The Three Wise Men are defined in three forms that express a dynamism, an advance, with details that refer to oriental values. The tree and the bush of the landscape at the bottom are defined by the same root that develops a trunk that on the one hand ends as a palm, on the other as a symbol of the tree of the cross. Do not miss the shepherd, keeper of a silent flock, solved in travertine and polyurethane. Next to it is a pyramidal tent, defined with four convex plates of three millimeters each. The star, finally, with a diagonal cut at the base, overhangs and crosses a hill.
A river cuts one side and is made of resin and blue pigment. It was a very demanding work for me. The idea came to me in the church of Santa Chiara in Assisi, the frescoed nativity in the presbytery, which I interpreted as a coming, as a descent, and thus suggested all the symbolism of the nativity scene. I tried to avoid the references and details of the individual figures. In conclusion, I can affirm that the theme of the sacred is the one that currently involves me the most ". This work is a kind of summa of Giuliani's activity. Of note is the image of the Nativity which, at the top of the hill, stands out as a sacred memorial to a supernatural event. The travertine made transparent and luminous in the Christ that comes, almost with glimmers that delineate the image, is processed and reduced to thin and filtering film. A suspended and impalpable climate hovers around the Nativity. The characters are symbolic; the symbolic element merges with the figural object, as it comes down from the nativity to the characters and traditional places of the nativity scene, with its natural scenes, such as the watercourse, the caves of the shepherds, the characters of the individual crafts.
With the Nativity it is the stone that reclaims its redemption. It is an unexpected and unusual gesture, that of the artist, who takes care to highlight its forms and possibilities. In an essential space, "swollen and rippled", appear plastic and symbolic figures, like perfect extras of a "theatrical machine" (Appella) that fixes the "event" before the spectator's gaze, surprised and stupefied, and to the conscience that he awakens before an invoked possibility of redemption. What does this stone nativity scene announce among the Sassi? It is the same Gospel to say it, putting it in the mouth of the stones. Indeed, in fact, animated presences of the spirit, the coming of Christ can no longer remain silent. On the contrary, they will "shout" it, if the human voice is silent. Giuliani has given body to this "cry", he has transformed words into stones, to change man in spirit. He elevated the attitudes of Christ and the urgency of faith to a poetic point. It is the task of art, a new angelic version of the announcement, that of witnessing, that is, to keep the Glory and the Word awake.