The exhibition will be hosted by the Italian Institute of Culture (IIC) from October 10, and was developed in collaboration with curator, Professor Paolo Diego Bubbio, who De Giorgi has known since attending the high school in Turin.
Bubbio is a philosopher and Associate Professor at Western Sydney University.
An enigmatic and enticing name, ‘When Gods Walked the Earth’ refers to a distant past, in evocation of ancient myths, gods and demi-gods.
De Giorgi’s artworks are an “unusual interpretation of these myths”.
“These are riveting stories, but despite their ancient settings, they still talk to us today,” De Giorgi said.
He has an unusual artistic background under his belt, having spent two years living in Tokyo researching Japanese aesthetics and art, and working with various Japanese artists, including well-known sumi-e (calligraphy ink) master Shukou Tsuchiya.
Some of the stories De Giorgi depicts are derived from Ancient Greek mythology, such as Daphne, a nymph famous for being incredibly beautiful and who turned into a tree to avoid Apollo’s romantic advances.
Others are biblical, such as the story of Salomé, a girl who agrees to perform the “dance of the seven veils” for the king.
‘When Gods Walked the Earth’ will reflect De Giorgi’s distinctive and delicate Japanese style of ink work with his classical European training.
“The style is something between figurative and abstract,” De Giorgi explained.
“I like to blend Japanese traditional media such as calligraphy ink and rice paper, with experimental techniques including oxidised copper and mineral pigments.
“I guess it’s the result of my passion for Japanese traditional aesthetics of balance and purity, and my reverence towards some Italian Renaissance masters, their colour palette and their use of gold and symbolism.”
The body of work was inspired by Girard’s mimetic theory, a philosophical concept which was introduced to De Giorgi by Bubbio.
The theory says that absolute originality in creative work is unachievable, rather, everything is “mimetic” (it imitates other works), and any artwork has value because it is mimetic; it belongs to a tradition and refers to symbols and meanings of cultures which make it easily grasped by an audience.
“Diego has this natural talent of explaining abstract concepts in such a clear way, so that I was safely guided through Girard’s world and – hopefully – I was in a position to translate them into painting,” De Giorgi said.
His body of work does away with the obsessive nature of contemporary art in creating something entirely “spontaneous” and “new”.
“I always like to quote French poet Rimbaud, who once said ‘One must be absolutely modern!’, and then add that I couldn’t… disagree more,” De Giorgi exclaimed.
“Implicit in Rimbaud’s claim is the idea that one must break with the past and the tradition, and be absolutely original or spontaneous.
“Nowadays, everybody wants to be original ‘at all costs’, but isn’t that another, more insidious, form of conformity?”
Instead, De Giorgi’s work embraces its mixed cultural backgrounds.
The sumi-e technique was traditionally identified with Zen practice in Japan and China.
Only one brush stroke is allowed for each mark made.
“In a way, the artist has to forget themselves [while painting],” De Giorgi said.
“The mind and the body disappear.
“In this respect, my art practice is a form of meditation, because it goes beyond a simple painting technique.”
De Giorgi has been fascinated by Japanese aesthetics ever since he was a child spending time at his grandmother’s house.
“She had this painting in her living room, a sort of Japanese landscape with a pagoda and the silhouette of Mount Fuji reflecting on a placid lake…” De Giorgi recalled.
“What I love about sumi is that everything in this technique is a subtle celebration of beauty in its bare form – even the delicacy of rice paper, the feel of the bamboo brush, or the amber-like whiff of ink!”
De Giorgi will be hosting a sumi-e workshop at the IIC on Friday, October 11, the day after the exhibition opening.
He hopes that attendees to his exhibition will enjoy “reading mythology through Girard’s eyes, because it changes the way one interprets history”.
“People will be walking through a maze of imagery made of human and animal figures, occult symbols and controversial stories,” De Giorgi added.
“To sum up the exhibition in three short concepts: Italian flair, Japanese Zen and French philosophy!”
‘When Gods Walked the Earth’ will open at the Italian Institute of Culture, Sydney on Thursday, October 10 at 6:00 pm, with commentary by Professor Paolo Diego Bubbio and an introduction by Dr Chris Fleming (Western Sydney University).
Bookings are essential for the opening event, to be made by emailing management.
The exhibition will run until January 31, 2020.
Mauro De Giorgi will also host a practical sumi-e workshop on Friday, October 11 at 2:00 pm.
For more information visit the IIC’s website.