The metamorphosis in Gaetano Terrana
I followed with great attention the evolution of the artistic nature of Gaetano Terrana during his study years at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence, first in the Painting School and later in the two-year course, in the laboratory “New styles of expression” that I leaded for many years. I remember very well his first paintings, huge canvases where he melted drawing art, use of different materials and applications, and figures, showing from the very beginning his boundless desire of contamination, tending, perhaps naturally, to cross over different creative fields, apparently separate from each other. From that period, I remember a “Gioconda” neatly disfigured with deforming and alterating actions; I recommended the work at the “Museo Ideale” in Vinci, where they pay great attention to the contemporary manipulations of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting.
Terrana’s restless and irregular spirit, never subjected to the “field rules”, arose particularly during the last years of study at the Accademia and with his final work, a complicated mise en scène where he recreated a horror chamber with real and artificial bodies, human and mechanical slivers. He compelled the members of the commission to wear surgical masks in order to assimilate them to the installation. It was almost impossible for Terrana to avoid conflicts with the academic world: its limited sight could not keep pace with his creativity and people used to get annoyed with the artist’s lively theatricality. In this context of incomprehension and counter-reactions, Terrana produced a significant and amusing answer: the video Abusive Show was Terrana’s rebellious and autarkic reaction when the Accademia refused his works for a yearly public exhibition. With provocative irony and display of narcissism, he exposed himself half-naked, like a miniature of the Colossus of Rhodes, standing still on a pedestal in the middle of the Academy’s courtyard in Piazza San Marco, resembling one of those statues of the Magna Graeca or a gypsum cast, surrounded by his works, canvases and drawings scattered on the ground.Terrana felt that his art, for which he always harboured a strong feeling of dignity and value, needed some acknowledgement, eventually. He has not a meek personality, he usually counterstrikes every criticism about himself and his art but still, he can value every advice. This explains why he abandoned his initial lavish style and the redundant use of his own body for a more sober expressiveness that enhances the peculiar, sometimes dramatically complicated, content of his nature. He progressively adopted a more poetic and visually suggestive style. With his skilful use of black and white, he enriched his portfolio with new works. Using the web to collect images and videos, he managed to create a magical aura, recalling ghosts and crossbreeds that surrounds him and his creations. There is a strong desire to blend and cross the borders in his art and Terrana leaps easily from genre to genre, from being the main character of his creations to contexts where he directs models and actors, images and electronic sounds produced by himself.
In his videos, present in huge quantity on the internet, his flexibility and plasticity come to light. Gaetano Terrana, a.k.a. Gemerk or Genius Touch or Gemini switches from exhibition’s host to young artists’ interviewer, from rock singer with his sensual and soft movements to “fashion man” who uses his fellow students at the Accademia as models for his collections of “iconic” t-shirts and pictured bags. Then suddenly, you see him wearing a top hat, his hair dyed in blue, manipulating models’ hairdo and performing another side if his creativity:the Genius Touch, a make-up artist, performer, body artist, entertainer, photographer and art director in night clubs at the same time. I am not sure that there could be found only one word to define Terrana’s creative nature. When you think that you grasped it, he astounds you again. However, he always gives clever and valuable answers to whom can stimulate him; like in some of his artistic books, where he paints other artists catalogues to create new, witty works.
The music for his works, often produced by himself or together with his friend Markyz (Marco Zekic), is a fundamental element of his visual performances: often a series of minimal and repetitive sounds, the obsessive rhythm underlines the reiteration of the event or a theatrical and dramatic exorcism of the circumstances, as in the video for Abusive Show. In ORB#1, one of his best video works with which he concluded my laboratory in 2012, he reworks some images and videos found on the internet creating a collage. Here, the synthetic sound wraps up the image and collocates it in a cosmic suspension. The best part of Terrana’s creativity emerges with this work, his energetic character and the sensitivity with which he pictures the miracle of life in his constant recreation and evolution.
Terran’ works show a huge interest in analysing the past. Lethal Thought, an individual performance with minimal gestures in a narrow setting, recalls the body art movies of the 70’s. In Subhuman Genesis, a black and white video, the idea of forging the human body emerges. There is no classical beauty, the body is corrupted with horrific prostheses, a terrifying genetic mutation. In his recent work Mimesis, a series of light-box pictures, we can see an elegant attention for the detail and Terrana’s work seems to go back to a more classical idea of beauty. The involuntary quotation of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Morte de Marat gives to the picture a peculiar taste of high cultural quotation. With his usual flooring game, the artist’s depiction of the maidens is submerged in a soft aura recalling the Nazarenes and the Pre-Raphaelites. They appear overpowered and corrupted by the oppressive presence of the sloping roof that weights on the illuminated figures, highlighting the fragility and transience of their presence, that could be meant to disappear. A further sign of this strong symbolic and metaphorical connotation that could suggest that beauty, culture, history and memory are defenceless and could gradually be marginalized and eventually disappear completely. I would like to finish with a wish this reflection about the unpredictable artistic nature of the young Gaetano Terrana: if he will steer and guide his impulses and his path, as seems to happen lately, he will gain excellent results and find the satisfaction he deserves.