A Tri­bute to the Ci­ty of Mon­tréal Source of Ins­pi­ra­tion for 40 years

Magazin'Art - - Summary - Lit­to­rio Del Si­gnore

With his usual plea­sant, jo­vial and ge­ne­rous dis­po­si­tion, Lit­to­rio Del Si­gnore wel­comes me to his home, ha­ving ac­cep­ted to share with us chap­ters of his well-roun­ded life. Des­pite the sum of his ac­com­plish­ments and dis­tinc­tions gar­ne­red throu­ghout his ar­tis­tic ca­reer, he re­mains mo­dest when dis­cus­sing his count­less achie­ve­ments. He ne­ver sought the prizes he was awar­ded, he sim­ply crea­ted pain­tings res­plendent with light that caught the at­ten­tion of a quan­ti­ty of ju­ries. Ar­tist through and through, he is pre­pa­red to ran­dom­ly re­count a my­riad of sto­ries high­ligh­ting the main as­pects of his 40 years of crea­tion. “I've been able to live from my art ever since I came here, says the ar­tist, I've ne­ver done any­thing else.”

As we en­ter the home, it is rea­di­ly ap­pa­rent that pain­ting and sculp­ture are in­herent to the iden­ti­ty of the oc­cu­pants. Each part of the dé­cor re­flects love of art, a pas­sion that has dri­ven Lit­to­rio Del Si­gnore ever since he left his na­tive vil­lage of Sul­mo­na, po­pu­la­tion of 800, to be­come a full-fled­ged pain­ter. Af­ter ha­ving li­ved in France for ten years, where he wor­ked as a gra­phic ar­tist, he re­turns home and soon dis­co­vers that he must have ac­cess to grea­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties than those Ita­ly can of­fer him to suc­cess­ful­ly car­ryout his plan. Since France's so­cioe­co­no­mic cli­mate, ra­ther tense at the time, ap­pears un­fa­vo­rable to his am­bi­tions, he heads for Ca­na­da where he had al­rea­dy had the op­por­tu­ni­ty in 1976 to test the

wa­ters, so to speak, and had ob­ser­ved and ef­fer­ves­cence and an open­ness that were quite se­duc­tive. Ha­ving of­ten ima­gi­ned, in his youth, the great Ca­na­dian open spaces that were de­pic­ted in co­mic strips he read, he es­sen­tial­ly ful­fills a child­hood dream when he set­tles in Mon­tréal in 1978.

He spends the first four years roa­ming the ci­ty at all hours of day and night, by foot or by bus, to cap­ture its es­sence on camera. “I wasn't rea­dy to pur­chase a car as I much pre­fer­red to wan­der eve­ryw­here and im­bue my­self with all the sites, while I al­so ga­the­red a bank of thou­sands of pic­tures which is still use­ful to me to this day.” A pho­to­gra­phed image may pro­cure the ini­tial star­ting point of his works, but Del Si­gnore qui­ck­ly di­sen­gages from it and trans­forms it in­to a true pain­ting. He in­vents a world of his own by ad­ding or re­mo­ving ele­ments to achieve a ba­lan­ced com­po­si­tion in a unique pa­lette that one could qua­li­fy as ‘sen­ti­men­tal'. From this pro­cess ema­nate pain­tings that are si­mul­ta­neous­ly simple and gran­diose, that lure the eye through a po­wer­ful en­chant­ment of co­lours in­to en­te­ring a half-fic­ti­tious but en­ti­re­ly plau­sible en­vi­ron­ment. “Crea­ting at­mos­phere in my pain­tings is my pri­ma­ry concern and, I be­lieve, it is what cha­rac­te­rizes my ar­tis­tic si­gna­ture,” he proud­ly says.

Lit­to­rio Del Si­gnore qui­ck­ly no­tices that no-one seems to be de­pic­ting ur­ban scenes or neigh­bo­rhood al­ley­ways that are so ty­pi­cal and full of life. He will be one of the firsts to illus­trate these themes in ligh­ted scenes where snow of­ten glis­tens un­der end of win­ter tin­ted skies. “Child­hood me­mo­ries of ma­ny Qué­be­cers were ge­ne­ra­ted in such al­ley­ways, where a num­ber of them have played ho­ckey. I wi­shed to bear wit­ness of this par­ti­cu­lar rea­li­ty by fea­tu­ring it in my work.” Thus arose his na­tu­ral af­fi­ni­ty with some mem­bers of the Mon­tréal Ca­na­dians ho­ckey team, no­ta­bly with Jean Bé­li­veau who be­came a great friend and la­ter si­gned a fo­re­word to his book.

The list of mi­les­tone events along his jour­ney is so ex­ten­sive that it is dif­fi­cult to choose a few to men­tion. For ins­tance, for 8 years he par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the Qué­bec Car­na­val as part of a se­lect group of 10 in­vi­ted pain­ters. Then there is the twice played role of Ho­no­ra­ry Pre­sident of the Baie-st-paul Rêves d'au­tomne sym­po­sium. An im­por­tant re­tros­pec­tive of his work was al­so held at Châ­teau Ra­me­zay fol­lo­wing the in­vi­ta­tion of its di­rec­tor. He al­so foun­ded the Baie-co­meau sym­po­sium in 1987, a ge­nius idea ins­pi­red by a si­mi­lar event being held in Ita­ly, where he convin­ced a few friends to come and paint live with him. We should add that be­cause of this sym­po­sium, the lar­gest of its genre in the pro­vince wel­co­ming more than 16,000 vi­si­tors each year, Baie-co­meau was awar­ded the Tou­rism Grand Prize four years in a row. It would be dif­fi­cult to not al­so men­tion the Ca­na­da Post stamp that fea­tu­red one of his pain­tings, the Na­tio­nal As­sem­bly Me­dal he re­cei­ved in 2011 as well as the Queen Eli­za­beth II Ju­bi­lee Me­dal that re­co­gnises the achie­ve­ments of in­di­vi­duals who, du­ring the last 50 years, have hel­ped to create the Ca­na­da that we know to­day. On a dif­ferent note, af­ter ha­ving been in­vi­ted to write a tes­ti­mo­nial for his col­league Um­ber­to Bru­ni's book, he al­so feels the urge to pu­blish. His own book is laun­ched in 2012 in the An­dré-lau­ren­deau col­lege me­dia room where more than 400 people, in­clu­ding the mayor of Lasalle and other di­gni­ta­ries, came to sup­port his ini­tia­tive in a ty­pi­cal­ly Ita­lian am­biance with spu­mante and pas­tic­ce­rie. More than 1,100 co­pies of the book have been sold to date.

Though ha­ving been awar­ded first prize in abs­tract com­po­si­tion among 900 par­ti­ci­pants in Deau­ville in 1969, he fa­vors a fi­gu­ra­tive style. His pain­tings are ra­ther tra­di­tio­nal in tech­nique and ra­diate a cer­tain air of idea­lis­tic ro­man­ti­cism. “To be clas­si­fied as a work of art, a pain­ting must de­mons­trate a unique per­so­nal style that res­ts on a mas­te­ry of the ba­sic rules of dra­wing such as ana­to­my, pro­por­tions, pers­pec­tive and chia­ros­cu­ro. Other­wise we should speak of de­co­ra­tive works, which al­so de­serve a place but should ne­ver be construed as true works of art,” adds the ar­tist. Del Si­gnore re­grets the fact that cultu­ral re­por­ting in the me­dia ge­ne­ral­ly treats vi­sual art events as being of less im­por­tance while all ef­forts should ra­ther be made to sup­port them. “Why couldn't the me­dia in­crease their co­ve­ring of pain­ting ex­hi­bi­tions and events in news bul­le­tins to help in­crease pu­blic awa­re­ness of the rich­ness of this dis­ci­pline and thus prevent the loss of a pre­cious part of our cultu­ral in­he­ri­tance? Why are per­for­mance arts get­ting all the at­ten­tion, as if on­ly they war­ran­ted sup­port?” Del Si­gnore is of the opi­nion that if more ener­gy was in­ves­ted in the pro­mo­tion of pic­to­rial art, more people of all so­cial classes could par­ti­ci­pate in its growth.

Being pla­gued with chro­nic pain for ma­ny years fol­lo­wing ma­jor sur­ge­ry, he ne­ver­the­less re­tains a po­si­tive at­ti­tude and a great sense of hu­mour, seizes eve­ry good mo­ment that pre­sents it­self and de­dra­ma­tizes others. “When I paint, I am able to for­get my bo­dy and its li­mi­ta­tions. Once ab­sor­bed in my crea­tive uni­verse, I don't see time go by. It's pu­re­ly ma­gi­cal! I need to paint as I need to breathe. As long as I am able to paint, I will go on.” His rhythm may have slight­ly slo­wed down and he no lon­ger deals with gal­le­ries, but he re­mains ac­tive. He is pre­sent­ly pre­pa­ring a ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of some for­ty large size works with Mon­tréal as their theme, the ope­ning of which will take place this year. Watch for it!

Place Jacques-car­tier - Mon­tréal, oil, 40 x 70 in, 2014

Le Parc An­gri­gnon - Mon­tréal, acry­lic, 36 x 48 in, 2016

Une ruelle de Mon­tréal, acry­lic, 40 x 70 in, 2013

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