Marco Petrus | Mario Martone, Petrus in Scampia
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Mario Martone, Petrus in Scampia

in Marco Petrus Matrici, Marsilio Editori, Venice 2017

When looking at the television series Gomorra, you might well become aware of some shots, filmed from the inside of a moving car, pointing upwards. The unmistakable Scampia buildings are filmed alone, abstractly, and the movement makes them even more totemic. I remember when, many years ago, I rented a small studio in Naples and found in it wooden models of buildings like these, perhaps left behind by some architect who had lived there before me. Years later I was to see them built in the outskirts of Naples. Silent and, in a certain sense, enigmatic physiognomies. Of course, we know well the urban and social origins of these buildings, and even more the barbaric state in which they have ended up being immersed, so much so that today we have arrived at celebrating the destruction of constructions like these, including some of the Vele buildings in Scampia itself. But Marco Petrus obliges us to observe (if you will excuse the oxymoron) the silence of these human beehives. Petrus’s is a long and fascinating journey. His is a process with which many Italian and European cities are dissected through details of their modern architecture and then at last transfigured into painting. But to me his stop in Scampia does not seem random or without stimulating contradictions. For we Neapolitans, used to reasoning, discussing, and often furiously arguing about the fate of our suburbs, to find ourselves in front of this silence is strange. On the one hand there is something cemetery-like about it and, on the other hand, something futuristic. This leads to a particular condition of the spirit, a suspended state in which the tragedy and hope that fill all our discourses suddenly end up enclosed by brackets. In front of our eyes are only lines and colours: but they are underpinned by a gaze, a viewpoint, a work, by a kind of sacred humility of the work. We should exploit these brackets and ask ourselves other questions, in order to leave clichés behind, and try to observe this new part of Naples, by now so forcefully and voraciously mythologized, and to consider it at last as a part of ourselves. It is not by chance that Petrus has made it part of a line that links Milan, Trieste, London, Moscow, Prague, Shanghai, New York… It is time to reorganise our view of Naples. It is a painful city from many points of view, but it is a lively city, and so it fights and transforms. Petrus, with his silent passage to Naples, and with the taste of an artist who is only apparently minimal, has made a significant contribution to this process. Despite the fact that we live immersed in such a proliferation of images as to frustrate for most of the time its strength and meaning, painting, with an oblique gesture, can still stimulate thought.