Lillo Messina


Lillo Messina was born on the 19 of January 1941 in Messina and spent his youth in a location situated on the Paradise beach.His link with the sea, a strong and physical presence, was made stronger by a family tradition: his grandfather, his father and his uncles were all men of the sea. In the same city he began his artistic studies, in the Art Institute, continued later in Reggio Calabria. In 1961 He moves to Rome and frequents The Academy of Fine Arts, to study pointing. His teachers were f... [Continue reading]

Atelier of Lillo Messina

Information about Lillo Messina

Lillo Messina was born  on the 19 of January 1941 in Messina  and spent his youth in a location situated on the Paradise beach.His link with the sea, a strong and physical presence, was made stronger by a family tradition: his grandfather, his father and his uncles were all men of the sea. In the same city he began his artistic studies, in the Art Institute, continued later in Reggio Calabria.

In 1961 He moves to Rome and frequents The Academy of Fine Arts, to study pointing. His teachers were first, Pippo Rizzo and later, Mino Maccari. While he followed his academic studies, he began his artisticresearch. Here we find his first Roman pointings, bringing us to fragments of pastures, landscapes,figures, urban scenes, still lives, where the light penetrates the image, firing the contours of the froms and the colours.

In 1964 He has his first personal show in the Galleria San Marco in Rome, and the critical text of the catalogue is presented by Renato Civello, who captures in a direct manner the significance of theseearly works.

In 1965 He participates in the 1Oth Exhibition of Figurative Art at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni of Rome, organized by Durbé, Ferrari and Menna.

In 1967 He tokes part in the II National Exhibition of Figurative Art Italian Works in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni of Rome.

In 1969 He begins a long series of personal exhibitions which brings him cycle. They are the Black Cathedrals, Totems, Magic Mirrors. In the presentation of the catalogue for the exhibition at the Galleriad'arte Moderna of Grosseto, Ugo Attardi writes "(...) running and shouting is that which brings us right to the struggle, it tells us of a destiny full of efforts and one perceives the passing of Time, themutation of the material and of the spirit. Everything happens and figures under and against a sky without past and future limits: idea-image. a feeling of greatness, of certainty and delusion'. Andagain di Genova, in the same catalogue 'from the Medioeval period and after pointing struggles aguinst monsters. Firstly against the conditioning monsters of conscience, then also against the oppressive monsters of society. Overall the lines along which this struggle occurs go from Bosch to Ernst, and from Goya to Picasso. The pointing of Lillo Messina struggles more againstinternal monsters than those of illuminism against the monsters of political power, both religious and economic. So it is not against the dream of the reason created monsters that Messina intends tostruggle, but against those monsters which lurk in the profound 'id', avid residues of the Medioeval which are difficult to obliterate form the level of consciousness. Hieronymus Bosch is the distantroat of the work of Messina". In the same year he participates in the 10th National Exhibition of Figurative Art: Italian Works, again at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni of Rome.

In 1972 he has a personal show at the Galleria I1 Molino of Rome, another at the Galleria Valguarnera of Bagheria, and yet another at Catania at the Galleria Il Punto. The works of this period are of a desperate surrealism, coloured by the graphic tradition and it is right that this is so, given the ageof the artist, which does not give him yet means to express the feeling of love-hate for the world. It is for this that the exhibitions of Messina now have an element of irony which liberates theagainst of first contact. Evidently the Sicilian artist, away from his roots has found against the negative aspects of the technological civilization. if he had pointed red sunsets of Sicily, the mountainscoloured by bunches of ginestre, he would have used the samechromatic gradation which he uses today to render lightening quick the anxiety which oppresses them.

In 1973 he exhibits at the 'Nuova Pesa' of Rome, a prestigious gallery of the Seventies. It is an exhibition rich of works of a large dimension based on the theme of ecology, among them of particular interest and disturbance, a series of nine pointings mensuring 50 x 70 cm., each linked to the other, representing a single theme: in theporpose iconography, the living being, whose segments go together with the products of the most aseptic design, having still a human nature, but they are already marked in a irremediable manner by a series of mutations imposed by the environment. A kind of continuation of the discourse poltronuomo proposed by Alberto Savinio, the spectacle of a form and of a substance acquired frombeings which have become monuments to themselves, adorned with legs and arms on the domestic pedestal of a grand armchair of those years. In the rendering of Messina the man-individua spreads himself, he stretches himself, like obeying a duty according to the always more rigid ritual, also if attractive. He must considerhimself to be the individual most relaxed, in the best armchair, in the best house, in front of the most fascinating coloured screen, across which, in order not to think, pass vague images of remoteworlds. But underneath he knows that in the same house, in that near, at the other side of the city or the globle another being, millions of others, are stretched out on similar armchairs, in front of similar screens, on which pass only ephemeral colours.

Apart from various shows in various Italian cities, in 1974, he exhibits for the first time at the Bedford House Gallery of London. Max Wykes Jyoce in the International Herald Tribune "... strange, yet perfectlyconclusive way of pointing a landscape, at times meadowy, at times marine, where now appear volatile and animalesque beings, thenhumanoid shadows. Unusable machines, apparently abandoned, or their components, violently attack a sweet green landscape. Thesecomponents circulate in an able manner to arrive at a satisfactoryvisuality that suggests an interdependence and mutual indifferencebetween all its elements. A metaphysical form of pointing which creates curiosity, though always remaining inside the traditional Italian Philosophy. He participates, aiter this, in the exhibition 'Giornate Italiane a Mosca e nell'URSS".

In 1975 he is invited by the critic, Giorgio Seveso, in collaboration with the Galleria Ciovasso of Milan to participate in the exhibition "Trent'anni dopo - Pittori Italiani per la Resistenza'. Giorgio diGenova inserts the work of Messina in the book 'Le realtà del Fantastico (L'Arte in Italia dal Dopoguerra ad Oggi)". Editori Riuniti. In the same year he participates with three works of a largedimension in the X Quadriennale d'Arte di Roma, at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

The 1976 this is a particularly active year, rich in personal shows held at Lamezia Terme, Livorno, Mantova, Roncoferraro (MN), Parma, Milan and at the end, for the second time, in London. 

After showing at Bologna, in the Galleria San Paolo, and aiter wards in Rome at the Galleria Il Grifo in 1979 he begins another intense period of confrontations, giving numerous personal shows in many cities, among which are Bologna, Cosenza, Reggio Calabria and Città di Castello.His artistic personality is clearly mature, across the colour which underlines with its incisive sensuality the imponent element of the from, being the only voice for this, the symbols of the universe ofMessina are, at the same time, hoth calm and disturbing.

In 1983 he is commissioned to do a work for the Gas Condait trans-mediterranean which is later illustrated in the magazine published by ENI. The sea, already present in his works since the middle of the seventies, becomes always stronger, like a narrative element. Above all it is the poetic element which separates the artist from his linkwith the preceding symbology of a surrealistic character which Messina pointed betwecn the sixties and the seventies. A surrealism,which through its own personal code, had brought him torecount, across a kind of element of the bizzarre and exaspiration, which never gives place to emotional chans. The sea moves thefilters of his pointing, as if it pushes him, always more insistently, to focus his eye and his hand beyond, to look for and to find who knows what state of the saul, what image, or what element which is lacking. Now it is the sea which the absolute protagonist.



In 1989 he taìkes part in the exhibition "Presenze Siciliane" at the Monumental Complex San Michele a Ripa in Rome, organized by Claudio Strinati, Sergio Rossi and Gianfranco Proietti. The gallery La Gradiva of Rome houses a personal show entitled 'In viaggio con Ulisse'. They are essentially pointings of large dimension, a sweet adventure between metaphor and reality. It isarcoss the symbology of this mythalogical figures that the artistexpresses himself. But it is a mythology which transcends the mythology itself, considered from the classical point of view. It is a mythology of the daily life where "the heroism comes from the rael which entraps it (...) heroic because this is the doubt which hammers the soul, the eternal mysterious sphinx, the impossability of reconecting the economy of the visible, not with standing whetherfamiliar or etherodox, to the preordinated convivents of the cosmic mystery; as Civello writes in the catalogue. It is here where thehero of Homer and that of Dante are identified with Ulysees ofJyoce. The eternal wandering to return to ones native land, the first to know which pashes one beyond becomes the wandering inside ourselves to try to find the truth, the island-buoy, which justifies our daily being. All this across pictorical images which technically, with a more profound reading, cannot be consideredonly related to the question of hyper-realism. 

In 1992 the gallery Ca d'Oro invites the artist to the IV Salone D'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea "Arte Roma '92" for the realization of one of the Wunderkammers, called 'I1 mare nella stanza', which atierwards is presented in one of the rooms of the gallery itself. The pointer realizes a few works created deliberately for an evinronment, a refined and curious play between objects of amarine metallargic nature (portholes, brass handles, iron getty holos) and pictorial images. Over this sort of osmosis a particular relationship is installed between the work and the maker where the three-dimensional play assumes the quality of something live and real, thanks to the recouperation of these elements and of their use.And it is also clear, the voice of the artist himself, in the catalogue, presents his own poetic component, and affirms, what is the island buoy, what it represents. It is a landing, a possibility of ransom 'alongthe route incised by the mind to cancel the grey and the fear".

1993 Undoubtedly the preceding personal show of Lillo Messina has represented an enormous advance ahead of the artist in his research. The impact with the chromatic acceleration is strong but this does not signify a break with his artistic past. Instead it puts in evidence the common thread through all his work. If the beginnings were characterized by 'sing with colour on the reluctance of the forms', now this reluctance becomes other forms to which, like all the forms in the imagination corresponds to anacceleration of the emotions which in a space free from the reassuring coordinates of our reality, finds continuous breath and not a block. An acceleration which is also intellectual, and which,if before seemed to look for the true, then comprehended that ones owntrue, as Strinati declared, is the truth of vision.

In 1994 he exhibits his paintings at the M.G.P. Arte Contemporanea. In this exhibition space the coreographer Atha Atziioannoy realizes a dance performance where each dancer symbolizes an island, which is painted on the dancers' costumes by Lillo Messina. The dancers display their quest for their own shape and colour through gestures and movements that compose and recompose the spacial symmetries of his works.


In 1998 he participates in the exhibition "The Painted Island: Sicily, Fifty Years of Nature and Landscapes" that takes place in Rome, at the Risorgimento Museum. The municipality of Piombino, together with the Centre of Cultural Activity, organizes a monographical exhibition devoted to Lillo Messina whose title is "Sea 'beyond' sea". It takes place in the rooms of Palazzo Appiani and includes about fifty large-scale paintings. 

In 2003 he exhibits his paintings at the Conference Palace in Montesilvano. The title of the exhibition is "Mirabilis Insula Picta", that is, Painting as the Island of Wonders. Here astonishment rises as well as the moment of suspense while approaching the paintings, the physical sensation that one feels while moving from one island to another as if flying, alighting now and then. It is a calm and quiet flight. The seer's impact of Lillo Messina's painting is first physical then intellectual. He tells us about his need to keep on searching for his own island that is not to be found yet and that, perhaps, he does not want to find. And he does it through the rigour and sharpness of his images. The longed island is the island that is not meant to be. His painting openly unfolds like a journey. But if the journey involves a return to the originary place, to Messina this return means to reappropriate former certainties now filtered by experience. At present the artist is more daring in the layout of his paintings, as the subsequent exhibitions in Rome (2004) and Castrovillari (2005) show. His works are focused on the detail rather than on the wholeness. By doing this, he wants to suggest something beyond the canvas. He now neglects easily defined shapes and the island becomes more and more abstract. His chromatic sense gets new, as in the oranges and purples, his set of colours widens up perhaps to give this endless journey greater breath and strength.



- Roma Galleria S.Marco


- Colonnata (FI) Galleria La Soffitta

- Firenze Galleria La Zattera


- Grosseto Galleria d'Arte Moderna

- Messina Galleria Settanta

- Bari Galleria La Bussola


- Milano Galleria Ciovasso

- Cagliari Galleria l'Oblò

- Brescia Galleria Schreiber

- Colonnata (FI) Galleria La Soffitta


- Grosseto Galleria Il Tridente

- Piombino Circolo Italsider


- Catania Galleria Il Punto

- Bagheria (PA) Galleria Valguarnera

- Roma Galleria Molino

- Milano Galleria Ciovasso


- Roma Galleria La Nuova Pesa

- Ladispoli (RM) Studio d'Arte Margutta


- Cosenza Galleria KB

- Bari David Galleries

- Londra Bedford House Gallery

- Grosseto Galleria Il Tridente

- Parma Galleria S.Chiara

- Bologna Galleria Il Portico

- Ostiglia (MN) Galleria l'Incontro

- Cosenza Galleria KB


- Lamezia Terme (CZ) Galleria Esperia

- Livorno Galleria Il Cavallo

- Mantova Galleria Il Teatro Minimo

- Roncoferraro (MN) Galleria Il Quadrifoglio

- Parma Galleria S.Chiara

- Londra Bedford House Gallery

- Milano Galleria Ciovasso


- Roma Galleria Il Grifo

- Palermo Centro d'Arte Condor

- Potenza Galleria La Colonnina


- Cosenza Galleria KB

- Castrovillari (CS) Galleria Il Coscile



- Bologna Galleria S.Paolo

- Roma Galleria Il Grifo


- Bologna Galleria S.Paolo

- Cosenza Circolo Aziendale Cassa di Risparmio di Calabria e di Lucania


- Reggio Calabria Galleria La Tela


- Ctità di Castello (PG) Galleria Il Pozzo


- Roma Galleria Il Logogramma


- Cosenza Galleria Il Saggittario
- Teramo Galleria Mirò


- Roma Galleria Il Logogramma


- Alia (PA) Biblioteca Comunale


- Roma Galleria La Gradiva


- Roma Galleria Cà d'Oro
- Avezzano Galleria Il Caso


- Roma Palazzo Braschi


- Montelarco Morlupo (RM) Galleria M.G.P.

- Latina Galleria del Corso


- Piombino (LI) Palazzo Appiani


- Morlupo (RM) Galleria Comunale

- Rende (CS) Galleria KB Art

- Montesilvano (PE) Galleria Alhambra

- Ferrara Studio d'Arte Melotti


- Roma Galleria Fidia (A.R.G.A.M.)


- Bari Expo Arte - Galleria Il Tetto

- Montesilvano (PE) Palazzo dei Congressi


- Roma Galleria L’Indicatore


- Castrovillari (CS) Galleria Il Coscile
- Reggio Emilia Expo Art (Galleria KB Art)


- Roma Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo

- Roma Galleria Camelù


- Roma ”Tutte le latitudini possibili” Che Banca! - filiale di Roma, Salaria 280



- Roma V Rassegna Arte Figurativa di Roma e del Lazio


- Roma II Rassegna Nazionale d'Arte Figurativa Il Lavoro Italiano


- Roma Mostra Gemellaggio Roma-Napoli


- Roma IV Rassegna Nazionale d'Arte Figurativa Il Lavoro Italiano


- Grosseto Galleria Il Tridente "Dodici pittori per un'immagine dell'uomo"

- Capo d'Orlando XI Premio Nazionale di Pittura

- Torino Cento Pittori per il Socialismo


- Suzzara Festival de l'Unità: Trent'anni non sono passati


- Mosca Pittori Italiani a Mosca e nell'URSS

- Camigliatello (CS) Rassegna Incontri Silani

- Enna Rassegna Nazionale Città di Enna


- Terzzano sul Naviglio

- Piombino "Trent'anni dopo" Pittori Italiani per la Resistenza

- Livorno Mostra l'Immagine Critica

- Roma X Quadriennale Nazionale d'Arte

- Tunisi Rassegna della grafica Italiana contemporanea Musee d'Art Vivant


- Conegliano Veneto Sicilia in Arte Palazzo Comunale


- Cosenza New Arcadia come Post-Avanguardia Ridotto del Teatro Rendano

- Daimante (CS) I Murali


- Tunisi Rassegna della grafica Italiana contemporanea Musee d'Art Vivant


- Nettuno (RM) Mostra Internazionale "La Pace nel Mondo"


- Scandicci (FI) Omaggio a Dino Campana "Sulle orme della chimera"

- Rende (CS) Pittura nell'Area Meridionale Museo Civico

- Siena IV Biennale d'Arte Sacra Contemporanea Palazzo Pubblico Magazzini del Sale
- Roma Mostra Idea di Roma Galleria Trifalco


- Sesto FiorentinoMarzabotto Voglia di pace - Autori contro la violenza

- Rossano (CS) Premio di Pittura "Le citta della Magna Graecia"

- Roma "Della Natura" Omaggio a Lucrezio - Galleria Trifalco


- Tropea (CZ) "Mediterranea" II Rassegna d'Arte Contemporanea - Palazzo Brago

- Riposto (CT) I Rassegna di Pittura e Scultura nell'Area Mediterranea

- Sulmona (AQ) XV Premio Sulmona - Palazzo dell'Annunziata

- Modica (RG) "Ibla Mediterraneo" Premio Internazionale di Pittura e Grafica


- Roma "Presenze Siciliane" Arte del XX secolo Complesso Monumentale S.Michele a Ripa

- Sulmona (AQ) XVI Premio Sulmona Palazzo dell'Annunziata

- Roma "Arte/Ambiente" (Collaborazione con la FAO, Organizzazioni delle Nazioni Unite, - Ministero dei Beni Culturali e Ambientali) Museo del Risorgimento di Piazza Venezia

- S.Agata Militello (ME) II Premio Biennale d'Arte Contemporanea

- Roma Fuori Gioco: 39 Artisti e i Mondiali Accademia d'Egitto

- Ustica (PA) I Murali

- Roma L'Arte per l'Ecologia - Galleria Cà d'Oro


- Trapani Sicilia: mito e realtà - Museo Pepoli

- Il Cairo Un Goal per Sigmund - Centre of Arts Akhanation Gallery "1" Zamalek

- Utsica (PA) I Murali

- Vneturina (LI) Etruria Arte


- Erice (TP) Pittura nell'area meridionale - Palazzo Militare

- Capo d'Orlando (ME) Una città per l'Arte

- Roma IV Salone d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea "Arte Roma '92" Palazzo dei         Congressi

- Utsica (PA) I Murali


- Palermo Il folklore a Palermo

- Fregene (RM) V Mostra Internazionale di Scultura Contemporanea Terzo Millennio - - -     Pianeta Azzurro


- Portoferraio (LI) L'isola dipinta

- New York Sicilia, terra d'arte - Galleria Spazio Italia


- Venturina (LI) Etruria Arte


- Roma l'Altra arte? Palazzo Barberini

- Venturina (LI) Etruria Arte

- Pavullo nel Frignano (MO) Umanesimo fantastico


- Bologna Arte Fiera

- Venturina (LI) Etruria Arte

- Gala di Barcellona (ME) "Artisti per l'epicentro" III Rassegna Nazionale d'Arte

- Trapani "I guardatori delle acque" Palazzo Milo

- Roma L'Arte a Roma ex-Mattatoio


- Roma L'isola dipinta - Sicilia ciquant'anni di Natura e Paesaggi - Museo del Risorgimento

- Montesilvano (PE) "Art'estate '98" con E. Benaglia, C. Benghi e S.Braido - Galleria     Alhambra


- Isola delle Femmine (PA) Nella rotta di Plinio - equorei celesti dipinti - ex"Macello"

- Enna Dal nero del segno ai colori del sogno - Omaggio a 60 artisti siciliani a Fralcesco -   Lanza - Galleria Civica


- Calci (PI) "Ex voto per il millennio" Museo Nazionale della Certosa
- Gruyeres (CH) En cent metamorphoses " La femme" - Centre International de l'Art   Fantastique
- Palermo - Icone del tempo sacro - Villa Magnisi.


- Ricerche contemporanee - VI Rassegna Nazionale di Arti Visive " Pueri et Magistri".


- Ciampino (RM) Luce materia spazio (sala consiliare)

- Piombino (LI) L'arte a tavola - "La natura morta nell'immaginario artistico italiano     (galleria comunale)


- Roma - Schegge d'autore - terza edizione teatro Bellini (ENAP-PSMSAD)

- Savona - Pirandelliana - 12 pittori e scultori interpretano Luigi Pirandello - Palazzo della   Provincia.

- Roma - Una storia verosimile, 25 anni di collaborazione tra artisti italiani e Sandro - - - - Gindro - Teatro Vascello.


- Trapani - Tra terra e cielo - forme e modelli per un'arte santa - Palazzo Fardella di   Mokarta.

- Roma - Nuovo surrealismo visionario e fantastico ( arte e solidarietà ) - Galleria Italarte.

- Cefalù (PA) - Artisti Contemporanei in via Madralisca.


- Roma D'apres 30x40 - 46 Artisti per 46 Maestri per l'Hotel Arte di Roma.

- Bozzolo (MN) Rassegna internazionale d'arte Città di Bozzolo - III Biennale " Don Primo   Mazzolari".


- Sulmona - Primo Premio - XXXV Premio Sulmona: Rassegna Internazionale d'Arte   Contemporanea


- Roma - Omaggio a De Chirico - Galleria Ca' d'Oro

- Miami (USA) - Omaggio a De Chirico - Saint Thomas High School and Galleria Ca'     d'Oro,  Miami Branch

- Los Angeles (USA) - Omaggio a De Chirico - Sculpture Foundation
  New York (USA) - Omaggio a De Chirico - Consolato Italiano



“Lillo Messina’s journey begins with rigorously figurative and conceptually committed painting on major twentieth-century themes: the crisis in Western society and the anthropological change in mankind today. The conflict and unrest, including cultural restlessness, of the ’seventies finds the artist a sensitive but undisturbed observer. With accurate and enigmatic fantasy, Messina invents a bestiary of hybrid creatures, animated rejects of industrial production, disquieting animals and insect-men populating the clear-cut background of his works. The painter remains concealed behind this metaphysical blanket: nothing of himself is revealed; his images, it seems, could come from anywhere. The artist has always maintained this Apollonian distance from his pictures, although towards the ’eighties one begins to perceive numerous strands, seas and horizons in his works. These are not real locations, not memories and not even melancholic venues, but theatrical stages on which Messina orchestrates silent dialogues amongst seemingly abandoned objects, the landscape and the onlooker. […] 

The artist encourages the onlooker to leap into the work, to initiate a mental exploration of the landscape illuminated by noonday light, wholly pervaded by the psychic power of summer afternoons, when the Mediterranean ceases to be a geographical definition and is transformed into a demon, a panic presence capable of recalling our own and millions of other lives. This elegy of places, penetrated by a subtle and conscious ecological critique, transforms the accidents of the picture, the urban scenes and the silent presence of the sea, into voyages, mental Odysseys in which the work opens itself to the psychic passage of the onlooker. This stretching toward movement, mental navigation, becomes even more incisive at the beginning of the ’nineties, when the artist “breaks away from earth”, takes flight and raises his vision above the sea. […]

…the modernity of this artist, who - within the dominant tradition of the twentieth century, Metaphysical and Surrealist – has generated his personal world of poetry with its décors, its characters, and its own organic universe. The literary terms I have used are not casual, and others (Gerbino, 1998) have ventured even more forceful comparisons with last century’s great narrator from Messina, Stefano D’Arrigo. They are close in their modernity of language and relationship with tradition, as well as the same research into the suspended atmosphere, the oneiric flavour of their imagination. Both are innovators, experimenters. Messina, however, never gives way to the throbbing beat, the aesthetic swoon, to the Baroque. His is a modern narration and, consequently, open, light, rapid and firmly structured. His painting of the ’eighties is like that of much younger Sicilians today, who have taken the same path that has always convinced Messina, in spite of everything. Messina has lived through the informal, the conceptual and the post-modern in Rome, as well as the uncertain trends of our own times, but appears immensely distant from it. His painting has continued its narration, continuously revisiting myth, seeking its poetic Mediterranean inspiration, and magnifying it in the hyper-reality of depiction. Later, the myth becomes abstraction, philosophy, a journey through theoretical deduction, through the universal forms of all seas, of all latitudes. An infinite journey whose future results we do not yet suspect, although we perceive their prophetic nature, but which offer us the inheritance of a detached reflection, an overview, serene and limpid, of which both art and mankind today have such radical need.”

Mosè Previti

Presentation at the Palacultura “Antonello da Messina” Exhibition - Messina
May - June 2016

Lillo Messina has attained full maturity, having increasingly refined the incisive and piercing technique that has rendered his work so exceptional on the contemporary Italian scene. Messina’s superb hand creates vivid and convincing paintings, inventing a set of signs and symbols that are perfectly coherent with his imagination.

His value, however, goes far beyond technical excellence, becoming an iconographic and stylistic system that reveals a remarkable personality and a singular understanding of the figurative phenomenon. In dealing with his work, critics have remarked on the bond between Messina’s art and his Sicilian homeland. There is no doubt, moreover, that the artist is filled with those images of sky, land and sea, continually encountered in a peregrination of the wonderful island that saw his first works. Now Messina has reached a singular and unexpected point.

He has become a kind of painter-geographer, creating apparently topographical pictures that describe very precise locations on which his imagination loves to dwell. But that’s not all: for some time now, he prefers the bird’s eye view, as though he were seeing the Earth from some satellite, and describing it with a painter’s tools.

In actual fact, nowadays, visual projections from a satellite are impressively lucid and precise, so that we can zoom in from on high to view the minutest details on Earth. Lillo Messina, of course, does not work with a computer: throughout his career, his images have always been transpositions of fantasy from technically precise and irreproachable views, modified however by a poetic inspiration with no goal of accuracy or verisimilitude, but rather of expressing a visual suggestion in a sort of dream that cannot be defined by instruments other than those of the painter.

Messina is greatly influenced by the idea of transits and could be defined as a painter-astronomer, desirous of making the great transits of the worlds alive for us on the map of the sky, discovering new dimensions that excite the mind and lighten the spirit. An artist of profound honesty and humanity, Messina’s conception is a major effort of synthesis, utilising a fragile and dense material to extract a kind of quintessence balanced between physics and metaphysics, full of arcane and remote echoes, but well-founded in concrete everyday life.

Nicola Micieli, in commenting a few years ago on the basic elements of Lillo Messina’s career, compared him to Ulysses, or rather, used the myth of the wandering Ulysses to explain the deep-seated motivations of an artist who has reached such an awareness and depth of feeling as to merit the attention of all those who are not inclined, either by natural disposition or by training, to reduce an artist’s work to some empty formula, without ceasing to seek the richness of content and expressive factors that, Lillo Messina’s case, must still, in part, be clear. What ensues is an exhibition such as this, where each of us is made aware of the constituent elements of the poetics of just such a master.

Lillo Messina’s dream of islands becomes the shared itinerary of a mental adventure that roams without limits or confines, as though dreaming of a landing – albeit impossible – where rest can be sought after an adventurous and chequered voyage, only to resume the journey tirelessly with eyes fixed on a destination that moves ever further forward.

Claudio Strinati

Presentation of the Exhibition at Castel Sant’Angelo - Rome
March 2008

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