by Marco Bussagli
Do you remember the story of Pandora? Zeus got angry with Prometheus for fashioning a man out of clay so, for spite, he assigned the task of forming a woman to Hephaestus. The god of fire moulded her out of earth and water. Then all the gods decided they would each bestow a gift on her and that is why she was called Pandora. Pallas Athena granted her an aptitude for the housewifely arts, Aphrodite bestowed beauty upon her, Hermes gave her cunning. Hermes then led her to Epimetheus, who could not stop himself falling in love with her, despite the warnings of his brother Prometheus. The thing is, Zeus had made Pandora the gift of a pithos, or box, in which he had shut all the world’s ills. With typically female curiosity she lifted the lid, the box loosed its dreadful contents, and misfortune, toil, envy and the worst conceivable ills spread throughout the world. From that moment on, serenity and joy vanished from the lives of men. The box was rapidly closed, but by then it was already too late; all that remained trapped within it was Hope, which is man’s faithful companion. Actually, this is a metaphor of the human condition and the illusions that span our world. What looks lovely and alluring, like Pandora, is usually tainted and rotten; cut open the reddest apple in the basket and inside it there’s a worm. Life, then, is a semblance. So too is art which, not uncommonly, in the painters’ manuals of the XVI and XVII century, is depicted as a woman holding a mirror which reflects nature’s forms and proves the reality of what, in fact, is only painted or sculpted. Moreno Bondi with his incomparable technique and the dazzling explosion of his colours (his, because he uses his understanding of the process of alchemy to make them himself), has unveiled the secret and relays it to us. He has opened the box of painting and released the nightmares that have tormented mankind for thousands of years. The dreamlike vision of Bondi’s painting is, like Pandora, quite beautiful yet terrible. It roves along the border of age-old memories; it springs from a mix of reminiscences of the Hellenistic period and the splendours of the Baroque, from the entanglement of the Metaphysical painters’ shadows with the lights of the Symbolists. But this veiled, fragile beauty breaks apart as soon as it comes into contact with today’s reality, because this is where the ills of the present day Pandora operate. The triumph of Hellenism fragments and the marble statues are transformed into fleshly colossuses. Everything looks distorted, elongated; like the screeching of a violin, Moreno Bondi’s brush won’t be tuned to the Baroque harmonies of an Artemisia Gentileschi. Across the huge canvases there are long shadows that once would have been clearly defined like those of De Chirico, but now are hazy, as if seen through mist illuminated by the Symbolist sun of a Khnopff. This, then, is the pictorial universe of Moreno Bondi: the cultured, polished imaginings of an artist who casts a sidelong glance into the depths of Pandora’s box and, in its darkness, sees hope.