Project Description

Maria Lai (Ulassai 1919 – Cardedu 2013), The legend of the castaway

Mixed media on paper 35 x 25 cm signed and dated (97) lower right with pencil inscription (a Giulia, Maria) with authentic released by Archivio Maria Lai, Lanusei.

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“At the center of Maria Lai’s artistic research – recalled Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, where on March 8th 2018 a great retrospective dedicated to the Sardinian artist was inaugurated – is the most typical means of his work, that is that a thread that ‘binds and connects’ in a way that is alive and that in fact often remains free and not yet sewn: among the various mythological references, Penelope can only remember weaving during the day and into the night melts the threads”. The loom, the millenary instrument of weaving, already appears in a drawing from the 1940s by Lai and figures of weavers meet in his subsequent papers. But it is from 1978, the year in which the Sardinian artist participates in the Venice Biennale, that the subtle plot drawn by the threads arranged on different supports each time, becomes a peculiar figure of his artistic research.

The work in question, performed in 1997 by the great Sardinian artist of the last century, looks like a work that links history and legend, merging them into a calligram with great aesthetic and political value, entitled “The legend of the Castaway”, whose text, paginated on the sheet so as to give life to the image of the crown of a tree agitated by the wind, it takes up an ancient fairy tale. Below is the complete text of the ancient novel taken from Lai’s work:

Once upon a time there was a very old tree that had remained alone on the island of the wind. The wind tormented him and kept the clouds away from his thirst. A shipwrecked man came from the sea, suffering from thirst and sores. He dragged himself from the shore to the foot of the tree and fell into a delirium of dreams and words: memories of a journey on the abyss. A distant and unknown voice had driven him beyond the horizon. The castaway spoke with the rhythm of the sea, evoking images of peace and torment, of distance and depth. The wind fell in amazement: the clouds gathered on the tree to listen and wept. The tree began to sprout, had leaves like small spears of silver, and fruits like sparrow’s eggs. Prodigious fruits: melted gold sap to soothe the thirst and wounds of the world, and nurture the sacredness of light. The wind carried those seeds away: it wanted to populate the land with precious trees and poets.

Maria Lai

The text, ubi consistam of the work, renders it, like all works of art that preserve an irrefutable truth, still current, able to speak to the heart of the man of our time, so unfortunately characterized by stories of shipwrecked and, at the same time, providentially still fruitful of poets. The strong bond of Lai with this ancient wisdom text emerged even when it was called to carry out some works for the Oil Museum of Castelnuovo di Farfa, including “Olio di Parole”, a dark corridor that brings the visitor back to the birth of the universe and, precisely, “The Tree of the Poet”, in which the words of this ancient fable are engraved on the crown of a tree.