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Alessandro Lupi

In a Nutshell

​​​​​​​To mark the 10th anniversary of CUBO’s foundation, Alessandro Lupi was one of the artists selected for the ideas competition to design and create a work to convey CUBO's image and what it represents and has represented over this decade, highlighting its most distinctive aspects in a simple, original and immediate way. The artist ​​Stefano Ronci won the competition with his work DiecialCUBO.

The artist's 'In a Nutshell' project received special mention, jointly with Lidia Bagnoli, for originality and conceptual power and the critical essay Ten years at CUBO, for evocation and analogy by Professor Giovanni Matteucci:

"[...] Alessandro Lupi pursues the 'analogy' route with a work that aims to draw our attention to a set of relationships rather than the individual elements used. This is also by virtue of the type of pattern: a restrained and manipulated installation consisting of three nuts placed one after the other to yield an (apparent) continuously growing stream. In arranging components already 'manufactured' by nature rather than exhibiting artificial objects, Lupi makes the dynamics that are established between the elements more significant than the elements themselves. The meaning he wants to express lies in this set of relationships.

The principle of analogy is triggered by the outward similarity between a nut kernel and the human brain, consisting of two hemispheres of material folded back on itself. But then, the progression of the nuts that creates the projection of a continuously growing stream will aim to describe the development of thought. Moreover, it is no coincidence that the nut-brain sequence occurs as a triplication since three is not just any number. While traditionally it represents perfection, mathematically, three is the emblem that expresses a cube. By further analogy, Lupi's pattern shows CUBO as a kind of energy multiplier that, by taking on a third dimension, generates thoughts. It produces ideas, like the three nuts aligned that bring the stream to maturity in its projections.
The stream spreads outwards. In other words, with the 'cube' progression, a brain locked in its shell morphs into a thought that penetrates its surroundings. The crucial projection of the stream outside the kernel and shell then expresses a mind that becomes part of the world, its web of meaning. As if to say that the culture embodied by CUBO constitutes and actuates a sense of the real, it underpins reality. The succession here translates a principle of ever more extensive and reticular branching in relation to the surrounding space. Starting from an arithmetic progression (1, 2, 3), we arrive at an intrinsically dynamic, geometric, spatial, and even three-dimensional progression.

The piece's design uses a skilful mix of techniques that Lupi has long practised, skilfully employing natural objects, light refractions, and shadow projections. In particular, at times, he used shadows to disorient and provoke a reflection that enriches the experience in progress. In our case, it is not a reflection due to bewilderment (like in Lupi's other works, for instance when a chess pawn casts the shadow of a knight, disorienting the observer). There is no strangeness or incongruity of nature between the object casting the shadow (a walnut) and the shadow itself (in which the shell is enriched with a stream). Here, rather than being baffled, we are invited to walk through the progression and make it our own by 'experiencing' the lengthening of the shadow. The walnut shell, as such, loses relevance. It is simply repeated in the three specimens, and instead, the most elusive part of the pattern, the projection of the shadow, takes on importance. As it lengthens, it gradually becomes the real focus. The result of the dynamic is the extension that makes the space inhabited by a meaning that is possible and to be realised, promised only as evanescent yet awaiting implementation. Something essential is intangible, fragile, not to be found in individual objects, but owes itself to how interactions between material entities unfold. In the overall succession of nuts with their shadows, there is a drive for extension, for growth, where each material (each nut) conceals within itself the principle of projected meaning.

It is unclear where the shadow, which is progressively lengthening until it is firmly established, comes from. There is an enigma: the projection of the shadow, the branching out, the extension of the fruit of this mind that is extending, as much as it takes the stage, appears to have no real, identifiable origin. It is as if it lived and existed exclusively in a luminous performance, the authentic centrepiece of the work. In the end, the device turns out to be made of pure light. The material elements on which it appears to be built are, correspondingly, vectorial rather than scalar. They consist of a trend, placed in an inherently dynamic relationship with each other. Thus, a progression that is elongation, protention, performance and extension gains further prominence. The material shell that is simply replicated generates an almost virtual web of meaning that is nevertheless dense spatiality, not just quantity, because it qualitatively holds together vectors that are never separate. Therefore, the shadow’s projection indicates closeness rather than flight. It is centripetal rather than centrifugal. It brings us closer and encourages us to stay and participate in the luminous play. It is an invitation to persevere, enhanced by the prevailing luminosity, suffused and almost intimate, conveying a protective world, showing a closed horizon that envelops what happens within it.

Therefore, when presenting the project, Lupi noted that emphasising the walnut as an emblem of something enclosed in a shell, 'in a nutshell', does not appear extrinsic. We could also say that such a core is a 'potential' in search of 'actuality'. The link between nuts and the stream's projection follows the example of the seed and plant that Aristotle uses to explain the relationship between potential and actual. The seed is in potential to what the plant is in deed. Similarly, the projecting stream is extrinsic potential, expressed, manifested by the 'cubed' progression of nuts. The nutshell already contains the power of the roots of the stream according to a clear sense of consistency and security enhanced by the symbolic meaning of the shell as protection. However, this protection does not prevent development but provides the vital preservation necessary to venture out into the world with the wisdom to dare. On the other hand, the culture of protection must go hand in hand with the culture of risk, if it is not to end up negating, rather than promoting, existence".​
(Giovanni Matteucci,  Ten years at CUBO, through evocation and analogy, December 2022).