Beyond the Dark: The Work of Luca Artioli

Click the pages below to explore a gallery of pages from Beyond the Dark

In his photographs, Luca Artioli succeeds wonderfully in representing a path, a journey from darkness, death, despair and pain and the slow ascent back to the light. He retraces it with the sensibility of the artist, but also of a man who has known suffering, its agony and its deceits. An “alchemical” path, an artistic route which transforms “the salt of bitterness into the salt of wisdom.” Art and technology, sensibility and science, are obliged to coexist constantly in the work of those who operate on the delicate material of life. They should proceed, in every case, with both the mind and the heart.

Artioli succeeds in representing the experience of pain, fear and despair through his narrative. The images express human experiences, disturbances and dramas through their force of suggestion and their insight into the indescribable, providing a compulsion to re-read our own and other people’s history. Within each of us lies a concealed, deep sorrow whose effects permeate and sometimes invade the thoughts and acts of our existence; and what we seek to dispel or conceal from consciousness still lies there in wait for you in darkness and silence.

The art of Luca Artioli, the subjective narrative path which contacts with depression, produces manifests truths layered in the innermost spaces, enabling him to translate the involving and harrowing experience of existence, and shed light on that cry present in the heart of each of us.

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W.H. Auden wrote truly:

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along … 

But the images of this book prevent us, for some moments, from walking unawares along our road. They oblige us to pause while a tempest of feelings and emotions rises from our depths. In gazing at these images, the experience of the viewer becomes so intense that consciousness is frozen in an instant of the present, prolonging a sad, unceasing lament, and then slowly, after the transformation, returns along the path to the light, or rather “Beyond the Dark.” Tradition has it that the Buddha’s last words to his friends were: “Be light to yourselves, be a refuge for yourselves.”

max07Luca  Artioli– In His Own Words and Images

I built my solitude,
I nurtured it with snow,
Now I am not afraid to open the door
and leave behind the footprints of my past.

At times we seem to have arrived at the end and only a determined gesture can save us.To turn over a new leaf. But the page is heavy, dark and illegible. It is a black veil, dense and sticky, that covers the soul and slowly stifles it.Translating those moments into words and images is not easy.

You feel ill and the representation of darkness is private, yours alone. Working in that dimension that smacks of nightmare is madness. Pages and images of depression cannot be born in the darkness or in an unmade bed as you are sucked into the night. In there, in the vortex, down there, at the bottom there is no strength, there is no writing or language because life is lost and you can’t grasp it again.

Only later, when you are better and memory is bearable, can you write or paint your blackness with the truth felt on your skin. This is what happened with this book. Emerging from the tunnel I wanted to tell of the journey.

Can I offer you the experience of a rebirth?
Light over darkness,
love over death,
the desire of shining,
of finding the breath of the soul,
will be like the moon when it finds the snow,
like the sun when it lives on the mountains,
it will be yours,
it will be light.

33So we can start. Pain has done its work, like a used car, now I pull up in one of the parking lots of life. I continue with a different means of transport, and resume my journey across a white field of snow. When you succeed in walking on the fresh snow and leave new footprints behind you; when you feel your body respond to the effort and the light settle on your skin without wounding then it means that you have started to live again.The fresh field of snow is your new page, a new garment to wear. And now that I feel energy return to my fingers and all my body, now that the white sheet before me invites me to leave new footprints, at this very moment, I can speak of the life that I thought lost.

it dissolves on my hand
open to the sky.
It returns home, the pain.

Everything is now beneath me. The anguish of bewilderment, the unseeing face, the hands trembling and the Prozac and Zoloft tablets. It’s all under my feet.The veil of snow woven with the threads of my darkness is dissolving.This new day will restore motion, light and new nourishment. And if the paths are many, I am not afraid to choose one.

It appeared with an invitation,
an open door, but on entering, the passages multiplied,
the paths opened and closed suddenly,
too many choices, too many ways.
No one had told me life was such a labyrinth.
Today I wandered where it was right to wander.
I directed my footsteps there,
around that bend.
At once I felt the new path a little my own, so different from those before.
“Go on, go on… keep going,” it seemed to say,
and I felt no fear of losing the black luggage of my life,
or the fear of finding myself before another closed door.
“Go on,” it said, “go on.”
How long did the journey last?
How many things did I take with me?
I can’t recall, but I found myself at the center.
My hand, before my soul,
entered the eye of the cyclone.
there is a heart that beats serene, without hustle and anxiety.
I find a bench to sit on.
Here at the center everything is calm, really strange.
Not strident noises, not flashes, winds and violent darknesses,
only lovely colors and a music of serene, ineffable notes.
The wooden bench like in the park,
is an invitation to rest,
to contemplation.
“Stop now,” it seems to murmur.
It is neither hot nor cold and the body is not hungry
and, in the end, it forgets it is a body.
I am at the center,
at my center and I feel and see with new eyes.
I have no fear now of returning into the storm.
I feel the protection of a good force that will enable me to traverse it.
I walk calmly and if I again find myself faced with a closed road,
it does not matter,
now I know how to return to the center,
to rest there, to find new energies,
to seek and perhaps to emerge,
in the end,
from our limits.

There was a time when nothing was left of me.
Even my shadow had flown away, and nothing made sense, words even less.
Now I breathe again, the sense of the possible reappears, it happens that I live.
Air, enter the body without pain.
I am reborn,
borne again, the first whimper is a cry, of a man born already man.
Muscles, bones, hands of an adult, strong legs, beard.
I am reborn, in a body as voluminous as experience.
It is the ocean that I see.
I leave the entrance to the cave, I stand up and I regain equilibrium.
I regain equilibrium.
And death becomes history, rebirth a fable.
Someone says:“Relate” …
how many words are needed to relate flight from darkness?
I fell, Gentlemen.You fall, and get up again, inexorably, many times.
So they say, it is life, besides.
But then one day you fall and lie there. Sprawled on the ground.
And if people pass by, they do not see you,
and if no one finds you any more, it hardly matters.
I am traveling, even by night, even in darkness.
I travel, unknowing where, lost.
I fell, do not ask me why, Gentlemen.
I fell, that’s all!
No one notices, in part because I am sunk in bed,
under the blankets, and no one comes looking there.
What is that lump under the quilt?
Huddled in the fetal position?
I could hide at the ends of the earth. I had traveled the world and the places of death are many.
But I chose my bed, an easier and friendlier refuge.
It was so natural to indulge annihilation under the sheet.
The night lived even in broad daylight. Shutters closed, not a blade of light could
or would vibrate in the room.
Night lived in broad daylight.
The bed was a huddle of pleasing warmth,
the last good, the smell of goodness,
as the baby feels the body of its mother.
The smell of goodness.
The bed was time without time, anteroom of dreams, a right and cozy coffin.
Like white snow, the blanket protected.
Down there,
I forgot the body, now weightless.
Arms, legs, sex, head,
nothing any more.
Eyes closed and no longer burned.
And mouth, black hole on my abyss,
Down there,
down down,
I generated images,
without voice or cry.
What images?
The last images of what remained of life,
of my life before the great nothingness.
Clouds flying white and towering, flights of colored birds, wings green and bluish,
butterflies kindling the sky, tilled fields of infinity plowed by swift horses, and down there the beach,
tickled by the breath of the sea. Lastly the snow, whiteness of sleep, softly falling.
I hung all these pictures in a gallery endlessly traversed by solitary souls.
And night came at last! True darkness on artificial darkness,
brightened at times by flashes of dreams, storms of the soul,
that beat and shake the unconscious in its shadow.
the sheets are warm with the dead body.
Warm with the dead body.
The hand clenched in a fist holds the last firefly.
How much longer will the small light be imprisoned?
Is there an invisible force that feeds it?
What it was that opened my fist and freed the light that was stifling, I do not know.
What or who it was that made it grow and breathe in a new dawn, I do not know.
All at once I felt hunger, hunger to be reborn,
a new appetite for life.
I felt the sense of the possible return, of a possible life,
that now I offer to you as experience and a gift of hope.

I slide from the crest of the wave into its whirlpool.
I float between two living walls that move my life.
From the hollow in the waves I cannot climb back,
and my cry enters and drowns in theirs.
I hope for a nearby shore to tear down the nervous walls of sea,
but if swimming is impossible and the sky above me closes in an ever thinner line,

of thoughts into life,
of tomorrow into yesterday.
the head in the sheet,
the arms in the belly.
the routed army in flight,
the wave in the undertow,
the sun in the night.
light in darkness,
solid in void,
life in death.
And never ask me to get up again.

I have to go out.There is a force
that pushes and breaks this glassy skin
that contains me.
I feel splinters of evil and fear forming.
It is possible to break the world
outside without grief ?
And to emerge from the cocoon
without noise
and the taste of blood?

In the night that sinks,
the dream floats
on new glimmers
of moon.
I can touch it,
soft with silver.

The shadow has nothing more to cling to
nor nails to scratch with.
It implodes on itself
within its eye of darkness.
Walls of mirror reflect now
a new wonder of light.
All is smooth, flattened and glossy
so nothing can cling to the past.
The old weighs too much and unbalanced
falls back.
Only a wind of rebirth can arise
and go beyond. Because it is light,
empty of words and memories.
It blows warmly without misting
the new way with fear and vertigo.
Everything remains limpid, clear and silent
while I emerge from the tunnel.
I am out!

For many years now I desired to curate these images in a book. Beyond the Dark had germinated within me ever since, emerging from my darkness, I had realized that life was still possible. And I wished to bear serene witness to this certainty. But the theme was difficult; speaking of depression was frightening, disturbing, and the book remained only a path of images and words enclosed in my mind.

– Luca Artioli



More artwork by Luca Artioli

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