Hugo Pratt’s Imaginary Periplus
babelmed - 24/03/2005
Hugo Pratt’s Imaginary Journey
“Imaginary Periplus” exhibition is a journey, either real or fictional. It is also the first anthological exhibition on Hugo Pratt, since his death 10 years ago. It will be held in the museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena from 24th March to 28th August 2005.
Approximately 15 years after his last anthological exhibition that took place in Venice, this new exhibition in Siena proposes to travel through the places of Pratt’s life and imagination. The journey starts in Venice, where the author was born, and wanders through the many regions of the world the author lived in or visited. All his journeys were faithfully reproduced in the settings of his great amount of works, including comics, watercolours, or China ink, and filtered through his memories of Stevenson, Conrad and London coming from his childhood readings.
These reminiscences, which induced Pratt during his childhood to dream about the South Seas, are the source from which he derived his inspiration for Ballad of the Salt Sea, his first great comics story where Corto Maltese, undoubtedly his most famous character, appeared for the first time. The story is composed of 163 plates, all of which are displayed in a special section of the exhibition.
The reading of the works by Curwood, Zane Grey and Kennett Roberts aroused Pratt’s love for the world of American Indians and for the border-line context that he had the opportunity to study and to know so deeply that he could write and draw the unforgettable plates of Wheeling and Ticonderoga.
Pratt set the action of The Scorpions of the Desert in Africa. There he would find the static and silent vastness of deserts as well as the colours of the coats of arms and uniforms that he had seen and admired as a child in the period he lived with his father in Addis Ababa.
On the other end, classic adventure stories typical of the Anglo-Saxon literature would lead him to range over the worlds of Anna nella jungla (Ann in the Jungle), Sgt Kirk, Cato Zulu and Jesuit Joe.
Since his first appearance in the world of Italian comics in 1945, Hugo Pratt had always been able to plunge in the most widely varying realities, describing them with the utmost care for detail and with a special sensitivity that very often resulted in a true anthropological study.
In order to underline the fact that places belonging to Pratt’s life and to his literary sources mixed together in his artistic universe, the 350 works selected for the exhibition in Siena were divided into seven geographical sections: South West, North West, Africa, Latin America, North America, Pacific and Asia, all of which are connected one to the other by means of original video productions.
In this way it will be possible to move freely through Pratt’s wide artistic production and to notice its evolution, starting from its very beginning with Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades), dating back to 1945, and all the way up to the watercolours he painted a couple of months before he died.
Among the other objects of special interest there is also a Formula One car. The Ligier that Martin Brundle drove in 1993 in the Grand Prix of Japan is to this day the only racing car that was painted by a worldwide famous artist.
Furthermore, the exhibition presents the first systematically organized catalogue of Hugo Pratt’s works published by Lizard, whose editors are Patrizia Zanotti and the writer and documentarist Thierry Thomas.
Contents, Routes and Sections
The exhibition goes in a very methodical way along the author’s complex artistic evolution resulting from the mixture of two fundamental elements in his life: the places where he spent his life and the places connected with the literary sources that inspired his production.
Both Pratt’s comics production, which is strewn with a wide range of characters and his pictorial universe, including watercolours, temperas and China ink, have their origin in these two elements.
The common ingredient of the two above-mentioned elements is the journey conceived as an imaginary periplus of the geographical and human space, i.e., the discovery of both physical and immaterial places using the author’s imagination as a guide and his works as a means of transport. The exhibition, which was designed and produced by Cong SA, follows the routes marked out by Hugo Pratt’s characters who lived in places like Venice, the Celtic world, Africa, Latin America, North America, Pacific and Asia.
Criss Kenton, Wheeling - ©CONG S.A.
Images and films, along the exhibition are neither a purely decorative element nor a cold educational descriptive device. They are an important connection between the routes, the geographical sections and the designed settings, as well as a guide inside them. They are the link between Pratt’s fantastic world, his cultural basis and his works. During this “periplus,” visitors are carried from one world to another by the expressive power of images and the emotional intensity of music conceived as channels for sensory involvement as well as by the evocative power of history and literature conceived as an intellectual incentive. This is a “real” audiovisual journey and not a “virtual tour.”
American cartoonist Frank Miller wrote in “Voodoo for the President” (1986), "His drawings show an attention to, and familiarity with, exotic detail, far beyond what could be gleaned from a shelf full of National Geographic magazines. There is nothing stolen, or even borrowed, in Pratt's work; even his sense of humor seems to come from preposterous experience." The exhibition allows us to get a glimpse of Pratt’s familiarity to these “exotic details” Frank Miller refers to. Babelmed Editorial Team