edit by Francesco Buranelli

The cross is one of the strongest archetypal symbols: a “sign” that, going beyond historical or geographical factors, makes immediately understandable an absolute concept, that is preexisting and primordial. From China to Egypt, from Ancient Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean Civilizations – the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans – till the inscriptions done by the civilizations in Central America and in Africa, the cross epitomizes diverse and complementary meanings and values.

However, only after the death in the cross of Jesus Christ and since the Emperor Constantine, in 313 AD, took the cross (in hoc signo vinces) as a symbol and insignia of victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge against the consanguineous armies of Maxentius, the cross became the most incisive and universal “sign” of mankind.
The iconography of the Crucifixion appeared very late in Christian symbolism: indeed, for the first believers it was very hard to see, together in one image, the worshipped figure of Christ, the Pastor Bonus, with the tool of an atrocious and, above all, ignominious death.
For this reason the most ancient representations of Crosses of the 2 th – 3 th century would have been generic Crosses without Christ, intended only to remember the scaffold where the Saviour was sacrificed.

Only since the 4th century Christian iconography represented on the Cross the Christus Triumphans, that is the Christ Victor over Death, crucified but alive, already resurrected, with the open eyes gazing upon the bystander. The iconography of the Christus Patiens, or of the dead or dying Christ, appeared much later, when the Crucified Christ took on a universal value for Christian identity.

The artistic depictions that, during the centuries, proposed in many variations the Cross to human beings are countless; however, only the 20th century proposed it again in its tragedy, making it the symbol of humankind’s pain.
During the Second World War, when the atrocities of history were occurring, we observe a growth of artists who face sacred themes, and in particular the crucifixion. We would like to bear in mind as an example only some of these works, among which the famous and “scandalous” ones by Giacomo Manzù, Renato Guttuso, Mario Sironi and Ottone Rosai, as well as those by Lucio Fontana and Emilio Vedova stand out.
This way, while heading forth towards the end of the 20th century – and passing through Salvador Dalí and Francesco Messina – we notice that the cross was often “secularized”, changing itself from a “symbol” to a “sign” and undergoing an apparent reduction of its religious and spiritual value.

Renato Meneghetti follows this wake and today he wants, in this exhibition totally unprecedented in its formulation, to let talk among themselves the three distinct creations of his artistic production, that are all different, although strongly connected to the “sign” of the cross. A brave, unusual choice sees Daily Golgotha of 1999 – that gave the title to this exhibition –, Nulla vita ex hoc pane of 2002 and Kiss to Camilla of 2013 the one close to the other.
In all the compositions of Meneghetti we perceive, at first glance I would say, the intent to evade the religious iconography and the “devotional”, seeking in his art truly and deeply transcendent values and meanings, that “must” emerge from a precise realization of the form, of the colour and of the materials. Three different experiences born in different moments of the artist’s life, which narrate the chronological and emotional evolution of his vision of the world.

Five crosses of different heights, formed by X-rays painted plates compacted in Plexiglas, compose an evocative and graceful Daily Golgotha, in which every visitor will be able to recognize himself in a human “passion”, open to free personalization. The red colour alludes to the sacrifice, to the blood as an evident sign of the bodily pain, that Meneghetti exalts by using X-ray reports, what is by now recognized to be his unmistakable practice.
An artistic language that through the “fiction” of X-ray technique – as Achille Bonito Oliva effectively stated – reconstructs, de facto destroying, the subject from the unconscious, coming to face the origin and the reason itself of the existence. By a methodical “vivisection” of the subject Renato Meneghetti investigates the unconscious of man and discovers analogies of signs and anatomical details, filtered by the X-rays, that he composes together as though he would give life to a dream, sometimes also to a nightmare. Then he enlarges, elaborates and pictorially or chemically defines them, creating the image, the artwork.
An investigation which was matured by “looking inside”, into the intimacy of the man, that Renato Meneghetti – thanks to a mighty intuition that is not only aesthetic, but also and above all metaphysical – succeeds in stigmatizing in an appearance that lays us bare with ourselves and with our soul. It unveils the reality of our being, allows us to overcome the sense of human frailty, or rather it projects us, by means of the light that makes reality come true, into a world of spiritual and intellectual freedom, so that we can overcome the torments and the difficulties that made us feel as “crucified”.

If Daily Golgotha is an incitement to overcome the difficulties of life by meditating on the fugacity of existence, Nulla vita ex hoc pane is, on the contrary, an open denunciation of the false idols of our age: power and money.

Different is the meaning, different are the means.

Six military crates, once containing bombs, are placed on the ground to form a broken cross. Forty thousand coins, purposely made by the artist by means of Perspex little disks containing fragments of human phalanxes X-ray and small bones or generic parts of human body, are hoarded inside: a passionate and disconsolate denunciation of how the war causes destruction and procures physical and ethical death of unarmed and defenseless populations.
By an ambiguous expression, as ambiguous is the reality of modern “consumerism”, Meneghetti even represents the broken cross, crushed in the deflagration of so many atrocities and evilness, but also corrupted by the money stained by blood and signed by the suffering of so many innocent victims.
Indeed, relevant than ever are in this respect the warnings that Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed during these first months of pontificate, in order to encourage men to avoid the modern idols of money and power. “Richness and vanity”, said the Pontiff, are the two temptations from which rulers, bishops and priests must stay away, “the real power is the service”, the solidarity towards the others.

Finally, the last section of the exhibition is dedicated to the man that, more than any other one, managed to show to the whole world how one can and must bear the cross, for himself and for the others. The Beatified John Paul II during his long pontificate proclaimed – with the “language” of suffering – the Word of God and carried the cross on his body, in a real and moving Imitatio Christi.

A Roman Pontiff, who with natural simplicity and extraordinary willpower showed to the believers and to the non-believers the frailties of an ill and suffering body and, at the same time, testified all the strength of both a granitic Faith and an indomitable moral force. A beloved Pope, capable of actions with great significance, but inflexible in his defense both of life and of the rights of the undefended.
Moved once again by his inexhaustible desire to look beyond the exterior image, Renato Meneghetti, for this series of works called Kiss to Camilla, goes back to being a painter and exceeds the X-ray experience, shifting his attention on ultrasound.

With a long technical process the artist depurates a side-on picture of John Paul II and puts it near the prenatal ultrasound of his little niece Camilla, creating, with an accurate and very long work of Visual Art, the base image of the work. Then he transfers it onto 30 x 30 cm canvases, using the technique of the emulsion, which is repeated, serialized and revealed in vivid colour shades, in the style of Pop Art.
Then the artist composes them into different cross shapes, into an ideal mosaic, on which he will further intervene during the finishing touch, with targeted and characterizing pastel and pencil crayon retouching.

At this point, exploiting the loom thickness, the artist infuses movement to the works, de facto creating a three-dimensional projection on three different protruding levels. A colorful backdrop, with vivid colours, that shows a pure, bright white cross, a symbol of the purity of childhood and of the divine light, from the center of which the Pope arises, in his tender and affectionate kiss to Camilla.

The final finishing touch, with a glossy and reflective resin, reinvents the work: Meneghetti with this final intervention infuses to the images their own light, makes them deeper, exalts their brightness, coming to seize the full Augustinian meaning of the light being intended as a scintilla animae, which reveals the presence and guidance of God in the pastoral action of the Pontiff.

But we are not touched only by this: the viewer that will place himself in front of this series of works will be directly involved, glimpsing his own reflection on the thick layer of resin.
The artist invites us to take part in the Calvary scene, to enter the Cross and take charge of it: we will not be allowed to remain indifferent.
The work is outstanding for its colour vivacity and its multiple meanings, it is grievous and touching in memory of the Pope “Saint Now”, the work is tragic in the symbolic form of the Cross but yet “solar” in the choice of pure colours and bright in the brilliance of the tiles.
The dark pessimism of Nulla vita ex hoc pane, the torment of Daily Golgotha melted in the tender kiss of the Beatified Pope to the whole mankind, which is epitomized in the smooth profile of Camilla. They burst in the grievous sign of the Cross, actually from the essence itself of the Cross: a desire of hope, of overcoming of all that torments us. We all desire, as the children in Mark’s Gospel, to be close to salvation, to approach the Light and to be welcomed by a tender embrace: “Let them come to me”, all of them.

Francesco Buranelli