Point of View: The majesty of the mediterranean palette and artist Stefano Vitale.
One of my first encounters with contemporary Italian art was in Sicily and on the island of Pantelleria in the summer of 2008. I had fallen in love with a Sicilian man at university a year before and I followed him to the city of Marsala in Sicily. A mutually exotic and barren land, Sicily both delighted and alienated me, with it's vibrant colours, intense flavours, waters and sunshine and on its darker side, layers of unyielding climates, suffocating summer air and impenetrable dialect. Gabriele came from a line of wine makers and that spring Sicily had pulled him out of my life in England and back into her arms as cantina DonnaFugata made their claim for his viticulture lineage.
That summer, the kind and warm DonnaFugata family invited me to immerse myself in the philosophy of the vines, to taste the magic of their wine and ultimately to stay with Gabriele in Pantelleria at the Cantina of their sweet wine Ben Rye. You may be asking what this has to do with art? Well I answer you, everything, from my first taste of their enchanting red wine Mille e Una Notte on a balmy evening, to the soft petaled jasmine on the trellis sparking in the Pantellerian moonlight kissing the air so sweetly with a scent from the divine. And from the delicate grasp of twisted vines around life-filled grapes to the trees at dawn filled with more birds than leaves, like singing silhouettes battling against the break of dawn. This was my introduction to living art and Pantelleria was queen, with a crown of flowers so bright they showed colour how to be colour. An island that seemingly defined sea blue, olive green, sunshine yellow and love red. And light, endless light, warm sunlight in the day, pure white moonlight in the night and an unabashed sky adorned with a cascading dome of stars.
It was no wonder to me then nor now that the exotic islands of Sicily and Pantelleria and their narratives inspire Donna Fugata's wine imagery. Inspired by Gabriella Rallo and designed by Artist and Illustrator Stefano Vitale each is a work of art, wrapped around countless dedicated moments to the art and philosophy of wine-making and capturing the elements. In the words of the Cantina “Donnafugata labels are a homage to art and literature. Unique and inimitable, they represent a way of being...” and to me they so clearly mirror the islands’ natures.
This is beautifully apparent in the case of the imagery created for the wine “Lighea” which captures “...the thousand shadings of colours of Pantelleria Island”. The artwork personifies the island as a young woman of exotic, untamed and watery beauty and profound spiritual depth, next to her partially submerged face reads, “Dai disordinati cappelli, color di sole, l'aqua del mare colava, sugli occhi verdi appertissimi...” translated as “From messy hair, the colour of the sun, sea water dripped over wide open green eyes”. We have a sense of the island's raw intense pigments and her beguiling beauty, often not entirely visible to the naked eye but waiting to be discovered, but also of her untamed wild spirit, which like her palette, is at the centre of Sicilian life.
The imagery for their wine Anthilia is an arresting and emotive, yet uncomplicated image of a sublime moment of ethereal feminine beauty. Her straw blond hair cascading across her face is akin to the “brillant straw yellow”* quality of the wine itself shimmering in the golden sun against Sicily's pure blue sky. Hers is a beauty that is at once captured and here even bottled, tasted and held in our gaze and yet is at that same moment fading away into soft colours, as we lose her to a distant mysterious expression. In the same way each delighting taste of this wine eventually fades and makes us yearn for the next. Such a seemingly uncomplicated artwork is yet capable of communicating a profound metaphorical depth. A single painted image here so profoundly expresses the fleeting nature of both beauty and the act of capturing and delighting in the ripening of the fruits of mother nature.
In both these and countless other works Stefano's sensitive use of colour and symbolism are arresting and deeply moving. His portfolio is overflowing with incarnations of an untameable palette of intense pigments and moments that recall the exquisite palette of Mediterranean life. A sensibility towards spirituality and philosophy are evident in his works and where these themes interweave with his emotive imagery he is able to communicate with us so deeply and yet so clearly. His personal career as an Artist and Illustrator has propelled him into international recognition, yet the purity of spirit of his style remains unpolluted.
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*Quotation cited from www.donnafugata.it
*In addition we acknowledge that the image copyrights in this article belong to DonnaFugata and that the content here meets the legal requirements for fair use under the applicable copyright laws.