Ars Antica constitutes Ian Charles Lepine's journey through an aesthetics of fragmentation, ruin, and loss.
The beings depicted in this collection are timeless, or rather out of time. Classical influence is constantly overturned and challenged to produce a new classicism, rebellious and yet traditional, an impossibility in the days of Classical Antiquity: the classicism of modernity.
Author: Ian Charles Lepine
Technique: Ceramic clay sculpture, painted with acryllic
The sculpture combines elements of classical and contemporary art that construct the double system of its allegorical meaning.
Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam. Seeking to ingratiate himself to her, Apollo blessed her with the gift of prophecy, but when the princess refused his attentions, he spat in her mouth and cursed her not to be believed about her visions of the future. To reflect the relationship between the two, the sculpture was constructed first by copying an ancient mask of Apollo and modifying it to produce more feminine features, thus signifying the contradictory relationship between the god and the prophetess.
In the Homeric tradition, Cassandra is said to have had a vision of the devastation of Troy by the Achaeans as a result of the stratagem of the Trojan horse. Following her prophetic dream, she tried to warn the Trojans, however no one would believe her because Apollo had cursed her. The sculpture plays upon the idea of prophecy as an immovable tormenting vision, a nightmare. Through the hollowed-out eyes of Cassandra, it is possible to look into the empty space inside her head, which, however is not empty at all, but bears the very Trojan horse that went to cause the ruin of Ilium. The effect is hard to convey in pictures. See the following video for reference:
The horse however is not made in the same naturalistic idealised style of the rest of the sculpture but is rather more contemporary and abstract in its execution. The contraposition of styles is meant to signify the conflict between classical and modern/contemporary art. Cassandra (representing the type of naturalistic sculpture of the Greco-Roman and Renaissance tradition) is threatened by the horse (representing the abstraction and flatness of the modern and contemporary tradition). Cassandra indeed will be destroyed by the horse, as her civilisation was by the Achaeans, and yet, both Greek civilisation and contemporary art are but a continuation of their origins. The relationship oscillates between homage and hostility
The sculpture features one further element of contemporary iconography: a graffiti style inscription upon the base. The bust appears to have been vandalised by someone who etched a phrase upon it. However, this sentence is also classical in origin: Timeo danaos et dona ferentes, a line that Virgil gives to Laocoon in the Aeneid: ‘I fear the Greeks even when they bear gifts.’
Because of its conception as an allegory of the relationship between classical and contemporary art, the sculpture echoes the space where it is exhibited: the Palazzo Boncompagni in Bologna, a historical building that now houses contemporary art such as this sculpture and some works by Pistoletto, alongside some remarkable treasures of the past.
Il futuro viene dal domani,
Ma lo vedo ora, l’ho in testa;
L’avvenire orrori manifesta
Sempre con fantasmi quotidiani.
Come si dimentica il futuro,
Ciò che deve occorrere ancora,
Se il passato ancora ci devora?
Immagino un inganno amaro, scuro.
Porto allora in me un dolore strano,
Viene del domani che mi sembra
Tanto reale, mentre l’ora è ombra:
La mia vita è diventata sogno.
Ben’ vorrei strapparmi questo sguardo
Che mi dà l’adesso ma in ritardo.
–18 settembre MMXXIII