When an artist drops, unknown, into a new world and
is able to glide effortlessly into the prestige circle of his trade,
it makes a powerful statement. Such was the serendipitous case of Ciro
Intoccia, whose fluid integration into the mainstream of Ibiza's
artistic milieu says nearly all that needs to be said about his
creative powers. In regard to style, his aesthetic brand of artistry
can best be described as a modern-day equivalent to Renaissance art,
while Intoccia himself fills the role of a latter-day Italian
Although he has been living in Ibiza for only five
years, Intoccia's oeuvre is as well-known as that of our best
long-term residents. His lion's share of recognition comes from the
fact that much of his work is commissioned by top-line bars and clubs
and is, therefore, on permanent public display. El Divino, Coastline,
Can Fly and Kumharas are four of the popular venues marked with his
distinctive cachet. It is, in fact, accurate to say that Intoccia's
work epitomizes the culturally eclectic spirit of Ibiza, owing in
large measure to the shrine of objets ésotériques he has
created at Café Kumharas.
Intoccia Showcased at Kumharas
Among Intoccia's many interesting contributions to
this café, the Shiva fountain, the Chinese dragon and the
Moorish-style dining gazebo are the pieces that most immediately catch
the imagination. Dreamers can often be spotted sitting near the
fountain on a summer's eve, drinking in the soothing sound of
splashing water and lost in private reveries. The blue-tiled Dragon
that lounges along the back terrace is, in fact, a seating ensemble
that easily accommodates a dozen people, positioning them directly in
the line of fire of the café's many exotic dance shows. Entering the
dining gazebo can only be described as stepping back several aeons to
some mythological land before time became linear. Or before right
angles were invented, for their calming absence is perhaps the most
remarkable feature of this unique work of architecture. Put to the
task of naming the style, I would have to call it 'streamline
arabesque' or perhaps 'neo-Tolkien'. Interestingly, the local press
has labelled Kumharas "a crossroads of meeting cultures", an epitaph
that stems directly from the ethnic cocktail of Intoccia's creations.
Like a wizard of form, he never fails to evoke that other-worldly
appeal people have come to associate with Ibiza.
He is not, however, limited to any one artistic
formula, and can adroitly recreate his inner vision in a broad array
of styles and media. "I work in any medium that will produce the
effect I'm after - or that happens to be on hand. I like the sandstone
here in Ibiza and use it a lot," he confesses. "It's the island's
traditional stone - easy to get and easy to work with. I use it for
sculptures, totems, garden ponds, lots of different constructions."
Because Intoccia has never worked in any field not related to artistic
activity, he has covered a tremendous amount of creative turf. In his
25 years as a practising artist, he has worked as a painter, a carver,
a sculptor, an architect and an exterior designer, in materials
ranging from coral to marble to metal to plaster.
Recalling his years at the Instituto Statale
d'Arte in Naples, where he was trained, primarily as a painter,
Intoccia explains, "In addition to our painting instruction, there was
also a strong emphasis on carving. Naples has a very old tradition of
coral craftsmanship and is famous for its miniature coral carvings of
religious and mythological figures. I ended up working as a coral
carver for fifteen years in various wholesalers’ workshops, as well as
pursuing my own free-lance work.
One of Intoccia's most accomplished works in Ibiza
is a large carving of a crucified Christ, commissioned privately for a
cemetery niche. This remarkable piece, which can now be seen only in
photographs, draws heavily on his early training in religious motifs.
I was lucky enough to see the crucifixion before it was placed in the
niche, and can attest to its power. The hanging figure of Christ is so
filled with pathos - head drooping, limbs limp, ribs protruding, -
that it could safely be compared to Donatello's or, perhaps even
Brunelleschi's, rendering of the same theme. Like his Renaissance
counterparts, Intoccia has achieved an amazing humanity and anatomical
accuracy in his rendition.
Intoccia admits that his early formation in the
classical canons has deeply influenced his aesthetic values - to such
an extent that he is mostly unmoved by 20th century art. When asked
his opinion on Frank O'Gehry Guggenheim in Bilbao (universally hailed
as an opus of contemporary architecture), he shrugs, "It doesn't
really speak to me. I respect the enormous amount of work that went
into it, but my vision doesn't fix on the future. I wouldn't mind
working with titanium though . . . " At that, his mind wanders off
into the myriad possibilities, all of which undoubtedly lay buried in
centuries long gone.
In effect, the signature quality of Intoccia's work
can best be described as his penchant for anything that belongs to the
past. The prehistoric bird that hovers over the entrance of Can Fly,
for example, the stone totem that land-marks the same venue, and the
visages of nymphs that only just emerge from its interior columns bear
testimony to his creative bond with time immemorial.
Intoccia has never entered the gallery circuit of
the here and now, either in Ibiza or in his native Naples. "I have no
interest in art showrooms. My work - any artist's work - belongs in a
living environment where it can bring beauty to the everyday world,
where it can be enjoyed as an integral element of its surroundings."
While somewhat extreme, these views have stood their holder in good
stead during a long and prolific trajectory that is only just coming
into full fruition.
His dream is to be given a large, completely
formless space, the grounds of a house or a villa, say, and to build
it up from zero. "Because I worked for so many years doing minute
carvings, I now feel the need to go large," he explains. My first
experience with exterior design was at Kumharas, whose owner, Maymó,
gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted. That was when my
work began to evolve toward large, open spaces and exterior design.
All of a sudden I was having fun, like a kid with a new toy. Since
then , my vision has become much more global."
Intoccia's work is rumoured to have the Midas
touch. Virtually all of the establishments that have contracted his
services go on to enjoy immense commercial success. Can Fly was one
such venue. It had formerly been a country restaurant on the Sant Joan
Road, but had never met with any degree of commercial success.
Intoccia's son and daughter-in-law decided to try their luck,
undaunted by the obscure location. They and a group of friends
decorated the place in a born-again hippie motif with fairly good
results. (Intoccia's son, Rino, is also an artist.) Somehow, though,
the decor didn't quite come together and the young couple called in
Intoccia fifteen days before the opening, asking for a bit of paternal
guidance. He began by blocking out the space in the dining area more
effectively, adding some arches and capitals, and, to make a long
story short, succeeded in creating a rich, warm ambience in what was
once a vast echoing hall.
Another of Intoccia's 'emergency stints' involved
Coastline Café, one of last season's blockbuster venues. "They called
me early in the morning on the day of the inauguration," he remembers,
"asking if I could quickly come to put the final touches on the pool
area. They'd ordered these huge slabs of stone to decorate the terrace
and whoever delivered them had just left them lying helter-skelter
with no artistic sensitivity whatsoever. I arranged them in an
aesthetic motif and began carving a figure of Tanit in one of them.
Obviously, I couldn't do the whole job in one day, so the piece stayed
as I left it all summer. Luckily, it has that emergent quality that
can pass a finished product. A lot of people probably think the
goddess was meant to look like she was being born out of the stone -
which isn't a bad idea either!"
Intoccia's contribution to El Divino was also a
minor one, but again quite effective. Back in 1998 the club was
angling for a more distinctive look. Being Italian, Intoccia
recommended marble walls for that palatial touch. Eyebrows shot up at
the thought of the expense, but far from overtaxing the club's budget,
the project turned out to be entirely feasible: Intoccia painted the
walls in a technique known as 'finto' marble, a remarkable contrivance
for transforming plaster walls into elegant halls.
Intoccia's art training was as exhaustive as any
young apprentice could hope for. The ten years he spent at the
Instituo Statale d'Arte were spent producing all manner of
brilliant art . . . but doing virtually no academic work - ergo his
decade-long 'tenure' at the school. The aseptic world of maths and
grammar left the young pupil thoroughly uninspired, a circumstance
that worked out better than might be expected. A mutually satisfying
symbiosis accrued, for, as a dynamo of raw talent, Intoccia was
invaluable to the institute's artistic standing. His teachers were
only too willing to overlook his poor academic performance in exchange
for his consistent excellence in art - and the prestige this
conferred on the school. "It was almost comical," he admits. "I was
hopeless at any subject other than art, and my conduct was atrocious.
I never studied; I never even tried, because I didn't care. I remember
my final drawing exam. We had three hours to compose a still life from
objects they had placed in the patio. I spent the first two and a
half-hours clowning around and helping my classmates with their
compositions. Eventually, I put a few objects together and sketched
them in about 20 minutes. I got an 'A'! Finally, though, they had to
let me go. I was twenty-four and the situation was getting a bit
ridiculous. I'll always be very grateful to them for their special
Intoccia's plans for the near future include a full
agenda of private building commissions, venue design and décor, as
well as an ample allotment of leisure time. He loves fishing in his
small boat, cooking, and (like any good Napolitano) playing the guitar
and singing serenatas. At the moment, he is vacationing in
India whence he is sure to bring back a trove of fresh ideas. His
patrons and admirers, I among them, wait with pleasure to see how
these new influences will manifest in his art.
you for your attention. Next week, it's back to business as usual with
our third and final instalment on the Santa María bells. Please join
Ciro at work on a Totem
Medusa at Kumharas
Don Quixote at Restaurant Es Barruguet (Cala Bassa)
Madonna & Child
Neptune with Mermaid
Exterior of Dining Gazebo
Interior of Dining Gazebo
Dragon Bench at Kumharas
Construction in progress
Detail of Capital
Pictures Courtesy of Ciro Intoccia
If you should require any further
information whatsoever on the work of Ciro Intoccia then please don’t hesitate
to contact this office at your own convenience.