At first glance, they look just random letters, perhaps metaphor of incommunicability. Beautiful, random letters.
Had I not happened to visit the exhibition ‘Codici Trascendentali’ (‘Trascendental codes’) at the Centro Culturale San Gaetano in Padua when the artist was there to explain his work, my first impression would have been the only thought provoked by these patterned works of art.
Luckily enough, though, the artist was there. Tobia Ravá was taking a crowd of curious people through his works, unveiling and disclosing not only his innovative techinques, but also and more importantly, the meaning behind those strange symbols. And indeed there was much to explain in his art.
At the core of his works there is the Hebraic concept of the gimatreya, a principle of permutation of words into patterns of numbers. Every letter corresponds to a number, and in this way it is possible to create unexpected associations in the reality surrounding us. Indeed, Ravá’s art works closely upon Hebraic mystics, according to which the whole universe can be read through such principles. In his works language, mathematics, philosophy and ethics are all linked together, in a complex way that is however made simpler by the visual means that is art.
One of my favourite works is this one above. It portrays a landscape of Padua, my city, and more specifically the Specola, the observatory Galileo Galilei used to watch the stars from, and where he made his important astronomic discoveries. The magic is that Padova’s number is 98, the same as the Hebrew word for ‘stars’. Moreover, the sky of the picture is made up of a Hebrew prayer, which thus lies in its appointed place. I found this a beautiful way to portrait a glimpse of the city, in which spirituality and beauty mingle wonderfully.
The irony is that during one of my walks across the city, some days before, I myself passed by the Specola, and struck by the unusual brightness of a January day (normally rather foggy), I took a picture of it. Thus the sight, seen in the different context ofthe exhibition, gave me the chance to experience beauty twice.
Much remains after seeing all Ravá’s works. And the thought I brougt back home is nothing about the incommunicability of our society, nor the difficulty of weird symbols and numbers put one next to the other, but indeed the unending marvel at the correspondences underlying this universe, and the multiple ways to look at it.