for more than 40 years he has been using his experience in the lighting field and his artisan skills to experiment, design, work along internationally renowned designers for their creations and compose his own, personal, design poetics.
he is creator of poems of light, that in his artistic language are a form of evocative communication through images, stories of light made of icons and symbols, images in motion, such as: da sempre per sempre (palazzo della mercanzia, piazza della signoria, florence 2011), la luce del vento (casalgrande padana, reggio emilia 2011), luce tra le dita (fonderia artistica battaglia, milan 2010), la luce della musica (teatro alla scala, milan 2009), piove ci bagna la luce (permanent work for the villa e collezione panza, varese 2009), la parete narrante (la biennale, ca' giustinian, venice 2009), o' dino tracce di luce (festival dei due mondi, spoleto 2009), arco di luce (arch of augustus, rimini 2008), luce e voce (lugocontemporanea, lugo 2008), la luce che ho in mente (la triennale, milan 2007). among his artworks: infinitamente mia, il pesce in gabbia, i guerrieri della luce.
in december mario nanni will be starring on a solo exhibition that will follow the one by the master bill viola, at the prestigious venue of villa panza in varese, entitled "luce all'opera".
- mario nanni who!?!
- mario nanni the one who does lights
- an electrician?
- yes, but not just an electrician!
- mario nanni him of the stool with a light bulb.
- ah, a designer!
- yes, but not just that. mario nanni who teaches at the university.
- oh god, one of those professors that never unscrewed a light bulb.
- no, I told you he's also an electrician.
- well how did he get into the university, then, are you telling me the university puts electricians into the chairs now?
- no, but it's a long story?
- how long?
- 50 years long and it started in via bizzuno
- ah, Viabizzuno, the factory that invents and produces light.
- that one.
- well come on then, let's hear the tale, but don't give me all the 50 years.
- mario nanni was born in bizzuno, in the street called via bizzuno, at number 17 between the 'casa del popolo' red social club and the church; when he talks about those times he talks about income support, his grandfather's sayings and his first day at school, in the days when school still began on the first of october. he talks about a white exercise book where he started drawing his first lines with a pencil, of a black board which catalysed every attention until the teacher came in and with him the sun through the window. from there, he says, came his first intuitions about light.
- and what about the grandfather, what does his grandfather have to do with anything?
- his grandfather used to take him to the cinema, to the cinema of those days, where light shone out of the darkness and took over the hall. his grandfather once told him that people can be divided into those who talk and those who act and that he would have to decide which side to be on. and he decided to be on the side of the ones who act: he went to the lowest-grade schools, the vocational training schools, so he could get a job; and he got one, a job like so many other people, a job as an electrician. this is why today when he designs he puts into his work, as well as the inventiveness which always inspires new intuitions, the practical ability of someone who used to install light before he began inventing it.
- all right, I get the idea: someone who started at the bottom and in the end built his own factory.
- no, not in the end. Viabizzuno isn't the end, it's the stage of a road that mario walks every day, intensively. it's a road full of experiences, meetings, choices, events. now he's walking to his everlasting passion, the design.
- oh so we've got there in the end, mario nanni is a designer!
- yes but not just a designer, not just that, but it's hopeless, I can't explain to you who mario nanni is: just take a walk with him and maybe then you'll understand who he is, this mario nanni.
observation is the be-all and end-all.
mario goes down the stairs, leaves the house, walks around, observes, takes notes, impresses what he sees in his mind, touches and tastes everything around him in bizzuno, a small village in romagna.
he keeps on walking, never stops, recovering things and reinventing them in his own personal way, as he thinks best, he learns to use his hands, which are inspired by many thoughts, ideas and facts of life around him.
he begins by making nativity scenes, spontaneously, using his instinct to build and structure them, until he realises that he designs nativity scenes before building them up. his whole mind has a bent for design.
his motto becomes 'progettare voce del verbo amare' (to design part of the verb to love). he brings together the traces of the path he has followed, filling his pockets with objects, his head with ideas and his hands with signs... and he continues to walk, far from bizzuno. he takes with him a light bulb, a screwdriver, one of his salamis, garlic and his new school exercise book with its white, silent pages, ready to provide a home for his thoughts. he fills pages and pages with stories, not always written down, but comprised of work and exercises, with words that have been handed down and remembered, such as those of his grandfather... and also with photos, faces and ideas. he collects everything together in a book for designers, for mario the designer, "For m". it becomes another tool to work with, white and substantial, to be carried under his arm, like an indispensable brick for the construction of a good lighting design. he loves to share all this with his staff, to compare idea, carry out research, develop and teach. he loves to see the way his words materialise in the work of his young assistants, to feel that their thoughts can become objects and to understand that his dreams will grow with theirs. he continues walking with the book in his hands.
his research becomes increasingly sophisticated and experimental, with more and more input being brought into play. light is not just a lighting fixture, but it is also no longer merely design material. light becomes a game, a dream and an illusion, going back to being the quintessence of itself.
mario sees light in white pages, in empty spaces, in film reels, in sitting rooms filled with colour from television sets. it can be found in shadows, in the geometric folds of zen gardens... light can be found in every single object and at all times, but is never the same.
first we have the glare of the cinema filled with the snow of doctor zhivago, then the darkness, which is never complete darkness, of the next frame set in the home. it is never dark because the eye is able to perceive light in the semi-darkness: all it needs to do is observe, know how to observe.
which is the "right" light for the house? I asked my wise grandfather.
the sun or the moon?
which are the secrets of light and darkness in the house of the world?
every house is like a small world, where brother fire is a sun burning in the firepplace and lighting the night, "playful, stout and strong". the light that breathes in the house is right. an artificial light that reproduces the natural pace of dawn and sunset, between movement and nonmovement, in the intensity, in the lightness and in the styles that define the lighting scenarios.