There was a time in Pietrasanta, where young people unwilling to go on studying could have the chance to channel their creative energies in working marble, in learning how to transform a still piece of stone into a living creature that talks to whoever happens to meet with it.
I was one of them.
I remember going to Art High School one day and thinking…” Why am I doing it? Why am I going to school, when all I want to do is to earn my living and become a man?”.
I was only 16 and it was then that I changed my life into an artisan’s life.
The beginnings, as all the beginnings, were hard: little money, long hours, cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but with an inner drive so powerful, so strong, that I did not feel the fatigue of working.
I started with a fuelling passion, that was blocked by the compulsory military service that took my life away from me for 18 long months.
Months spent without being able to touch my beloved material, to use the chisels, to sculpt.
When I came back, I was jobless, but so determined to go on learning that I found myself a sculpting work in a marble atelier specialized in funeral subjects and I learnt and learnt how to transform a piece of marble into an angel, into the lovely face of the Holy Virgin, into a bas-relief that told the story of the Gospels.
But it was not enough. Never enough for me.
I felt so strongly the need to differentiate my expertise that I remember leaving my job site, after 8 hours’ work, to go into another marble studio to learn how to sculpt classical subjects, trying to learn, out of the old artisans’ hands, the magic of sculpting.
I was fascinated by this world.
I was enchanted and charmed and I could never have enough of it.
The subjects I copied were telling me the story of a past I could not study on the books at school, a past full of art and creativity that was revealing to me through ancient faces, imperial gestures and delicate profiles.
The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained and through it I learnt ho to control my sculpting tools, how to limit my energy to make the touch strong enough or delicate enough to obtain that special shadow, that particular line that could reproduce a face expression, that could transfer an evergreen message.
I have always known that my role would never have been that of an artist.
I knew from the very beginning that my hands were to be lent to the artist, to transform his idea into a living piece and I loved it.
I loved and still love, becoming the tool, the arm, the executioner of a project and I love being part of the creative project, always hand in hand, metaphorically speaking with the artist, becoming with him a unicum, until the sculpture sees the light and starts its own life in the world.
Dear Massimo Galleni,
I have recently visited Pietrasanta, having worked with stone as an artist for many years myself I enjoyed reading your blog and would like to continue reading updates. I am often wondering about the relationship between stone masons (as there are no artisan’s as such in the UK) and artists and you put it very well with this blog.