March 10 > June 30, 2022

A book, an exhibition  
Palazzo delle Esposizioni Bookstore

DARK RHYMES 10 March__30 June 2022
Immagine mostra

“Woods for kidnapping, islands you never leave, children who are plants. Black, lucid, tragic tales, a poet’s narrative ballads spreading out like ivy on an artist’s visionary plates”
(Nicola Gardini).

This is an exhibition that explores a dual darkness, two paths leading towards a prospective glimmer.


Both the authors, in this work, have left their circle of light to venture into areas unknown, each on their own and in one another’s company.

First of all in one another’s company, reversing traditional roles: it is not the illustrator who reads the texts to supply them with visions, but the writer who looks at the illustrations to deck them with words.

It was not the first time. The album Maremè (Fatatrac) was conceived the same way back in 2007. They tried again thirteen years later, in 2020. Abbatiello leaves the circle of light of his current works, with their stylish mood and their mark and dream of the world, and “goes down into the mine”, into the darkness of his archives. He offers Tognolini a selection of hitherto unpublished plates created for publications or exhibitions between twenty and thirty years ago. And the scenes that emerge from the mines are dark, dramatic narrative: “black tales”, as Gardini was to christen them.

The poet gazes at and questions those pictures, pending their speaking to him, their dictating to him. His gaze crosses through the layers of meaning that sink down in concentric circles into the darkness of every living work. What it finds and brings up to the light, at the end of its dive, are still dark and narrative verses. Rhymes and stories that carry him far from his usual circle of light, the gleaming forms filled with the joy of the world in his poetry for children.

The product of these expeditions, both solitary and shared, is “Dark Rhymes”: a book that sings and displays, in beating rhymes as dark as the old Celtic ballads, and in pictures that light up visions of thousand-year-old nights, eighteen human stories of disaster.

Possibly leading towards a glimmer at the end of the darkness: the flickering light at the end of the fairy-tale wood. Difficult to make out, just as “it is difficult to find the dawn in the dusk”, as attiato sang. But he is heartened by Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in”.

The tower  | Galleria interna
The soul  | Galleria interna


The exhibition leafs through and scatters this Black Work around the Palaexpo’s bookshop. And the dark book, as though persuaded to do so by all those brother books, dissolves, opens up and shows itself: large panels reproduce its pages, its pictures and its verses; showcases display the original illustrations.

But the exhibition does more. People today often use the expression “immersive exhibition”, and this time the immersion is literal. The book does not confine itself to opening up, it becomes transparent through glimmers, offering for display the first brief glimpses of its endless underlying layers. The two authors’

sources of inspiration, the few of which they are aware, surface from the darkness beyond the page, where the reader’s gaze cannot reach, and appear in the exhibition.

Shining the light on the sources’ puppet strings, on quotes and assonances and filiations, is normally the job of critics, of historians or of third parties. This time it is the authors themselves who reveal their secret sources. Who display them physically enclosed in showcases beneath the works that they spawned. So beneath Abbatiello’s plates we have reproductions of Odilon Redon, Brueghel the Elder and Adolphe Appia. While beneath Tognolini’s verses we have open books by Bufalino, reproductions of ancient Psalms, and Lep Zeppelin and Leonard Cohen album sleeves.

In revealing the hidden strings, do the two authors not fear disenchantment? No, not in the least. Like puppet masters who remove the veil of backdrops and props at the end of the show, and the audience sees the strings and an “Oh!” of fresh enchantment is sparked. The strings of art are veins of mastery that bind each work to another. Seeing that a girl has her grandfather’s eyes does not make her any less beautiful in our own eyes. And when the revealing puppet masters allow the veils to drop once more, Orlando will return to pirouetting more alive than ever before, the strings will disappear again, and the song of poetry will become spell-binding again. Perhaps, the exhibition tell us, even more spell-binding than before.

Immagine singola

Antonella Abbatiello was born in Scandicci (Florence) and lives in Rome. Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, at the course of Scenography held by Toti Scialoja, she collaborated with Emanuele Luzzati, Giulio Gianini, Leo Lionni. She is the author and illustrator of countless children's books, published in Italy and abroad.


Bruno Tognolini was born in Cagliari, studied at DAMS in Bologna, and now lives a little in Bologna, a little in Lecce, and a little on the road in the thousand meetings with readers. After a decade of theater in the eighties, he has been an author 'for children and their adults' for thirty years. He wrote poems, novels and short stories (over forty-five titles with the major national publishers), television programs (four years of Albero Azzurro and eleven of Melevisione), theatrical texts, essays, video games, songs and other narratives. He was awarded the Andersen Prize in 2007 and 2011. 



Bookstrore | free admission