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Leonardo Magnani: The Voyage 2014

Tracing the steps of Charles Darwin for the sake of expansive public art pieces

by David Graver
on 10 April 2014

In his four years traveling the globe, Charles Darwin filled notebook upon notebook of observations and experiences—enough source material for the scientist to pen "On the Origin of Species." Now, Florentine artist Leonardo Magnani hopes to retrace those steps, traveling to the Galapagos Islands to create a visual diary of everything that unfolds. While he doesn't plan to author a scientific study on evolution, he does intend to use the inspiration for large-scale murals in megacities around the world—delivering his unique angle of a first-hand encounter with nature to the industrial and urban. Proposing "drawings as the main language," Magnani has launched a Kapipal crowdsourcing page to fund the endeavor's next stages.

LeonardoMagnaniBird1.jpg LeonardoMagnaniBird2.jpg

This is the second iteration of Magnani's voyages. Last year, the artist traveled from London to Ushuaia, Argentina before developing five large-scale murals during a residency in Buenos Aires. The 2013 experience was funded by the Ministro della Cultura Italiana, Italy's culture council. Each of the works—from the sketches in his pad to his hand-drawn murals—yielded a raw, rough energy. He spent four months exploring, attempting to trace Darwin's South American steps as closely as possible. From the moment of departure to his completed body of work, an entire year went into making that first voyage a success.

"In terms of traveling those lands, even today, it can be hard. There are a lot of public transportation issues. The roads are quite bad or even non-existent. I had to invent the way," Magnani shares with CH. "I met a caravan traveling from Mexico, going down to Patagonia. I traveled with them for six days. We were traveling very, very slowly." He continues, "You can spend an entire night—even two days—without passing anybody. We needed to have enough food and enough water for the time in between."


As for what drew Magnani to Darwin, he explains: "A few years ago I began to read his works and was really inspired by his writing—especially where he speaks of his travels. I felt close to him and was intrigued by the evolution theory." Through his reading, Magnani felt that he not only received insight about the world, but also Darwin as a young man. This inspiration fueled his work, began to fuel a desire to travel and led to the initiative required for an undertaking of this great scope and scale.

If funded, Magnani plans to head to the Galapagos by way of an internship with The Natural Park through the Charles Darwin Foundation (Ecuador)—one of the only ways to land an extended stay on the islands. Over the course of three months he will immerse himself, explore, volunteer and create. He plans on executing his murals across Florence, London, Venice, Turin, Buenos Aires and São Paolo. There's power in living an experience before conveying it artistically and Magnani recognizes this. Therein, honesty supports his artistic expression—honesty and a sense of historic adventure.

Images courtesy of Leonardo Magnani

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