words by Silvia Donati

“In his last Angelus, speaking to the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI said God called him to climb the mountain, to devote himself even more to prayer. It is as if he was flying away, away from the world. This is how I got the inspiration to draw a flying dove,” said Italian artist Dario Gambarin of his latest Land Art piece, a gigantic dove drawn on a rural field with his tractor.

Gambarin Dove Pope

“The dove is a universal symbol of peace; it was a dove that brought Noah an olive branch to signal the end of the Great Flood. And I think that Benedict XVI had to deal with a sort of flood during his papal office. You can only see my land art from high above and I hope that in some way, high from his mountain, the Holy Father will be able to see this dove that I drew for him.”

Land Art is an artistic movement where the natural landscape is inextricably linked to the work of art.

Dario Gambarin

Verona-born Gambarin puts a unique spin on it: he “draws” his images on a 27,000-square-meter rural field using a tractor plough. What is most striking is that he does not mark the layout of the image he intends to depict on the land beforehand; he makes a simple sketch on a piece of paper, and then, he says, “I hop on the tractor, start going around in circles on the field, I envision the finished piece as if I was looking from high above – which is the only way you can see my work – and when I feel ready, I start plowing.”

Gambarin on tractor

Gambarin, who is also a painter and a musician, says he enters a sort of artistic trance. He himself does not know how the drawing will turn out until he sees the pictures taken from a small plane flying over the field once the drawing is completed. “You cannot make mistakes - if you do, you have ruined the canvas.”

Gambarin, who performs his land art in Castagnaro, near Verona, on the plots of land belonging to his family where, as a child, he used to drive the tractor, mainly draws faces of famous people, but also other images for which he is inspired by current world events. Perhaps his most famous face is Barack Obama’s, which he drew in 2009 when the U.S. president visited Italy for the G8 meeting.

Gambarin Obama
Next to the president’s face, he wrote: “The hope is in the land”. It was hard work: “Because the tractor doesn’t go straight, just to draw the letter S, you may have to change its position up to 20 times. You definitely need to have a certain stamina and lots of patience” Gambarin says.

When Steve Jobs died, he drew a giant apple accompanied by Jobs’ famous sentence, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

Gambarin Apple

It is a purely artistic performance because these works of art last very little, sometimes only a day. It is also a form of art that is strictly eco-friendly: the field is only used between the harvesting and the following sowing cycle. So then, why bother for something that is so evanescent? “When I made my first land art piece, I marveled at what I created. To me, this is the feeling that art should inspire. And this is why I keep doing it, not just to surprise others, but also to surprise myself.”