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Ligustro, the chemist of great artistic intuitions

From the time he left for health reasons the oil world, he entered the art world becoming one of the main living artists of polychrome xylography

His name is Giovanni Berio, but nowadays he is known with the pseudonym Ligustro, as a mark of two different epochs of his life. From one side the first entirely dedicated to olive oil as a chemical expert in an olive industry. And from the other side a second life, the artistic one, with a reborn after the disease, with the serenity after a deep mourning and after the depression he finally overcame. And today Ligustro is 86 years old and he is considered as one of the most important living artists of polychrome xylography of the famous Ukiyo Japanese School.

From the time he left for health reasons the world of oil in 1986, he entered the fascinating art world in his home city in Liguria, Imperia. There, he begun the study of Nishiki woodcut techniques working on precious papers produced with ancient hand-crafted methods. From then, with his new name of Ligustro, he becomes a reference point. All the same, the art was always part of his life, since as an oil expert he created refined oils for the customers.
Born in a trunk, since his grandfather was one of the first that built extraction plants, and his father as well, his effort in olive industry was complete and he doesn’t hidden the oddity of the system: “there were many frauds”, he says. “More than business men, there were in the ‘50s many adventurers”. From 1946 to 1957 everything was possible but, besides these problems, Berio says, “they were really nice times for the people that worked hard, like me, with passion and decision”.

Specialized in olive chemistry at the Fat substances Institute of Milan, Berio acquired during his career a huge amount of theoretical and practical skills that made him a reference point in that field. His presence, both in Italy and abroad, was pivotal. According to him, a chemist can have great intuitions such as an artist. How much time a chemist spends in looking for solutions. At that time the quality of productions was not the same as today; the main work was to work on the refineries to fix oil anomalies. Berio tells about his past and present life as outlining a leitmotif. Hence, looking at his life carefully, there is not a great distance between the two lives and the two worlds that he represented.

by Luigi Caricato
05 october 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea