Tag Archives: Milan (Italy)

Le stanze misteriose di Vanni Cuoghi

7 Mag

 di Ivan Quaroni

Monolocale 1, anno 2014, tecnica mista, cm 21x30

Monolocale 1, anno 2014, tecnica mista, cm 21×30

ITALIAN TEXT (ENGLISH TEXT BELOW)

I Monolocali di Vanni Cuoghi rappresentano l’esito finale di un lungo percorso di affinamento tecnico e linguistico durato oltre dieci anni e, insieme, il sintomo di un ritorno alle origini o meglio di un recupero di abilità, intuizioni e capacità di visione che appartengono al suo più antico background culturale. Sono il frutto di una grammatica costruita attorno alla fusione di diverse pratiche, dalla pittura al collage, dal disegno alla scenografia, fino al paper cutting, cioè all’arte di intagliare figure in fogli di carta per farne delle opere d’arte. Di fatto, i Monolocali sono dipinti, in tutto e per tutto simili a quelli su tela, sebbene abbiano la forma di oggetti tridimensionali in cui lo spazio illusorio e quello reale e fisico scivolano l’uno nell’altro senza soluzione di continuità. Si possono definire diorami, perché la logica compositiva è quella dei plastici tridimensionali e delle maquette che appassionano i modellisti.

Diorama è un termine francese che deriva dal greco διά (attraverso) e ὅραμα (veduta). Indica, cioè, un oggetto attraverso il quale si possono vedere delle cose. Non stupisce che la sua diffusione e il suo successo nel diciannovesimo secolo siano attribuiti, tra gli altri, a Louis-Jacques-Mandeé Daguerre, pittore e decoratore teatrale che nel 1837 inventò un metodo per fissare le immagini riprese con la camera oscura su un supporto sensibile in rame o argento (i famosi daghrrotipi). Solo un uomo di teatro, avvezzo alla costruzione di complessi allestimenti scenici, poteva inventare qualcosa di simile ai moderni modelli architettonici.

Nei Monolocali di Vanni Cuoghi c’è la memoria dei suoi trascorsi da scenografo, unita, però, a una matura comprensione dei meccanismi inventivi della pittura. A prevalere in queste opere, infatti, non è tanto la dimensione progettuale del diorama, che semmai sussiste nella scelta di una cornice convenzionale, di uno spazio scenico standardizzato equivalente alle dimensioni di un foglio A4 entro cui si svolge l’azione ma, piuttosto, la logica imprendibile della giustapposizione giocosa, dell’intuizione fulminea, dell’errore fecondo.

Monolocale 5, anno 2015, tecnica mista, cm 21x30

Monolocale 5, anno 2015, tecnica mista, cm 21×30

Gli elementi che compongono queste scatole prospettiche, questi teatrini misteriosi ed enigmatici, sono, infatti, come le tessere di un puzzle ancora da definire. Personaggi, oggetti, complementi d’arredo, carte da parati, piastrelle, decori sono spesso realizzati in anticipo. Costituiscono, cioè, i frammenti di un collage di là da venire, di un’immagine ancora da costruire. Alcuni saranno usati, altri saranno scartati, altri ancora finiranno in un’opera successiva. Non c’è una regola, un copione prestabilito nell’assemblaggio di queste tessere, ma solo un’idea, un’intuizione, insomma un indirizzo che può mutare nel corso dell’opera. Come nell’atto del dipingere, ciò che conta è il percorso, quel labirintico susseguirsi di prove, errori e ripensamenti che portano, inevitabilmente, a soluzioni impreviste e risultati inaspettati.

Ovviamente in quest’attitudine, che prende la forma di un vero e proprio modus operandi, giocano un ruolo fondamentale la gioia e lo stupore della scoperta, caratteristiche tipiche della ricerca di Cuoghi. Se queste stanze sono piene di eventi sorprendenti, di storie al limite del credibile, sempre in bilico tra una fantasia scatenata e una verosimiglianza ossessiva, è perché l’artista stesso si apre alla conoscenza di un mistero più sottile proprio attraverso l’adozione di una procedura non codificata. Vanni Cuoghi non progetta mai la forma finale di un’opera, nel senso che non prevede i dettagli, ma guida il processo verso l’espressione di una sensazione o di un’atmosfera impalpabile.

Molti dei suoi Monolocali contengono riferimenti biografici, tracce di vissuto che la memoria sembra riattivare alla presenza di un profumo, di una luce, di un colore, di un suono. In un certo senso, le capricciose narrazioni dell’artista formano una sorta di diario intimo e sinestetico delle sue peregrinazioni. Genovese di nascita e milanese d’adozione, Cuoghi ha vissuto gli anni da studente nel capoluogo meneghino, abitando una pletora di appartamenti molto piccoli. Il monolocale o, se preferite, la stanza, è diventata per lui, come per molti studenti, la metafora di una condizione esistenziale e, insieme, il simbolo di un certo tipo di formazione. Gli ambienti ristretti, i compromessi della convivenza e della condivisione, le inevitabili economie di una vita libera, ma pur sempre confinata in un perimetro definito, hanno contribuito ad acuire la sua percezione dell’unità abitativa come spazio funzionale e, allo stesso tempo, autonomo.

Bilocale 2 (Chernobyl's animals) 2015, acquerello e acrilico si carta, cm 50x70

Bilocale 2 (Chernobyl’s animals) 2015, acquerello e acrilico si carta, cm 50×70

La stanza, esattamente come il palcoscenico, è una scatola prospettica in cui convergono illusione e realtà, è un teatro di accadimenti che vanta una lunga tradizione tanto nella letteratura, quanto nella pittura e nel cinema, dai Delitti della Rue Morgue di Edgar Allan Poe alla Stanza di Arles di Van Gogh, fino alla Redrum di Shining e alla stanza rossa di Twin Peaks.

Vanni Cuoghi adotta questa convenzione iconografica, trasformandola in un formato, in una misura che delimita e circoscrive le classiche unità di luogo, tempo e azione. I suoi Monolocali sono tutti, tranne qualche rara eccezione, rettangoli orizzontali di 21×30 centimetri che l’occhio dell’osservatore riconosce, inconsciamente, come una grandezza familiare, dato che è quella delle risme di carta che acquistiamo per le nostre stampanti domestiche.

La natura delle invenzioni dell’artista, in questo caso, è piuttosto affine al genere letterario degli enigmi della camera chiusa[1], e soprattutto a certe misteriose visioni di René Magritte (L’assassin menacé, 1926-27), Max Ernst (Une semaine de bonté, 1934) e Paul Delvaux (Abandon, 1964) dominate da un’atmosfera di sinistra attesa e d’ipnotica inquietudine.

Mentre da un lato i Monolocali rappresentano una sfida formale sul piano compositivo e, insieme, un tentativo di tradurre nel linguaggio visivo memorie e sensazioni personali, dall’altro essi approdano a una dimensione surreale che ha più a che fare con l’esplorazione dei meandri del subcosciente. È vero, infatti, che l’artista trae spesso spunto dalla storia dell’arte o dall’immaginario della cultura popolare, ma è altrettanto chiaro che il risultato finale corrisponde alla formulazione di una personalissima sigla pittorica, di uno stile coerente e originale dove il significato eventuale delle immagini retrocede, per lasciare campo a una moltitudine di letture e interpretazioni.

Certo, è possibile rintracciare, qua e là, una serie di rimandi, discretamente disseminati tra le pareti delle sue camere chiuse come, ad esempio, negli unici due Monolocali dipinti su tela, che simulano le profondità e le ombre dei suoi diorami con una tecnica da perfetto illusionista. Mentre nel primo, intitolato Monolocale n. 17 (tinto), compare un evidente riferimento alla tradizione degli azulejos, le celebri piastrelle in ceramica smaltata che ornavano i palazzi nobiliari di Spagna e Portogallo, nel secondo, intitolato Monolocale n. 19 (le ciliegie), gli indizi del personaggio che spia la coppia attraverso una porta socchiusa e il quadro con una natura morta di ciliegie appeso alla parete, alludono a due celebri dipinti di Giulio Romano e di Giovanna Garzoni.

Monolocale 14 (Tonnata) 2015, tecnica mista, cm 21x30

Monolocale 14 (Tonnata) 2015, tecnica mista, cm 21×30

Nel diorama Monolocale n. 14 (tonnata), invece, la donna alla fune è ispirata a una sequenza del video Orient di Markus Shinwald, l’artista che ha rappresentato l’Austria alla 54° Biennale di Venezia, mentre l’interno di Monolocale n. 18 (la lettera) è rubato a una scena del film Un piccione seduto su un ramo riflette sull’esistenza (2014) di Roy Andersson, così come la protagonista in primo piano cita, evidentemente, La lettera d’amore di Jan Vermeer (1669-1670).

Aldilà dei riferimenti abilmente occultati nella trama di queste scatole del mistero, ciò che conta è, piuttosto, l’impiego di sorprendenti soluzioni grafiche e compositive. La più ricorrente è l’incursione di un elemento sinistro, di un’entità informe che frantuma muri e pavimenti delle stanze, minacciando la quiete di questi interni borghesi. È come una sorta di apocalittico deus ex machina, un intervento esterno e imprevedibile che assume, di volta in volta, sembianze diverse. È un famelico organismo tentacolare nei Monolocali n. 2 e n. 3 e in Bilocale n. 1 (MM1 Pasteur); una nera sostanza fluida in Monolocale n. 10; una colossale trave di legno precipitata dal soffitto in Monolocale n. 18; un fiotto sanguigno che squarcia il parquet di Monolocale n. 13 (barbecue). In questi, come in altri casi, l’evento non ha un carattere necessariamente negativo. Semplicemente, si tratta di una trasposizione visiva del modo in cui a volte i ricordi e le sensazioni irrompono violentemente nella nostra coscienza. Come in Monolocale n. 11 (odor di basilico), dove l’evento scatenante è la memoria olfattiva del basilico di Prà appena colto, o in Monolocale n. 12 (l’astice), in cui è il sapore, questa volta immaginato attraverso il racconto di alcuni amici, di un noto crostaceo del Maine. A ben vedere, Cuoghi adombra il racconto a puntate della propria biografia di gourmet e di voyeur sotto le mentite spoglie di una crime story o di un weird tale, costruisce un mistero fittizio per celebrare i fasti dell’esperienza e dell’immaginazione. Così, finisce per somigliare a quei grandi artisti visionari che seppero raccontare la vita nelle forme traslate della metafora e dell’analogia. Forse perché, come diceva Jorge Luis Borges, “il reale è quello che vede la maggioranza”.

Monolocale 17. (tinto), 2015, acrilico e olio su tela , cm 21x30

Monolocale 17. (tinto), 2015, acrilico e olio su tela , cm 21×30


English Text

Vanni Cuoghi’s Studio Flats represent the ultimate result of a long technical and linguistic refining path, that took over ten years, together with a symptom of a throwback to the roots , or better, a retrieval of skills and intuitions and visions belonging to his most ancient cultural background. They are the outcome of a grammar built around the fusion of different practices , from painting to collage, from drawing to scenography, to paper cutting, the art of cutting shapes and figures into paper sheets to make a piece of art out of them. The Studio Flats are in fact paintings, very similar to the ones on canvas, even if they are shaped as tri-dimensional objects where illusory and real space seamlessly melt one into another. They can be defined s dioramas, because the composing logic is the one of tri-dimensional scale models and maquettes loved by the collectors.

Bilocale 1, (MM1 Pasteur), 2015, acquerello  acrilico su carta, cm 50 x70

Bilocale 1, (MM1 Pasteur), 2015, acquerello acrilico su carta, cm 50 x70

Diorama is a French word originated by Greek διά (through) and ὅραμα (view). It stands for a see-through +object. It is not surprising that its diffusion and success are ascribed, among others, to Louis-Jacques-Mandeé Daguerre, theatre painter and decorator who, in1837 invented a method to fix images captured by the darkroom on a sensitive copper or silver stand (famous daguerreotypes). Only a man of theatre, accustomed to building complex scenes on stage, could invent something so similar to modern architectural models.

Inside Cuoghi’s Studio Flats, lies the memory of his past as a set designer, yet joined by a mature comprehension of the inventive mechanisms of painting. What is most prevalent in these artworks, in effect, is the uncatchable logic of playful juxtaposition, of striking intuition and fruitful mistake.

The elements that form these prospect boxes , these mysterious and enigmatic tiny theatres, are indeed just as the cards of a still to be defined jigsaw. Characters, objects, pieces of furniture, wallpapers, tiles and decorations are often made in advance. They are the fragments of a collage yet to come. Some of them will be used, others will be set aside and some more will end up in a following artwork. There is no rule or script in the making of these works, there is just an idea, some kind of destination that can change while progressing. As in the act of painting, what is most important is the path, that labyrinthine sequence of attempts, mistakes and second thoughts, necessarily leading to unexpected sudden results.

Monolocale 3, 2014, tecnica mista su carta, cm 35x50

Monolocale 3, 2014, tecnica mista su carta, cm 35×50

Joy, astonishment and discovery, clearly play a main role in this attitude, becoming a true modus operandi of Cuoghi’s research. These rooms are so full of surprising events, of almost unbelievable stories, always balancing between crazy fantasy and obsessive plausibility, because the artist himself opens up to the knowledge of a more subtle mystery right through an uncodified procedure. Vanni Cuoghi never plans the final shape of an artwork, he does not foresee the details, but he drives the process to expressing a sense or a weightless atmosphere.

Many of his Studio Flats include autobiographical references, traces of a life that memory seems to re-activate thanks to a scent, a light, a colour, a sound. In a certain way, the artist’s whimsical narrations form a sort of intimate and synaesthetic journal of his own peregrinations. Born in Genoa and adopted by Milan, Cuoghi lived his student years in the Lombard main city, living in a multitude of tiny flats. The studio flat, or if you prefer , the room, became to him as to many other students, the metaphor of an existential condition together and the symbol of a certain type of education. The narrow locations, the compromises of cohabiting and sharing, the unavoidable frugality of a free yet confined life, all contributed to sharpen his perception of the living unit as a functional yet independent space. The room, just as the stage, is a prospect box where reality and illusion converge; it is a theatre of events that boasts a long literary tradition, as well as cinema and painting, from The murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, to The room in Arles by Van Gogh, until the Redrum in Shining, and the red room in Twin Peaks.

Vanni Cuoghi adopts this iconographic agreement and he transforms it into a measurement that limits and contains the ordinary units of time, place and action. All of his Studio Flats, few exceptions made, are rectangles of 21×30 cm, which the eye can unconsciously recognize as a familiar size, because it is just like the one of the paper we get for our home printers.

In this case, the nature of the artist’s invention, is quite similar to the literary genre of the locked room mysteries¹, and especially close to some baffling visions by René Magritte (L’assassin menacé 1926-27), Max Ernst (Une semaine de bonté, 1934) e Paul Delvaux (Abandon, 1964), all dominated by an atmosphere of sinister wait and hypnotic anxiety.

Monolocale 11, (Odor di Basilico) anno 2014, tecnica mista, cm 21x30

Monolocale 11, (Odor di Basilico) anno 2014, tecnica mista, cm 21×30

While on a side, the Studio Flats represent a formal challenge on the compositional level together with an attempt to translate personal memories and sensations into visual language, they end up to a surreal dimension that has more to do with exploring the twists and turns of the subconscious. Sure enough the artist often draws inspiration from the history of art and from the imagery of popular culture, though it is clear that the final results is the formulation of an extra personal painting signature, of a congruent original style where the possible meaning of images moves back, to allow multiple readings and interpretations.

It is surely possible to retrace here and there, a series of refrains, discretely scattered on the walls of his locked rooms as, for example, in the only two Studio Flats painted on canvas, which simulate the depth and shades of his dioramas using a technique of a true mesmerizer. While in the first, called Studio Flat n.17 (tinted), lies an obvious reference to the azulejos tradition, the famous glazed ceramic tiles which decorated aristocratic palaces in Spain and Portugal, in the second, called Studio Flat n.19 (cherries), the hints of the character spying the couple behind an half shut door and the painting of a still life with cherries hanging on the wall, suggest two well-known paintings by Giulio Romano and Giovanna Garzoni.

Monolocale 16 (…quella mucca), anno 2015, tecnica mista, cm 21x30

Monolocale 16 (…quella mucca), anno 2015, tecnica mista, cm 21×30

In the diorama Studio Flat n.14 (tuna sauce), the woman at the rope is inspired by a sequence of the video Orient, by Markus Shinwald, the artist which represented Austria at 54th Venice Biennale, while the interiors of Studio Flat n. 18 (the letter), are stolen by a scene from the movie En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (2014) by Roy Andersson, just as the protagonist in the foreground obviously quotes, The love letter by Jan Vermeer (1669-1670). What really counts, beyond all the references, smartly hided in the weave of these mystery boxes, is the use of surprising graphic and arranging solutions. The most frequent one is the foray of a sinister element, a shapeless entity which the rooms’ walls and floors, threatening the quiet of these middle-class interiors. Some kind of apocalyptic deus ex machina, a foreign and sudden intervention that achieves different shapes, from time to time.

Monolocale 19, (le ciliegie), 2015, acrilico e olio su tela, cm 21x30

Monolocale 19, (le ciliegie), 2015, acrilico e olio su tela, cm 21×30

A ravenous pronged organism in Studio Flats n.2 and n.3 and in Two-room flat (MM1 Pasteur); a black fluid material in Studio Flat n.10; a huge wooden beam falling from the ceiling in Studio Flat n.18; a gush of blood that lacerates the wood flooring in Studio Flat n. 13 (barbecue).In these as in other cases, the event is not necessarily negative. It simply is a visual transposition of the way memories and sensations sometimes violently burst into our conscience. As for Studio Flat n. 11 (scent of basil), where the trigger event is the olfactory memory of freshly picked Prà basil, or for Studio Flat n.12 (the lobster), where it is the taste, imagined through the tale of some friends, of a famous crustaceous from Maine. At second glance , Cuoghi hides the tale by episodes of his biography as a gourmet and a voyeur, under the false pretences of a crime story or of a weird tale, he builds a fake mystery to celebrate the glories of the experience and imagination. So, he ends up looking like those great visionary artists who were able to tell life in the shifted shapes of metaphor and analogy. Perhaps that is because, as used to say Jorge Luis Borges, “the truth is what most people see”.


[1] Mario Gerosa, Viaggio intorno alla mia camera chiusa a chiave, in Le camere del delitto, Selis Editions, 1991, Milano.

Monolocale 2, anno 2014, tecnica mista, cm 21x30

Monolocale 2, anno 2014, tecnica mista, cm 21×30


Info:

VANNI CUOGHI, Monolocali: tutte le mattine del mondo.
a cura di Ivan Quaroni
GALLERIA AREA B, Via Marco D’Oggiono n 10 Milano
OPENING: 14 maggio h 18.30
dal 14 maggio al 23 luglio 2015/ 14 May – 23 July 2015
Lunedì/monday h. 15.00 -18.00, martedì-sabato/Tuesday-Saturday h. 10.00-13.00 15.00-18.00
t 02 89059535     m info@areab.org http://www.areab.org

Annunci

Giorgio Griffa. Silence; Let the Painting Speak

16 Mar

by Ivan Quaroni

Giorgio Griffa, Senza titolo, 1973, acrilico su juta, cm 118x190

Giorgio Griffa, Traccia più traccia, 1973, acrylic on jute, cm 118×190

Giorgio Griffa’s pictorial research is, by convention, ascribed to tendencies born at the end of the 1960s and variously denominated Anti-Form, Painting-Painting or Analytical Painting. These are useful definitions that underline certain aspects of investigations of that type but, inevitable, ignore others.

“Analytical Painting” is the most fortunate of these headings because, for example, it places the emphasis on a rational approach. Analysis is, indeed, a method of elemental decomposition and, at the same time, a process of the reduction of a problem to its basic and elemental factors. The problem at hand is, obviously, the language of painting, a multi-stratified grammar created over the centuries that reflects the history of human thought over the course of our evolution; a baggage of knowledge and techniques that cannot be ignored and that lay, liking sleeping cells, within the perimeter of the operative field. The very act of laying down a color on a surface, inevitably, harks back to a reserve of memories and prior actions that are an integral part of man’s evolutionary process. In this case, the process of the representation of the world, which mutates and adapts to the advent of each new epoch.

Giorgio Griffa, Senza titolo, 1972, acrylic on  mute, cm 100x227

Giorgio Griffa, Segni orizzontali, 1972, acrylic on jute, cm 100×227

In his writing Griffa often recapitulates the points of this fascinating journey while underlining the fact that for painting (and art in general), the past is a primary value, and “structural”. The golden section in the spatial conception in Greek art, or that of the of the Renaissance canons of perspective for the representation of a perfect, ideal world, or that of the impact of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Heisenberg’s Principle of Indetermination or Gödel’s Theorem of Incompleteness, all of these had an impact in the artistic research of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Griffa is aware of the relationship that painting has always had with the philosophical, mathematical and scientific knowledge of all epochs.

The analytical approach, documented in the thoughts expressed in his writing confirms and, in some ways, validates the relevance of that definition. Griffa’s painting is analytical in as much as it tackles the question of language, returning to its primary elements, that is to say its marks and colors. Along with these syntagmata, the canvas in its specificity, its marks, its folds and its texture becomes a primary element. For this artist from Turin the canvas is not, in fact, a neutral or indistinct field, but rather a place of epiphany in which mark and color transform the potentiality of painting into reality. Stripped of the functional factors that history has attributed to it, painting remains substantially an event, a happening.

Giorgio Griffa, Orizzontale policromo, 1973, acrylic on jute, cm 98x98

Giorgio Griffa, Orizzontale policromo, 1973, acrylic on jute, cm 98×98

Griffa has often reiterated that painting takes a giant step in moving from external vision to internal representation of the event. When he affirms “I depict nothing, I paint.”, the artist precisely delimits the confines of his work and takes distance from both traditional abstraction, which he considers a form of idealized figuration not very distant from that of the Renaissance, and figurative painting that is concerned with the external description of phenomena.

For Griffa the slide inward corresponds to a movement of attention toward the act of painting itself. “Painting felt the impulse to run the cognitive path that other aspects of human knowledge ran, very early on, which means to say to enter into phenomena themselves rather than simply describe them from the outside (science began to do this in the Nineteenth Century).” (1) To enter the interior of phenomena means beginning a new primary relationship with painting, starting from the physical and physiological relationship the artist has with the material. In Analytical Painting there is a common trait among some artists, Marco Gastini and Claudeio Olivieri above all, come to mind: it is an emphasis on renovation in relationship to technique and operative tools.

The work shown in this show, the seventh one-man show by the artist at Lorenzelli Arte, are all from the end of the 1960s to the end of the 1970s and are part of Segni Primari series. They are pieces that have completely abandoned any form of residual figuration and which introduce, for the first time, the specific character of the artist’s visual grammar. It is a grammar consisting of elementary marks of color; sequences of vertical, oblique, and horizontal lines that rhythmically stand out on the canvas. The canvases are without stretchers or frames and are nailed directly to the walls. Every canvas is characterized by a different weave and coloring, and is marked by folds that articulate the surface in a composition of shadows, almost like an abscissa and ordinates diagram on the fabric.

Griffa superimposes the memory of painting to the memory of the material, tracing simple lines, marks that cut across the fragrance of color, that illuminate the pictorial event in the midst of its unfolding.

Giorgio Griffa, Senza Titolo, 1973, acrilico su cotone, cm 101x98

Giorgio Griffa, Linee orizzontali, 1973, acrylic on canvas, cm 101×98

The sudden interruptions, the empty spaces indicate that the action is not yet complete but in the act occurrence. Painting is an event in the present, an action whose verb never becomes the past participle. The present becomes a metaphor for infinite time, a place in which the subject coincides with the action, the painter with the painting. The present is not quantifiable in terms of duration because it is the main attribute of the past and the future. Seen in this light, the empty spaces and the interruptions in the marking sequences of Griffa’s painting seem to allude to the seminal, eternally vital condition of painting.

Looking into these aspects of Griffa’s work, the definition of Analytical Painting begins to feel not quite adequate.

That which Griffa discovers, while painting and continually reflecting on the reasons for this operation, is the relationship that painting has with the unknown, with the ineffable, that is to say a dimension of knowledge that is irreducible to formulations of philosophical and scientific thought. This relationship with the unknown is similar, in certain ways, to religion; it is ancient. In history there has always been a kind of affinity between art and divinatory practices. The power of the image permits the crossing of the borders of reason in order to connect with the unknowable by way of metaphor, allegory and symbol. The symbol, in its indeterminateness, is a tool placed in opposition to analytical methods. Art is able to seize the multiform, mobile and contradictory aspects of reality through the symbol, the allegory and the metaphor, assembling them in a language that is both clear and obscure, direct and indirect, like the sibylline expressions of soothsayers. The innovation, if any, consists in transforming this knowledge into method, into a modus operandi.

The depiction of space within the occurrence, the event, for Griffa, is realized by marking the surface of the canvas with a series of signs, without necessarily adhering to traditional canons of composition. The primary marks, in their simplicity, are able to form a rhythmic succession that, at a certain point, is interrupted, leaving room for that emptiness that denotes incompleteness, but that is also an allusion to infinite potentiality.

Rhythm, as the artist has so often written, harks back to man’s first cognitive processes, the understanding of the world through the rhythmic alternation of seasons; the moments to sow and to reap, gestation cycles of pregnancies and so on and so forth. Rhythm is also the way in which Griffa crosses painting spaces, marking one sign after another, as if to trying to understand its intimate structure in the process.

Giorgio Griffa, Senza titolo, 1970, acrilico su cotone, cm 181x191

Giorgio Griffa, Linee orizzontali, 1970, acrylic on canvas, cm 181×191

The paintings from the 1960s and 1970s (the Segni primari series that preceded the Connessioni) present extraordinarily dry and severe rhythmic articulations, with marks of fine lines, or with heavier marks of color, that occupy only a minimum part of the canvas.

The work from the late 1960s and early 1970s, above all, are characterized by minimal interventions on the surfaces that remain, for the most part, empty and slightly mottled by the folds of the fabric. There is a terseness in this, a concision that brings to mind the rigor of the lines of Romanesque churches. The compositions may be horizontal, vertical or oblique, but they are always linear, not yet flowering into decorative enunciation, Baroque recollections, that will characterize the artist’s later work.

The perception of this work is that every sequence is the product of a single type of mark that varies because it is done by hand, thus transferring onto the canvas a degree of human emotiveness.

Griffa works the pieces flat in order to avoid the color dripping and reiterate the primary quality of the mark. If every line corresponds to a thought then the color manifests the most evident mark of the action, “of painting in the act of creating itself”, the artist might say: “(…) I am convinced, he affirmed, “that painting has such a powerful memory, such a great memory, that all I have to do is to put my brush and my hand at its service (…)”. (2) That which appears as a subtraction, above all of the artist’s ego, instead ends up being an addition; painting, with its long memory, becomes the subject of painting.

Giorgio Griffa, Pennello piatto, 1970, acrylic on canvas, cm 101x98

Giorgio Griffa, Pennello piatto, 1970, acrylic on canvas, cm 101×98

Griffa admits to being a vehicle for all the human experience that has been entrusted to painting in the course of the centuries. In relationship to the traditional conception of the artist as a medium, for example, in the Byzantine iconic tradition, there is a substantial difference. In this case the very act of painting draws from itself, from the vestiges of all its past and present conquests, reactivated by the simple gesture of laying down some color or making a mark on a surface. It is clear that Griffa affirms strenuously that painting is an act of awareness, an epistemological activity in which hand and thought move as if “enchanted”.

The reference to Dante’s sonnet (Guido io vorrei che tu Lapo ed io / fossimo presi per incantantamento…) (“Guido I would like you, Lapo and I to be encahanted”) , or like the image of Apollo che consegna la lira a Orfeo (“Apollo who hands the lyre to Orfeo”), reason giving way to madness, so to speak, serve to note that painting is the threshold to a different kind of knowledge, lyrical and oracular, that sounds the depths of the ineffable and unknown. When Maurizio Fagiolo Dell’Arco defines the characteristics of Griffa’s canvases, crossed by lines of tenuous pastel colors, as the “proposizione per il silenzio” (“ a proposition for silence”), he intends to say, perhaps, that they express that which cannot be said. Painting, in general, and that of Griffa in particular, fills that irreducible hiatus that opens rather like a vulnus in all the other forms of communication.

Like poetry and music, painting is capable, where other expressive languages fail, of expressing the inexpressible and comprehending the incomprehensible. In order to understand it we need only to surrender to its ambiguous and obscure truth and say, as Giorgio Griffa once said: “Silence, let the painting speak.” (3)

Giorgio Griffa,Orizzontale, 1974, acrylic on jute, cm 118x73

Giorgio Griffa,Orizzontale, 1974, acrylic on jute, cm 118×73

Info Giorgio Griffa. Silenzio: parla la pittura at Lorenzelli Arte, Milan (Italy From March 12  to April 15 2015 Opening: March 12, 2015, h. 18.30