THE SENSITIVE HORIZON OF CONTEMPORARY ART
by Vittoria Coen
When, in the multiplication of differences, in the complex proliferation of contexts and their variants, the fall of exclusions seems to predominate and the subtle intricacy of distinctions appears decidedly victorious, which indeed it is, this being exactly what we see constantly in art today, the crux of the matter, the point of reference, continues to be the fundamental question, the attitude towards life, the personal orientation towards relevant issues.
Within the evident flexibility of the solutions offered up by today’s artists, the response continues to be individual, the artist is not conditioned by scholastic obligations, the effects are fickle and can even be disturbing. Willing or not, within his field the artist has himself to reckon with, even when it seems like he’s looking out of the window, curious and omnivorous or disappointed and sceptical. And in this sense, the tones of the work reflect what we call the dialectic of opposites.
We are of course talking about attitudes, affinities or contrasts: the history of art is full of them. But if we highlight the manifestations, we see how the referential figures still form the foundations and how it is around them that the representation of art forms in our apparently disenchanted society revolve. To be creators or executors? Perhaps that is the point, the real question. This isn’t what we would call a group exhibition of associates linked by indissoluble oath of loyalty. It would be silly and unreasonable for such different personalities to undertake an obligation to shared loyalty. It would also be miserably anti-
We have witnessed apotheoses and clamorous demises, diligent recoveries and revitalising operations, revivalisms, mannerisms, intentional parodies and involuntary parodies, accidents along the way, planned kitsch and austere forms of hermetism: the many kinds of revolt against modernism, new symbols of post-
But interesting things occur. We keep on repeating that we live in a society of images, of entertainment, in a world permanently on display, which has and requires no secrets and appears exactly the way it is in the spectacular rendition of events, be they great or small, private or planetary. The official narrator, television for example, now talks mainly about itself, revoking, repeating and re-
Amidst consenting attitudes or veiled ironies, even in the world of art a very lively season has made appearance, be it natural or contrived, its unquestionable field of action, often with far from banal, intellectually complex operations.
Now a different inner awareness is developing within the artistic process. Special care is exercised, devoting meticulous attention to materials and subjects, showing respect for memories in a uninhibited confrontation with exasperated rationalism offset by a different kind of logic, which has to reckon with other, more complex and urgent presences from the executive viewpoint, the quality of the artistic action as such, from an intellectual and emotional point of view, the inner reason of the artist’s activity without any form of apriorism.
Nowadays there is a problematical current which doesn’t pursue hypothetical destinations of evolution and progress. It has ruled out utopia altogether but continues to lay claim to an identity. In this undoubtedly ambitious but exceptionally legitimate search, art multiplies its languages. Painting in particular enjoys opportunities previously denied. It regains its rights and possession of all those things that some people considered to be dead and buried, covered over forever by the dust of time.
Artists are beginning to talk about themselves once more. They don’t mind being read according to their own grammatical style and often simplify its understanding by offering indications with regard to their creative practices, their design activities and their motivations, even in their fleetingly transitional condition which, within the increasingly dynamic situations can also be a pause for a target which is, nevertheless, constantly in motion. Despite everything, a more reflective atmosphere is making progress. Among the symbols that we might choose to indicate the current situation, I think that of the bridge would be the post pertinent. Bridges are synonymous with passage, but also with mediation, arches which mustn’t fear the violence of wild water, and which can succeed in carrying us beyond questions, uncertainties and risks, but always along authentic paths.
Now we can call this relatively recent event, which is the meeting of the various forms of artistic activity, in a variety of ways. It isn’t actually all that recent if we think of the idea of complete art which attracted, at a certain point during the last century, so many exponents of European culture in sectors traditionally considered as separate, if not in direct contrast with one another, to those artificial battles between painting and sculpture, greater arts and lesser arts, humanism and technology, which fuelled artistic literature with such pointless clamour. That of total art was a constructivist principle, so as to speak, not to restore the ideal of a universal orbis pictus, source of organic substance and a reassuring sense of synthesis and harmony, possibly originating (or so it was thought in some cases) from metaphysical entities and forces, the best of the possible worlds that opened up to philosophical analysis like a book to be read. It was more of a special way of looking in all directions and speaking all languages, the most well known, consecrated by centuries of culture, as well as those which had only recently come onto the scene.
At the end of the day, whatever the more or less cogent primary idea was, it generated a beneficial expansion of horizons, an enrichment for everyone in every way, more curiosity and hope to satisfy it, opportunities offered to those with a greater sense of adventure to explore new surroundings, in new continents, perhaps even new galaxies, greater freedom in the absolute sense. And the results bear the most eloquent witness, from the visual arts to music and theatre, literature and film.
Consequently we can accept terms which are now part of everyday language, with reference to facts that lie before our eyes. Perhaps this is the meaning of the passage of time, which sometimes registers a sort of weariness, or irritating operations of reiteration or the mental laziness from which they generally originate. Having reached breakage point, it is now clear to everyone that they will cause the explosion of the magma of incandescent material that the chthonic energies hurl out of the no longer compact crust. Craters split open, something hovers way up high, a river receives new affluents and unexpected currents emerge from an icy surface.
Call it whatever you like, contamination or otherwise, but observe the phenomenon and avoid turning it into a method.
In this way we see painting and video, pencil and brush, lines and curves -
Of course some people might think that the iconoclast is the salt along the insipid road of life, at least with a gesture which didn’t fail to attract imitators. It may also be that there is a secret dada in all men, even the most respectable conformists, even if there is no longer a Romanian Tristan Tzara to play chess with Lenin at the Café Terrasse just a stone’s throw from number one Spielgasse in Zurich.
It’s a fact that almost nothing has been born in art thanks to evolution. This was the case with modern art and also the case with its rejection.
It is usually thought that there was a time when an absolute cultural and spiritual unit existed, without paying too much attention to the internal dialectic, which has never disappeared. But if it ever did exist, modern art broke it, multiplying the voices of this dialectic; even though it didn’t dip, compactly and in a single block, “the pen in a black liquid with manifest intentions” in compliance with the will of dada, it did stir the waters with singular revolutionary strength.
Now Campolungo allows us to read a new liberalisation of choices, polycentric modern poetics, incessant fluidity, one leit motiv which blends with another, attention to technological progress as a tool and manual skill which doesn’t remain static, but is renewed. Mental paths which no longer bring excessively audacious imbalances but, for example, earn positions in the reconquering of space, simultaneously accepting more contained and controllable measures. New, unprecedented glimpses of colour, extending to bright polychromes and the breaking down of the old barrier between abstract and figurative, among needs for purity, cast renunciation and uninhibited plunging into the big container of aesthetic temptations. A situation I would describe as real extroflexion.
Here and now for example, the unquestionable mimetic loyalty of certain artists, which is almost documentary, should not cause any form of misunderstanding: it always contains something hidden or implied to communicate. Loyalty can hide different meanings, more allusive than descriptive, it indicates something else. The Polaroid that grasps data in a presumable anonymous loyalty is not the protagonist or the keeper of a compositive formula in its own right, it responds to a variable, curved tonality of time, which is human above all else.
A certain mundanity of things that some artists have chosen is always contained carefully, without hyperbolic orgies of an excess which would end up bring superfluous, useless, even damaging, always retains a clever, ironic lightness.
Attention to sensitive values is constant, whether it is discovered as a declaration of intent, like an internal artistic self-
And there is undeniably a certain “presence of the past” (Portoghesi used this expression in relation to architecture), another factor of complexity, to be used without worrying, because not all fields of art and culture had been subject to absolute prohibition (apart from the futurists). In the most interesting artists of today, we don’t read an imposed rule which requires particular philological rigour and programmatic revivalisms, which it would seem have already been abundantly bypassed.
Valerio Berruti proposes an organically built and visually open micro world. Despite everything, it is the rediscovery of individuality that reappears through the movement, even in the individuality of the shapes.
The order, the almost bureaucratic standardised regularity that once ruled in schools, with pupils lined up neatly, perfect in their uniforms, so reassured and reassuring, have been broken. Here they move, speak,, run, play, wave and probably argue. They live, and while they live they cancel the banal aspect of anonymity: Peanuts, very domestic even for us.
If the word animation contains the Italian word for soul – “anima” -
The purposely and understandably basic shapes enter the technological horizon in a relaxed way. They feel at home and naturally become part of the setting. Using irony and lyricism together, it is possible to transform a representation which appears neutral into an original feature of life.
Here there is also, in a certain sense, something new compared to the little old world of “good” children which we are used to seeing portrayed by Berruti. These creatures, captured in the vitalism of such a complex growth phase, express a personality which is only just hinted at, but already equipped with elements to be read like the signs of a not necessarily predictable private life, a future which passes by.
In the expression “the simplicity of complexity” Enrico De Paris summarises his journey, made up of stylistic contaminations and materials, paint, metals, sculpture, installation, ready made…a creative vitality which has always accompanied his work and which now concentrates on the relationship between artistic research and scientific research. This link, this cultural parallelism, creates those evolutionary processes in the artist, those planetary changes that determine historical, social and economic changes. Perhaps De Paris wants to tell us that all the multiple aspects of knowledge have to be observed, analysed to understand the complexities of the way we live. And he does so with instruments and compositive elements which, well-
Shay Frisch elaborates a personal language in the combination and in the contamination of elements. Light is the nodal point of his aesthetic experiences. The artists catches it, he is able to harness it and to then liberate it according to precise criteria in a minimal and coherent conceptual process. The first inspiration is followed by a tense itinerary aimed at changing the initial idea into thousands of variants which, in the end, lead back to the start. What might initially seem to be ready made, is in actual fact, in a certain sense, the final result of a complex process of combinations that are put before operations of decided eliminations.
The creativity of the artist really resides in the result that intends to be scrupulously "objective", or better, fully compliant with the idea. The materials can be the most diverse, since they exclusively represent a means to achieve the result in the most relevant way possible.
Sockets and light bulbs are also forms that become main characters of space. In the 2007 assembled Surface 2489 B, for example, Frisch conceptually elaborates an assemblage, and he does it with a particular effect, as if he wanted to create a protruding monochrome. Light crosses the surface, and from these elements a unity is born, which, as happens in the most rigorous cases of obedience to a personal method, conserves an internal possibility of hypothetical developments.
Frisch’s natural independence leads, in fact, to different end results, obtained in each case with the debonair certainty of the artist which, as has been noticed, blends simple materials effortlessly, conveying aspects and effects which might not necessarily be present, but are simply very vaguely implicit in the functions that the artist then gives to the final opera.
The Fables of Phaedrus provide the inspiration for the animal portraits by Federico Guida, who develops an individual path through an admirable pictorial technique. Spanning from boxers, to portraits of aged models, to juvenile ones and finally, to self-
However, as has been noticed, the bear and the bull represent the two opposite trends of the financial market, which Guida has analysed since 1997 with pictures set in the rooms of the world stock exchanges.
As I was saying, animals as metaphors, symbols suited to different considerations, of social and political nature.
Guida uses a pictorial language on the limit of realism, in order to make these images-
It is, in fact, not easy in a historical moment that seems to echo back to a certain event-
Riccardo Gusmaroli and all-
In his big acrylics, formal motives unfold, perfectly regular as sometimes happens in certain musical chords, which seem inevitable due the laws of harmony; A world of magical fantastic freedom hovers, sometimes supported by complementary and even cadences and other times absolutely free and unrepeatable.
They come from a crowded nowhere, they are sons and daughters of multiple miniaturized cultures, they have fathers that maybe would not recognise them as their own. This too is given, thanks to the magic of certain interventions.
In some cases the signs are full of what is, in the end, a non-
In this cosmos, there is undoubtedly also a playful aspect that flies on the weightlessness, redeems militant painting from the debts of historical tendencies and ends up suggesting dispersive readings.
This is also what the alchemy of colons is able to provoke, aesthetical fervour and the waiving of topographic reconnaissance, in a pleasant loss of orientation, which is perhaps only apparent.
The intense stellar backgrounds, the deep shades, the blue that minds us of certain Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, the vortexes of signs capture us: a never-
From the in-
The artist’s universe is a whirlpool of extremely calibrated chromatic shades, played with elegance and an aesthetic sense, creating a symphony of contrasting shades alongside subtle nuances of monochromes. His painting is conceptual, created mainly, from the late 80s to the present day, through an intriguing use of paper, used in multiple layers and superimpositions after a subtle game of combustion. The effect, the optical game, suggests a three-
In this way the artist transforms the concept of painting and sculpture into something else, through a skilful optical game of lightness. Here and there, between a light green and a red, blacks and whites appear, lights and shades, positive and negative, hollow and solid. Fragmentation and decomposition, effects derived from a close-
Francesco Lauretta, wrote in a recent interview “... to me art was and had to be just objective. As an adult having understood that by now, at the end of the millennium, painting too could suggest conceptual positions, I began thinking about meta-
Probably, the fundamental to better comprehend the work of the artist lies here. His images, so powerful and clear, not to mention the most diverse subjects and the dumbfounding titles, are amplified in the colours, in the signs and in the visual suggestions that they arouse in the observer. Painting is appreciated, but one doesn’t abandon oneself to it. The meta-
Lauretta’s works enter and exit the hypothetical “frame” and intercept future signals.
It is far more interesting to observe the world from a certain distance, possibly from up above, from a hill, from a balcony, from a bridge, to better “recognise” the suggestions, the ambience and even the contradictions of certain places. Domingo Milella’s journey, is unique, even though it takes place in many locations; natural landscapes are interwoven with urban ones, but always big spaces often crowded by our society’s contradictions, unauthorised constructions, man’s carelessness, ignorance and profit that “animated” some urbanisation decades ago, and then, suddenly, a nocturnal landscape, featuring all-
Distance, therefore, focusing from a higher vantage point, above the horizon investigated, allows the subject to show every part of itself. At times, it seems like we can hear the sounds and smell the scents of these places, which are different from one another, but are taken into consideration by a feeling that unites them, the curiosity of seeing beyond what appears.
An inner glance, then, which does not accept the first impression and challenges the means until it gives him the sensations that the artist wants to focus on. In a moment, the photograph must be able to say everything, this is one of his main features.
In Milella’s work a certain timbre has to be caught, as if the photography were the score, the writing of a symphony. Light and its effects, shapes, everything has its own unity, a diffuse homogeneity, no image is apparently preferred to another.
Barbara Nahmad proposes fragments of recent history, only some of the numerous ones that crowd her original Pantheon. Chosen, not by chance, each one of them represents not only itself, but also a particularly significant individuality in its scope and its time, with a profound human sharing of the artist, which is read in many details. These portraits were not created on the tip of a brush or on the wave of a mechanical click.
The artist, in fact, works on a product already tangibly realised in its obvious realistic characterisation, but doesn’t devastate it, preferring to direct attention to secret charges of humanity. Faces that we are familiar with, thanks to the press and television, which have given us so many examples, acquire a different familiarity, born not from faking, but from a very personal focus.
So, while the mechanical device does not lose its original purpose, the painting retains and, in a manner of speaking, regains its special ability to go beyond the visible, beyond the empirical.
What brings together, for example, a young Dalai Lama, who we see today as being so solemn and austere, a mature Maria Callas, armed with all of her aesthetical resources and her proud sense of superiority, and a young Robert Kennedy at the peak of his political and human career?
Having abolished every superfluous ornamentation, the eyes and their expression are what communicate destinies, the eyes in which we read the present and perceive a future already known, because this future has already happened.
Barbara Nahmad possesses the sight of a reporter, as we know from her previous stylistic experiences.
If she has given up frontline positions it’s because now her interests are to reveal as opposed to simply describing.
Manually intervention in a work of excavation, not too crudely traumatic, but intense, is an act of reflection, in which this is accompanied by emotion. This is what the artist wanted to do in these portraits, so true, so exact, so personal.
With a skilfully light-
Even the insisted geometric dimension, the regularity of a path through apparent objectivity, does not exclude more amiably light presences (paper), a detail carefully set out like lace, and then a tangle of keys which will never be able to open anything, create the poetry that emerges from things in spite of the contrasts to which the elements refer, hardness or softness, refined craft or professional fatigue.
The encounter is made possible by a lively sense of belonging. The situations that Pazner creates do not enforce the use of any obliged interpretative “key”, they speak for themselves, through sight alone. And all that we see, even what appears to be influential, pleonastic, acquires a different meaning if we think of it as a virtual representation. Whilst presences and absences meet, sharing and detachment, emotion and reflection, a happy merger with artistic quality is created, and it’s this richness, I believe, that suggests the most effective tones to the reading of the work, art and life, a manifestation of life and its perception.
The situation in which Alex Pinna feels best is one definitely with no restraints. No exasperation, no excess, only what, for him, is the way best suited to the need to convey development and space to the linearities and the subtleties which he has cultivated for some time.
Formal rigor and essentiality are the principal coordinates, and it is this rigor that makes his sculptures “classic”, without being plastered in a conventional principle of balance and proportions, precisely classic, because, on the contrary, they love challenging vertigo and paradox.
The acrobatic subjectivity of Pinna is read in the drawing, it is drawn sculpture, born on a piece of paper and brought to an extreme point of physical survival, as though the operation were directed, not by the sculptor’s tools, but by the imagination of the artist creating the drawing.
It is this freedom and independence that convey a somewhat magical suggestion to these grand figures, like beings to whom no harm can come, as they possess a very special gift of immortality.
These stringy figures support themselves, self-
In the series that the artist calls “Coni”, games and proportions, which enter into a circular relation among the various figures, are developed.
As guests of a natural prodigy, the individual elements seem to bind to one another by a force, an energy that surrounds them. The balance, not the merely physical one, but that which supports the inner being, has brought straight lines and curves, nature and artifice, internal and external back into play and into line, in an alternation of empty and full spaces always open.