by Ivan Quaroni
“Painting must catch that connection between the needing of identification and the needing of abstraction.” (Carlo Carrà)
“Doubt is one of the names of intelligence.” (Jorge Louis Borges)
In the history of art, abstraction is an arrival point. Perhaps not the ultimate one, as it happened to Kazimir Malevič, who returned to the figure in his late works.
It is anyway considered as an evolution, or progress, in the language of painting.
Almost all abstract painters started from figure. Alberto Magnelli, Arturo Bonfanti, Osvaldo Licini, to mention a few, had a figurative approach, which they improved through syntheses and sublimations. They organised their styles without almost any reference to the external reality and built a system of signs and intimate figures close to the immaterial world of ideas.
Giulio Zanet’s artistic itinerary may be included in this group. As many others, he started to paint following the figurative tradition, even if, since the beginning, he was intolerant towards narrative structures to focus on a deconstructive concept of representation. Until recent times, this artist worked on deconstructed and disarticulted figures, exposing unlogically-connected events as it happened with the Neue Leipzig Schule and most of artistic movements coming from Eastern Europe.
Zanet used the codes of representation in a chaotic way. He wanted to avoid any narrative influence because he had no story to tell. His work has been exposed to the observer as a collection of un-connected elements and incongruous fragments. It was impossible to create a coherent and homogeneous vision of reality. His paintings raised questions because the duty of a logical reconstruction between inconsistent and dialectical images was assigned exclusively to the observer. Therefore, his first aniconic works inevitably came from the artist’s awareness that there was inadequacy in figurative representations. This unsuitableness becomes evident when looking at the excess of images and visual narrations present in contemporary culture, from the new media to advertising.
The constant exposure to information and the extensive use of superficial storytelling (and meta-storytelling) must have induced Giulo Zanet to reject figurative representation to save the practice of painting.
It is very important to underline how the practice of painting is considered by this artist as an uncertain and unstable tool to discover the inner and outer world. Through painting, the artist experiences himself and the world around him. If you consider painting as a cognitive procedure, Giulo Zanet’s research acquires a relevant anthopological meaning. It is not only a cultural opposition to the invasion by mass-media, but also a persuasive alternative option to traditional storytelling.
In his research, the progressive transition from deconstructured representation to hybrid abstraction is driven by the desire to build a style to perform the vagueness and inaccuracy of existential experience. It’s a dirty, gestural and uncoherent style. Vagueness and inaccuracy are elements of a way of life made by series of attempts and unavoidable mistakes and failures. The title of the exhibition, Still Nothing, looks like a acknowledgement of failure, a perpetual collapse, through which cognitive uncertainty is established as an existential value in a Socratic way. The logic of inaccuracy dominates Zanet’s painting style, even when pattern and texture prevail and destroy any possible narration. In his paintings, images are fixed through plastic or flat structures, lines bundle up in Cartesian orders and vibrate like waves of energy through vivid diamonds. The artist is not attracted by the analytical precision of these uncertain shapes. Actually, his ambiguous geometries and irregular patterns symbolize an attempt to place order into chaos, where signs and gestures emerge from a jumble background, They contain this confused entropic bunch of vital experience.
Zanet does not work like Gerhard Richter, whose programmatic approach investigated the image created by the media together with the tautological forms af abstraction. Zanet has an experimental and unpredictable attitude, he looks into reality pushed by a honest presumption of failure and, at the same time, he is aware he will need to repeat his challenge every time. He made a statement out of his peculiar tendency: “People talk so much about the beauty of confidence”, wrote Oscar Wilde in his De Profundis, “They seem to entirely ignore the much more subtle beauty of doubt.”
Considering the whole history and evolution of painting, nothing has ever been more fertile and desiderable than uncertainty and doubt.
"There is no abstract art. You always start with something. Afterward you can remove alltraces of reality."
"An image breaks the borders defined by concept in order to define and contain it. Spiritmust realize this, whether it likes it or not, or it will succumb under phenomena."
In recent times, Italian art developed a new aniconic and polysemous sensibility expressed through several media, from painting to sculpture and installation, in discontinuity with the codes belonging to geometrical abstraction. In the history of art, the abstract process often represented an arrival point, intended as an evolution or improvement of the pictorial language. Many Italian abstract painters like Alberto Magnelli, Manlio Rho, Arturo Bonfanti and Osvaldo Licini, for instance, started from a realistic approach to then create a system of inner signs and figures closer to the intangible world of ideas. However, the passage from iconic to aniconic representation has always developed in this order and never in the opposite way.
What distinguishes this group of artists belonging to the Millennials generation is the recognition of the basic ambiguity of visual language and, therefore, the final dismissal of the dichotomy between abstraction and representation, a legacy from the past. It is clear that these categorizations are not functional anymore. It might be the consequence of a structural change in culture, regarding the emerging of a new awareness, more and more a-confessional in an ideological way. We may consider it as a legacy of the post-modern period, which helped to redefine genres making them liquid and supporting a free circulation of artist between various artistic fields. International critics testified this change, pushing authors like Tony Godfrey and Bob Nikas to rethink old classifications and introduce new elastic visions on present pictorial researches. Godfrey invented the definition of Ambiguous Abstraction, regarding those works by abstract artists where figurative traces survive in a evanescent way. Nikas expanded the Hybrid Picture definitionalso to those works by mainly figurative artists (like Jules de Balincourt and Wilhelm Sasnal) showing abstract elements.
In reality, Gerhard Richter's many and various works between abstraction and figuration already proved how painting could be considered as something homogeneous, regardless of its own declinations. In 1986, the American abstract painter Jonathan Lasker wrote: "I'm seeking subject matter, not abstraction." Lasker thought Abstraction was dead with Frank Stella's Black Paintings, so he imagined painting as representing marginal topics like memory, presence, matter, transcendence and the mix between high and low art. In addition to these topics, felt as crucial nowadays, the post- abstraction by the Millennials, shaped by the exponential growing of information and digital technology, reflects on the individual's position during image creation and fruition processes.
Studies on perception, at the core of artistic experimentations since the end of the Fifties, were one of the many consequences derived from the discoveries in quantum physics. The observer was given the power to influence the results of scientific experiments and, in an extended way, he could concretely define reality. Through the Uncertainty principle, the epistemological consequences of Werner Karl Heisemberg's theory would have been received also by contemporary arts, which started then a deep reflection on the observer's role in the construction of images. Optic and kinetic works were conceived as interactive devices able to create a physiological reaction into the observer, who became an active part in the understanding of the image. Artists considered themselves as aesthetic scientists with the social mission to show the audience how congnitive mechanisms work. To realize their goal, they had to make one step back and give up with the author principle, in the same way as the N Group from Padova did when their works were presented under a collective signature. After fifty years, at the peak of the digital era, studies on the relation between image and perception have reconceived or, at least, extended to the new cognitive standards of the Y generation. These young artists are not interested defining how visual mechanisms work, while they focus on the reactions to the changed fruition conditions to internet and virtual reality images. They developed a critical awareness to distinguish artistic creation from the production of commercial, advertisting and playful images. All the artists present in the exhibition show a radically individualistic approach in considering art as a cognitive tool and as a way to resist to the codes of mass-media communication and traditional storytelling systems. The abstraction choice has been immediate for some and gradual for others. It represents a precise wish to cut any connection with the invasion of media language (and not its technology) to re-establish a primary and creative connection with reality.
Abstract comes from the latin expression ab trahere and means "to remove", "to separate". It refers to that kind of mental action that moves from the concrete and immediate side of contigency to the one filtered by reflection. Abstraction and theory are comparable terms. They both include detachment from reality, even if in the Millennials' abstraction is only temporary. It has the same value of an epochè, a suspension of judgment towards the alleged truth of phenomena, which never resolves in a complete detachment from reality.
Paolo Bini, for example, translates physical (and mental) landscapes in abstract chromatic units, based on pixels and scanner or plotter timings. The artist paints on paper strips, then mounted on boards, canvases or walls to create images characterized by a rhythmical and chromatic partition. With paintings, installations and paint-sculptures, Bini builds a lyrical and personal variation of pattern painting, where geometrical precision and gestural urgency of abstract expressionism coexist. This emotional geometry, produced by the fusion between mental structures and phenomenical entities, places his painting style on the the thin border between visible and invisible, on the precise point where the act of observing nature fights with the creative distorsions of awareness.
The pictorial signs by Isabella Nazzarri may be defined as phyto-morphic and anatomorphic. Using an organic and perpetually changing alphabet, she expresses feelings, memories and intuitions incomprehensible in any other way. The artist gets inspiration from the classification of anatomical and herbal tables to build a world of evocative and fluctuating pictograms, obtained through a free interpretation of natural morphologies. Nazzarri realized a big mural painting on the gallery ceiling, a crowded organic genesis echoing the codified forms of her Innatural systems, an imaginative theory of amoebas and parameciums, bacteria and protozoans coming out from the primordial broth of an alien planet. Even if her artistic world is not influenced by science fiction, it represents the inner observation of an overabundance of archetypical forms, similar to terrestrial microbiologies generate by a mobile and liquid imagination.
Matteo Negri's research focuses on plastic substances in an eclectic way, in combination with stone and ceramic, metal and resin, using industrial varnishes to create pop colors for an immediate expressive efficiency. His varied production centers on the division between form and meaning, a short circuit of aesthetic content and substance. This is the case of Kamigami Box, big irregular boxes showing internal surfaces covered with mirroring steel. The surfaces reflect the Lego constructions on the sculpture's base ad infinitum, giving the impression of a limitless urban settlement. Together with a new Kamigami, the artist shows a piece of furniture, an old chest of drawers transformed in a displayer containing many little works. The visitors are invited to explore it, so they can experience an unusual form of artistic interaction.
The mechanisms of creation and image fruition are at the core of Patrick Tabarelli work. His works drive the observer towards a kind of perceptive uncertainty, thanks to their formal ambiguity. His paintings are made of flat, almost digital surfaces, or are crossed by dynamic and minimal oscillations, in contrast with the gestural origins of his style. Recently, his works focused on the construction of drawing machines, digital hardware and software for the production of surfaces, which look like hand-painted, so the ambiguity between author and work emerges once again.
Through his project NORAA (NOn Representational Art Automata), Tabarelli suggests a redefinition of the traditional concepts of author and autenticity of the work, on crisis because of the recent development and the new interactive possibilities introduced by digital and information technologies.
Viviana Valla elaborates the language of geometrical abstraction through unconventional substances, like recovery papers, post-it, tape and fragments of printed images. She invents an intimate dimension with the realization of a mysterious and enigmatic visual diary. All we do not see, such as the pictorial adjustments and the collage erased by the artist during the stratification process, is the skeleton of her work. The settled formal subjects partially emerge from the work's surface, they are part of a gradual rearrangement of chaotic elements through continuous additions and exclusions, negations and affirmations. The artist translates in a clear and extensive language the gathering of elusive thoughts, immediate ideas and sudden inspirations accompanying the creative act. The final result is a slow perception of soft colors and delicate tones, almost
monochromatic painting style, reducing lyrical and emotional distractions in a minimal and analytical world.
Giulio Zanet's painting style is based on the impossibility of objectifying thoughts ad emotions in a clear and linear system. His artistic career testifies a gradual moving from destructured figuration to a hybrid and polysemous abstraction, his language reflects the vague imprecision of existential experiences. Using the main codes of abstract tradition - analytical, informal, abstract expressionism and neo geo - he defines a basically mobile and uncertain style, alternating the rigour of pattern with the pleasure of decoration, the freedom of gesture with the imperfect disposition of signs on an instable and fragile balance between rules and transgression. Many of his recent works overcome the classic structure of painting and become abstract shapes. They are fragments of an omnivorous language, similar to an expanded texture, invading the envirnommental space to change invariably its own perceptive boundaries.