By Ivan Quaroni
"Only he who possesses an original view of infinity can be an artist"
(Karl Wilhelm Fredrich von Schlegel)
"Mathematics is like a big city, whose outlying districts encroach incessantly..."
Matteo Negri's sculptural and pictorial research has never been underlined by a specific choice of language or the intention to work into abstraction, with the consequent exclusion of any figurative approach. This artist belongs to a aesthetically post-ideological generation. These categories appear old and thrashed to him. Indeed, he interchanges and mixes iconic and aniconic sources of inspiration.
Tony Godfrey, author of the well-received Painting Today (Phaidon Press), perhaps would include Negri's work under the "Ambiguous abstraction" definition. On the other hand, I would mention an "Ambiguous Representation", where iconic references, analytical tensions and conceptual ambitions share the same basic importance.
It is impossible to look at Negri's work exclusively through formal and linguistic tools. His research is based on an operation model which changes its characteristics every time. It grows and develops independently and easily adapts to the present needings and ideas. This does not mean Negri hasn't developed his formal artistic language and logic during his career. These are based on solid artisan, practical and planning experience. Most of his recent production, based on his 2008 intuition, includes the re-interpretation of the Lego brick, invented by Ole Kirk Christiansen and symbol of the assembly-kit for kids.
Animated by detournement spirit and supported by an analytical vision, Negri transformed the famous Danish brick into a functional plastic lemma. This module allows him to build a wide selection of combinations, using many different textures such as plastic, metal, resin and ceramic.
The Kamigami box represent the newest experimental evolution of this concept. Differently from the past, a new perceptive scheme is introduced here. The model, inspired by Piet Mondran's orthogonal structures, is repeated an infinity of times, thanks to the use of mirroring walls. The sculptural work is focused on the squared structure and is mainly developed through elevation. Along the sides at the base, there are four wooden walls of different heights which reflect the internal surfaces. The Kamigami box becomes the container of perspective illusions replayed by the plastic pattern on its bottom. This virtual image, created by the multiple and overloaded reflection, suggests the idea of an urban street-web seen as from a bird's point-of-view, endless streets cross over the metropolis built by kids and conceived as an infinite sequence of coloured blocks.
This limitless, vast and tentacular city is a typical invention from dystopic science fiction. It symbolizes here the visual paradigm of the concept of "repetition" and "difference".
By Gilles Deleuze, the way Western people used to think of the concepts of repetition and difference has cristallized the vision of existence as representation. We are able to catch a phenomenon only through its repetition in different ways and contexts. In the concept of different repetition , these two words are strictly connected and depend on each other. Instead, Eastern philosophies like Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism include an immanent force which unites every manifestation of the multiplicity. There is no antithesis between the unifying principle and its different expressions. Tao, for instance, is a principle unifying the Multiplicity. The Western problem of anthitesis between One and Multiplicity shows its repercussions on artistic expressions. Using the Japanese word (Kamigami) for divinity or spirit in its own meaning as plurality, repetition, infinity, Matteo Negri builds a model of iterative representation, similar to Mantra, Mandalic diagrams or the Frattal geometries. Kamigami box are the attempt to synthesize and settle a complex perceptive problem at the base of the difference between Estern and Western art. It is also evident the artist's renewed interest for the dynamics of aesthetic fruition and the European optical experimentations of the Sixties. These irregular polyhedra, with surfaces painted in bright colours, are three dimensional objects and devices of optical refraction, which need the active and dynamic participation of the observer. The internal structures are repeated ad libitum, while their vision depends on the observer's position.
Some of these images can be found in the bidimensional pictures: Polaroid photo prints inside the Kamigami box are then re-worked in a digital way through the symmetrical reproduction of the images.
All photographs are printed on aluminium supports to enhance the brighting quality of the cubes' mirroring surfaces. Though, Negri excludes the white colour from the printing process to polarize the chromatic contrasts. He paints on the photos with colours used for objects and surfaces made by glass. These colours are applied on metal sheets and intensify the light effects, without modifying the image's structure. It does still give the impression of a kaleidoscopic and multplied urban landscape, but it's got nothing to share with the playful and childish atmosphere inside the boxes.
Ironically, Negri's Western attitude emerges as an artist in constant connection with the pop imaginary of mass culture through this series of work.
These immense cities trespass any unreachable horizon. Their structure, so similar to electronic circuits, reminds us of the negative utopia in cinema and cyberpunk literature. Negri's metropolitan conglomerations hold the infinite in an authoritarian web of Cartesian lines and innumerable geometries, they forever replay and envelop the structure of reality. The endless repetition and the plural spirit may assume two antithetical aspects: positive and reversed. The first is good and is called Kamigami; the second, nameless, evokes the Matrix imagined by the Wachowski brothers.