The Painting Itself - Exhibition preview by Dominique Stella

English subtitles

The Painting Itself

Analytical abstraction and Supports/Surfaces:

Ulrich Erben, Pino Pinelli, Claude Viallat


by Dominique Stella

April 18th - June 12th 2015 

When painting itself becomes the object of painting, it is not aimed to represent, evoke or express anymore. Its only aim is itself and the fact it does exists on its own as applied, contrasted colour, as substance bringing light, shade and tone on the canvas or any other support able to show it up. Painting is defined through its own purposes, it is not a medium anymore. It has become content itself.

During the recent history of painting, particularly in the Seventies, in Italy, France and Europe in general as well as in the United States, the issue about monochrome legacy was raised. Monochrome was widely investigated by post-war artists like Fontana and Klein, the Zero Group or Manzoni in Italy or Rauschenberg with his 1951 White Paintings in the United States.

Breaking with the past traditions, a pictorial abstraction called Astrazione analitica found its own space assimilating monochrome as its basic concept and going beyond expressionism, between painting and not-painting. Its identity includes conceptual aspects of not-painting, such as the rejection of the picture's surface, intended as a fixed geometry made by the four sides of a stretched canvas. Tough it did maintain the use of colour as related to texture, tonality and shades with their own subliminal effects.

In the changing times of the late Sixties, some movements theorized their artistic purposes, thanks to their conceptual influences, and led a research which has also been developed in Italy by Analytical painting, headed by Pino Pinelli, and in France by the Supports/Surfaces group, in which Claude Viallat was active.

Painting reinvents itself also in the rest of Europe, especially in England, Germany and the Netherlands. Ulrich Erben represents the German school in the exhibition.

These artists were at the peak of their creative energy. They explored the breach between them and conceptualism, denying the pictorial fetishism of bringing art back to its original meaning of representation (and market). Between these two extremes a certain kind of abstraction was defined, as painting was conceived with criteria coming from monochrome, which did believe that absolute freedom is at the basis of creativity and use of painting and colour as an establishment of this freedom itself: the analytical abstraction

The exhibition shows three crucial artists of this European movement which joins Analytical painting and Support/Surfaces through the same goal of using painting as a medium able to feel and interact with space. Painting becomes even part of the space itself, highlighting or fragmenting it at times.

In this context, Ulrich Erben is one of the main colorists of his generation. He builds his work in its own unique way, combining his colour research together with a geometrical inspired composition.

His aim brought him to explore the coloured substances rather than a confrontation with the space. After leaving the United States, where he lived until 1967, he investigated the expressive potential of the white created with the use of light in 1972. He overcame the canvas limitation and, lightening it on the edges, included its surfaces in a spatial dimension.

Pino Pinelli has also been part of this research towards the absolute colour via the monochrome practice, as one of the main artists in the analytical painting Italian movement.

In Italy, Pino Pinelli abandoned the traditional form of the picture.

He presents his work as a will of dispersion which builds the space through connections of monochromatical elements.

From the beginning of the Seventies, Pinelli faced the problem of tradition and innovation exploring the potential of painting and its own texture .

It's like as if he wanted to feel the mystery, to reveal and understand what painting may suggest by fully concentrating on it.

Since his first works between 1971 and 1975, the Topologies and Monochromes, he focused on the expression of tension, a vibration catching the soul of painting itself.

He took part in the exhibition at the ARC in Paris in 1978. The event became crucial in defining the analytical experiments around monochrome. It was realised by Suzanne Pagè (director of the Museum) and the art critics Bernard Lamarche-Vadel and Filiberto Menna.

In the other hand, Claude Viallat is one of the leaders of Supports/Surfaces. This French movement put under consideration the act of painting, bringing into question the traditional painting supports. Most of the artists were originally from the South of France.

In order to investigate the reality of the work and go back to the origins, painting must represent nothing but its own essence. This means the canvas is free of its own stretcher, colour or form.

"I paint painting", says Claude Viallat. 

A total of about 30 works from the Seventies until today will be on show, including 15 works by Pino Pinelli. ABC-ARTE will publish a catalogue with an essay by Dominique Stella.

During the vernissage and for the whole exhibition it will be possible to support AMRI Onlus, Associazione per le Malattie Reumatiche Infantili, buying special prints of the artworks edited by ABC-ARTE. All the receipts will be dedicated by AMRI to purchase an ecograph.