THE INFANCY OF PAINTING

Galleria Carini, Florence
27th May 1989

A: I observe these paintings: in the way the articulate the elements of modern painting, from the frame to the canvas to the field of colour, they seem to me to speak with the serious distance of ritual.

B: An impure ritual, in which painting appears to have taken its distances from itself. A ritual which is conscious that painting in its modernity has lost its analogical force, its capacity to allude to a moral totality capable of existing beyond aesthetics.

A: The painting as objective correlative of the invisible, as idea incarnate which goes beyond the order of mere things… But how can we not recognise that, in its attempt to elevate itself to the transcendent aspects of the gaze and in its struggle to join the One which precedes the multiplicity of time, what used to be called non-objective painting has fallen into the dualism of pure transcendence of vision versus the immanence of paint covering a surface?

B: Even if that were the case, the question of how we conserve what we have inherited from the forms of painting you describe would still remain, however tragic or divisive it may be. In each one of Pirri’s works we witness a resolute move away from the founding elements of the autonomy of modern painting: from the fluorescent haze which doubles the light of the surface to the frame – which becomes almost a rhetorical trope – the extrinsic limit to an extension whose nature is in fact unlimited and free. These are disjecta membra of the accomplished totality of the work of art, doublings in which the very foundations of modern painting sink as if in an abyss.

A: But it is precisely in this abyss that these foundations reveal themselves as purely mythical, as enigmatic words finally showing their essential ambiguities. Isn’t this will to keep together the truth of materials and the sublime immaterial of vision revealing itself now as a huge double-bind? Is it not an impossible command, in which we are supposed to have scorn for the material in its impossibility to represent the invisible spirit while at the same time sustaining that the materiality of painting is already a representation of the invisible? It strikes me as sort of mystery of incarnation, a theological offshoot of which the metaphor of artist-as-creator is a most superficial declination. Hence the tragedy… how can we ever live up to this pretence, without ending in madness or in silence?

B: Even if what you say were true, we know by now how consciousness isn’t sufficient to solve these problems… it isn’t enough to affirm an enlightened vision which undoes superstition. And myths are, first and foremost, stratifications of problems, so much so that their origin becomes obscure. Think of those supposedly enlightened conceptual artists… in their attempt to define the institutional, ‘anthropological’ context of art, they ended up incarcerating artistic value in a table of laws according to which it should be judged… hypocrites and nothing more…

A: In a sense the attempt to undo myth is the highest attempt to blind. Whereas these works of Pirri’s do the opposite: they seek to live up to the pretence for myth inherited from modern painting, and manage to do so by elaborating on its ambiguities, on the temporal nature of ritual. Doublings and dissections here are the movements of a sort of theatrical representation of painting — movements neither pure nor totally impure, for in their upside down-ness they display the memory of an ancient, impossible purity. A rite in which the characters act in the suspended temporal dimension of repetition. Allegorical tableaux, paintings made of time, which remind us of another, theatrical, origin of painting…

B: I don’t know why, but the prose of a distant friend comes to mind: ‘the gaze wanders beyond the room: onto the terrace on the building next door, where the air vibrates with heat. All around, sharp light, clear shadow. But on the ocra surface of that floor, deserted by people, the eye encounters the illusory obstacle, the curve of a presence, the mirage of an irrepeatable state. A woman comes out onto the balcony. The wooden frame of the window appears. The light, the day, things are in the light and in the day…’

Giorgio Maragliano

shows.

Comments are closed.