To a Friend

Dear David,

I have always maintained that the process that leads to the realization of a work of art matures through a creative tension between truth, history (the history of art, but not only), and one’s own lived experience, with reference to the imagination. The act of artistic creation meanwhile, felt above all as a liberating moment, is motivated primarily by a precise cognitive necessity and existential urgency to form one's own Weltanshauung and therefore not so much dictated by a particular predisposition nor by simple unintended decision. These are some of the fundamental elements that are at the base of the poetics and the expressive codes of certain contemporary figurative painters – I think of Francis Bacon, and Graham Sutherland, but also to Juliao Sarmento and Wainer Vaccari. Such codes of expression derive from a singular disposition of the being to immerse itself and plumb the deepest recesses of the invisible and then to translate them in some way that is “clear” to the self and, inevitably transformed into an image, to the being itself.

There is an engagement in all this: artistic, ethical, even civic. It is an engagement that is demonstrated through an untiring effort that resides wholly in the artist's duty to mould mysteriously fragments, remnants of a collective genetic memory that belongs to all but which few succeed in understanding fully in the “making and unmaking of itself”, “to see and to scrutinise from within with a careful and concentrated regard”. Knowing you and having had the privilege of collaborating with you and of being beside you more than once along your path, today I am certain that, through your work you have undoubtedly succeeded in constructing, over the years, a meaningful dialogue between yourself and others, the beneficiaries of your works, those to whom in a certain way you have tried to convey an awareness of yourself.

While you have refined yourself technically by studying and freeing yourself from a wide range of influences and cultural matrices, from the beginning the originality of your work has never yielded, not in theme nor in concept. Indeed, more and more it is characterised – consolidating itself – by an attitude of conscious challenge to established models, sterile and predetermined trends of little intrinsic value, intensity, quality, or communicative capacity, products derived from a conventional prosaicness, obvious and uniform to the “non-ideal” that you have always refused to follow.

It is from considerations like this that, in time, your agenda as a painter has been demonstrated to be effective in developing a thought and carrying it forward. Perhaps the objective could also have been to replace the desert of solitude that sometimes encircles the heart of an individual with the lyrical philosophical illusion of a non-beginning (enlivening it with a continuous surprise – and consequent reflection – on the things of the world, beautiful or ugly that they might be); or to extinguish or to demolish the present, to recover an initial trace (common to all because universal) through an indfatigable exploration of what we know to be the most inaccessible recesses of our perception and of our understanding. Nevertheless, not being just any method by which you have chosen to paint, it is true that through that very method you have known how to reassert – yet again and reinforcing it even more – our belonging (in our capacity as human beings) to a reality that is not only psychological, but at the same time psychic, affective and rational.

In fact, for as much it may be the fruit of one of my personal feelings, I have always found something “pitiless” in your canvases: as if the illusion of that something being sought is irretrievably useless at birth, disintegrating even in the attempt to bring it to life. But this is also the unique reality that a work of art is capable of confronting.

On the other hand, material which makes up and which nourishes your pictures is not to be identified simplistically as “the means”. By now you know how to immerse within yourself the meta-reality which you have confronted, investigated and measured for years in your painting, to the point of identifying yourself almost completely with it and showing it in such a way that it is complete and accessible to us – “who look and who contemplate”.

Without having to linger upon analysing those things which could appear to be your interior conflicts, your silences, surprises, capacity for living, exactly in the moment of the pictorial creation, the profound significance of the meta-truth allows you to address yourself to what is real in a sincere, honest, soberly detached way: that same moment when you are ready to capture the meta-reality and consign it to an image, thus collecting those elements which are the most excitable but also those which are most unimaginatively dramatic. As Claudio Manni cleverly found, that same pitilessness which I have just pointed out sometimes manifests itself as a derision of the daily snares in our stability, an effective antidote in order to identify and regain an inner equilibrium that rejects all external pressures and brings us back to our just dimension – even to a dimension critical to the human presumption of omnipotence – how little is J'accuse thought about.

You have never been interested in moving yourself about like an acrobat between impressions and expressions, between will and instinct (typical of certain contemporary painting), also because those terms do not seem to belong to the singular nature of your creative vocabulary. It is rather “the construction of the enigma” that allows you, at the apex of its development, to free your limitless compositional energy. An enigma that is in everything since it records everything: tragedy, redemption, catharsis, and that, as such, its destiny is to be clear-headedly resolved.

You do not ask the subjects of your paintings to become part of the everyday connivance, to escape the anecdotal, to pit themselves into the infinite dialogue between opposites, to bring to the foreground the author – the demiurge that tries to dominate and control the subject, to compose, to decompose, to induce the observer to a constant reflection on the knowledge of a possible ethical revolution capable of starting a new social order (which does not have to be sought elsewhere, since it is here, now, where we all live, operate and exist). Instead you offer an image “other but concrete“ of a quasi-perfection in constant movement, an ineffable something that allows the spirit to detach itself from the apparent viscosity of that which shows itself as “discouraging bourgeois stability”.

The juxtapositioning of objects, the vision of a world that stands just beyond the threshold of physical truth, the exploration of the inner, unconscious, imagined, life through elements that are a familiar or of common use: their solidity, their separation in the space that is assigned to them on the canvas, the secret confrontation or dialogue that can take place between the various elements is not only an index of an attention to the simplicity of ordinary data, but also the verification of the style that leans heavily and with elegance on the most hidden state of being. The "selected tribe" of characters and objects that populate your pictures, is well and truly a language. That which at first sight might seem illogical to the eyes of the observer, or simply remote and mystified by whomever created it, becomes instead credible, since it is the subjects themselves who announce and confirm the existence of a logical alternative, not finalized, not banal. On the other hand, as De Chirico said: “there is much more mystery in the shadow of a man who walks in the sun than in all the religions of the world.

What emerges on the surface is the substance itself of which the material is made up: the substance is implicit in the material and exists in as much as the material itself does. In the same way the meanings reside in the signifiers: it is the task of the artist to uncover them, giving them an aspect that is born from a process of synthesis and removal of the superfluous. Basing himself mainly on the pure act of doing, it is important to the artist to create a continuous, dynamic flow, between work and reality and viceversa. Of his existence – the most “sensitive” of all the elements that he uses and to which he entrusts his search – he is always ready to seize upon the deepest impulses, in order to transmit them anew, although manipulated. However, in your art, one is never a witness to a phantasmagoric process, as often happens in contemporary art, neither do you intentionally or otherwise cover yourself with very difficult contextualisations.

I think instead, that the quality of your art derives from revealing that urgency to communicate that I mentioned at the beginning: an urgency that moves along a set of binary tracks, such as to exalt both the quality of the material used to make the painting, as well as to transform that same matter into a reservoir of symbolic codes from which knowledge is drawn: you want to unravel any specific ideological motivations in order to define a more immediate relationship with what you feel closest to, either currently or in a timelessness, in synthesis to be able to examine in depth more phenomenological contradictions that belong to all of us in as much as we are made of them.

Without excluding the emotional content that innervates the creative act of any artistic exercise, the memory alone can conserve its functional value and confirm the quality of the experience.

In the light of this, I believe that having succeeded in transforming the controversial “actor” of your first canvases into a real language, – essential and dismantled – you have contributed to rendering the meaning of your painting more powerful and explicit, and the discourse of the painting with one’s other self, more flexible. One perceives more and more a bewitching serenity surrounding you canvases. And this painted “character” (him/you) – this language – can today, by itself, define its dynamism, since it is endowed with a method and communicative intensity that seems by now to be beyond any historic preliminary.

Andrea Pagnes