“In Ascolto” – notes on Joan Saló and a work by Giorgio Morandi
Matter, time and space are the constituent elements of the pictorial process, understood as a concrete and real activity of manipulation and transformation of shapeless and ephemeral substances, such as light and color, into images. I have often wondered what is the real dimension of the images, their true nature. Although I have found different answers from time to time, the question remains open, as if the material in question – the image – always manifests itself in the form of suggestion, of mirage, something elusive and ambiguous, as if its intimate substance evaporates every time you try to focus it. Then, reading a text by Manlio Brusatin, I note this sentence: “Images like shadows, perhaps they need more light than their body to exist. Here – I am told – perhaps the mystery resides here, in the epiphany of signs, shapes, stains and strokes, coloured or monochrome, which at the same time define abstract spaces and profiles of objects, environments, places that emerge as if by magic from the void that surrounds them and that are fixed forever in the light (or shadow) of a two-dimensional surface. Painting is always a suspended place, a space as real and present to our gaze as ephemeral and evanescent in its sensual lightness, in its irreducible immateriality. There are images capable of assuming in the viewer’s gaze a depth that is both physical and psychological, capable of redeeming, even for a moment, the transience of the world, of its objects, of its projections. Although there is nothing, apart from the use of the graphic and formal element of line and line, which unites the work of Joan Saló to the engraving production of Giorgio Morandi, the works that constitute the last cycle of the young Spanish artist, to a more careful reading, seem to find with the search of the great Italian painter affinities much more substantial than those that might seem on the first simple operations citationists or didactic visual filiations. From the very beginning Saló’s research has in fact been directed towards a process of careful and sensitive transfiguration of matter, thanks to a slow and patient crossing of the surface of the canvas, whose plot, traced, re-routed, recreated chromatically and perceptively, allows the artist to re-establish, in each new work, his own action. Saló, starting from the physicality of the canvas, slowly draws the surface as a three-dimensional field of energy, of light in expansion, a place both imaginary and real, suspended in time and yet becoming, abstract but irreducible. While we cannot speak of an austere painting, since even when they rely on monochrome gradations of gray-black-white their paintings are always crossed by an ambiguous visual tension, Saló seems to work on the construction of spaces from which the confusion (of the world) is excluded. Each of his works is the result of a specific elaboration and practice, yet each work seems to cancel out the effort made, as if the plot of lines, interruptions and starts had emerged spontaneously from the bottom of the canvas. This incessant movement of the line gives rise to an intermittent drawing that instead of saturating the surfaces lets them breathe, creating a veil of nuances that captures and releases light, a refined drawing of light and dark that is both object and image, figure and ghost, volume and transparency. Like Morandi’s engravings (like his painting), Saló’s works seem to find in the reiteration of a subject and in the re-proposition of a slow and obstinate modus operandi, the possibility of making a cognitive experience whose intensity is based on the dilation of doing and observing. In both the construction of the image is never frontal, but always presupposes a slow progression through planes that intersect and cross each other, zones of light that alternate with areas of shadow. They are spaces, intervals, interferences that open up on the white wall, that arise from an intense but controlled explosion between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality, between a static appearance and a slow but inexorable dynamism, capable of moving the image from the inside. In both works there is also a sort of nostalgia for what we could call a golden measure, a feeling of order with respect to which the two artists respond in apparently different ways but basically similar, in the search for tools or poetics that can lead their game with the world to one, albeit ephemeral, completely recomposed into a fragment. If Saló’s work is in fact linked to the tradition of abstractionism, or in any case to a generic aniconic language, since one of the main characteristics of his works is that of being there (real presences, entities that hold nature in check), Morandi’s work instead resorts to perspective not only as a symbolic form, but as a privileged instrument that rather than adding order to order, wants to compensate for external disorder, precisely by resorting to a canon, a measure that tends constantly to the ideal. And it is interesting to note how the two researches, certainly distant in time and in poetic intentions, recall each other in a sort of game of mirrors between differences and identity. If there is a pre-minimalist rigour in Morandi’s work, a sort of abstract figure in his iconographic monologue based on manual industriousness, concentration and silence, in Salo the reiteration of the gesture becomes an almost liturgical act. Although rigorously abstract, extraneous to any mimetic or representative intent, Saló’s work seems to take place as a narrative process, leading to a decantation of the gaze, to a slow immersion in the epidermis and at the same time deep plot of his painting. Beyond their existence here and now, the distance that separates them beyond the exhibition space that they find themselves sharing, both in Morandi’s objects and in Saló’s weavings, the iconic substance seems to be made not to resist. They are images that are barely perceptible, images that could be consumed at the very moment in which they are internalized, made their own as a memory that emerges and then disappears again in the intermittent flow of memory. “Painting – writes Merleau Ponty – evokes nothing, and less than ever touch. It does something quite different, almost the opposite: it gives visible existence to what the profane vision believes to be invisible, it ensures that we do not need a muscular sense to have the volume of the world. This devouring vision, goes beyond the visual data, opens on a plot of being of which the sensory messages are only the punctuations or the caesuras, and that the eye inhabits, as the man his home. Both Morandi and Saló seem to have listened, where their lines, their forms, their images, cut out the profile of the world and its becoming in the void; constant, silent, in-finite return of the identical.