Alberto Zanchetta

Dripping Colors

In 1907 Guillaume Apollinaire stated, “I don’t want to talk about painting any more, I don’t understand anything about it. Nor about painters”. This is not the place to discuss the reasons for this discomfort, though perhaps it might be worthwhile understanding the reasons why it is always to problematic to discuss painting. What is pressing is to reveal here the insistent use we make of the adverb of negation, that “non” (or also nor, neither, not even etc.) that often crops up in our arguments, as though it were the only term able to help us in the face of the inexplicable. The prefix “non” was of primary importance for a painter such as Ad Reinhardt who, in an attempt to describe his own art, arrived at calling it “non-non-art, non-Expressionist, non-Imagist, non-Surrealist, non-Fauvist, non-Futurist, non-figurative, non-objective, non-subjective […]” etcetera, etcetera. Reinhardt’s list continues for a long time to underline the adversative value of each statement. The problem of interpretation is resolved in an apophatic discourse, because we limit ourselves to saying about a determinate thing what it is not. Jean Baudrillard has written, “We could consider it as an apophatic story, one that develops starting from events that have not taken place […], a book whose central idea we approach by starting from questions that have not been asked, from answers that have not been given”. In the case of Joan Saló Armengol we must hope to get as near as we can to the specificity of his works by negationis. If we were to state that the works by this Spanish artist are neither drawings nor sculptures we would evade the central problem. Vice versa, if we were to use peremptory statements – insisting that the works by Saló actually are painting – we would be obliged to specify their typology. So then, are they figurative or abstract? Some people would tend to the latter, but can we be certain that pure painting must necessarily be subjugated by non-illustrative art? Can colour not have its own form, one that makes it objective? When we get too near to the paintings by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, Gaetano Previati, Giovanni Segantini, and Angelo Morbelli don’t we perhaps see results similar to those of Saló? Seen close up, the chromatic texture and the weave of the canvas become as one, an intricate, indissoluble, impregnable fabric. Saló’s colours are similar in dimension to pen nibs, so slender (and thick) as to become as sharp as the knife that cuts across the eye in Bunuel’s masterpiece. They are like luminous bands – a light filtered by the iris that divides and dissects it. In these works, however, there is no central focal point, something that forces the eye to wander, lose itself, and follow every centimetre of the canvas. A recognisable form is also lacking, but despite that we cannot speak of Expressionist painting, just as it would be useless to refer to a generic kind of abstraction. Just as inane would be to divide the artist’s works into polychrome or monochrome paintings: isn’t it perhaps true that in the latter the black tends towards various gradations, giving them a plurality that contradicts the monad? In most of the paintings we find an acute (rectilinear and not geometric) rigour, as though the assonance between the Italian words for “colour” and “drip” – colore and colare – had been taken literally: the paint drips and the surface continuously seeps. And this is the only fact we can turn to. In accordance with proposition 4.1212 of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, which states “what can be shown cannot be said”, we are obliged to capitulate, vanquished by the limits of language. So let’s accept that Joan Saló Armengol’s illusionistic space is not simply painting and leave the last word to the viewer, since all real art is interlocutory.