Giulio Carlo Argan, Giovanni Maria Accame, Cristina Acidini, Mariano Apa, Mirella Bandini, Carlo Belloli, Paolo Bolpagni, Mirella Branca, Vanni Bramanti, Anna Brancolini, Carmine Benincasa, Luciano Caramel, Ornella Casazza, Claudio Cerritelli, Bruno Corà, Roberto Cresti, Giorgio Cortenova, Enrico Crispolti, Fabrizio D’Amico, Roberto Daolio, Angelo Dragone, Luigi Paolo Finizio, Alberto Fiz, Paolo Fossati, Francesco Gallo, Mario Luzi, Marco Marchi, Luciano Marziano, Lara Vinca Masini, Marco Meneguzzo, Bruno Munari, Antonio Paolucci, Sandro Parmiggiani, Elena Pontiggia, Pierre Restany, Davide Rondoni, Maria Luisa Spaziani, Carmelo Strano, Claudio Strinati, Toni Toniato, Tommaso Trini, Marcello Venturoli, Stefano Verdino, Cesare Vivaldi.
LARA VINCA MASINI 1977
An operation like the one Paolo Gubinelli has conducted for several years now, in which it has gained precision and character, is clearly posed as the acquisition of contemporary culture in the area of an increasingly more “reductive” exploration, on light, space and structure.
I refer to the line of exploration, defined as “analytical” which, starting out from the proposals of space-light-colour in the luminous dynamics of the atmosphere, already expressed in Balla’s “iridescent permeations,” was conducted bypassing — without ignoring it — the entire European abstract-geometric moment. Retrieved after World War II, it divided into two major veins — that of Europe and that of America — perhaps on the basis of the European-American work of Albers. It gave rise, on one hand, to neo-concretism (with all its dilations and processes), arriving to the recent studies of “reflection on painting” and of “analysis on means” (from Fontana to Castellani to Dorazio, from Gaul to Griffa to Support Surface...), while on the other hand, it gave rise to what has been defined as the “cold line,” “opaque painting,” or American “analytics” which recalls Stella, Newman, Reinhardt and arrives, with constant reciprocal filtering, to Agnes Martin, Dorothea Rockburne...
It is as though the work of Gubinelli started out from this substratum to undertake, in an autonomous fashion — very “private” and “silent” — a further analysis on means, on the way of operating, on the “concept” of space-structure.
I would say that the sign of his work could be that of his enucleating on the idea of “structure-space-light” (which does not mean, mind you, that he works on the level of “conceptual” research but rather, in the area of “design”).
Let us attempt to analyse it:
— singling out the means used, a specific type of support — light cardboard — with certain characteristics and “qualities:” compact, soft, particularly receptive to the incidence of light, with a fragility and preciosity, and even intangibility, which also recalls, poetically and literarily, Mallarmé’s “vide papier que la blancheur défend.”
— the means of intervention, which does not consist in adding another means but instead translates the means of “intervention” itself (in this distinguishing itself from the “monochrome” of Fontana or Castellani, prepared with pictorial “means”), carried out in the structural folding of the support, in manually cutting, with extreme precision but not mechanically, sections of a circle in a rhythmic-dynamic progression, almost a reference to echoes and very light repeated notes, in an allusive retrieval of certain experiments by Balla, but also by Boccioni, on the velocity of the object in space.
In Gubinelli’s work, the graphic-architectural component is continuous and essential and gives his work, which does not lack in references to Oriental abstract philosophy (references which I feel constitute an irreplaceable component in the work of American artists of “New Abstraction”) a connotation of a European character, rational, without detracting from the poetic concentration of which his papers are increasingly more imbued; even more so in the present dilation of size of the work itself which, on the wall, becomes a sort of optical “fire,” which involves the surrounding space, making it vibrate and dilating it — contrary, for example, to the “papers” (“Drawings which make themselves”) by Dorothea Rockburne which “measure” the surrounding space, becoming extraordinary poetic-rational “modules.”
The work of Gubinelli is in the phase of auto-definition: the possible routes of assuming a definition are many; his search is anything but finished. Already very clear, however, is that he has singled out a method and an autonomous language of great incisiveness and purity.
A method and language that already draw from a world of expressiveness and poetry which implicates a difficult and rigorous choice of behaviour and relation.
Florence, May 1977
Pub. OS, Arezzo, 1977
Pub. Galleria Il Punto, Calice Ligure, Savona, 1977
LARA VINCA MASINI 1985
Between light-colour and space-light
The sensitivity and capability of artists (in their “infinite awareness,” as McLuahan wrote) to grasp hold of the mobility, even the most subtle and almost imperceptible, of “temperature” of the cultural moment in which they live, always succeed in overcoming any doubt or uncertainty we may have had about the natural and conscious growth of an artistic operation that has started off in a particular direction, in the moment of a “change of course.”
Indeed, in 1977 when I wrote about the work of Paolo Gubinelli whom I declared to be “in a phase of auto-definition,” I added that “the possible routes of assuming a definition (were) many; his search (was) anything but finished.” In order to provide a key of interpretation to the work (which remains, I feel, at least one of the functions of critics — or isn’t it?), I attempted to place Gubinelli’s work in the “analytical” line by definition, of modern art (or of “reflection on painting,” of “analysis of means,” which goes from the iridescent permeations of Balla, Fontana, Castellani, Dorazio to Support-Surface, to Newman, Reinhardt, to Agnes Martin and Dorothea Rockburne); a line which, in that moment, seemed to be on the point of exhausting its direct incisiveness on artistic culture.
And Gubinelli, whose sensitivity is, without a doubt, extremely acute — demonstrated by the subtle and almost impalpable depth of his work — has succeeded in opening up his argument without, however, betraying its basic approach and instead evidencing unpredictable probes.
Paper remains the unique medium by means of which he elaborates his exploration into light-colour and space-light. Initially, it was a light cardboard, white, compact and soft on which rather deep cuts and manual folding along the marks provoked, with the skimming incidence of light, thicker shadows and very distinct lines, evidencing the geometric nucleus, the “optical game” which tended to dilate in the visible space formed by the distance between the viewer and the work (one recalls reading the Manifesto of Futuristic painting of 1910, “Then all will realise that beneath our epidermis brown does not prevail, but instead yellow shines, red blazes and green, azure and violet dance voluptuous and caressing!” Gubinelli has then moved on to use an almost reflecting material, a transparent paper, almost opalescent (“tracing paper,” to be exact — and this alludes to his professional activity of technical-industrial designer) on which signs are delineated with greater incisiveness and sharpness, and by means of which the sign visually passes “beyond,” like Fontana’s cut (the sign traced by the blade which never pierces the paper here virtually “cuts” it to “uncover messages beyond,” opening “the ancestral wound, necessary passage to life,” to quote verses by Gubinelli himself).
And not only has the material used changed, but from white which, from the beginning, virtually contained all colours, from that white which then became fluid, transparent, brimming with secret colour, mysteriously latent, finally colour emerges free, vital, permeated by that light which contains it all and dilates it. On the surface, beside the light, free mark of colour, the cut which generates geometric fulcra occupies another section, offering itself to the grazing incidence of light.
In the meantime, the support has taken on different shapes and dimensions, becoming a long roll which occupies wall and floor (a clear allusion to the Japanese Emakimono as well as to the spatial occupation of the environments) or defining itself in rhythmic composite forms in which the module is almost always the triangle.
“The triangle,” writes Gubinelli in his notes, “either as drawn figure or as a shape given to sheets of paper, or as module of sculpture in paper, always with the prevalence of height over base; it sends the eye rushing upward.”
The use of the sign, coloured, free and gestual, made with pastels and joined to sections again treated with cuts and folds, marking the limits of geometric images as though rising, is extended by Gubinelli to light cardboard, creating an effect of profound and subtle lyrical suggestion.
The work of Gubinelli was thus born under the sign of design which, however, does not only mean “geometry.”
Who ever said that free expressiveness does not also respond to a “different” and perhaps more subtle and secret model of design?
Florence, March 1985
Pub. Le Arti news, April 1-2, 1985
Antologica, Pub. Palazzo dei Diamanti
City of Ferrara, 1987
BRUNO MUNARI 1985
The first lights of dawn
Art explores many worlds, all of them different, as many and as different as are individuals, incomprehensible and strange. Personal worlds, in any event, at times revealed in all their completeness, at times discovered very slowly, like when the first lights of dawn break through the darkness and draw only the profile of things, like a corner, a part of a surface whose breadth and shape are unknown, an indistinct flash, lines crossing without a destination, signs and not yet shapes, colours only hinted at, a pre-perceptive world that stimulates the imagination, that provokes thought, that leaves us suspended (for how long?).
A situation much loved by Orientals who prefer to see the world illuminated by a thin crescent moon rather than a vulgar full moon, so dear to lovers and children.
Gubinelli proposes these pre-perceptive stimuli, not yet shapes, almost fragments of signs, apparitions of colours.
These barely marked sheets bring to mind (to whomever knows them, of course) the thoughts of a Buddhist monk of the end of the year one thousand two hundred, by the name of Kenko, author of the book, “Moments of Idleness,” published by Adelphi: “This world is such an uncertain and changing place that what we imagine to see before our eyes, in reality, does not exist...We can not be sure that the mind exists. All things external are illusions.” But we too, are “a thing external” to another.
Only art, by now completely free, can lead us to explore these unexplored worlds on the limits of perception.
Milan, April 1985
Pub. Magazine, City of Prato, 1986.
Antologica, Pub. Galleria d’Arte Moderna,
Palazzo dei Diamanti, City of Ferrara, 1987
MART Rovereto Biblioteca Civica C.Tartarotti 2019
Video del libro d'artista realizzato a quattro mani Paolo Gubinelli e Tonino Guerra Progetto a cura di edizioni Parallelo srl, Firenze
ENRICO CRISPOLTI 1989
I met Paolo Gubinelli more than ten years ago in Gubbio and recall very well how I was struck by his cardboards, rigorously crossed by very thin structural cuts, with an effect of almost white on white, of indubitable fascination for the lyrical, politely severe tension that seemed to pervade them. And which I feel represented an introspective analytical dimension, like directing worldly phenomenology within an anxiously absolute equilibrium, of intimate contemplation. Very complex structures, though not mysterious or ambiguous in their sincerity.
Gubinelli’s is an internal matter, even when it seemed as then to exhibit an objective structural rigour. Not that this rigour came to lack in successive works. But certain in its original, and in a certain manner almost demonstrative clarity, it was brought into question for a complexity which I would say more adherent to the terms of an evocative interior dictate. It occurred particularly at the beginning of the Eighties, working on transparent papers with a very attenuated intervention of colour.
In reality, Gubinelli still uses the cut sign, but his plots no longer emerge absolute in their subtle sharpness on white, uniform backgrounds, but in the context of a precious chromatism varying from situation to situation. On the other hand, those cuts no longer follow plans of elementary geometry, between parallelisms and orthogonalities of straight lines meeting, but instead fluctuate as though pushed by soft movements or they entangle as from a single origin, entwining, varying in total freedom. It is my opinion that Gubinelli’s creative world has reached a further degree of interiorisation; or better still, perhaps he has made interior probing his field of operation. There derives an evident condition of rarefied anxious lyricism, one vaguely shadowy, where the painter’s emotivity (and what a painter) is diffused and, in a certain manner, hidden, in an evocative flowing which escapes all measure of confession. The most refined and unique results, almost private, almost fearful of losing, in a stronger contact, the very sense of their intimacy.
A wandering of the imagination within a metaphoric evocation, aimed at remaining private, though the features that distinguish it could not be but connected to the cultural seed of a typically central-Italian mould.
Rome, June 1989
Antologica, Pub. A.I.C.S., Palazzo dei Consoli
City of Gubbio, 1989
Pub. A.I.C.S., Palazzo del Podestà
City of Fabriano, 1989
ROBERTO DAOLIO 1989
Purity, vibration, transparency, luminosity and construction are not only crucial terms that can adhere to the complex and tenacious entirety of Paolo Gubinelli’s work, for the more or less lyrical transposition of the sense of an exploration destined to undergo modification and advance on the ground of subtle and sensibly controlled variations. Of course, it is not easy to preserve the sense and rhythm of shapes and signs, animated by a reflexive analytical will, in the proliferation of mnemonic pulsions and in nostalgic reminiscences of a past ineluctable and, at the same time, “to forget.” Gubinelli, in any event, perceives the weight (or perhaps it would be better to say the obstructive “lightness”) of a lyrical abstraction destined to consume itself in the true and living space of the environment, through the fragile structure of a geometric framework conducted over the rhythms of folds, cuts and even tears. Indeed, so much as to inform and warn that the reflexive and, for certain aspects, rational nature of the overall constructive game opens up to a sort of instability and precariousness as a different order. Different, especially, from a cartography of sentiments which often camouflages, under the aegis of control and hybridisation, the concrete measuring of perceptive micro-structures, almost prevented from qualifying themselves and instead revealed as explicit and evident patterns. Without shirking legitimate and, for certain aspects, changing expressive sensibilisation, Gubinelli with measured detachment conserves the limit imposed on the evocation or the germination of the sign strewn with obligatory relations and passages. Whether they be determined by a punctual rigour of composition or instead “veiled” and assimilated to the flowing liquidity of colour.
As we see in the works of his latest period, characterised by an amalgamation and support of the constructive order of incisions, cuts and scratches in a process of pictorial osmosis, aimed at condensing on the surface the “full-bodied” ineffability of an event.
As the pure erasure of papers and cardboards, folded and cut to subvert a soberly constructed spatiality in an auto-referential and tautological analysis, has contributed to solicit distance and uniqueness also in design, now the more fluid, free and wiser use of colour reproposes an indecipherable evocative enchantment. The order and disorder of a linguistic combination, which is anything but instrumental, exhibit a new participation, more intimate, but not for this reason wandering in an excessively easy and affected lyricism.
Bologna, May 1989
Pub. Galleria Comunale S. Croce
City of Cattolica, 1989
VANNI BRAMANTI 1990
An element which has constantly interested me in Gubinelli’s work is his sign, his cipher. Allow me to explain: in the Babel of styles and prevailing expressive internationalism, there are not many “recognisable” artists. Artists who, following their own characteristics, continue to move along a route which can only be the one they travel, in whose necessary variations, it is impossible not to encounter constant aspects and results. And therefore, thinking over the entirety of Gubinelli’s work, from the beginning of the Seventies, when his geometrical incisions were inscribed into the soft white of cardboard, up until the experiences of today still underway, freer, more lyrical experiences all dominated by a festival of colour, in brief reconsidering his almost twenty years of work, a reference to the opening statement of this review is immediate: that principle of consequentiality in difference which truly seems to be at the basis of a definitely original artistic practice.
Of course, as is always the case, Gubinelli is not alone in his work, nor has he been. In this regard, let it suffice to recall the most distant examples, first among which is Fontana, immediately followed by Castellani, at the same time, however, making some distinctions: though with certain, splendid results, Fontana’s incisions have always maintained something aggressive about them; without reaching the wound produced by Burri, Fontana’s cut was a cut, in brief an infraction performed towards the support to violate, to pass through.
On the other hand, Castellani, or rather rigour taken to the extreme limits, obsessive and obsessing repetition which ends up being an expansion of consciousness, a sort of appropriation of form by means of an absolute stubbornness with regards to this same form. If Fontana and Castellani (and Manzoni) are the principal archetypes, it remains to be seen how Gubinelli has come to occupy his place in this question, departing from the evidence of softening postulates so extreme. Of his own, Gubinelli can be said to have put a moving sense of material, and this in relation both to his papers and the more extended “environmental” rolls: a material of which the sign, the cut provoked by the artist’s will and hand, constitutes a whole with the incidence of light, with transparencies and, especially in his more recent works, with the captivating charm of colours, in an exploration also of movement which shatters the by-now distant geometrising tangle to reach outcomes with wider freedom and fine poetic result.
Florence, June 1990
Pub. A.I.C.S., Palazzo dei Priori, City of Perugia, 1990
MARCELLO VENTUROLI 1990
Paolo Gubinelli or The Icons of Disorder
In my encounters with artists, a barycentre extends from existence to painting, from finding myself shortly, but gradually, in medias res; let us say, I the critic, though peripheral and fugitive, they the messengers of visuality, whereby never, or almost never, am I a notary or do I see the result as the only reality of the encounter. After writing Paolo Gubinelli of my impressions on the splendid exhibition he presented at Fabriano (previously, in September 1989, his “Opera su carta” had been hosted in the Palazzo dei Consoli of Gubbio), I visited the two-storey house in Rifredi, an outlying area of Florence, which he himself built, with paintings on the walls by abstract artist friends of value and masters, flashes of long-lasting dreams on the walls, the bedroom of Jacopo, his son, two lustres old, medals of tenderness and obedience, his wife Paola, teacher and loving daughter of a distant father, she too, from the Marches, her face as calm as a portrait, with no other ornaments than itself, Moronian, black curly hair over an olivaceous complexion, astonished and attentive of Paolo’s words as though just awaken, her eyes open, she contemplating her husband’s thought of images, while her husband disentangles for her, for them, cycles of signs in rolls and papers, materials and colours inside a universe the perimeter of which is her heart.
I spent an evening in Gubinelli’s workshop with the artist, his son seated to one side in silence, while Paola downstairs held dinner for us and I had the impression that the artist was presenting his work with the confidence and discretion of a confession and, at the same time, with the pride of a wonderful artisan, a maker of jewels, while he opened papers, drawers, note-pads, rolls, diaries of rapture for the few. For though the stylistic ambition and sign consciousness remain very high — from Fontana to Castellani to Manzoni to Bonalumi to Bompadre, like the experience of colour from Fautrier to Wols, from Rothko to Dorazio to Licini — that subdued “voice,” communication of the person who lays the sheet to cover on his lap, was a monologue of the most humble Narcissus. I say Narcissus and I say humble because this figure without adjectives, an adoring self, fascinated by his dream of beauty, is not explosive: neither for the dimensions of the works, for the most part from medium to small, nor for the evidence, as though each image were to be read like an open book on a table, almost accepted in its identity of something grazed, of a sufficiently explicit spot and sign, but always within the difficulty of being born. The humble Narcissus, resolutely and unmistakably born to contemporary art already with cut white papers in line with Castellani’s whites (the artist who made the perspective of the Renaissance encounter on the wall that of abstractionism derived from cubism, to give the formula of Castellani’s art which is, before all else, poetry) is so pure in communicating that he speaks to no category of public, in a kind of Morandi’s Limbo, he speaks almost totally for himself.
His condition in the relation with expression is also given by the means employed, initially almost uncommunicative, cryptic, hazardous, allusive — I beg the reader’s pardon for such an assorted choice of adjectives — anxiously human incisions on paper, almost wrinkles barely educated by geometry and therefore in the world of presence or of the signs left by man (perpetual cave-dweller of the image); incisions and folds on paper where the millimetric three dimensions or paper polystratum, pursued with shapes and their reiteration, invent a geometric construction without ever accepting it as vertebra, but only as an order in inevitable emotive disorder; incisions and colours on transparent paper, water-colours on paper, rolls of tracing paper on the “guides” of which colour advances or rather, runs on the tips of its toes; collages of triangles on transparent paper, diadems of grass, tenderly cheerful decorations with which to adorn oneself for imperishable geometry, but a geometry here too, learned from Licini and not only from Mondrian and Malevich.
Thus, before the “papers” of Paolo Gubinelli, I experienced an invitation to interpret in the key of an intimateness, a conspiracy of silence, with “little” left in the mental space of the white sheet, the “little” which can become “much,” everything, if that continuous oscillation of the artist’s working assumes unity between method and chance, between image sought with pre-ordered means and spontaneity, between medium-small measure and evidence. I posed myself the curious question as to whether Paolo were an angel who studies as a man or a man who, with painting, becomes an angel: all of his works when photographed, for example, reflect this second figure, in the sense that they are complete with an intransgressible iconicity. Allow me to take as chance examples different works, also in time, such as “Incisioni, colori su carta trasparente,” (Incisions, colours on transparent paper), 1980, 59.5x42 cm, a silken, pearly space where Licini-like sign creatures, arrows and ellipses with the sign of a golden fingernail, or “Incisioni, acquerello su carta,” (Incisions, water-colours on paper), 1983, 29.5 x 21 cm, the fable of two solar worlds contrasting in a cosmos as close as the sky (Father Licini appears here too, in the cut, even though the Maestro leaves his admirer free in the signed and chromatic quanta), or also “Incisioni, colori su carta trasparente,” 1984, 100 x 70 cm, those eight window-shaped squares which strengthen the whole with reiteration and give a tender, original presence of a spring morning: all of these works, in the mechanical translation of the photograph, take on a greater concreteness, evidence.
Of course, the difference between photograph and original, in the psychology of the viewer, is well-known and old: who has never been “disappointed” by a Cézanne until that moment seen only in photograph and then presented before his eyes in the original, so... bare of colours, so covered by the invisible dust of time? Then, naturally, he had to admit that the fault was his, that he had grown accustomed to an easy interpretation, perhaps facilitated by a kind of artifice. This mood, this error was, to a great extent, also mine seeing Gubinelli in photograph and then “live,” one fine evening of this past October in his home. Naturally, Gubinelli live is more difficult, more risky, because his vision often closes up less and can appear to remain in his hands; but the more he dialogues with the viewer, the more tender and human is his message, amiable even in what he does not express to the very end! I would say that very often he leaves his definiteness open and that in any event, our entering his image with the reserve of the retina and a soul clear of nostalgia about evidence, the message of this painter from the Marches (born in Matelica, near Macerata) totally gratifies us. All the more so the outcome of his works realised or in large measure implied with space-environment (incisions, folds on paper, 1973-1979) or in the chromatic accentuation of water-colours (incisions on paper, 1989) do not seem to me to outdo in results those which have struck me so and which I have illustrated with their open definiteness. Of course, I am not the first to speak of Gubinelli’s existential style: with far better-versed and scientific formulation, Enrico Crispolti, to whom no serious artist passes unnoticed, wrote in 1989 that Gubinelli “has made interior probing his field of operation” and that in his art we find “the most refined and unique results, almost private, almost fearful of losing, in a stronger contact, the very sense of their intimacy.” Vanni Bramanti, Roberto Daolio, Lara Vinca Masini, Giuliano Serafini and others have seen, perhaps with greater certainty than mine, Gubinelli’s present and future, accepting the definiteness of the painter’s images susceptible only to a development in the sense of quality.
I feel that the psycho-sentimental bond of this artist’s image is, more than in many other good painters, fierce, exclusive, even though successively sign and colour appear to be mediators and controllers of those effusions, dizziness and depressions, of his perpetual young man’s fevers of growth; nor could it be otherwise because papers, materials and geometries left to Gestalt or programmed solmisations would not only be boring but today rather obsolete and certainly out of date. The painting of Paolo Gubinelli by cycles and reiterated gestures, such as to constitute, taken as a whole, a “manner,” reproposes the great informal abstraction. A manner like that, for example, of 1988 in which an area of vast monochrome spots, orange, violet, ochre is supported and depicted almost by confines of surfaces, by signs for the most part undulated, or the one of 1989 in which the chromatic effusion of a water-colour in an initial and not coagulated stage, is bridled in extremis in the sign, giving the idea of a disorder taken as icon.
But his is certainly no longer that of the first Strazza, of the first Romiti or of the first San Filippo of the Fifties and Sixties, that manner in which colour informally started in the canvas with no other vertebra than itself and always with an expansive vis. The way colour starts in the papers of this painter from the Marches is always entrusted to the ordered operation of the sign, be it called to support collapses and obnubilations, or to give direction and movement, dynamic itinerary to the effusion of these births of things in the space of the paper.
While with the admirers without reserve of Paolo Gubinelli it can be said that his future is all similar, as to his present I wish to conclude my testimony with an affirmation that does not contradict the judgement of my colleagues but which does differ: always exalted and always mortified by emotional outbursts and mental restraints, reflected in icons of disorder, delicate product on the threshold of the too beautiful, but well on the track, still and as always, of the anti-pleasant intended as new and unpredictable game of style, his present yearns for another future, even though this future is already in the present. And the utmost suggestion presented by the works of Paolo Gubinelli is that of a genuineness outside of the very latest “isms,” of a humanity and sensibility of accents outside the succession of groups between the Eighties and after, as though his diary, in the pages of the soul, could — and can — continue like a natural gift, a very personal message for the few. My certainty for Paolo is that of not having any, of knowing where he comes from, of anxiously, fraternally waiting where he is directed and trustfully accepting not knowing it. Never before as with this artist has criticism not been prophetic.
Ostia, November 1990
Antologica, Pub. University of Camerino
Palazzo Ducale, 1991
GIULIO CARLO ARGAN 1991
So many others have written so well about your work that my regret is less for not writing about contemporary art for many years now. I will therefore not speak about your work, which I continue to follow with interest, but I would like to understand the sense of your declared search for “analytic rationality” which interests me for two reasons. I remain a rationalist though acknowledging that some of the criticisms the post-moderns make at rationalism are not unfounded. Your declaration about rationality interests me precisely because the traces of the traditional iconography of rationality are rare in your work. Your rationality therefore seems to me not deductive, logical, but instead inductive. To find a dimension of the rational beyond logic is precisely what I have always looked for in works of art. I have read what you wrote on the quality of space-light that you see in white paper which is not a working surface for you but instead, formal substance. I feel that your quest is to dematerialise or dephenomenalise paper, removing its limit as a surface and, by means of fine cuts, construct spatiality without volume and light without rays. In brief, you reduce material and visual facts to immaterial rigor, rational quality. Your rationality therefore consists in attributing geometric value to signs which are not canonically geometric. If I am not mistaken, it is a way to contest the claim of rationality which is so much in fashion today. Naturally, the intellectual content of your work does not lie here alone, but I believe that this is a constant in your persistent intention to make spirit of geometry coincide with spirit of fineness.
Rome, April 25, 1991
Your friend, G.C. Argan
Antologica Pub. University of Camerino
Palazzo Ducale 1991 - Camerino
CESARE VIVALDI 1991
Gubinelli has been working on paper since the Seventies, since his first public appearances and therefore, practically always, with a sharpness of proposals and continuity of results which, of his discrete presence, make a rather unique and precious case in the panorama of art today. A discrete presence, I repeat, not at all arrogant or presumptuous, and yet enlivened by the implicitly polemic pride of the artist who goes against the tide and neither wants nor knows how to find support in factors external to his own art, whether they be politics, fashion, society life or the simple acquiescence to the person who feels he can dictate the rules and arrogates himself the right to do so. Silently, Gubinelli has always safely travelled the road which suits only him, well aware that a modest means like paper in itself contains infinite potentials of expression, and well aware that what he does and how he does it, in brief his direction, is one of the first and primary which have been offered to artists, of the Orient long before of the West. If the relation exists which almost all critics attribute between our painter and Fontana, Castellani, Dorazio or, going even further back, Balla, Newman and even Malevich (and we are speaking of such critics as Lara Vinca Masini, Enrico Crispolti, Vanni Bramanti, etc.), even more illuminating is the relation which in 1985 Bruno Munari proposed between the painting of Gubinelli and oriental imagination. In my opinion, especially Zen art in its claim to reach any objective-target without even aiming at it, has in the art of Gubinelli, compatibly with the changing situations of thought and action, an almost perfect confirmation. Concentration is essential, expression a consequence: the outcome of the artistic fact is therefore, in a certain sense, taken for granted, contained in all its infinite possibilities in its premises.
Gubinelli, in the Seventies, worked without using colour, cutting fine signs on white cardboard and folding it so as to animate the surfaces with subtle luminous vibrations. Then he began with increased decision to set his attention on the architect’s transparent paper, cutting and modelling it with folds and colouring it, with sharpness but also with great intensity; even posing himself the problem of occupying space on a rather vast scale, arranging this paper in cylinders to roll up and unroll, into cones to collect or spread out. The problem, though always faced in a different manner, was and is, in reality, unique: the declension of light in space with the consequent creation of always new spaces, creation every time obtained with the simple alteration of the background white, in a “minimum” and most elegant modulation, and later on with the introduction on that background of coloured clouds, with the total erasure of white and its alterations as means of expression and inquiry of the surface. Something of the sort had tempted Carla Accardi who kept close to pure signed values, projecting her signs onto transparent plastic screens. Gubinelli, however, in his own way carries out a different operation which only he succeeds in seeing through to the end, even though many had intuited it in more or less the right way: the introduction of the practically absolute freedom of the informal in a very strict “pedalier,” almost supremacist, made up of elementary inquiries and minimum alterations. We recall the way in which Rothko breaks his favourite rectangular module with strong flares of colour-light; in Gubinelli’s case, “rupture” occurs outside of any module, it advances along a route that can run parallel to the furrows traced by the incisions or by the modulations on the sheet of paper, but it can be totally divergent, not to say contradictory.
All this presupposes on Gubinelli’s part, as Lara Vinca Masini wrote in distant 1977, a “level of cultural acquisition which takes for granted almost all the contemporary artistic-cultural platform in the area of an increasingly more reductive exploration, on light, space and structure.”
Nor could it be otherwise considering how our painter wants to reach his own full originality operating in the most conscious way possible in the area of one of the most live “modern traditions,” that of space light, among the most critically motivated and yet still rich in “works in progress,” susceptible to closer examination and variations.
Crispolti in 1989 rightly observes that Gubinelli in this tradition “has made interior probing his field of operation,” and thus “there derives an evident condition of rarefied anxious lyricism, one vaguely shadowy, where the painter’s emotivity is diffused and, in a certain manner, hidden, in an evocative flowing which escapes all measure of confession”.
Rome, April 1991
Pub. Essegi, Pinacoteca Comunale
Loggetta Lombardesca, City of Ravenna, 1991
Pub. Pinacoteca Comunale, Loggetta Lombardesca
10 unpublished poems126 - City of Ravenna, 1997
CARLO BELLOLI 1992
paolo gubinelli: chromotensions in signs
several references to wols and michaux appear in gubinelli’s conglomerates of signs where colour fades and dematerialises in boreal evanescences.
a painter who comes from experiences in cartography, revealed by the folding and refolding of monochromatic surfaces.
like tangram’s occidentalised, those sheets varyingly directed by gubinelli’s folds proposed linear games of disconcerting elementariness, of monastic propension to chromatic unity.
then colour gave way to unique signs, intervening as a narrating visual necessity.
today, gubinelli extols polychromous lights set ablaze by orphic transparences, enlivened by galactic suffusions, filtered by laminar alabasters.
gubinelli now invites the viewer to the confines of the amazing, to the oasis of dreams, to the rustling of ultrasound.
mirage of colour, rather than visual incidence of structured polychromes.
the echo of colour, instead of the soothing voice of perceptively graduated and unobjective chrome-structures.
the imponderable rapture of chromatic development transfused by gubinelli’s interstellar spaces, takes the place of structured colour logic, annuls the algebra of programmed perceptiveness, until it breaks up into a permanent conflictuality of signs.
colour is lacerated, lines dissolve, points lose balance, the surface definition.
into this polychromatic game of fluidity and filiform, linear transparences, gubinelli inserts spontaneous frottages of sinuous intricacies into a defeated chaos, into a limitless spatiality.
“... je suis si extenué d’art...,” sang jules laforgue in 1887, while today paolo gubinelli feels it necessary to reverify the spectacularity of the expressive gesture as free art, liberated from any attempt to constrict colour, released of all combinatorial formulas.
an invitation to perceive attraction for that which creates tension in the uninterrupted explosive signs the painter employs to orient colour into rarefied constellations.
thus graffiti where automatism resolves in a perfect linear musicality governed by a stroke of elastic intermittence.
already in the sixties, camille bryer and alcopley proposed automatically drawn meandering itineraries of lines, while gubinelli’s eurhythmic acts invites us to unintentional gestures, to meditated caesura.
here the lines mysteriously tremble, offering the right measure of mediterranean dawns and sunsets.
almost a euphoria of signs transmitted to colour to cleanse it of all weight, dematerialising its perceptiveness and activating its transparences.
freedom for gubinelli has become destiny in edifying atolls charged with unexhausted natural forces.
in the context of these atmospheres fraught with disturbed fragmentariness, gubinelli’s linear intersections are manifested in compressed and reductive optical tempos.
successive schisms of rhythmic conflictuality propose light with graduated intermittences.
several works by this unique painter show the fable-like colours of dawn as epigraphic backdrop of possessed stories, unexpectable lacerations of the chromatic association.
with a well-governed force of propulsion, gubinelli performs constant variations of emotional intensity in gesture.
thus, in silence, gubinelli sets out the course of a line or the colour of a space in a newly created heavenly firmament.
along these oneiric routes extends gubinelli’s maps of the informal which he intends as backdrop to a whispered fragility.
the lines of the magical itinerary suggested by the painter swim in transparences of liquid colour, vibrating in crystallised spatial suspension.
in this system of expansive signs, gubinelli creates a spatial arrangement of colour hierarchical unity, where generative and transformation rules seem annulled by the executive automatism of the proposed visual event.
a solar vibration of extreme optic effect suffuses gubinelli’s works with fluid linear rapidity.
like unearthly annotations, the meandering routes of the painter, active in florence, also evoke andré masson of his asiatic period, towards the middle of the fifties.
a chrom-plastic hand aspiring to graphic schematisation in a spirituality that spreads through space, arraying its linear trajectories to duel with light animated prolonged and explosive tensions.
paolo gubinelli identifies fragmented surfaces where, at times, the light of a watery colour reverberates ineffably over filiform signs.
much remains to be said about this painter, about his proposal of structural freedom in gestual signs, about chromatic signals dichotomised in saturating perceptive tempos.
paolo gubinelli’s work should be seen by the supporters of lyrical figuration, cosmography and the stenographic annotation of the shattered image.
the untravelled routes of gubinelli’s itineraries invite one to undertake a voyage through the lengths of this dying century.
the third millennium will pertinently receive messages like those gubinelli transmits today.
we await this verification, affirming its expressive worth, rhythmic-formal anticipation, absolute chrome-sign freedom, underlying perceptive values.
Milan, June 1992
Antologica, pub. Meta, Church of S. Agostino
City of Civitanova Marche Alta, 1992
PAOLO FOSSATI 1992
It is probably true that there are painters who work all their lives on the same painting. We should add that that painting they work on all their lives, like Penelope’s web, is something more than a single work. It is the painting, totality par excellence. It just so happens that this host of painters, to which Gubinelli belongs and which is not as numerous as a first glance would lead us to believe, has the not difficult task of hiding their extreme intentions, decisive of their work, within the terms of more pacific considerations. Often, social; didactic at times; methodological. Rigorous experimentation, conducted in such a manner that from single whims or inspirations, episodes and contingencies, emerge general rules and systematic indications, shared models — just such experimenting comes under defensive duties: it is a weak announcement of the definite message on which one is working. The rationality of these attitudes and procedures sounds like an alarm bell: our author aims at a page of total poetry, radical, fondly packed with all the moments of his artist’s voyage and in which he recognises himself with continuity.
In the meantime, here are traces, signals, routes. Excellent tests, in any case, because certain extreme fusions, light and movement, colour and space integrated in a coherent image (coherent for the eyes and mind that reach it) will be neither static nor definitive. Artists like Gubinelli do not aim at a pictorial image or figure which contain all the poetry distilled from their author, but instead at a work, a painting, at works and paintings in which painting has become experience, evidence.
Argan summarised the work of Gubinelli very well: “You,” he writes, “have found a dimension of the rational beyond logic; your rationality is not deductive, logical, but instead inductive.”
Allow me to attempt to explain the words of Argan: the reaction the reader (viewer) of Gubinelli’s sheets experiences before this painting does not escape his truer, more attentive and intimate experience; at the same time, it goes beyond, moving on a more articulated horizon. Gubinelli reduces, minimises the characteristics of the means he employs, the materiality of the support, the physical quality of light, the vibratility of colour, to obtain a sensitive interpenetration which has characteristics of its own, which is something other than the sum of techniques and methods. It touches the terms of a quality. In the traditions of our century (which our painter knows very well) label-words have been searched for to run through studies of the kind of butterflies to the classifier. For example, it has been said at length that something belonged to that evaporating sphere with indirect illumination which goes by the name of lyrics, and hence derives the adjective lyrical. Which is what goes beyond, emanates, pursues action, operation. (Bruno Munari has chosen a more sensible manner to describe all this; evoking the spirit of Zen, he underlines the illusions of the mind). Or else, somewhat more roughly, the formula of conceptual has been selected, and here we are at the concept opera. Lyrical or concept as it may be, we remain at grips with a suspension and a concentration: before the hand, the body, move towards an action, towards discharging emotions onto objects (the Buddhist monk recalled by Munari has warned: things external do not exist), suspension comes to know a physical grain, a sensitive opening. The question is not philosophical, let not the term “concept” lead us off track: the suspension we are speaking of here and the consequent attention is a matter of the artist, between sheets, small bottles and pencils or pens. The paradox of the Zen quotation lies in the fact that the illusion whole is said before a realising, a making, of sheets, paints and works.
Turin, March 1992
Pub. Meta, Logge di Palazzo Pretorio
City of Volterra, 1992
CARMELO STRANO 1992
It is certainly no easy task to give structure to something so light that it approaches the immaterial, evanescence, sign. But it is precisely this that constitutes the foundation of Paolo Gubinelli’s exploration. He is capable of conjugating the Marches (his region of origin) with Tuscany (where he lives), in the sense of the characters of these lands and also of their respective artistic traditions. Beyond the impact with their iconography, strongly informal or simply non-iconic, few are the artists today who, on careful examination, can show close relations with Piero and Raphael, Bellini or Cimabue. A few Italian examples could be Alberto Burri or Walter Valentini.
The construction of every painting by Gubinelli reflects a calm but obstinate familiarity with the Classic-Renaissance vision, in the rhythm of forms at times absorbed in toned-down atmospheres. Onto this terrain, he then brings abstract-geometric declinations which are readily diverted onto principles of pure rhythm. Thus lyricism with great motivation on the level of formation but also, and primarily, on the level of design. His drafts of the finest sensitivity, on the edge of the said and the unsaid, even as concerns his reliefs, are not casual, adventurous or chance. Nor has this constituted an impediment for rendering explicit his signs-shapes-energies. Nature and culture have indeed found an excellent balance.
Evidence of all this was recently offered by his personal exhibition promoted by the University of Camerino whose Dean, Mario Giannella, so aptly expressed himself in the catalogue edited by the university: “This map tormented by cuts and folds, softened by delicate pastels and “dug” by the shadows of cold greys, reveal niches, cavities, multicoloured receptors which, in turn, conceal little “neurones” whose embrace transmits to the surface a shudder similar to a quick breath.
Milan, April 1992
Pub. L’Arca, 1992, International Magazine of Architecture, Design and Visual Communication
GIOVANNI MARIA ACCAME 1993
Signs, slight and silent
I remember very well the first time I saw Gubinelli’s papers. It was in his studio at least fifteen years ago when I was still teaching in Florence. I must say that the impression of the past is confirmed today, as I write about them with even greater conviction. A conviction comforted by many and constantly coherent works created in these years.
The works of Gubinelli are not “works on paper” in the common sense of this expression; indeed, no pictorial study is applied to a paper support. In his case, paper is the very substance of the experience. Its principle and nutriment, the space of every thought and of every action. Paper constitutes the inexorable link between the artist and his work.
Fontana, Castellani, Manzoni and, for several aspects, even Dorazio – all names already mentioned by critics who have dealt with Gubinelli – are not previous, but rather references. With this, I mean to say that these papers are, in reality, very distant from the intentions of the artists mentioned and from their works. We do find references which never become, however, real consonance or derivation. And the unique choice of paper is not a secondary element for this distance from experiences which Gubinelli doubtlessly feels close to him. The breath in his sheets though, is more intimate and, overturning an affirmation of Jung, we can glimpse the strength which is implicit in every weakness.
The fragility of paper – but perhaps it would be better to say the papers used in the course of years – is the physical, but also poetical structure of this work. Purity, lightness, transparency do not weaken language, but are part of its identity, better revealing and supporting its presence and slightest traces.
The folds and cuts of the Seventies certainly represent the most programmatically analytical aspect. The surface is confronted with regular markings, the characteristics of which, on one hand, tend to define a certain space, while on the other, they tend to provoke a series of perceptive phenomena with incidence and effects of light which shirk full determination.
Argan has written of how Gubinelli searches for “spatiality without volume and a light without rays.”
With these papers, in fact, we witness a depth and luminosity of the surface obtained with minimal interventions. This minimalism of markings is another important aspect to understand the authenticity of spirit with which this work is created. Gubinelli never forces the material on which he works. Folds, cuts, scratches are all commensurate to the thickness and resistance of the paper. There are no lacerations, but instead slight grazes whereby we recognise the control of reason which distinguishes these works.
Gradually, with the Eighties, the presence of colour is intensified which, especially as of 1988 with the use of water-colours, has attained a freedom and importance that have in part modified the role of cuts or folds. No longer absolute protagonists of the sheet, they play their role in harmony with the application of colour.
In various works of 1993, the renewed use of transparent paper affirms, if ever there were need, the centrality of the material. And it is probably paper with its continuity that best encloses and preserves the deepest sense of what Gubinelli has done in twenty years of work.
These sheets, for their very nature, have always shirked peremptory affirmations, preferring instead signs, slight and silent. Also an indication to help emerge what has difficulty to appear. A stance on the side of presence and not of representation.
Bologna, April 1993
Church of San Francesco,
City of Gualdo Tadino, 1993
Casa di S. Ubaldo, City of Gubbio, 1993
Sala 90 of Museo Palazzo Ducale, City of Mantua,
Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici Storici, Mantua, 1993
MIRELLA BANDINI 1993
As his optimum working medium, Gubinelli has chosen paper, be it opaque and receptive in its thickness, or opaline, transparent and susceptible to bending. Of this material, Gubinelli knows every property, intrinsic and not: its capacities to absorb colour, its reactivity, possibility to fold and define its own shape.
Departing from this analytic premise, the artist’s work must be interpreted in a dimension of great concentration, very sensitive to the slightest variation, completely oriented towards unfolding the energy of signs, their combinations and compositions. An energy he unfolds in almost obsessive white, or in water-colours or wax colours on transparent paper which takes on the preciosity of the sky or an aquarium, or in the paper’s radial folds which transform the support’s function.
At the same time, the dimensions range from small to large, from medium to environmental as in the long sheets on the wall that reach down to the floor. His search is conducted in isolation, far from official clamour and for this reason even more appreciable.
His works in white, made solely of little incisions or folds of the paper, have a a Zen-like depth of analytic concentration. A type of search that recalls several beautiful phrases by Paul Klee published in his “Diaries” (1905): “Painting with white corresponds to the way nature herself paints. If I leave the specific and rigorous graphic field of black energy, I realise I have entered a vast area in which, initially, I shall have trouble in orienting myself. This unknown terrain certainly arouses fear.”
White like the dimension of the absolute, of the unknown, which Gubinelli contrasts with colour, lighting up surfaces with water-coloured spots of pure, light colour, aerial and luminous.
A study on light which once again recalls other biographical annotations Klee makes in his “Diaries” (1910): “Light seen by the drawer. Rendering light with light shades is well known, rendering it with movements of colour is newer. It is now my wish to render light simply as an expression of energy... Applications of spots of colour, freely combined by fantasy and principally elusive and essential.”
Departing from Gestalt structural problematics, Gubinelli has surpassed their rigidity and limitations, opening his work onto freer dimensions, such as the use of colour in expanding spots, portrayed in the moment they absorb or refract on the support and then progress chaotically; as in the folds on paper which do not respond to an established design but, instead, obey the laws of chance and of the unexpected.
The work that ensues is dense with humours and promises still more possibilities of exploration as it is committed to transformation, metamorphosis and complexity which take post-modern aesthetics in little consideration.
Turin, May 1993
Church of San Francesco,
City of Gualdo Tadino, 1993
Casa di S. Ubaldo, City of Gubbio, 1993
Sala 90 of the Museo Palazzo Ducale, City of Mantua
Soprintendenza per i beni Artistici e Storici, Mantua, 1993
PIERRE RESTANY 1993
The last Spatialist
Giulio Carlo Argan wrote little on Paolo Gubinelli, but what he expressed in a letter of April 25, 1991 is illuminating: “I feel that your quest is to dematerialise or dephenomenalise paper, removing its limit as a surface and, by means of fine cuts, construct spatiality without volume and light without rays.”
Spatiality without volume - light without rays. With Argan’s analytic rigor, this expresses the key for interpretation of Gubinelli’s entire exploration.
From the cuts-folds on white or transparent paper of the Seventies to the coloured incisions and water-colours with cuts and holes, Gubinelli’s work appears as the great spatial progression of graphic art since the end of World War II.
Indeed, at 48 years of age, the artist can claim the supremacy of spatial paper. Will he be the last of the spatialists or the pioneer of a second spatialism? This question ultimately has little importance before the stubborn insistence of the space-light question. Making energetic fluidity tangible, along with its unlimited flexibility, is an almost heroic undertaking in the times we live today. This spatial trend, more alchemical than conceptual, was the golden way of Fontana and Manzoni and particularly of Yves Klein.
Gubinelli uses paper not only as active substance of thought, but also as the place of his existential destiny. To engage the entirety of being, the capacity for gesticulation does not need the great monumental formats of “Action Painting” nor the ritual formalism of oriental calligraphy. On paper, Gubinelli lives the drama of gestual transcendence: space-colour (like the folds of the paper or the cuts of incisions) is only the momentary fixation of a route for vital energy, a second of exacerbated sensitivity. The artist’s existential and poetic drama is played on a tiny piece of territory, a handkerchief: Gubinelli is modest but his modesty is the modesty of the great, his definition of space is tied to fixing a fragment of cosmic energy, an act of pure sensitivity. This sensitivity the artist uses with the utmost and discrete precision is the catalyst of poetic language. Gubinelli is doubtlessly a sensitive man but his instinct convinces him that sensitivity is not an object to be possessed, but rather only a fragment of vital energy that abandons our body at the moment of death. Sensitivity is the source of all poetic language; whomever controls a fragment of it imposes himself as a master of language, but this sensitivity does not belong to him: the artist is only its tenant.
Yves Klein had decided to rent an immense slice of the spatial pie because he believed in the ultimate finality of the blue revolution, the world’s general salvation. Gubinelli’s vision has not yet reached architecture of the air and perhaps it never will, but his transparent papers, cut or pierced, illustrate his existential approach of modern space. Gubinelli has just been born when Gagarin went into space, he was 24 when Aldrin was the first to step on the Moon. He was in time, however, to experience the space adventure as a legend, a wonderful human legend. From its beginning, the spatial adventure unfolded under the sign of technological humanism. The cosmonauts were entrusted with a planetary humanistic mission: to remain men in the cosmos, to assume the pure normality of being human in the exceptional setting of the cosmic void. To take on this same mission in his art, Yves Klein went into the heart of the Void in search of the alchemist’s fire which shines and at the same time burns.
Paolo Gubinelli has understood the sense and weight of such a message: his voluntary modesty reveals the rigour of a strict self-discipline of visual and moral hygiene.
The artist between Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana has been initiated onto the secret and demanding route of integral spatialism.
He knows the destiny and destination of his work: the long walk towards the immaterial.
Milan, June 1993
Church of Saint Francis, City of Gualdo Tadino, 1993
Casa di S. Ubaldo, City of Gubbio, 1993
Sala 90 of the Museo Palazzo Ducale, City of Mantua
Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici, Mantua, 1993
CARMELO STRANO 1993
A mistake to watch out for is that of considering Paolo Gubinelli’s work as the place where one abandons oneself to a personal abstract “imagerie.” It is also this, but much more besides. In any event, it is helpful to say that fundamentally the artist is an analytic, one of the uncommon ones, capable of vibrating and of making vibrate. In brief, every sign, even those that look abstract, though responding to a pre-ordered structural system, tied to a sense of personal projecting, is never “The Pendulum of Foucault.”
It may seem audacious to insist on the sense of project with regard to Gubinelli’s poetics. I instead find it particularly interesting for the apparently paradoxical difference - gap - discrepancy between, on one hand, a minute expressive and graphic sign, quick and circumstantiated, which seems casual and occasional and, on the other hand, an badly dissimulated project that governs the author’s thought and his expressive means.
Whatsmore, Gubinelli’s logical-operative thread is always decided, loose, robust but subtle and delicate in its manifestation. From this latter viewpoint, we could grasp a connection with Paul Klee, a well metabolised sense of making things flow together, subconscious events. So well metabolised that this sense of the “aniconic” event emerging to the surface, typical of Gubinelli, upon close observation reveals his very educated arrogance in cutting. Indeed, at times the connotative sign lies in the groove, neutral and dry, traced on the paper. This particular sign normally colludes with painting, or rather with this fascinating, anything but anomic, formal freedom long spoken of by critics. At times, you have the impression that Gubinelli is tempted by a sort of sign-writing; it is the character of his system of signs and calligraphy which, for its very nature, is far-reaching and ductile. Verification is found by comparing his small sheets of paper and his installations even of large dimensions. You note a hot line, which certainly belongs to Gubinelli’s physiology, between sense of microcosm and macrocosm: in brief, a single cosmic character of the sign’s breadth descending from an equilibrium matured between nature and culture and which is perceived both in potential occasions (small sheets of paper) and in objective cases (his environmental works).
In the beginning, I mentioned Gubinelli’s projecting. An importance worthy of explanation, bringing into discussion some of his project-drawings tied to architectural ideas. With graphic and ideological pertinence, Gubinelli proposes his own static-structural mode on modular bases.
This confirms not only the elasticity of breadth we have just mentioned, but also the vibrant equilibrium between expressiveness and analysis in Gubinelli’s universe of signs.
Milan, May 1993
Church of San Francesco,
City of Gualdo Tadino, 1993
Casa di S. Ubaldo, City of Gubbio, 1993
Sala 90 of the Museo Palazzo Ducale, City of Mantua
Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici, Mantua, 1993
LUCIANO CARAMEL 1994
“The concept of structure-space-light moves within a rational analytical study in which I tend to reduce the means and modes of operation in a rigorous and demanding meditation.” said Paolo Gubinelli about his work in 1975. When he was thirty and in midst of his “rational analytical study.” Which aimed at a “rigorous and demanding” level but also of “meditation.” And by means of a “reduction” of “means and modes of operation.”
In this statement, we already find the peculiar poly-dimensional aspect of the artist, divided between rationality, factuality and a finalisation not merely demonstrative or objective-object. As is evidenced in the continuation of the above text where Gubinelli insists on the tool: “Paper, or rather, a light cardboard chosen for its softness and docility to the touch.” And then on the technical procedure: “... on this surface, using a blade, I trace a cut following geometric lines (projections, planes overturned...)” and then “delicately, carefully, I make folds which create a subtle relief, capable of involving space, giving it structure, making it perceptible, but also arousing emotions of purity, quiet and clarifying purity.”
Consequentiality, but also flagrant processes; physicality of material, charged with values which from concrete incite reflection; goal of acts that do not stop at experience but, rooted in it, are freed in a psychological condition, a timorous and, in its own way, untakable reality. And here, with his first works, we can feel the acuteness of Argan’s diagnosis, more than fifteen years later when, in 1991, the artist had developed, but neither betrayed nor abandoned his original co-ordinates. Argan indeed notes, “Your rationality seems to me not deductive, logical, but instead inductive,” that “your quest is to dematerialise or dephenomenalise paper, removing its limit as a surface and, by means of fine cuts, construct spatiality without volume and light without rays. In brief, you reduce material and visual facts to immaterial rigor, rational quality. Your rationality therefore consists in attributing geometric value to signs which are not canonically geometric.”
“It is a way to contest the claim of rationality which is so much in fashion today,” concludes Argan who, though recognising that “some of the criticisms the post-moderns make at rationalism are not unfounded,” declares he remains “a rationalist” always intent on “finding a dimension of the rational beyond logic.” And if I may add for Gubinelli, beyond mathematics, geometry and subjection, in general, to abstract moulds which do not create friction with the materials and tools, with the vibrant experience of making art, with the worldly dimension, even in the individual sense, and of repercussion on the individual’s consciousness. The project and planning Gubinelli claims and practices have nothing to do with theoretic or ideological assertiveness, nor with an excessively consequential and, in its assumptions, “a priori” method of operating, even if only in the sense of not considering the factual moment, intended as something “a posteriori:” execution invalidating the material with a “modern” idealistic embodiment. This in a certain sense justifies the declined fortunes of so much analytic-experimental art, involved in the much-diffused disaffection for an art proposed as alternative to passive cataloguing. An art experienced as immersion in the reality of today’s life, which finds so much credit among younger generations who thus inevitably renounce a propositive artistic practice of mere recording, though intensified by the efficacy of medias such as photography, video or virtual reality so much and widely adopted.
Here, more than in the undoubtedly new solutions denounced by more recent works, lies Gubinelli’s actuality, in syntony with the becoming of history and of art. I refer to the freedom of sign, the capability of restlessly vibrant colours to evoke emotions with painful or elegiac tones, with leaps and starts which go beyond the clarity of the most remote traces and their discrete production of light variations, even entering the surrounding space, modifying and undergoing modification. Not beyond Argan’s “inductive rationality,” however. As we can already find in the Eighties when Gubinelli introduces colour to the transparent paper he had been using for some time in substitution of a heavy white mat paper. Differently applied – in signs, in varyingly shaded nuclei, also denser though never tending to a homogeneous field – and by degrees charged with a growing, meaningful and expressive importance. Even then, however, without ever rejecting a rhythm which, inductively deriving from interacting signs and colours, with a primary role in realising the image’s internal rhythm, its unfolding in time, in an intrinsic need to perform and make elsewhere visible, gives body to something which, though not a preconcept, is exhausted in performing, evoking pulsions and a mental organisation revealed in form and in form invalidated.
Look deeply into the latest works, as the author recommended with his earlier works (“my papers” demand an unsuperficial, careful and prolonged interpretation; their message is not readily perceivable and they require a viewer disposed to meditate on their content, motivations and stimuli”). And you will note a tectonic structure constantly behind the shudders and fits that travel through the images. Never is there an abandonment to an effusive automatism, though what is born on the sheet dwells in the encounter of the hand and a field virgin to occurrences. Gesture seems guided (not halted or constrained) by an intention of order, in the stage of birth, but derives from a sedimented and vigil conscious state which, within the limits we have repeatedly stated, claims the task of projecting.
In this sense – and this sense alone, without opening up to a concept of life and flow that animates the cosmos of oriental culture that I feel Gubinelli has nothing to do with – can we accept Munari’s pertinent reference (if indeed it is so) to the proposition, in the artist’s works, of “pre-perceptive stimuli, not yet shapes, almost fragments of signs, apparitions of colours.” Consequence of “suspension” and “concentration: before the hand, the body, move towards an action, towards discharging emotions onto objects, suspension comes to know a physical grain, a sensitive opening,” as Paolo Fossati observed, pertinently underlining with reference to Munari’s explanations that “the paradox of the Zen quotation lies in the fact that the illusion whole is pronounced in the face of a realising, a making, of sheets, paints and works.” Munari indeed writes that “these barely marked sheets bring to mind the thoughts of a Buddhist monk of the end of the year one thousand two hundred, by the name of Kenko, who in his book, “Moments of Idleness,” affirmed: “This world is such an uncertain and changing place that what we imagine to see before our eyes, in reality, does not exist...We can not be sure that the mind exists. All things external are illusions.” While a Western Gubinelli, matured between Marches and Tuscany, is not comprehensible outside of a consequentiality of mind and heart created and revealed as it comes into reality with acts based in a timid subjectivity which, though conscious of the precariousness and limit of all planning, does not reject the forming will but is instead convinced of the growing wealth of propositivity, neither abstract, systematic, nor prevaricating.
Milan, October 1994
Pub. Palazzo Pretorio, City of Prato, 1994
TOMMASO TRINI 1994
Sinopite for the Blind
A history of the material evolution of the modern art object is lacking. We note this in particular observing Gubinelli’s work implode onto the surface: it neither accumulates nor crosses, but instead ramifies inside. And with the drifts of material and space, of energy and light, the stories of art also lack an analysis of structuring the gaze. Why the art object investigates seeing and rarely blindness, remains obscure.
A story of the work as body. Where the material identity of the art object would prove first armed and then violated, colonised and intrusive. Where we would see painting as a water-colour domestication of surfaces; the Cubist collage as an object colonisation of painting; the lines of Boccionian force as an embrace with universal electromagnetism; Dada-Surrealist assembly as a corporal annexation of art to reality; Duchampian raising of dust as a surrender to time and ageing. Where exploring whether the Fontanian hole and cut have also opened in the canvas of art a passage for the definitive intrusion of machines and sondes into its intimate reality.
Awaiting a better understanding, I note in the work of this very sensitive Florentine artist, the most apparent outcome of his obsessive cutting of a normal drawing surface: the scarification of the painted surface. Like sutures that carve the ritual identity on a tribal visage, this painter’s incisions insinuate their tactile and visual identity into the body of a refined abstraction. A good part of Paolo Gubinelli’s cut surfaces can extend the aesthetic experience to the tactility of the blind, more than a few of whom are curious about art and would have the eyes to observe it well.
(Drain the gaze?)
An architect designs constructions or tools. He draws blueprints and perspectives with pencils and cuts. He works especially in the conception of models. He prepares a scene. Here we have the case of an architectural designer who is also a painter. While the project evolves in its uncertain destiny, on the designer’s table remains a cascade of signs and, before the painter’s eyes, the action of the cutter resists.
I do not know how, about twenty years ago, Paolo Gubinelli began to incarnate the minimum remains of cuts in the dignity of art. I do see, however, what he has not thrown away: the rock salamander of the gaze. He must have raised the background surfaces where he traced his projects and, seeing the residual manual drawing, returned to us the art that was already there, so that we too, could see it.
What was once background and fragment, is now figure and body. A derma first veined with grooves and sense, then folded to significance and construction. A corporeality strewn, in more recent times, with the fire of water-colours. The surface that this rational artist sets between his vision and the viewer’s gaze is only a veil of Maya.
Other critics have written everything possible about the strong and delicate expressiveness of his cutting on supple or transparent surfaces. But this Florentine artist is not a fine reciter of expression, or rather, no more so than Fontana and Castellani whose wounded spatiality and tensile structure he follows. No more than Burri, whose derma I feel he most approaches. No more than the Zen meditation Munari rightly recalls for the younger artist; where the master’s staff or the verbal image of his “koan” strikes the original obscurity of minds into consciousness; likewise, it may happen that the cutter sacrifices not only the candour of the surface, but also light.
In the Seventies, Gubinelli cut and at times folded the pictorial surface with a geometric ordering that lightened space. He did not descend from the destructuring of Fontana (whose organic cut, let us not forget, prepares the intrusion of artificial neon) but instead went back to Cézanne the builder; to setting image in an autonomous site between nature and the eye; to the cube’s angular cut. The water-coloured cuts from the Eighties till today have become the container of a vascular liquidity, an organic cutting rhythm, a more manifest scarification of the pictorial body. Its colouring does not recall Klee, but again Cézanne. Its epidermal wounds — never cauterised like Fontana’s veiled cuts or Burri’s burns — are like writing.
[Yes, like Braille frescoes]
Be not deceived by the wisdom of gesture that carves the body of things to lodge the flora of meaning but also that of criticism, the seed of light but also that of doubt. Primordial gesture that cuts the fruit and the plant before the rock. An evocative cut that gushes forth an art we want to see better. The epidermal action of the cut is cruel. This work opens its way between suffering and beauty.
Oh! I forgot to say: Paolo Gubinelli’s work is on paper, made of paper. To say that it is work on paper could generate the misunderstanding that it is limited to drawing. But no, Gubinelli designs portable frescoes. His dematerialised architecture is neither of sign or material. Then why insist on paper? I suppose that it is to indicate that is only a precarious stage of the gaze towards a clearer construction.
For years now, Paolo Gubinelli has built light Braille frescoes with a fearful touch. Sinopites for the viewer of art who does not yet know how to see it.
Milan, January 1994
Pub. Sale del Monte di Pietà
Palazzo of the Municipality of Spoleto, 1994
MARCELLO VENTUROLI 1996
Morandi fretted about the day his private world would perhaps no longer be protected from the din of glory but felt protected by the silence of a day which was always the last. Burri sought in travel and hobbies a refuge from the greatness of his results since showing them and, if necessary, protecting them from the deafness of others, was not his job. Paolo Gubinelli, who has not attained the international prominence of these masters but whose work is, nevertheless, considered unique by the most sensitive and discerning art buffs of the last two generations, seems to need to show his work. Year after year, (season after season if he could) he needs to display his works, also in large spaces, in order to recognise them in the echo of his discourse, to mark off stages in strokes and tints, types of paper, dimensions, reiterations, dialectic terms of a “whole”, through which he can run through his past again, in a different historical light, impressing thus on his “icons of disorder” (as I described his painting when I presented it in 1990) the umpteenth and untapped discipline.
As an artist, he seems not to be fully aware of what he has achieved, either as creator to consumer, or as a painter working within a contemporary framework: hence that undeniable, irresistible urge to leave the studio and transform himself, enchanted in private, into a kind of public Narcissus - a need to present his art in pantomime, albeit protected by bunker-like organisation. And he is not even a little convinced that works on paper should withstand a further test in order to be a little understood but because the exhibition protects them from obscurity, because his would always be a swan song, if we were to confine ourselves to singing his praises and to the exclusive certainty of his worth.
The first conclusion that can be drawn from these considerations is that Gubinelli’s artistic restlessness, so magnificently and positively portrayed in his works - in that he reflects as much of the purity of the last spacialist (Pierre Restany) as the delirium of the most sensitive tints in an abstract formula, rich in echoes and highly praised (Mirella Bandini) - is nothing like his psychological restlessness, which might be likened to that of the inexperienced soldier, or at least a soul in distress, seeking, for others, to prove himself.
In all honesty, the need to present is important, especially in those artists of indisputable talent who, however, have not managed to break into any kind of market, and have to protect themselves with a second job. But as regards Paolo Gubinelli, I am convinced that he could stay away from the scene for five years or so without losing any prestige points: like Wools, Fautrier, Fontana and Rothko, he has, through originality, constancy and extraordinary intelligence, as well as a spacialist culture in the style of Fontana and Castellani, created his own legend away from the currents which, in the space of a few years, have coloured the manner of modern art of this late century.
Paolo Gubinelli has brought to the forefront his two sides, those which we, his contemporaries, friends and admirers are inclined to separate and those which, in fifty years’ time, our painting experts will no longer distinguish: they will see only a public Gubinelli, who relates to all his now familiar private world, in the signs, tones, material, tints, design and (Klee teaches) in the contradiction of the design because of the “betrayal” perpetrated by his imagination, of a human and touching work long before 2000. And since I have been asked now to express all my admiration for my painter friend, why shouldn’t I make myself clear also for those to come?
The artist is just over fifty and, having long pursued the abstract towards a global image where little and a lot, the vague and distinct, the breath of a moment and the odyssey of a lifetime find unity of vision, he is, for me, a Master. He is, however, not the only artist of this, his own, generation or the one before, for example Uncini, W Valentini, Bruno Del Gaizo, Paolini, Novelli, Verna, Maria Lai, to have given me a sense of this definiteness long before the cards showed who would “stay around”.
I would like now to sketch a “portrait over time” of Paulo Gubinelli, to give an idea of the importance and continuity of his work and of his method, at the end of the seventies, of making incisions with the cutter, and folds on paper with his fingertips, clasped together as if in prayer: his special purist style, white on white, as he himself wrote (1975):
“The surface vibrates with a light structure not obtained by painted chiaroscuro effects but through the incidence of light (shining) on the medium itself, the incised and folded paper. I strongly resist the temptation to enrich the work. In addition, the surfaces alter, vary according to the viewpoint and the incidence of light; a dialectic spaciality is produced which involves the beholder in a series of dynamic relations, enabling him or her to creatively adapt the surrounding space.”
Ah yes, the paper. When Gubinelli showed Argan some of his work in 1990 the great master made an analysis which was so apt, that no one since has improved on it “It seems to me that he seeks to de-materialise or de-phenomenize the paper, taking away its surface limits and creating a thin incision, a spaciality without volume and a light without a ray”.
I’d like to make my own comments which do not contradict this “formula”: for example, I see shading, relief, haloes, tiny superimposed volumes within the folds, multiplying with the manipulation of the materials to create a kind of existential geometric pattern or a pattern of stroke and volume like a skin. It is certain that, in any case, the geometric and the sensitive, material and light, appearance and reality of the medium assume, every time, an indissoluble unity.
In about 1980 the artist added colour to the transparent paper and the incision was adapted to paper which breathed - rays of space appear, energy paths are launched on a cosmic journey. With his raised peaks of light, the artist achieves a fantastic equivalent of spaces, holes, Fontana-style incisions, as in “Incisions, colour on transparent paper”, 1980, 42cmx59.5cm.
And how this private, everyday image seems to transform into “opus continuum” like the incomplete dimension of paper unwinding from its roll, so that it is almost possible to observe the phenomenon of a dynamic aperture of space to be captured (1980), thus the incisions, water-colour on paper, 1983, 29.5cmx21cm, depict the geometric shapes of trembling orange and blue constructions in a celestial vision to be held open before us like a book.
The relationship between renaissance and abstract space discovered by Castellani is transformed, under this coloured spotlight, into something which is not nearly so metaphysically engineered, which keeps abreast of the fairy story without entering into it, without ever giving up on these Licinius horizons or precipices, always so full of enthusiasm. And then sculpture, collage, repetition like heart beats, breaths of a moving imagination, as shown in the great icon of the eight panels or sheets done in 1984, 70cmx100cm.
In the mid-eighties much was made of the fact that transparent paper, used in collage and constructions, assumes or fakes tridimensionality and bears the strokes of, or even dons water-colour with a wide variety of abstract forms which create in the spectator a kind of unquenchable wonder.
Gradually, as my eye becomes familiar with the development of Gubinelli’s work, I become increasingly aware that I am faced with a rendering which is really “classical” and balanced where nothing else can be added exactly between peaks and troughs, signs and spaces, as with Burri’s bags, just as you find in “Incisions on transparent paper” 1988, 29.7cmx42cm. and 42cmx19cm.
Recent criticism is unequivocal and it is remarkable that such diverse temperaments and intellects reach unanimity in the results of their philological research. Enrico Crispolti wrote in 1989: “I would say Gubinelli’s imagination has interiorised a degree further. Or rather, perhaps he has made an interior survey of his own working space. Thus he has come to an obvious condition of rarefied, timorous lyricism, vaguely shadowy, in which the sensitivity of the painter (the unique painter) spreads and hides, somewhat, in an evocative flowing which flees, nevertheless, any confession whatsoever. The results are refined and unique, almost private, almost afraid of losing in a stronger contact, the sense of their intimacy”.
And Vanni Bramanti, a year later, added more precisely “...If Fontana and Castellani (and Manzoni) are the main archetypes, it remains to be seen how Gubinelli came into the picture, based on the evidence of a softening of extreme postulates. Gubinelli, then, has perhaps given us an emotional sense of the discipline, both in relation to his paper and to the broadest environmental rolls: in which the sign, the incision created by the will and hand of the artist blends with the light, with the transparency and, especially in the most recent works, with the captivating glamour of colour in a search for movement which shatters the now distant geometrizing tangle to achieve results of the greatest freedom and finest poetical rendering”.
I believe this time sketch of the greatest painter in Italy currently working with and in paper, should include a judicious critical history to make us, with each interpretation, reflect on our own certainties and feel touched by the enthusiasm of others, which is purer and more personal and yet is the result of objectivity, of a shared judgement. I will limit myself here to the words of two experts, Pierre Restany, whose affinity with words I have come to love, great friend and connoisseur of Italian art, whose instinct is all but infallible and Tommaso Trini in his fascinating, almost aggressive, way of speaking, so distant from grey analytical sophism. Thus Restany “...Gubinelli is modest, but his modesty is the modesty of the great, his definition of space is linked to the fixation of a fragment of cosmic energy, a fact of pure sensitivity. This sensitivity, used by the artist with the greatest and most discreet precision is the catalyst of poetic language. Gubinelli is certainly a sensitive man but his instinct has convinced him that sensitivity is not something to possess, it is only a fragment of the vital energy which leaves our body at the moment of death. Sensitivity is the source of all poetic language. Whoever controls a fragment asserts him or herself as a master of expression. However, this sensitivity does not belong to him alone: the artist is only the caretaker.
Gubinelli’s vision has not yet achieved the architecture of air and perhaps will never do so, but his transparent sheets, with incision and holes, illustrate his existential approach to modern space. Gubinelli was only just born when Gagarin was launched into space. He was 24 when Aldrin walked on the moon. He was, however, in time to think of the space adventure as a legend - a beautiful human legend. The space adventure has been taking place from the beginning under the sign of technological humanism. The cosmonauts were to undertake a humanist planetarian mission: to remain as humans in the cosmos, assume the purer normality of the human being in the exceptional environment of cosmic space. In order to achieve the same mission in his art, Yves Klein went to look in the heart of the Void for the alchemists’ fire: the double-edged flame which glitters or burns.
Paolo Gubinelli has understood the sense and the weight of such a message: his voluntary modesty reveals the purity of a strict self-discipline of visual and moral hygiene...”
And Tommaso Trini (1994): “...The water colour incisions from the 1980’s until today have become the vessel of a vascular liquidness, of an organic rhythm of the incision, of the obvious scarification of the pictorial body. His colouring does not recall Klee, but once again Cézanne. His superficial wounds - never cauterised like Fontana’s veiled cuts or Burri’s burns. are like script. Ah, I was forgetting, Paolo Gubinelli’s work is on paper, is made of paper. To say it is a work on paper might generate the misunderstanding that it is limited to the design. No, Gubinelli designs portable frescoes. His de-materialised architecture is not to do with sign, neither is it to do with matter. Why, then insist on the paper-factor? To indicate, I suppose that this is only a precarious stage of looking, a straining for a clearer construction. Paolo Gubinelli has for years been constructing light Braille frescoes with a tremendous touch. They are guidelines for those who look at art without being able to see it”. (Perhaps they will now be able to see it with Gubinelli’s help.)
A final observation in this, my second testimony on Paolo Gubinelli - the art/life equation of his story. One could think of him in terms of his tender, human self - a solitary and fugitive ascetic, fleeing from practical and family matters. However, the facts spell out the opposite: the harmony of home and family for a husband and father such as he (wife Paola, son Jacopo) constitute a centre of gravity for his feelings. And then his art itself, capable of translating, without harming what is already there, from symphony to chamber music and vice versa, shines frequently in a sweet, familiar, smile.
Rome, July 1996
Pub. Fortezza di Girifalco - City of Cortona, 1996
GIORGIO CORTENOVA 1998
The dream of painting
It may well be true (and indeed, it is part of the history of expression) that abstract art feeds off itself: in other words, its stylistic features are rooted in the procedure of painting, in the methodology which lies at the origins of painting and is focused in each individual painter’s creative design. American art and European analytical painting of the sixties and seventies has often been exemplary in this regard. I refer to those “explicative” methods which, while spawned from cold ideological definition, still reveal the ancient thrill of the matter and its “history” in relation to the surface. Nevertheless, the centuries-long history of abstract painting has also justified those who have undergone a process of abstraction through feeling: rather than detaching themselves from the world, they have given us back its emotion. This is the expressionism inaugurated by Kandinsky, or that practised, by more secretively reflective paths, by Paul Klee. In any case, abstract art has privileged, at every stage, the area of “feelings” to the disadvantage of “sight”. The cult of “seeing” is opposed by that of “feeling”, a change which characterises in all its aspects the century which is coming to an end. Gubinelli is part of it, part of the waning century, of that aimless drifting which characterises the closing of an era and which is nevertheless kind to art and the troubled spirits which are its source. Someone will wonder if it is still possible to find and squeeze sap from abstract language, to renew the epiphany and expressive worth. And someone else will ask where on earth it is possible to find the tones and rhythms of lyricism, from which the feeling of nature is not absent. “In painting itself”, our artist would reply; in the filigree of expression, in the micro-events of matter. And certainly, this is what happens in Gubinelli’s art, which is not exiled from the world, but which the world itself has traced in the “event” of painting. In other words Gubinelli seems to query if painting, in its abstract tapestry of “signs” hasn’t accumulated, over the centuries, the “experience” of nature, if the latter, in other words, does not belong to the subconscious of signs. Accordingly, with every sheet, the “subconscious” of the material has released ghosts of images, specks of light filtered through memory, allusions which brush the surface as the wing of a butterfly brushes the air. The poetry of painting, so to speak. In any case. a poetry distilled within the micro-spaces of the pigments, between the secret folds of the soul. For Gubinelli, in fact, painting is not an abstraction of reality; rather, reality is the product of a dream - the “dream”, of painting. Indeed, it is still possible to dream of the world, as long as expression guarantees its authenticity. Otherwise, what kind of world would it be?
Verona, January 1998
Pub. Nuova Stampa “Ex pescheria”, City of Cesena
MARIO LUZI 2000
The realm of candour and transparency – like a breath held back in wonder – with its traces clear and incisive on the sheet, and yet attenuated by a sort of mental chastity: this is what I discovered encountering the work of Gubinelli. It was a truly felicitous encounter, in tune with the need which is intimately conveyed by the best contemporaries, for lucidity and synthesis.
The advent, at a certain moment, of the colour (pastel or watercolour) on the paper worked with folds and incisions, adds an indefinable something to the grace, without diluting the contained strength of the page.
Firenze, June 2000
Antologica, pub. Meta, City of Recanati,
Centro Nazionale di Studi Leopardiani
City of Montevidon Corrado (AP),
Centro Studi “Osvaldo Licini”
BRUNO CORÀ 2002
Mark, Crease, Incision, Colour
To understand the vital, poetic core of an artist, it is often necessary to seek out his earliest implications, proto-morphologies or whispered intentions which, even if timidly expressed, are nevertheless bold enough to reveal those elements indicative of what his aspirations and passions will determine in his future work.
Paolo Gubinelli’s birth certificate or his public self-certification as an artist, a statement he made long ago in 1975, can be considered an expression of a fundamental inclination which was to discipline the entirety of his subsequent work: “the concept of structure-space-light operates in the realm of a rational, analytic study in which I tend to increasingly reduce my means and operative methods, thanks to rigorous and exigent meditation.”i The statement is one of those loaded with such clarity and determination that it leaves no margin of doubt about his credentials. Gubinelli etched his own path as an artist in that realm of linguistics which lends substance to the lucidly rational compositional reduction typical of the 20th century. The majority of the early critiques of his work confirmed this as well as acknowledging both the original confines and the forefathers of the canons he applied: “…that path of study called ‘analytical’ – wrote Masini in 1977 – whose point of departure is the expression of space-light-color in the luminous dynamics of atmosphere, previously expressed in Balla’s ‘irridescent compenetrations’ with which he surpassed – while never neglecting – the whole European abstract-geometric movement. This concept was revived in the second postwar era and split in two major directions, that of the Europeans and that of the Americans (…) And these in turn gave rise, on the one hand, to Neo-Concretism (…) which led to the recent studies of “contemplation of painting” and “analyses of means” (from Fontana to Castellani, to Dorazio, from Gaul to Griffa, to Support Surface…) and, on the other, to that defined as the American “cold school,” “opaque painting,” or “analytic” currents…”.ii
Therefore, from the very beginning (obviously excluding his precocious youthful endeavors and those of his academic studies), Gubinelli found his critical niche and, yet more important, a particularly precise operative direction, the means, the instruments and methods best suited to his intentions: paper, razor blades, manually creased supports, the treatment of light. His objective was a sense of space sensitive and discernable to the careful eye and to the touch, for which both he and his admirers yearned.
The series of “incisions” on paper (1973) and “incisions, creases on (white) paper” (1974-78) immediately seemed exigent and rigorous, a tense and courageous sum total of paradigms which, after having been imprinted, succeeded in shaping its own cavity in the Spatialist environment where its dematerializing nature was evident. Returning today for another look at those elementary proclamations made of decisive gestures, so calibrated and measured in terms of energy, of space-time considered in the act of incision, of a controlled sensitivity for the material, one understands to what extent they were the first syllables and nouns of a new eloquence, the result of meditation both intense and mature in its reserve. Gubinelli’s concentration and reflection was such that it allowed him goals that the assiduity of his methods made possible and attainable and at the same time announced an adventurous foray into the polar latitudes of monochromes or even post-Manzoni achromes. Texture and rhythm were created by zones of gestures, marks, incisions and creases in which an antinomy of light and shadow constructed his spatial entity. It is surprising to see how a new surface, still devoid of color and where only its flat uniformity has been modified as a result of simple, minimal acts of pressure for obtaining the slightest possible effect, could attain so many versions of spatial qualification that it extended through an entire period, achieving such a great quantity and variety of results. Such tenacity and persistence recalls the methods of Castellani and even Melotti, in their works of the Sixties and Thirties, respectively. The cadence of Gubinelli’s incisions on paper, their opposing, parallel, transversal dynamics, the obtaining of those forms which seem to borrow their intimate raison d’être, their civil, primary interaction from a basic, archaic Doric mobility for images only grounded on principles of construction, lends those initial but already expert endeavors a determining and grammatically fundamental importance.
The 1977 installation of ten large paper works with incisions made according to Gubinelli’s concepts and grasp at that time, shapes an organism infused with seemingly topological data which adds yet other values to their singular potential. Intervals of surfaces, incisions, creases which, well beyond their own pronounced ontological existence, aim toward spatiality, lend the works the qualifying properties of ideal virtual dimensions, more the fruit of a theoretic, ethic and aesthetic intensity than one merely decorative. Their compilation presumes a self-disciplinary intensity which emits a tension impossible to quantify and which, at the same time, is obsessively essential. With the inevitability of a categorical imperative suggested only by the need to satisfy a formal but, not for this reason, a less absolute certainty.
Was it thought that art no longer needed contain such beneficial “useless” excesses? And how! In those same years, new personalities were meditating on similar regenerative acts of the notions of form, space and material! That was the generation of artists who, at least in Italy, after Spatialism, the experience of Azimuth and the fleeting but luminous apparition of Francesco Lo Savio – a name we cannot help but cite as the author of that never over-regretted poetic plastic notion of Space and Light! – were dedicated to reviving the virtues of perception, space and color.
After that original declination of incisions and creases, which might well constitute an iconographic apparatus for the reflection and analysis of the fente and pli by Deleuze derived from the ideas of Leibnitz, Gubinelli began to address transparent paper supports on which he performed “interactive analytic progressions” (1978-80), and other paper works shaped like rolls of papyrus which he set up and attached on the walls and then unrolled across the floor. He thereby accentuated the valence of the opus continuum and sometimes recticulatum already evidenced in his work at that time by his techniques and methods for making his signature marks.
After that fertile decade, at the beginning of the Eighties, almost at the end of a long “diet” which rigorously kept him “from the temptation to enrich his work,” Gubinelli allowed color to enter in with the moderation and prudence which the use of wax pastels, frottage and finally, watercolor suggested. The luminosity of the color of his transparent paper surfaces competes with his incisions for primary spatial supremacy. The association becomes increasingly closer, but not always with the same tension and efficiency achieved with the radical nature of the “incising of (radiant) light on the cut and creased paper itself” (Gubinelli).
In 1988, more fully resolved relations between the incisions and the moist colors of the watercolor technique takes the place of the collages and papers colored by pastels and incisions of 1986-87 and, in my opinion, marks a path of chromatic experimentation linked to the non-humid cuts/color synthesis. In these executions, the “de-phenomenization” of the synthesis between means and techniques evokes the organic rather than the superficial nature of a biological physicality. Are not the live features of our skin like that, the wrinkles on one’s forehead, on one’s face, the lines and creases on the palm of one’s hand? Are not the marks on our skin and the folds of our bodies with their fleshy reverberations like these new colored and incised paper works?
The results of this new experience starting in the early Eighties seems to have attained yet another secret internal tuning of the paper support dependent on its properties of permeability and absorbency and on the ease with which it is cut and creased, while still maintaining its physical unity. In the best of cases, paper liberates luminosity and a transparency reminiscent of Turner. In other none the less efficient cases, the chromatic field which pervades the support and drinks in the color of the marks where it penetrates, allows the identity of the colored areas deriving from the Informel school to surface. The fact that they are matter-color evokes both the episodic and insular spatiality of Fautrier as well as the dilated expansion and pulsation achieved by Rothko. Among Gubinelli’s works from the Nineties, the installations based on watercolors and incisions on paper depicted with a linearity paced at regular intervals (1994-97), account for a successful integration of the cuts, creases and color. At the same time they are capable of holding their own against the antithesis between mark and freely gestural and chaotic color with which the paper is imbued, and as a succession they become orderly and orthogonal on the wall. And, what is more important, they show a capacity to accept an (albeit contained) enrichment of the work as a new balanced quality, that which the artist once considered a “temptation” to combat.
These more recent analytic progressions of space once again as before alleviate Gubinelli’s work from its already faint materiality. In fact, they clearly situate the new outpost of his studies at a more advanced point. From which we now see and grasp, with the authenticity and constant tension for transcribing true orchestrations of light, that dimension that Lo Savio defined the “image of an almost impossible reality.”iii
i Paolo Gubinelli, “Autopresentazione,” pub. Galleria Indiano Grafica, Florence 1977.
ii Lara Vinca Masini, introduction to the Paolo Gubinelli exhibition catalogue, Off Studio, Arezzo, 1977.
iii Francesco Lo Savio, introduction to the Lo Savio exhibition catalogue, Galleria d’Arte Selecta, Rome, January 1960
BZF – Pub. Vallecchi - City of Florence 2004
ALBERTO FIZ 2002
Milan, February 7, 2002
I readily accept your invitation to write a few lines about your work. More than critical reflection, however, I want to let myself go to emotional involvement and describe my most immediate and spontaneous impressions.
Illustrious critics have written about you including Giulio Carlo Argan who wisely underlined how the rationality that emerges from your investigation, is not deductive but inductive and not readily demonstrable. As Argan said in 1991, a search that gives rise to a spatiality without volume, light without rays.
Therefore it is not the pure logical process that interests you, but instead the search for the dimension that goes beyond the physical sphere. In this sense, light and colour deposit on the paper, interacting with it, almost making it a graph of the unconscious or, better still, a route with distant roots in the memory of existence.
In your case, painting asserts itself as revelation, an autonomous mental process where nature acts from within things, maintaining a subtle balance between feeling and reason.
After all, it was Theo Van Doesburg who claimed that “there is nothing more concrete and real than a line, a colour, a project,” and your work that like photographic plates is capable of absorbing the matrix of painting, is there to show just this.
In short, you have the rare capability to grasp the invisible trace of the real, breaking away from the excessively rigid schematisation between abstraction and figuration.
The fundamental question lies in involving space, intended as the totality of sign and material. The extraordinary Bruno Munari, artist and theorist who in large part remains to be discovered, has rightfully underlined how your work proposes “pre-perceptive stimuli, fragments of signs and apparitions of colour,” hinting at the relation between your work and Zen philosophy.
Indeed, it is Munari in 1985 who reminds us that “only art, by now completely free, can lead us to explore these unexplored worlds at the confines of perception.”
Gubinelli’s sign becomes physical presence and lyrical evocation, but also memory, intuition and symbol within the confines of an individual and autonomous journey. This bethinks me of a phrase by Maurice Merleau-Ponte who recalls how “ we are dispensed from understanding how painting the body can be felt in the soul” and, faced with a system of contemporary art that tends to freeze feelings, I feel that the vital thrust afforded by your rarefied, though never truly minimalist investigation is an important fact. It is not my intention to contradict the important critics who have preceded me, but I must say that, at least in your most recent works, the parallels with Lucio Fontana or Enrico Castellani do not appear so evident.
On the other hand – as Giovanni Maria Accame has already noted – yours are not lacerations, but instead slight grazes revealing the control of reason.
For this reason, I am inclined to place you in the vein of aesthetic investigation that has succeeded in combining poetry and rationalism, lightness and harmony, sign and dream. I refer in particular to Osvaldo Licini, Gastone Novelli, Fausto Melotti and, of course, Paul Klee. It was indeed this German master who wrote “the line no longer imitates the visible, but renders visible.”
Today at a time when art is increasingly more tied to advertising and the mass-media, it is comforting to have an artist such as yourself who goes in search of the unsaid, the immaterial element, in short, of the dimension of the unconscious that protects the most secret truths of things.
And it is no coincidence that more than artists, your fellow travellers are poets.
Alberto Fiz 2002
Pub. L’Arte Grafica Gubbio
Villa Pomini, Città di Castellanza, 2002
Unpublished poetic prose by Tiziano. Rossi
CLAUDIO CERRITELLI 2002
Papers of Inner Silence
The story of images that Paolo Gubinelli dedicates to the poetic thought of colour possesses the coherence of a spontaneous dream, the natural sentiment of actually painting that is revealed in the profound adhesion to the values of sign and light. Paper is the raw material that expresses this orientation calibrated to different visual effects; white is the mood that gives rise to the adventure of colours; it is the suspended air that envelops them and is enveloped by the spatial rhythm of signs that bring out the incidence of light and the transparency of pictorial matter.
Through the knowledge of the manual occurrence, Gubinelli leads the viewer to the threshold of images that have the amazement of archaic trails, the vibration of primary sounds, the changing movement of things that appear and vanish almost in the same instant.
The incised sign, fleeting line, instable space and allusive resonance of colour form an alphabet that, sheet after sheet, renews the dialectic between rigour and imagination, where Gubinelli’s painting has always found its expressive reasons.
It is never a question of separating analytical reason from the emotion of gesture, the compositional measure from the action of the hand that invents countless occurrences on paper: states of impalpable but physical light, grooves made quickly but after lengthy meditation, materials that are fluid and wandering but have a definite spatial profile.
It is instead a matter of bearing these two apparently contradictory aspects in mind, soliciting from their encounter, a sense of space in constant ferment, troubled by the informal tensions of colour that are commensurate to the unforeseeable automatisms of sign.
The persistence of this creative attitude makes it possible to observe Gubinelli’s journey, at least from the seventies till today, as an infinite process of intuitive and instinctive signs, overlapping and interlocked, often cut or simply treated like threads at large.
Signs accompanied by folds, tears and chromatic offshoots to the point of forming a code brimming with lyrical poetic resonance, but this reference to poetry does not seek to indicate precise literary ties, specific citations that enter the universe of painting.
It is no coincidence that a mechanical relation between painting and poetry does not exist; there is instead a profound need to reveal a state of suspension of language as tool used to free a vision that is not circumscribed to the real, but open to its transfiguration. Gubinelli’s signs are never without this outburst towards a possible elsewhere; they tend towards the essential purity of colour-light; they are profoundly expressive with the surrounding space and their every fissure provokes disquiet and grazes the balance of reason.
A prolonged sentiment of time traverses these papers of interior silence, pages grazed by the slightest scratches and light, steaming colour that reveal boundless spaces, as though each time the limited size of the sheet could embody the sense of the impenetrable.
Every stir of colour is solicited by the sensitivity with which the artist breaks the vision into molecules of mental energy that gushes forth flashes and vibrations of the creative thought that dilate the confines of perception, almost disorienting the viewer.
Every sign is calculated in the positive encounter with the tactile quality of paper, oscillates in white as the memory of a lost course, suspended in the void of an unknown cosmos, totally immersed in the becoming of light which is – for Gubinelli – action and ecstasy, inseparable extremes of his pictorial imagination.
Milan, October 2002
Pub. Biblioteca Nazionale Firenze, 2003
Unpublished poems by Mario Luzi
TONI TONIATO 2002
Places of Transparency
For years now, Paolo Gubinelli has been conducting a solitary, particularly intense probe into surpassing the grammars of abstract formalism, whether deriving from the historic matrices of Constructivism or from the more recent grammars of Minimalism. His explicit intent is to free purer expressive energies, perhaps in themselves intangible, but more appropriate to the idea of light-colour as the primary essence of painting’s constituent values. This toilsome adventure has led him to conceive and practise a kind of painting that dwells foremost in the less explored realms of the conceptual and expressive categories of transparency, its ideational experiri and the matter that gives it body. All the artist’s work has progressively unfolded with rigorous coherence under the sign of this need of a prevalently poetic order, developing along a splendid stylistic itinerary guided by a continuous and almost ascetic quest to refine and elaborate the linguistic resources that can lead us through extreme landscapes of pictorial and, in this case, fully lyrical abstraction.
Since the very beginning, on the other hand, Gubinelli had turned to experimenting expressive modalities, conjugating apparently elementary means, initially consisting of fine linear textures, then gradually breaking free of geometric references to become few, very light “signs,” imperceptible and varyingly modulated “incisions” on the surface or actual folds of the support. He then elaborated a compositional structure made up of a swift, rhythmic, spatial articulation based on chromatic overtones or, to put it better, musical-plastic motifs. Every operational procedure substantially aimed to result in the values of a vision of pure spatiality of light and colour, producing their epiphany and the revelatory expansion of what lies behind every formal determination. This process deposited in itself the idea and sentiment of plain and simple painting, mainly identified as the generating principle of light that transcends the visual matter itself and is left to the perception of the innermost being. Moreover, matured in the most advanced experiences of abstractionism and integral rationalism, Gubinelli is careful not to resort to complacent intimism. He has instead turned to investigate the reasons of essentiality in painting today, beyond the suggestions of a minimalist rendering, instead experimentally investigating the still intact faculties of this expressive reality and its poetic possibilities. More than a sophisticated statement of fascinating purism, his pictorial pronouncement is framed in the context of a demanding reflection on the sense of creating. Thus his “papers,” slight maps of the soul’s journey, focus in on moments of amazement that can even issue into surrounding space or open up only to themselves, transform into “rolls” with unexplainable meanings, become “fragments” of an unending conversation that must be deciphered each time our need to listen reaches to these depths.
Pub. Palace Albrizzi - 2003
Commune of Venice,
12 Unpublished poetry by M.L. Spaziani
Pub. Palace Azzurra - 2004
Commune of S. Benedetto del Tronto (AP) 2004
12 Unpublished poetry by M.L. Spaziani
CARMINE BENINCASA 2002
“A Poet in Times of Poverty” Paolo Gubinelli
A marked awareness of the unique and unrepeatable importance of an artist’s dynamic gesture, the actual act of painting – the emotional expression of the body – was suddenly recognized as the subject of painting (or drawing) language in twentieth-century art. It became the mark and manifestation of consciousness. Even an unintentional trace of the hand, a sketch, was an event indicative of a person’s unique and absolute worth as a subject of history, considered the ultimate foundation of every other value.
An artist does not paint because he has something to say, or to do, to the world, but because he exists. His mark, his touch of paint, is the revelation of his definitive worth, the foundation of all others, and of the absolute uniqueness of his person together with unrepeatabilty of his adventure in the face of history.
Painting with the pulsating freedom of unintentional, non-preconceived, physical gestures is a sign of the supremacy and priority of existence as a physical quality, and even the importance of the body explodes as a value and unrepeatable symptom and as an absolute asset. As such, the act of painting is no longer related to the world or to historical interpretation, nor to designs regarding understanding and will, nor to the morality of a political-social tension whose aim is to communicate values or send messages. The artist accomplishes his work not to say something, but because his “doing” is an expression of his existence, one unique and unrepeatable, in history.
What does change with this new awareness, the difference which happens on this new horizon of awareness, is well-defined in Alice’s words to her kitten: “Because, you see, what is, in my world, is not; and what is not, is” (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland). Lines, marks and even sketches are the expression of the unrepeatability and uniqueness of an artist’s state of historical existence as a person.
The twentieth-century painting universe turned its focus toward what the body did, produced, described and made happen with a beating, pulsating hand and what that hand wrote and left us, without obeying a preconceived idea or rational intentions. Art which turns history into something different from what it was before a hand transcribed the signs that the body produced in the rhythm of a dropping arm motivated by instinctive corporeal pulsations. Consequently, a new universe appeared, neither proportional nor related to the external universe of our awareness.
Communication of art is not the transmission of a message or of meanings nor the transposition of reasoning. Art claims the right to recognize even the dislocated play of colors and marks that “making” art inevitably may produce as the unique and absolute value, in all ways equal to that of a person’s historical existence. That which is executed is a work, and that which takes place is handed down in as a splinter, a testimony of the unique state of existing. What an artist executes is a historical document. Its message, its communication, is already contained in the movement of the things that take place.
Communication is not the task of art. Art is not a logical but an analogical word, and as it is both analogical and a sign, it does not belong to the realm of reason (in fact, the Western world has always thought of the logos as a conduit of meaning). The word itself is not meant to produce meaning: in the Orient, the sign is also the conduit of an inherent meaning inscribed by the pure motion of a hand, without any other design. In the twentieth century an artist no longer let his rationality dominate him when executing a work, but was guided by the work itself. The work turned into a becoming a work.
The fact of being poets of light (painters) means living in an unsymmetrical and conflictual relationship with one’s era and with the task and aims pursued by one’s world. This means that one becomes a foreigner lingering on the fringes of each and every event.
Remaining suspended on the threshold of events, experiencing the condition of someone in the middle, as Hölderlin wrote, means watching each thing that happens (historical memory or real event in the present time, a beat of furtive perceptions like the heart’s regard or the reasons of the mind lend them form, making them into stories and history) as if through a fog. It means perceiving forms in constant motion, like those see-sawing on a movie editing table, which assume new shapes that immediately turn into other figures, images and signs. A work allows the conscience to see the world and everything inhabiting it, even the chasm of one’s personal history of the conscience.
Yet art is still not the true world of an achieved reconciliation, from one face to another, when we could see face to face: “for now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face[…]” (Corinthians I, 13,12).
Painters, like poets, treat their relation with the world as if it were an autobiographical beat of the experience and totality of an economic plan for salvation, because the time of painting is the time of salvation for the conscience of our era and our history, in an artist’s experience.
Martin Heidegger wrote: “Being a poet in times of poverty” (enumerated by Hölderlin in his elegy “Bread and Wine”) “means, singing, to be inspired by the traces of the gods who have fled. That is why in the nighttime in the world, the poet sings Eternity.” So a painter of times of poverty must deliberately paint the essence of painting. But what the artist paints is not that which exists in the world. Painting is only that which is, without being a revelation of that which is already visible.
The architectonic structure of painting from previous centuries fell apart, and on that incipient and vacillating attempt of painting liberated from form and articulated according to a disordered chessboard of colors, the past century laid its foundations directed toward what was new and future. Painting no longer obeyed harmonious forms and model-compositions of the cultural universe of previous centuries, but became the space of liberation to interpret the conscience of the artist vis-a-vis the world, an expression and revelation of his own inner vision. Color became an epiphany of the heart’s light, subjugated to theological suggestions in the face of creation.
“What else can we do other than betting on hope?” wondered François Mitterand in 1981 about the cultural situation.
The same question persists in the universe of art, perturbing the psyche. Hope is not as vain, uncertain, dilated in the future. It geminates and becomes history in the “signs of the times,” making it necessary for us to discern, decode, and cultivate it.
I find the work of Paolo Gubinelli, an artist of rare delicate intelligence and quality, of courageous and remote intellect, faithful to his roots, whose work pulses with aristocratic signs alluding to the Orient but constructed on Montale’s “lesson of glory,” from Klee, Kandinsky and from the sublime, unrepeatable adventure of the Bauhaus. Gubinelli’s work is “a sign of the times” in this dry, arid season of contemporary art, reminiscent of an amusement park spinning top.
Great work in lyrical and aesthetic art have abandoned our current artistic-cultural milieu over the past few decades. The great adventure of the Bauhaus seems remote these days. A mental illness impedes European culture from reinvigorating its recent past. There is urgent need to overcome “the slumber of memory” as the journalist Barbara Spinelli calls it in her historical-political book. She writes: “The more memory is evoked, the more it is ossified, to the point of verging on sterility. The more its absence is mourned, the more appeals have an empty ring. The gap between reflecting on the past and procedures, between an invitation to remember and the incapacity to react, cannot be clearer.” (B. Spinelli, Il sonno della memoria, Milan 2001).
Paolo Gubinelli is courageous and is no victim of the cult of memory. Horizons and landscapes of all the most noble, delicate and refined art of the XX century flow into his work – like a delicate and subtle stream.
Gubinelli, with his studies, prevents the present time from stagnating by turning it into movement. He drops into time and recognizes it, thereby lending his studies a sense of his times. He regards the present from behind the giants of art of the past century, and from above their backs he gazes far into the distance, reinvigorating the great conquests of the most refined Novecento artists of Europe, with a particular accent on the masters of the Bauhaus.
Gubinelli’s work is a book, a single work recounting a historical period of studies in art by means of his own autobiographical path.
The scattered pages of this autobiography are part of a single roll, in whose every fragment, every page, Gubinelli – with an ascetic outlook – narrates the landscape of art as he sees it and turns a Song into a fragment that is only his personal comment on the Novecento artistic adventure, in which he gives precedence to studies aimed at reducing the ultimate harmony of the universe into filaments of signs and, by choosing geometry over any rough material, he transforms the recount into an echo which dissolves into a vague recollection of the mathematical origins of the universe.
His works are excerpts and echoes of poetry which belongs to a single body: that of subtraction, of the elimination of material to make room only for light. Everything in his studies is architecture of signs in which “one sign corrects another sign” (P.P. Pasolini, in Teorema).
Gubinelli’s regard turns towards the universe and deciphers it in signs-designs, guiding the cosmos back into harmony. His landscape dissolves into rhythms, geometrical formulae, numerical proportions, alchemistic theories about indecipherable paths. The artist’s universe prompts us to seek the center. But is seeking a center possible these days? In tune with twentieth-century scientific and philosophical research, with the most refined poetry of such Alexandrian poets as Edmond Jabès, and with the obscure spiral of mysticism, it is clear that for this artist (as for Paul Klee in “Highroad and Byroads” and in almost all his work), the center is the distant outskirts, shattered dispersion, absence turned into awareness, the oblivion of knowledge, the ritual of anamnesis transformed into amnesia.
These works of his have no center, and without a center there is no margin nor backbone nor form nor seal; there is only that vagueness of a luminous trace of colorful water, only an enveloping and alluding veil.
These sheets record footprints, fragile tracks for a tracing a path in the desert. These works by Gubinelli safeguard the charm of a void, as required by Zen, and therefore are the same sort of testimony as Oriental painting coupled with Chinese-Japanese sorts of calligraphy. They are works expressing an message without using words. They are simply grazed by the life breath of the artist, the murmur of the fragile and modest wandering-oscillating of his hand. A life that rests on the pages painted by the artist, who tries to diffuse a watery veil to check the unraveling and to safeguard and protect the hopeful fabric of his regard.
And if memory surfaces, it only refers to that which no longer exists. These works are always temples of silence, of voids, of primordial melancholic landscapes, harmonies that refer back to the beginning of each and every universe.
All of Gubinelli’s studies refer to a path, his true passion, a pursuit of “the ups and downs” (as it was called in a excerpt by Hericlitus) of a street in the spirit, a labyrinth-like, inconclusive pilgrimage. His drawings recount their story by use of outlying districts of pre-dawn color.
Fragile sheets or delicate material supports, these paintings are the mantle in which the artist encloses his delicate, fragile architectures executed by spun threads of signs. Each of his watercolors, each page of this book recounts a landscape of his world, each sheet is a screen where – as in a frame – the artist projects and records, as if on a matrix, his imagination and his communication with the world.
Paolo Gubinelli looks, scrutinizes, puts into focus, listens, spies like a soothsayer-poet, turns his studies into a lyrical tale of lines swathed in light, concealed in vibrating colored water. Sheet after sheet, page after page, the artist focuses on discerning and describing “the sun of bright light in the middle of night” (Apuleius, The Tale of Cupid and Psyche).
Rome, September 2002
Pub. L’Arte Grafica Gubbio
Municipalità of Ferrara 2002
“Casa Cini“ Cultural Institute
previously unpublished by Maria Luisa Spaziani
Ed. Provincia Firenze - Florence 2003
Palace Panciatichi - Regione Toscana
Previously unpublished Work and Poems
by Nico Orengo
CARMINE BENINCASA 2003
Pleasant thoughts about your work surface more and more often on the horizon of my awareness.
Yes, your work has found its way to my heart, dwells in my soul, and your voice is in intact, unsymmetrical harmony with everything you do to weave and embellish the mystery of everyday life. Do you remember those four verses by F. Hölderlin? Where that suffering, melancholic poet wrote: “The lines of life are various – like roads – like the rims of mountain ranges. What we are starting here a God can finish, harmoniously, in eternal compensation, in peace.” (Was hier wir sind, Kann dort Ein Gott ergänzen mit Harmonie und...)
Harmonies are the life lines of your work, harmonies revealed by subtle marks, small tender wounds in and of the time of history, revelations of the time of Glory germinating, in these days of man still mysterious to a ritual of light. Tracks scratched on the white paper with distended clots, crumbs not of blood but of gravel to soothe the innocence of a cry: life. Life!
Pub. L’Arte Grafica Gubbio
Municipalità of San Leo 2003
Previously unpublished Work and Poems by Paolo Gubinelli
FRANCESCO GALLO 2003
Techniques of the Invisible
Paolo Gubinelli is an artist with a fine poetic vein particularly evanescent, subtle and transparent. His work consists of minimal traces, molecular wastes, with interventions only where strictly necessary for leaving a significant mark and creating a visual event charged with energetic potential by dilating the idea of abstraction which turns into an intuitive infinity and by dispersing the essences of what is visible, as if it were virtuous stardust.
What we perceive is an unpredictable scenario, a dream-like set, in a reciprocal crisscrossing recalling the visionary capacity of a symbolical exchange, with an expressive atmospheric quality yet lacking all explicit links with a defined historical system.
This constitutes a pursuit, a intrigue of signs and disengaged chromatic fibers in a nebulous solidity made of rhythmic articulations like those of a spontaneous harmony, always in the making but accomplished little by little like stages in the construction of a universe, a unique expansion of tiny specs of signs and colors dominated to differing extents by light which penetrates and compenetrates, traverses, diffusing its characteristic weightlessness and seemingly suspended in a gravitational void, thanks to its intrinsic fleeting and elusive nature.
Pure spatiality of light and color free of any and all possible references, of all seduction of a bodily nature and of its mythical and narrative qualities and, therefore, devoid of weighty rigid significance, which react unpredictably to stimulations coming from numerous directions, to vibrations imparted by an invisible clash of molecules. As if in a daydream where the linguistic coordinates, independent of common sensitivities in the adventurous world of colors, are unable to reach a precarious or temporary equilibrium other than that of the resistence of the paper, of the support that translates the “fantastic” into “reality,” which is the manifestation and expression of the eternal conflict between mind and matter.
For its strong point is precisely the fact of small gestures of the hand on “poor” supports which are “subjected” to a somewhat alchemic treatment which deletes their origins from the mind in favor of what they appear to be at the end of the treatment, forms of space rather than forms in space. These subsist in an experimental key which seeks to attain a state of calmness, of infinite contemplation while always still suspended, a state made possible precisely by having attained a materiality/non-materiality, having learned the lesson of spatiality from those artists who annulled the quantitative sense of representation as being inside and outside a precise place, yet retaining a precise connotation of identity which makes it a specific one, a sublime suspension of the capacities, the rhetoric, of verbal language, in its unstoppable, whirling contamination, with that of the imagination…
Gubinelli is a director attentive to the invisible which, in his hands, is transformed into informal tension, into diagonal, contaminating traversing of all the poetics of Minimalism originating with Fontana’s slashes and the drippings of Abstract Expressionism and ending up in a different pictorial mechanism, an offspring of Conceptualism but open to ad infinitum expression, passing by way of all the nuances and automatisms that such an unfettered horizon allows as free exchange between being and not being, each contaminating the other.
The folds of the support, reminiscent of combinations by Bonalumi, Castellani, Simeti, act as faint maps of the voyage of the spirit (Toniato) undertaken to avoid any obstacle not residing in the self, like scraps of an inner monologue taking place like a secretum in which the Ego encounters itself in a narcissistic atmosphere and offers a wordless poem whose content lacks form since everything is dawn-like, almost Eden-like and in that sense, universal, tied to the making of a language which pays penance to the essence and phenomenology of tradition yet includes them in its thrust toward what is new, unseen, in a reciprocal correspondence with the rich originality of a new genesis, as possible as it is necessary.
Gubinelli endows his commitment to working with an Eden-like language in our Babelish world, where the loss of truth and of originality become the soul and matter of multiplication, of the drifting preceding the nature of architecture, with a sense and design of construction, such as the conjugation and syntax of solids and voids, such as tracing a route where previously there was an indefinite expanse of potential, of a new beginning.
Paolo Gubinelli, in his secret writing of a book on the world, on his fragile, poetic way, learns from his signs to the same extent that he bestows his instinct for life on his movements, translated into a personal interpretation of dreams of contemplation and traversing, as if in an absence and a presence where he accomplishes the extreme virtue of silence and the unspeakable, were it the essence of an inner monologue which is the secretum of a mirror to which he confesses the facets of an enigma and the aspirations of a Hermetic.
A study of poetry in nuce is at the origin of all verbal elaboration, when inciting wonder, in an asymmetric dialectic between the Dionysiac and the Apollinian inclined toward the impalpable and luminous filtering oriented toward the latter, as a purifying emotion.
His treatment of this lends itself to continuous, unexpected, apertures, his practices unencumbered by the slightest discountable term, for his work is not intended to reveal a precise idea but to develop an idea in an etymological sense (see Mario Nigro), like an open work, an architecture of desires, a philosophy of feelings, where architecture and philosophy reflect desire and feelings and have a catastrophic effect on common sense.
Everything in this work welcomes any ulterior and unexpected addition, an unsettling poetics of abstraction, which coincides with elements of amazement toward an initial work unknown even to itself, for it may have suddenly appeared as an effect of the arrangement of the qualities of air and matter, brushed by a wind of genesis and a threatening premonition of an Apocalypse.
Sicily, April 2003
Pub. L’Arte Grafica Gubbio
Comune di Rimini, Musei Comunali
Galleria dell’Immagine, 2003
Poem by Maurizio Cucchi
ENCOUNTERS BY CORÀ 2003
The following is intended as short account of a few encounters auspicious to the exhibition of Paolo Gubinelli’s work.
Some time ago, on a noisy, festive Roman evening like those in Leopardi’s village, I happened to see Maria Luisa Spaziani between the Spanish Steps and nearby Largo Mignanelli, a passer-by among the many, yet solitary at the same time. Evidently engrossed in her own thoughts while performing one of the infinite number of her daily routines, she made me realize how utterly extraneous my stare was to her life. In fact, I mastered my desire to attempt an encounter, to interrupt her stroll even momentarily, under the circumstances. I was left with the simple but vivid image of the poetess on an ordinary day of her life.
To the contrary, it happened one rainy evening in Florence that I found myself climbing into a car with Maurizio Cucchi, thanks to someone who had offered us a ride to our hotel in Piazza Ognissanti following the opening of an art exhibition in which his participation consisted in hanging one of his poems on the wall to accompany the work of an artist. The occasion gave the poet a chance to complain about a lady admirer who had insistently tried to engage him in conversation during the opening. The episode had profoundly irritated him and his justified outburst during the trip between the via Porcellana gallery and the Grand Hotel was a clear sign of his agitation.
My encounters with Luzi and Orengo, while different, took place while we were seated in front of an audience for readings of their poems. It was an atmosphere of serene and intelligent confrontation, but the sound of their poetry, of their voices, kept us from discussing the works of art which we all felt deeply should have been discussed had the circumstances been otherwise. Luzi accepted my invitation to come to Prato, to the Centro di Arte Contemporanea, and once there spent a generous amount of time visiting the rooms of the Museum and, later, in a debate held in the library. I ran into Orengo again, whom I had met previously in Turin thanks to Giulio Paolini, a mutual friend, at the Brunnenburg Castle when we were both guests of Mary de Rachewilz, Ezra Pound’s daughter. I was there to introduce Pound’s poetry in terms of its implications in an admirable new work by Claudio Parmiggiani called A Lume Spento in honor of the poet. And, then again, on many other precious occasions.
The impact with Cesare Vivaldi, other than on a personal level, often took place on the pages of publications of art criticism, but also those regarding his work as a poet. Gifted with a measured and pacific eloquence, his discreet, well-meaning smile left a great margin of potential for everything and, certainly not fatalistic, it expressed the tolerance owed to his knowledge and wisdom. A witness to art who, together with very few others, I have always considered credible.
These few words, dedicated above all to those I physically grazed over the course of my work, in no way exhaust an active memory, wide open to other future encounters such as those already initiated with other poets, the authors of other poems tenaciously collected by Paolo Gubinelli.
My own are, therefore, only simple recollections quickly delineated in order to avoid wasting the reader’s time and space, and therefore they are pretexts. Just as Gubinelli’s own drawings are mercurial multicolor depictions for facilitating an intermingling of variously gifted muses. As for the deus ex machina of this highly original series, among the numerous considerations and thoughts about Gubinelli’s watercolors and etchings, we need to take a particular look at those horizontal surges, those expansive chromatic washes traversed by gestures sometimes diagonal, sometimes synodical, or else intersecting like rain or wind in vaporous, conflicting progression. His skies, as buoyant as poems, or his symmetrical lacustrine moors where one can imagine the turbulence of a Turner or the dilated luminosity of a Rothko. These are the acts of each and every author today who all share ties, who allow us to suppose their secret but mutual understanding:
There is a common horizon
shared by painting and poetry
an infinite but completed
circular line where
ut pictura poiesis
domain of bewitchment.
Rome, March 2003
BZF - Pub. Vallecchi - City of Florence 2004
ANGELO DRAGONE 2004
GUBINELLI - BETWEEN DISCIPLINE AND IMAGINATION
Creases and cuts with colors
Paolo Gubinelli, born in Matelica in 1945, studied painting at the Art Institute in Macerata before becoming a graphic designer in advertising and, later, an architectural designer. His studies took him to Milan, Rome and Florence and, while still young, led him to discover Lucio Fontana’s concept of space.
We can easily see how such work, in terms of ideas and subjects, can be related to that of Bruno Munari, to the architectural designs of Giovanni Michelucci, to the repetitive fantasies of Enrico Castellani and, subsequently, to Piero Dorazio and to the visionary substance of Alberto Burri’s work; moreover, Gubinelli also shared certain values with Agostino Bonalumi, Mario Nigro, Emilio Scanavino, Edgardo Mannucci in his highly treasured chromatics, those already practiced by Giuseppe Uncini and Sol LeWitt.
Gubinelli’s work has also been of continuous interest to many eminent critics, among whom Giulio Carlo Argan, Carmine Benincasa, Enrico Crispolti, Claudio Cerritelli, as well as Luciano Caramel, Paolo Fossati and Mario Luzi, together with Lara Vinca Masini and other outstanding militant critics such as Pierre Restany, Tommaso Trini, Marcello Venturoli, Cesare Vivaldi and Francesco Vincitorio.
Looking back at Gubinelli’s earliest works, the strict discipline of their execution is just as immediately striking as certain anti-traditional forms in unusual materials which, in the long run, became the most typical characteristics of his work. His focus on “paper” quickly became the most suggestive and probably the most congenial means for his creative expression.
In fact, in his early works he used soft white cardboard, so susceptible to impressions of light or to annual creases or cuts made with a blade, to later transfer all this to another surface, even to flat sheets or papyrus-like rolls of transparent and colored paper, where those barely perceptible signs seem to be the images of a visual poem.
His more recent creative expression appears more geometric and severe, yet yields to a freer style making use of pastel colors in which it seems possible to grasp the unpredictable perceptive movements of a lyrical, musical sensitivity.
Thus we almost have the impression that paper, for Gubinelli, is not only his primary material, but his wholly elective medium, just as white, among his various colors, is the projection of his genuine state of mind.
Most often, while observing this artist’s works, one must pay attention to certain transparencies flooded with allusions. These surface as signs of a well-known image, lines and points that open the observer’s eyes to iterations traversed by a graduation dependency on certain effects of spatial profundity. In other cases, it is the curve of a line to create a certain perspective effect which the artist, in various ways, harmonizes with that sense of geometry on which his sophisticated formal research is based.
At that point, the material data develops into that spatial sense which evokes forms of allusive geometry capable of creating true sequences of images.
That which dominates is the precious wealth of his colors or the monochrome factor of his white which may even seem obsessive, turning into sky and water, or even unexplored depths of the sea.
Suffice it to recall Paul Klee’s warning in one of his Diaries (1905):: “Painting in white constitutes a way of actually painting nature. If I quit the rigorous, specific graphic field of black energy, I realize that I enter a vast area in which it is hard for me, initially, to find an orientation. And it is that unknown territory which frightens me.”
But in his 1910 Diaries, Klee explains: “Rendering light in soft, light colors is common knowledge. Rendering it by the movement of color lends it a new quality. I now wish to render light simply as an expression of energy.” And he added, making his thoughts perfectly clear: “The applications of areas of color joined in freely imagined complexes can become (for the artist) the principal, elusive and essential task.”
After G. Carlo Argan spoke of “spatiality without volume – light without rays” in 1993 with reference to Gubinelli, Pierre Restany stated that the artist, then 48 years old, could claim supremacy in the use of “spatial paper,” in reference to his works in that medium. Restany wondered: “Will he be the last of the spatialists or, in light of one of his declarations, the pioneer of a second spatialism?”
Little does the question matter to Gubinelli, faced with the “obstinate insistence of the space-light issue.” To the contrary, he yields to that ‘fluidity’ of energy and its limited flexibility … a nearly heroic commitment in our times when the golden path cut by Fontana, Manzoni and, above all, Yves Klein, has become so highly valued.
That fragment of ‘cosmic energy’ of his contains the entire existential drama and poetic impetus that Gubinelli translates into a matter of pure sensitivity.”
Basically, as in this painting, even more than a newness, we feel the topicality of Gubinelli’s work in tune with a continuous development of History and not only the History of Art.
It is precisely in the confrontation between his techniques and his figural intent that we discover the artist, in his expression by incisions as in his paintings on transparent paper, in the various types of installations and in their colors, or in white and black where they contribute a quality of their own: on the single sheets as in the sequences of more or less rigid spatial scores, or, at times, in decisively interactive analytic progressions.
The original meanings lie deep in the area between his watercolor forms and those plastic motifs with a sense of true sculpture: from the calligraphic images in which certain effects of the lines harbor the freedom of their orientations, they succeed in traversing those spaces already shaped by the tones of color with their vertical, horizontal or curved traces, if not in more precise linear sequences.
Thus this becomes a sort of existential presence in which we immediately notice something of an informal tension typical of an abstract expressionism bordering on conceptualism, between the automatisms and the more suggestive, premonitory evocations.
It would have been implausible had this not turned into a precise formal expression. So his creases, if not his single pencil traces on a simple sheet of paper, were destined to reveal the harmony and depth of a landscape in those sloping forms. That is, when it was not the watercolors to provide the subtlest suggestive figures of an essentially graphic world in which we discern the sense of his figures, at times developing a soft receptivity through a simple effect of light capable of revealing its precious fragility. That fragility itself is the means by which he achieves a range of qualities owed to a simple but precise manual cut, or to a fold, which translate that sign, resolved even by a single trace, into an authentic rhythmic progression linked to its own support while, at the same time, preserving the eloquent evocation of the act by which it was generated.
Turin, March 2004
Pub. Fabrica Arte
Musei Civici - Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Comune di Gavirate, Provincia di Varese – 2004
MARIA LUISA SPAZIANI 2004
Rome, February, 2004
A twentieth-century French philosopher maintained that the most profound organ of the human body is the epidermis. Trough a certain play of synapses, this paradox particularly struck me while gazing of the selection of Paolo Gubinelli’s watercolors due to accompany ten of my unpublished poems. Sometimes, and more often than one might think, it happens that a judgment, or at least a possible definition, becomes superimposed over a underlying sensation or impression yet to be made clear by critical sense. This happens in poetry, at times, as Dante told us and Eliot reiterated.
Even when feeling less emotional, more detached, the truth of Gubinelli’s world “surfaces” as reflections of its deep-seated lights. His pastel or astral watercolors posses the nacreous carnality of a skin, are a thin sheet of alabaster placed against a fabric of embers or of a snowstorm, have an extraordinary lightness, a grace as evident as it is hard to capture in words. Words are the instrument and possibly the raw material of a poet.
Yet here we have the artist drawing traces of the mind in a fable-like atmosphere. This is a lyrical musical poetical abstraction where “space-light” plays the leading role.
And would like to tank Paolo Gubinelli for having led me by the hand in search of a drea through his traces grasped amongst mists and his lanscapes or colors which gel into rhythms, where geometry steers clear of classical or typical twentieth-century dogmas. I am limited here to a small number of the many watercolors created over his long career, but I want to tell him how very much I admire his work and so affectionately wish that his good fortune may continue.
Pub. Palazzo Albrizzi
Venice City Hall - Palazzo Albrizzy - 2003
Italo-German Cultural Association,
San Venedetto del Tronto City Hall
Palazzina Azzurra 2004
Unpublished works by PAOLO GUBINELLI
Unpublished poems by MARIA LUISA SPAZIANI
ANTONIO PAOLUCCI 2004
Nunc videmus per speculum et in enigmate..., Saint Paul told us.
We see things as if through a mirror and as enigmas. The day will come when we shall see them as splendid as they really are.
What are we to do in the meantime? If the visible world is a mirror of the mystery, how can poetry in words or poetry in images (ut pictura poesis, an ancient and forever valid equivalence to which the present catalogue persuasively testifies), how can poetry solve the enigma? Or, better yet, how can it best endeavor to approach a solution of the enigma? Open any history of art manual and you will see the countless ways attempted by painters to cross through that mirror of Saint Paul’s; from the Sahara rock graffiti to the Dada pranks, from Piero della Francesca’s frescoes to Burri’s famous sack paintings. No artist under the sun has the ability to solve the enigma, but an artist who does not even try does not deserve to be called an artist, as arduous and inconvenient as the title may be.
Paolo Gubinelli has consistently tried, with his ascetic patience, and even with (excusing the oxymoron) a sort of furious determination.
What else are those hermetic transparent works of his on paper, his cryptic incisions, his musical and mysterious, yet exact, folds, reminiscent of the marks incoming waves leave on a sandy seashore?
Are they “icons of disorder” (Venturoli) or else a buried order which we shall be allowed to understand one day? Are they cryptograms of an unknown alphabet alluding to the secrets of the “inductive method of reasoning” (Argan), or are Gubinelli’s works on paper the signs of “a poet in times of poverty,” as Carmine Benincasa described them in a particularly fine image? I wouldn’t know how to answer that. But I do know – if it is the privilege and destiny of an artist to sound out the mystery of the world and to transpose the keys of a possible interpretation into images – that Paolo Gubinelli is a true artist.
Antonio Paolucci, February 2004
Superintendent for the Museum Axis of the City of Florence
Pub. Nuova Grafica Fiorentina
St. Salvador in Settimo
Florence 2004, Villa Strozzi
Winter Lemon Tree Storehouse
BZF - Vallecchi - City of Florence 2004
Previously unpublished works by major poets
SANDRO PARMIGGIANI 2005
Paper, a Friend
So many prestigious names in art history and so many outstanding Italian poets have accompanied the long career of the artist, Paolo Gubinelli, with their critical essays and poetic testimonies that anyone, today, would be in the same position as I am, trying to distill certain words, to say what I feel when observing his work, feeling, even for the bare minimum of time allowed by life’s immediate events, not up to the task of grasping all the threads teeming before him, to adequately accomplish them. So I will limit myself – “promises are made to be kept,” and in this specific case that means a dual commitment, towards Gubinelli and towards the friends at the Biblioteca Panizzi where his work is about to debark – to a few of the impressions, thoughts and feelings that his work arouses in me.
The first thing I feel is the need to say that Paolo Gubinelli’s works are a healthy slap in the face to all that “average” Italian sense of collecting for which works on paper - from watercolors to pastels - are “invisible,” and conceives them as something minor and fleeting, fragile and ephemeral, both as an expressive essence and in their ability to last over time. There are many of them who even think that works on paper are, by their intrinsic nature, destined to those with limited financial possibilities; those who “are able to,” end up entrusting themselves to works on canvas – not to even mention sculptures which are “seen” only by an elite few – and often surround themselves with highly-colored, vacuous paintings, often of large dimensions. Unfortunately, Gubinelli’s slap in the face will hurt very few cheeks since we are surrounded by so many deaf people with no desire to hear.
Yet his way of having always worked with paper as his only instrument, his chosen means, tells us that what he is looking for in a support is something that, because of its intimate structure, is congenial to his poetics and, together, is its bosom and its ideal mirror. All of Gubinelli’s industrious labor takes place in variations, startling acts, a blinking of eyes, sudden feelings which surface and then are immediately engulfed by the depths from whence they came, to lights that surface and are confirmed, then immediately afterwards are cloaked in shadow on their paths towards a darkness that might only be penetrated by changing the point of observation. In short, the artist feels that he can transfer the vital nucleus of his own poetics, what he is pursuing, into the very execution of the work, and can successfully reflect his feelings only on paper, on that apparently fragile, yet actually tenacious and long-lasting instrument which constitutes, in its multiple, almost infinite states of being (cardboard, simple sheets of paper, semi-transparent onion skin drawing paper, tracing paper), the most intimate, warm and hidden place to naturally receive his expressive tensions.
There is great respect in the way Gubinelli addresses, puts himself in front of paper – besides, what else could be combined with his vision, otherwise? Even when he folds it or makes superficial cuts in it, you can feel that he is conscious of being in front of a body, of a flesh that can only be loved.
What comes to mind are the words of a poem by a great 20th-century Canadian poet, Leonard Cohen, better-known as a folk-singer: “As the mist leaves no scar / On the dark green hill / So my body leas no scar / On you, and never will.”
Gubinelli has always seemed intent on, evoking spatial, coloristic or luminous visions through the infinite possibilities offered by this support. The folds he made in the Seventies, after the cutter had engraved the skin of the paper, had the feeling of a geometrical tension in which, in the perception of the work was not indifferent, the element of an interaction of lines that loomed parallel or crossed, and which evoke the veiling and the forest of those planes by Lyonel Feininger. Gubinelli subsequently added incisive marks and colors in watercolor and pastel, evoking a cosmic spatiality in which the mesh of two very great poets of Italian art, Osvaldo Licini and Fausto Melotti, taught us that everything can be said in a mark, in a stroke, with the slightes trace of a line. But Gubinelli’s voyage was not over. After his works on transparent paper in which he used form and color to concretely evoke the idea of a veil, of a flag caressed and weathered by the wind, for the past few years the artist has been accentuating and densifying his color, countered without being dashed by the marks of his incisions, in an alternation of slivers of serenity and heaps of anguish. The tonal sonorities and rhythmic pulsations of Melotti return to mind and become sharper, and confirm an ancient, long-lasting love, together with Jean Fautrier’s embryonic chromatic writing, with that sense of the tragic happiness of the vision and the discovery of its secret, not yet completely lost genesis.
It is certainly not time for Gubinelli to interrupt his work. The path awaiting him is still long and we can be sure that he will continue to glimpse and trace onto his sheets of paper the secret routes of a spirit, his own, aware for some time that some letter or word from his diaries are already written on the surface, among the fibers of that ancient, noble support constituted by paper.
Reggio Emilia, May, 2005
Pub. Biblioteca Panizzi, City of Reggio Emilia
Presentation of unpublished works accompanied by 12 unpublished poems by Franco Loi
ANTONIO PAOLUCCI 2006
Entering Paolo Gubinelli’s art is an arduous and risky operation; like a climbing of sixth superior degree. Are necessary still heart, serene mind, firm training, well-tried custom inside the labyrinths of the contemporaneousness. And safe hooks on which build, with method, the way are necessary. At the end of the ascent, arrived in top, the efforts will be rewarded (if the alpine metaphor is still allowed to me) by the argued and satisfactory knowledge of an artist who is to be considered one of the most ingenious and original of our days. But meantime you need to start choosing since the beginning solid and reliable support points.
I would start, the friend Bruno Cora’ had already done it, from an affirmation of the Gubinelli young man, to the epoch of the beginnings of his career. “the concept of structure-space-light moves in the context of a rational research , analytical, in which I always tend to reduce more the means and the operating manners in a strict and demanding meditation” Autointroduction, ed. (Galleria Indiano Grafica, Florence 1977). About thirty years ago the artist already clearly had the project and the way. In the few lines which I mentioned one talks about “rational search”, “strict and demanding meditation”, analytical effort. And one talks also about “minimalism, pauperism” in the choice of the expressive means.
The historian of the contemporary art will say that the Gubinelli of ‘77 places himself in the analytical line about Dorazio, Fontana, Balla; that analytical-speculative line (his historical precedents are in the perspectives and theoreticians of the fifteenth century) that was aiming to the combustion, the dissolution of the alphabets to reach (in the reduction to the essential one of the materials, manners and means) to the comprehension through a rational, meditative way, of the true one visible. Therefore painting as mental speech, the structure-space-light relation ( this and not other is the true one visible, the universe that surrounds us and what lives outside and inside us ) investigated and represented subspecies intellectual, rational.
Attention however, because this is a really tricky passage. Talking about Gubinelli’s art in terms of rationalist abstract art is misleading. We risk to go astray and not to understand anything more. The big Giulio Carlo Argan had understood him well, almost at the end of the life. That of our author-as Argan wrote in ’91- it is a not deductive and logical, but inductive rationality. The observation is precious and is fundamental. It is the decisive access key to enter Gubinelli’s works in my opinion; in his cryptic transparent papers, in his hermetic cuts, in the precise folds, melodious and mysterious, reminiscent of the marks incoming waves leave on sandy seashore.
A deductive rationality which winds itself on the thread of the consequence exists and then there is an inductive rationality that we could define “metalogical” because it is beyond the mental processes, governed by the cause-effect relationship, which we know and habitually we practise. Can you reach a “spatiality without volume”, a “light without rays” and other exquisite oxymora, as sharp as blades, which Argan lists in Gubinelli’s work? So to touch, through them, that “ lyric tension gracefully severe “ about which Enrico Crispolti talks (1989)? Naturally one can, the artist’s work is to show it there, but to succeed in it one needs to use that “intuitive logic” which allows flashing blows of hand on the represented universe and dizzy, risky assemblies of contrasting categories.
Paolo Gubinelli’s aim is “a sensitive spatiality, perceivable to the careful eye and desirous touch, that his and some admirers of him” ( P. Corà, 2004). But his aim is also that, at least so to me it seemed and I wrote in a published publication from Vallecchi in 2004, of the overcoming or at least the comparison with the ontological mystery which dominates all the things. Are his works “icons of the disorder” (Venturoli) or rather signs of a buried order which we shall be allowed to understand one day? Are the cryptograms of an alphabet unknown to most people, but perfectly feasible from who knows and dominates the tortuous algorithms of the “inductive rationality” –as Argan wrote-? Or are Gubinelli’s works on paper, the signs of “a poet in times of poverty”, as Carmine Benincasa described them in a particularly fine image?
I could not answer. However I know that it does not exist, in the view of the contemporary Italian art, a painter, as Gubinelli, who is able to accept for risk and to close successfully the comparison with poetry. I mean the comparison in the technical sense of the term. In him the expressive mean, say like that, “professional” that is painting, refines, disembodies, fades, becomes transparent and light as a leaf. Gubinelli’s work leads to the extreme border of the possible the reflection painting-poetry so much that it skims the equivalence. His “ut pictura poesis” is so rarefied as to give the dizziness but it is also the most charming intellectual and aesthetic experience that we are allowed to know nowadays.
Superintendent for the Museum Axis of the City of Florence
Pub. Grafostil - City of Matelica
Museo Piersanti - Museo Civico Archeologico
STEFANO VERDINO 2006
Lines and images
Also poetry is a particular cut form, and it is at various levels. There is the immediate one, chromatic and spatial, of black on white, of the various and particular way with which the words “encamp” on the page, as Ungaretti was saying. And every text has an its own image, a characteristic visibility. Also the fair series of unpublished poetries of the more credited Italian poets whom Paolo Gubinelli gathered eminently shows it. Not only the two regimes which from always chair are definitely identified to poetic ‘ obrar ‘, the stanzaic breath (through all his changes among Majorino, Parronchi, Riccardi, Spaziani and others) and the continuous line, but also inside the particular rhythms of the line a thing turns out the calibre of ‘cut’ of the long line, as for instance “where someone founded us exactly” of Milo De Angelis, other thing the mini-lines as “the dam of air and light of the summer“or ”and implacable red berries“, respectively in the Luzi and Zanzotto poetries. In the first case for instance the line of De Angelis sounds with an epigraphic measure, it is peremptory, but also without relation, while certainly to illumination mode they are those of Luzi and Zanzotto, between them however unusual, in the absolute timbre of the first and that of bridge and passage of the second. If we mimetically wanted to translate in graphic rhythm, it is clear that the line would always have configurations, and various thickenings. And the variety of the rhythms is also graphic sign, from the thin line of Erba to the step distich ones of Conte , to the stanzaic different pause of Sovente and De Signoribus, in first sealed well in the conclusion of the sentence, the second delivered to the vanishing of the word in the dots, to suggest a fragile and ephemeral concretion of the language.
It seems therefore unavoidable to me the attraction that poetry exercised on Paolo Gubinelli’s art and his light engraved papers. The artist catches the inexorable valence of the rhythm, with his change, which the line perpetually suggests through the free and light game of signs and colours perfectly.
But first cut degree is obviously that of his memory and of his capture of reader, because for aggregations of full freedom, I seem to recognize with cleanness the really not common quality of interpretation of the text, which the signs, and the colours transmit. The synergy of these elements turns out as much as never striking, I think for instance, to remain classical on ours of, Luzi and Zanzotto, to the similar and different medley of sky-blue, the first solar, the second lunar, respectively inserted on net (bent and straight) and mixed cuts (geometrical and unsure): a game of junctions which shows himself in perfect harmony with those texts. That is please think of the hot colour of the image connected to poetry of Cesare Vivaldi, centred on a “picking some flowers on the meadoww of the Hill”.
The visitor-reader will be able freely to recover the game of the correspondences between lines and images, acquiring intelligence with every probability from the reciprocal dialogue of such various expression modes. And it will not fail to take back in the cut of its memory the crossing of the colours and the forms of the words, with the emotions and the meanings put back in the images.
Stefano Verdino, January 2006
Professor of Italian Literature in the University of Genoa
Pub. Grafostil - City of Matelica
Museo Piersanti - Museo Civico Archeologico
CARMINE BENINCASA 2008
TO BERNARDINO CAMPELLO
The kingdom of colours is not a carousel of disorder. It is rigour, esprit de géométrie, when this is totality of esprit de finesse, when the geometry is fullness of poetry. Colour is desire and mystery. It is awakening of the world and awareness of the world. Colour is Glory of the world; it is brightness of the Light reality. Colour is deeply secret arithmetic, it is harmony and disorder, it is desperation on the way and it is ecstasy in the fulfillment. It is uninterrupted concert and silent music; it is the time of things and station of the history. The friend J. Guitton wrote:” at the end of my life, I think that in order to grasp last mystery, painting is superior to music. Only painting can guess what will be the time, when the succession will disappear and everything becomes simultaneous.”
All this dances about the horizon of my conscience every time I look at the uninterrupted litany of Paolo Gubinelli’ work. His work is a Gregorian liturgy in the Gothic cathedral of this time“arid and dry” (T.S. Eliot). In his work the eye does not stop looking at glances that flow invisible in the gliding of a space twisted in the present time. It is silent mystery of a conversation; it is communion between present and eternity. His work is mystery of being.
Since the end of middle Ages, the philosopher J. Guitton noticed, philosophy has grasped at spirit. It is time to rediscover the being.
The painting by P. Klee and Gubinelli and the highest poetry of the twentieth century (from T.S.Eliot to E.Montale to Kavafis Adonis and others) put me in the presence of things, reality, wonder of the truth. In Gubinelli’s work painting seeks the presence of things themselves.
“You will go through the walls of the wounds” Adonis writes in a fragment. And again “when and how does a wing become way for the transition ?”. This and more is Gubinelli’s exhausting work until last cry. It leads beyond any sharp and tearing wound to the landscape of peace, hallelujah of Maranatha. It is hopping and bitter game,” game of delight...the players let themselves get carried away by passions” ( Ali Ahamad Said Adonis).As H.G.Gadamer writes in ”Wahrheit und Methode” the game plays the players” and requires “ lightness and abandonment”. Just as signs of this unpublished and interminable painting by P. Gubinelli. In this fragment of Adonis, P. Gubinelli’s whole work identifies itself unconditionally: childhood is light....I continue on my way along a path that I do not know where it is leading”.
“The trunk of the poplar….. One day will be reduced to ash; I can almost see it as a fire off “, Adonis writes. And in fact “where is the fire?” E. Jabès wonders.” Under the ash” he answers and says: “Where is God? Beneath the ash”. And in Gubinelli’s work the light is under repeated melancholy of signs that repeat themselves in the illegible manner of an “ exhausting meticulousness “ ( G. Ungaretti ). This is poetry, heart of the creation , hallelujah of senses and vision, apocalyptic canticle for Epiphany of what is already here in things and tracks of marks and fragments, although “not yet“.
Ash Wednesday, Rome Febbruary 2008
Pub. Grafostil - Municipality of Castelraimondo (MC)
Castle of Lanciano
16 unpublished poems in italian by Adonis
MARIANO APA 2008
Paolo Gubinelli and the plaster of the memory
During the decades traces of an itinerary artistic rich in plurals alphabets are deposited with which the artist has coherently confirmed himself, showing that oneness of intents that is the liberty of his own world, and it is the identity of his own person.
Paolo Gubinelli in this 2008, with his works, he accompanies The International institute of Studies Piceni (Istituto Internazionale Studi Piceni) through one show of his realized in such qualified meeting of studies from Padre Stefano Troiani and from Ferruccio Bertini, so pointing out the cultural effervescences of testimony that it has root in the teachers Sesto Prete and Alberto Grilli, enduring in an European breath where is fathomed, with the passion of the philology and with the reality of the document, the privileged place of a humanism’s Marks (Marca dell’Umanesimo) that comes to propose whenever in our conscience the ability of the language it is underlined.
The truth of the language in the work of Gubinelli is intimately tied to the system of values which the Studies Piceni preside.
The artist of Matelica - where he was born in 1945 - allows the support to rise like place of the memory. The use of the paper and the ceramics - which in Gubinelli a sort of paper becomes “in earth and fire” - are like a space of plaster in which an ancient iconographer has traced his dreams and his nightmare.
The paper and the ceramics are a plaster where the memory expresses herself visualizing histories and tale found in confusion in the artist’s basket used for picking up the fruits from its nighttime trips, from his disenchanted diurnal itineraries. From the white card it passes to the transparent paper, therefore the artist faces the rolls of the used paper as a contemporary papyrus. In a declaration of year 2000 the artist is expressed like this: “In my artistic activity the paper has been until today mine only expressive mean (...) I’ve passed to the transparent paper (shiny of architects) always engraved and folded up: or in sheets prepared in the environment in progression rhythmic - dynamics, or in rolls - papyrus with light incisions to the limit of the perceptions that develop in the environment.”
The geometries drawn with the reliefs of the recent ceramics - between 2006 and 2008 – are a musical score composed with figures of color arranged in the geometric alphabet that sweep in the rule of the composition scotched emotions of a hidden eros.
The signs as lines engraved on the paper - around the ancient 1973, for instance, or toward the definition of the decade with 1980 - were, instead, the possibility of a rationality that questioned himself about the analytics of the visual procedure, that asked himself about the reality of the ideational procedure of the artistic practice. Will be the collages of the transparent papers -1984 - to impose the liberalization of the composition offering the visibility of the esoteric to the geometry of the formal rationality, to point out the color of the rhythm, of the movement, of the expressive articulation of the space of the color as reality of the thought. Didn’t treat, in fact, in a certain point of the search, to analyze the meaning of the progress, on the contrary has treated to reading and to live the thoughts of the symbol, of a bustle among the conscience and the language on the base of the attended of no more hidden romantic listening.
From the end of the decade ‘80 and for the ‘90 and for the following years , Gubinelli has known how to organize a painting as free affirmation of his ability of listening. He has held faith to the law of the composition, he has held faith to the law of the rationality iconic. But, also he has absolutely imposed to the perfumes and the tastes, to the emotions and the sounds, to go out of the casket, from the secret place where they were hidden. And the painting has become inspiration of feelings, of definite literature in the truth of a lived full of reality.
Among the numerous and precise interventions of the critical - in a critical itinerary that for the work of Paolo Gubinelli grazes the summary of the most greater among the expressions of the history of the Italian criticism -, the voice of a poet and, particularly, of a dear poet to Urbino and Sassoferrato, like has been and it is in the memory Mario Luzi; he succeeds to make us to enter in a privileged way in the intimacy of the artistic construction of Gubinelli: “ The kingdom of the transparency and the innocence - almost a breath held back for wonder - with his precise and incisive traces on the sheet, attenuate although for a sort of mental chastity: this I have met “, Luzi wrote in the 2000, meeting the work of Gubinelli. “It has been indeed a happy meeting, in key with the demand that makes internally feel in the best contemporaries, of perspicuity and of synthesis.”
As for the ancient roads that from Potenza connected the valleys of the Chienti, and therefore as from Matelica it directed to the abbey of St. Vittore delle Chiuse, with Paolo Gubinelli we can consider the ancient seasons of the primordial “liciniano” and to evoke from the leopardianes brooms the silences soaked of nighttime perfumes.
The signs on the surface engrave anatomies of colors and spaces of silence. We see the images and we perceive the sound. The chromatic stamp dilates the light like an icon that interiorize guarded in the heart of our secret. To his way, these works are works of the loneliness that return to the loneliness. And at the melancholy it seems to accompany her a literary gratification of a happy history of the proper hidden and, so, shown it doesn’t declare and it doesn’t declaim. Painting of the interiority and the hidden truth, this painting of Gubinelli makes to breathe the lights that pierce through from the inside the dome of St. Vittore. And from this our abbatial church, springs the meaning for a painting of religious architecture. For a sacredness of the gesture that it shows to be the sign of the inhabited space. In that habitability of the place that is sign and gesture of the real presence of the poetry.
Ariccia (RM), June 2008
International Congress off Humanistic Studies,
3 unpublished poems by Eugenio De Signoribus
CRISTINA ACIDINI 2008
While continuing his formal experiments, swinging between his preferred materials, the ceramics and the paper, Paolo Gubinelli once more reaches peaks of intensely lyrical expressiveness. The already soft physicality of support, the refinement of the techniques – also present to the glance of the most informed – seem moving aside as if the signs and the chromatic painted backgrounds created themselves in air, alone and without effort: this is the rigour which Gubinelli controls his creativity with, channeling the experimentation within proportional modules and secret harmonies of geometries and colours.
The personal and professional contacts with many renowned colleagues, architects too, of the twentieth century, can be read in filigree in the work of Gubinelli, and perhaps the closeness with Lucio Fontana, master like few others of the thrust in real space of the material and virtual of the artistic illusion, has counted more than other ones. On the other hand, the closeness with the poets of his time too introduces more sonorous notes and more complex arrangements in the works of Gubinelli: in the elaboration of a formal harmony that he reaches through his own paths even difficult to be followed.
The search of Gubinelli has a very successful achievement in the ceramics, as if that material, ductile to be modelled and receptive of delicate and vivid colours, could listen and remember the secret vibration, poetic and visual of his creativeness. About the graphic works of Gubinelli, his way to manipulate the paper convinces and fascinates me supporting the natural three-dimensional form and obtaining effects of surprising plasticity and chiaroscuro vibration and then moving to transparent paper that accepts and returns the cuts and chromatic drafts with lightness.
The paper with its infinite potentialities, the book of artist in its variations belong to the deep identity of the artist, inhabitant of the Marches, that neither his travels to Milan, Rome or Florence, nor the international fame can question. This is, I believe, one suggestion that goes against the general trend in an epoch of globalized and interchangeable values and it deserves respectful reflection as well as appreciation by the observer as an example of original sensitivity in combining a traditional material with innovative uses.
Cristina Acidini, Florence, July 2008
Superintendent for artistic,
historical, ethno-anthropological heritage
and for the museum axis of the city of Florence
Pitti Palace, Museo degli Argenti and Museo delle Porcellane, 2008
ORNELLA CASAZZA 2008
Paolo Gubinelli recently presented his work in the Castello di Lanciano which stands in the midst of a beautiful park in the valley of Castelraimondo in the Marche. The valley seems to be carved or even engraved by centuries-old trees. Gubinelli now brings his work to Florence: ‘reliefs on ceramic’ in the Boboli Gardens, inside the Palazzina del Cavaliere, surrounded by a garden full of roses and peonies which opens unto the rigorous Tuscan landscape whose ridges marked by tall cypress trees. Inside the Palazzina are the most beautiful porcelains of Europe which belonged to the Medici, the Lorraines, Maria Luisa of Bourbon, Elisa Baciocchi and the house of Savoy.
After the prestigious exhibitions of the last few years, the ceramics of Paolo Staccioli, Roberto Fallani’s glass, the ‘precious memories’ impressed in the sculpture of Paola Crema, we welcome the ceramics of Paolo Gubinelli and integrate them into the set-up of the Museum without subtracting anything away from its very recognizable image.
The artist from the Marche has conducted his research through a personal abstract meditation, turning white paper and soft white cardboards into immaterial substance engraved with a blade; he then folds them by hand to create a visual effect of clear and light spaces, to make them look as if ‘ploughed’ in the sand of a zen garden. He has handled the shiny translucent paper, engraved once more and folded it to his will as might a builder of geometric structures or free structures. Never contrived, always harmonious in gestures and signs, they are, he explains “incisions barely perceivable”. He has painted watercoloured papers with juxtaposed successions of transparent and crystalline colours to seem water that – as the poet Adonis (2008) wrote - “likes to dialogue with more water” and he has delicately elaborated others to compose, at times, pale and subtle monocromes.
And once more he colours, engraves, traces furrows and builds ‘golden sections’ as if they were spontaneous forms created by nature on soft earth, which will then change and transform itself to become, through the action of fire, crystalline and transparent imaginary plains, circumferences, squares, a ductile and clayey kneading of the ceramic.
Watercolours, graffiti on paper, pleats and folds on transparent paper and reliefs on ceramic appear as a whole in which figures and background are not discernible one from the other, while the design, when it appears, as well as the structure of the signs, innervate the surface of the picture as if it were impressed with reliefs. The colour does not fulfil any decorative form but rather contrasts elegantly with other colours, becoming itself a design, a figure, a surface, and this autographic activity becomes the framework, reinforces the supporting structure and reveals itself as an idea of ‘empty’ space, representing a spiritual value rather than a formal fact, to be understood as a quality whose connotation is reducing form to essence.
Ornella Casazza, Florence, July 2008
Director of the Museo degli Argenti e delle Porcellane
Pitti Palace, Museo degli Argenti and Museo delle Porcellane, 2008
ANTONIO PAOLUCCI 2008
The art is imitation of the nature. It’s been known ever since and it is always true. The artist is nature (a body which lives, two eyes which look, a mind which orders and selects, a heart which feels emotions and upsets) and it is nature what is around, the interpretable and representable universe, things, colours, faces, facts, happenings, feelings, secret thoughts, the chronicle and history, politics, ideology, culture. All what is out of us and enters us through the eyes, the sensations, the experiences, the reflections, the memories, everything is nature.
If this is true, if task of the artist is to imitate (namely to represent and interpret) the other from him, that is the nature, it is also true that the artist has two basic options. It is true today and it has always been like this, through the entire path of art history.
You can try to represent the real as it is or, better to say, as it appears to us. Being the real unobtainable as the great painters of reality well know, also Caravaggio, also Vermeer, also Rembrandt.
The true is an ontological mystery. We could say that it may not be represented. As we cannot bathe twice in the same river, so we cannot look at the same thing twice because in flowing of time, in the continuous changing although imperceptible of astronomical light, in the contextual changing of sensations, emotions, thoughts that cross the concerning, “the thing“ looked fatally constantly changes. In the representation of the nature, the elusiveness of the real, the awareness of an achievement continuously escaping is what makes the masterpieces of the great masters of the past fascinating.
There is another possible option in the artistic phenomenon. It is always and however (it must never be forgotten) imitation (and namely representation and interpretation) of the nature.
It is the attitude that I call of meditation or contemplation. The artist is not interested in representing nature in its tumultuous and mysterious ( since elusive ) appearance. What he is interested in is to understand the reasons that are under the visible things, the order that justifies them, the logic (or the poetry) which supports them. You can imitate the nature (then it can be interpreted and symbolized) also through the dreamlike sign, also through the pure abstraction.
This is the way Paolo Gubinelli has chosen and wisely, happily already tested in the painted papers of which I had occasion to speak a few years ago and now in the ceramics. His pottery are geometric objects (square, more often circular) occupied throughout their extension from shiny splendour of polychrome bust. The colour is organized in rhythms, balancing, proportionate relations. It obeys a scheme that you would say “pythagorean“ in the sense of subtle charm that the secret music of the measures and numbers holds. The art by Gubinelli is a rational and speculative one.
It is a methodical, thoughtful style and it is bright and harmonious because there is the order, the harmony in the skeleton (perhaps immutable) that governs the phenomenal appearances.
“The kingdom of transparency and whiteness“ Mario Luzi wrote of his works in 2000, Argan spoke of analytical rationality in 91. I want to add of poetic reflection and melodious chromatic classicism, in front of a result so consistent with previous experience and so loaded with poetic meaning.
Antonio Paolucci, Florence, august 2008
Director of Vatican Museums
Pitti Palace, Museo degli Argenti and Museo delle Porcellane, 2008
CLAUDIO STRINATI 2009
The career of Paolo Gubinelli is wide and complex, but totally oriented towards a profound fidelity to few and decisive principles which marked out his initial education and which are the basis of his aesthetic creed.
Gubinelli, who is an artist of strong morals and intensive enthusiasm, although he is not Tuscan of origin, since he was young, he is immersed in the Tuscan and Florence intellectual elite, where he derives his inspiration.
The literary and the pictorial experiences are combined in him. The impetus - which originates from the mark of Lucio Fontana, who was esteemed by Gubinelli with real understanding of the figurative phenomenon beyond the appearances of the provocation and the allurements - early becomes a decisive item of his art.
The viewer still finds the consequences in those recent works which the master painter brings to our attention.
It would be important to observe the works of art he created on paper, which is his favourite support. Paper – with its delicacy, flexibility and aptitude to be moulded – is a “medium” which allows him to express himself at the highest levels of his creativity.
It is not arbitrary to see Gubinelli as a real “poet” of painting. His art, in those all works, is reduced to an essentiality, which could surprise the viewer. It is the result of a sort of distillation of the thought, which becomes tangible through a personal tendency towards the reduction to the lowest factor and which, maybe for this reason, is fascinating and full of an intensive meaning. His pictorial art is distant from that “minimalist” style, which was widespread in Italy and abroad in the same years of the maturity of an artist as Gubinelli. Truly, he is not an artist can be defined. His lyricism, which was remembered by the attentive and aware critics many times, is deeply tinged with “conceptualism”. He is always clinged to a will of meaning which makes his works fascinating in the contemporary artistic panorama, considering paintings and ceramic works, where, if it is possible, the natural bent and the creative refinement find a field of expansion charged of fruitful results.
Claudio Strinati, Rome, april, 2009
Superintendent for the Museum Axis of the City of Rome
Pub. Grafostil - Municipality Matelica
Art Gallery Fidanza
Permanent Exhibition 2009
MARIA LUISA SPAZIANI 2009
Dedicated to Paolo Gubinelli
I am not a poet,
I like to engrave my words”.
These are two lines from some unpublished verses by Paolo Gubinelli. I like to bring critical words near to some flashes, in order to give a realistic or an unconscious description which the same artist suggests us about his works.
Gubinelli “engraves his words” with means, which were donated to him by some god and which has been reconfirmed by him during the years of his long activity.
Among his works of art, there are also engravings, but whoever visits his exhibitions or read his many anthologies notices how his ceramic and paper works, amongst many shapes, articulate each other with originality and coherence, as well as the gracefulness that belongs to a watercolour artist, blue white and pink colours, which in the watercolour paintings show us his more ethereal and dreamier side.
Gubinelli has allowed me to go on board of his hippogryph towards a lyric, musical moon for many years and has joined his many works of art to my verses, an homage for which I will deeply be grateful to him.
I would like to cite three lines I dedicated to him five years ago: “The clear or lunar watercolour paintings have a pearly carnality which is peculiar to a skin, they are as a fine alabaster placed against a cloth made of embers or a snowstorm”.
Maria Luisa Spaziani, Rome, may 2009
Municipality of Matelica, 2009
Pub. Grafostil - Municipality Matelica
Art Gallery Fidanza
Permanent Exhibition 2009
LUIGI PAOLO FINIZIO 2010
TONINO GUERRA E PAOLO GUBINELLI
Two artists who share encounters with poetry. I would like to observe their work gathered here – works of signs and colour, goggle-eyed shapes and dancing trails – inverting the field of vision that years ago Tonino Guerra used to entitle an exhibition: With poetry behind him’. I want to place poetry up front, as the view of the horizon they both intriguingly tend towards.
The sign of an image shines in fantastic games of pure compositional mobility, like a light directed in front of you, not to blind oncomers, but only to light the way. The work of Guerra and of Gubinelli collect signs that wander in space on a moiré sheet or illuminated by the paper’s whiteness. Signs that are depictions in themselves, or abstract signs set in motion by a shared wind of poetry, of lyrical compositional expansion. In his watercolours and collages Guerra’s objects, figures and animals seem laid on the threshold of evanescence, of the innate change and mixture of their natural likeness. By their very nature, Gubinelli’s traces, cuts, and graphic signs appear devoted to the ineffable and the absence of recognisable physiognomies. And yet, the work of both of these artists invite the viewer to read and grasp the sense behind them, the sense on which the image is woven.
Combine this with conventional discursive logic, and you have the communicative power of poetry. A master screenwriter, Guerra has always entrusted signs with a sort of interacting, interchangeable dialogue whose drawing features and likenesses expand and contract, cut themselves off and blend with other drawings of features and likenesses. The nature and world of objects partake of the same generation into images, a solid compositional effluvium. Everything flows into a game of fantasy and moods, pretexts and memories, like colours and the vague dispositions of a Chagall-like fable free from the narrative bonds of time and space.
Gubinelli’s advancement towards poetry, the onset of the story as in a screenplay of signs, remains a confrontation with the invisible, the invisible of abstract art in line with another communicative condition that the image entrusts to the hidden powers of poetry. His signs in relief, his colour-filled expanses are more than a game of vision, they are games of the spirit. Through poetry, the unspeakable sense of words can cross the border into the ineffable sense of the image. Other painter-poets like Kandinsky, Arp and Michaux have followed the paths of invisible signification, the paths of the absolute image, like Gubinelli.
Sorrento, December 2010
Luigi Paolo Finizio
Falconara Local Authority, Palazzo Pergoli
Centre for Documentation of Contemporary Arts
Paolo Gubinelli and Tonino Guerra
works on paper, curated by S. Tonti, text by L.P. Finizio
LUIGI PAOLO FINIZIO 2010
The Sign of Art
The art of Paolo Gubinelli has for a long time been the absolute sign of art, its pure evidence without points of reference. In the history of Western painting, he is not the only one in this free-trade zone of painted grounds and abstract or non-abstract configurations, at least since Mondrian sanctioned the idea of the abstract sign, between sky and earth, with his plus and minus signs in a painted rose on a white ground.
In the time and at the pace of his journey in painting and in the painting of signs, the artist has undertaken a continuous advancement of a work in progress that generates and regenerates itself along the route of imaginative coherence, and of a resolute poetics with the constants no less active than the variables. It would not be impossible to distinguish in Gubinelli’s work a symptomatic quality between the sign and the artist’s past experiences, a sort of existential seismograph between the sign, signs and the artist’s biography. And I’m not saying this to charge his expressivity, his personal coupling of abstraction and reality, with the subjective perspective and personal lyricism, but to show how his imagination and poetics of the sign, his practise and declination of the sign have unfolded and continue to do so, in correspondence with the spirit of the time.
The unfaltering topicality of his work, which is graphic for manual skill and lyricism, for project and sensitivity, certainly does not lie so much in the chronicle of days, in the succession of facts, as it does instead in a renewed and communicating reception of an always immanent and present poetry. A topicality experienced and recorded as an image to be then proposed and unfold in the contemporary realities of art, in their succession marked by forms and languages, practises and configurations, since the beginning of his artistic journey in the full 1970s.
For transport and devotion, for creative mania, the mutations he has undertaken in the practise of the sign, a plastic and linear pronouncement of geometrical and cursive weaves on a paper support with transparencies, whiteness and moiré colours, always give in to the present, in the operative flagrancy of the gesture that cuts and draws. Hence, though with a secluded spirit, experience drives the art of Gubinelli into being, into the action of the expressive dictate in the unfolding of militancy in art.
I recall my first encounter with his art a few decades ago at his studio in the Rifredi district of Florence where supports and equipment, paper and canvas, transparencies and cutters, punches and squares all lay in a material array indistinct from the rigour of the sign, its slight motions, its slits and folds, projecting the light of the sheets. In his place of work, Gubinelli revealed himself to me as an architect of the sign, artificer and mystagogue of a theatre in which careful manual skill choreographed the dramaturgy of the sign, the solos and choral quality, the clean drafts and feminine metamorphoses.
The temperature of art at that time was of a rarefied and active objectivity, free from the expressionisms of the informal gesture, the most recent social ironies of pop art, and the various kinetic-perceptive technologies. Between the extroverted exhibitions of the body in body-art and the minimalisms of plastic bodies, between land-art and sophisticated conceptualities, between happening and narrative-art, the years of passage from the Seventies and the Eighties, through this past decade and the next, mark the beginnings and maturity of Gubinelli’s work in entrusting the practise of the sign, its absolute gesture of an abstract image, to perform a mobile and tacit comparison with the trends underway, towards the diverse poetics of art. More than one commenter has pointed out these connections to other artistic explorations, and here with the experience of the search lies the intense otherness of his creative formulation with respect to the usual field of so-called graphic art.
Overall, we can say that until today, Gubinelli has tended to conduct the sign and its plastic and pictorial elaboration, overstepping the conventional field of the apparatus of techniques and results of graphic art, though keeping to the institutional paper support. This vocation incorporates and makes the sign transit between plastic and painting, architecture and the cursive, installation and spatial mobility, manual extroversion and expressive intimacy.
As always occurs when the specificities of technique are sidestepped, Gubinelli’s graphic sign, too, in its autonomous constructive and poetic dimension, establishes its own formal statute, in a full and plural image capacity. We can say with Focillon, author of Vie des formes: “The sign signifies, but once it becomes form, it aspires to signify itself, and creates its new sense”. This, in short, is mental and sensible virtuality, the virtuous dimension of stroke and light, of the spatial script and colour that animate the practise of the sign, its renewed generation of sense between project and induction, rigour and emotional abandonment. The artist has always elaborated the sign in an indistinct and convertible spatial game, between surface and space, sheet and wall. On seeing the bare rectangular leaves that he usually arranges in sequence on exhibition walls and the rolls of paper that he lets unroll down to the floor, we realise that in the transparencies and delicate watered colours that lend it a setting, the sign tends to surpass the usual and frontal two-dimensionality. It tends to catch us in a sort of temporal web, a vehiculating and stereo discursiveness, that is to say according to the perceptive stimulus of a tale recounted by visual-colloquial involvement, by the entangling junction of thoughts entrusted to and revealed in four-dimensional space.
In this light, we can dare say that Gubinelli’s absolute sign, his full articulation of the image aspires to the ubiquitous space of poetry, where manually forming the sheet in folds and segments that project onto the paper’s flat surface, where the cut sign and water-coloured drafts follow and pursue streams of thought in combining with an impulse of pervasive writing, and of total poetry. In fact, there have been numerous and intense relations between Gubinelli’s art and that of poets: between papers, signs and verses dedicated to his expressive story, his conducting and communicating an extreme and inexhaustible junction between vision and poetry. Almost as though a sort of natural magnetisation of spirit and script destines and urges to interaction, a shared dictate, a similar mania of poiesis.
Perhaps it all hails back to an ancestral matrix of the sign, an anthropological primary and remote pronouncement of the sign, which without limits began to signify differences of sense and script. Those distant times heralded the onset of a sensitive and emotional pronouncement, a poetical pronouncement that led to the first articulations, the first grammars and architectures of the sign and of the work in vision and hearing. As only the power of art can regenerate and make topical, the art and poetry of Gubinelli’s sign prove to stir such distant roots, such profound origins between sign and word. His visible architecture of the sign sinks its web in poetry, his measure of the sign and colour in the harmonic metrics of the verse. In effect, according to imminent linguist Roman Jakobson, there is a remarkable analogy between the role of grammar in poetry and the role of composition for the painter.
Luigi Paolo Finizio
Sorrento May 2010
Online Retrospective “Baufirm”, 2011
Nova Library, text by L.P. Finizio,
Florence Local Authority, Q4 2012
Orangery of Villa Vogel, text by L.P. Finizio
Florence Local Authority, Q4 2012
Orangery of Villa Strozzi, text by L.P. Finizio
Florence Local Authority, Q4 2012
LUIGI PAOLO FINIZIO 2010
Gubinelli’s ceramic mark
It is stated that marks have come before writing and, since that time, communication was only based on the oral tradition.
Marks revenge their own independent concept, its expressive autonomy , and, from then on, the mark is not only depending on words but it embodies each material which holds it, taking a shape with its stroke.
Gubinelli’s mark is an abstract mark which appears, by its nature, prone to such a spreading out since his studies of architecture. And really, starting from that time, it’s easy to understand and appreciate the special concept of his mark on the sheet of paper: the transparencies
and the opacities, from the brightness of the whites to the innumerable shades of the dull colours winding themselves as in “telero paintings”*.
The mark, as a glimmer of light, sticks on the fragile papery stand, sometimes it engraves the support, sometimes it juts out of the background and sometimes it is wide and rich of colours in its faint and trimmed edges.
Now, this mark thanks to the power of the fire, takes the consistency of material and colour in pottery.
Gubinelli’s mark is free and mild, dancing, waving and tossing but steady , firm and concrete melting poetry with the type of materials.
The idea of composition which was born as a stroke on a sheet of paper, enlarges and forms itself on a pottery work by the techniques and feasible steps which from a mould in plaster transform themselves in the final work after baking the ceramics.
The concept of idea changes into material and its anicronic sense assumes thickness and strength.
Gubinelli’s mark gives the poet’s neat and white paper the function to mould the space by various woven webs of colour.
On the pottery, the power of the fire poses and transfers the same idea of imagination and the same light mobility of mark and colour, but the nature of the material reveals its own characteritics and physical peculiarities. The provoking running and fluid play of marks and colours on paper, becomes project, matrix and its variations. By different times of baking the moulds, the mark and colour become more clear and neat thanks to the brightness of the ceramic.
A line and a chromatic lying lye on “ rilievi” on ceramic in a stronger and thick way comparing “ the scretches on paper”.
Luigi Paolo Finizio
Sorrento May 2010
Online Retrospective “Baufirm”, 2011
Nova Library, text by L.P. Finizio,
Florence Local Authority, Q4 2012
Orangery of Villa Vogel, text by L.P. Finizio
Florence Local Authority, Q4 2012
Orangery of Villa Strozzi, text by L.P. Finizio
Florence Local Authority, Q4 2012
LUCIANO MARZIANO 2010
Of the many exegeses of Paolo Gubinelli’s opus, characterised by their acuteness and illuminating explanation of the artist’s path, Giulio Carlo Argan defined the fundamental nature, though in the form of a personal letter. Though claiming his own primigenial rationalism, the great art historian considered several criticisms to this line as not unfounded, especially those from the so-called post-modern camp, and admitted with the enlightened spirit that permeated his thought that crossing borders would later become current thought in the making of contemporary art. This brings on a by-now consolidated collapse of executive hierarchies in favour of an expressiveness based on the radical quest for the foundations of visibility, such as space, light, compositional rhythms, to be realised or “found”, under any shape and figure, as long as it is organically coherent. Paolo Gubinelli is inside this dimension. The prevalent abstract declination of his work, in which this dimension is at times suggested as a memory of figural recognizability, develops on several versants with the use of minimal means such as paper, at times cardboard, and of soft techniques such as watercolours or pastels. In this journey that pronounces a strong conceptual component, the installation-event is impactive.
Instead of canvas, which he employed at the beginning of his career, Gubinelli uses paper, not for some prejudicial inclination towards “poor” materials, but as supports with inedited expressive possibilities. Its absorbency and lightness permit results that from the apparent casualty of signs, their expansion and their wandering over surfaces, form a ground where they are arranged like emblems of a quiet consciousness that recedes into representing turbulent air, constant pelting rain, or pacifically exalt a ringing, solar colour. The support thus becomes the spatial “event” where Gubinelli’s various expressive modalities come together, from structuring a rational, almost geometrical layout to the abstract fluidity with an informal ductus.
The permanence of the constructive compulsion, connected to the artist’s existential path and his professional practise as a draughtsman and a graphic designer, is clearly apparent in his marked cardboard, cut with a blade and then folded by hand. Cuts and folds that drape down to the floor create a virtual dimension of infinity. It is the materialization of space, almost an instance of concreteness that also emerges in the practise of collage, where the static nature of the support is animated by introducing other pre-made and predetermined materials.
Emotiveness, the amount of casualty in signs expanding and flowing, and the paper support crossing borders, exhibit something of a pause through the material relationship with ceramic, and then resume their motion in the groove of the conceptual presuppositions that animate Gubinelli’s work. The functional executive slowness deriving from manipulation, the consequent reflexive margins produced, and the connections and incisive technical problems, almost naturally refer to naturally modulated procedures, though in the smoothness of the configurations of signs. The artist intercepts and principally recovers the classical round shapes of the plate and, more rarely, of the square. These shapes and typologies take on the form of ground, an experimentally operative ambit, where the demand for an uncontainable mental order is projected and, I dare say, documented. It is no coincidence that this ambit attributes evidence to geometrical figures like the triangle, the square, the semicircle; the very line of demarcation spreads out into the canonical directions of horizontal and vertical. The points of interference and the symmetries, function as an optical provocation, and as the sign of a demand for mental order. The depths and reliefs are entrusted to the mainly bright grey chromatic scansion, which connect with the original specificity that characterises and involves all of Gubinelli’s work.
Tarquinia, April 2010
Tarquinia, aprile 2010
Galleria Miralli, a cura di A. Miralli, 2010
Palazzo Giorgi, Comune di Poppi, Arezzo
Ed. Comune di Poppi, 2012
Palazzo Giorgi, Poppi Local Authority, Arezzo
Grotta Giusti Resort, Golf & Spa, Monsummano Terme (PT)
FABRIZIO D’AMICO 2012
It is difficult to write briefly of Paolo Gubinelli, as almost four decades have past since a very select group of critics, with singular attention (and focusing only on his painting, rather than- as it often happens- digressing and finding themselves victims of their own verbosity), has set itself the task of enumerating his steps and explaining his motives with lucidity, and not without a rare interpretative ambition. It is not easy to speak of this work of paper, simply paper (if we set aside for the moment the recent ceramics, and a few older exceptions), but of which it has already been supposed once (Trini, 1994) that his chosen medium is not in fact simply resolved for the language which he uses, which is not in any case limited or restricted uniquely to the project, nor is it the custodian of the mere “drawing” of the work. Nor is it easy to comprehend in which cultural niche this work is to be situated: as it is, it seems to me, moved by impulses oriented in multiple directions, and not so in its interior as it has sometimes been supposed- and as the exclusive selection of paper and the choice of using a support of small format might lead to suspect.
The multiplicity of orientations that Gubinelli assumes during a rather long work-period also justifies the lengthy enumerations of the experiences that are part of his parametric axis, and that in time have transmitted to him decisive creative impulses: from Fontana to Burri, from Klee to Rothko, from Melotti to Licini, from Yyves Klein to Carla Accardi… And so, from the rationalist premise to a conceptual distance from the traditional aspect of the work, through an abstraction rich of emotions and memories and a modernist experimentalism. And, I might add, from minimalism to Zen philosophy, from surrealism to signic art. The “excess” of memory that sometimes seems to burden this route (and that, recalled from his copious exegesis, may have occasionally weighted on Gubinelli’s shoulders like hard to bear burden) is therefore justified primarily by the mobility of his painting: which he- far from being, as it was once supposed, the painter of only one picture- has intended as research finalized to probing different methods and possibilities, delegating only to the fidelity to paper and to the mark that sparingly inscribes it that rigor of which he has always felt the need.
Therefore the ascendancy, for example, already recognized by Lara Vinca Masini in 1977, in that line that leads from Fontana to Castellani and, differently, to Dorazio, is proven by the etchings on paper of the early Seventies- dating back to the dawning of Gubinelli’s first maturity. The installations and rolls on transparent paper of the second half of the decade can justify the recall to a suggestion of Klein or Accardi; the “frottages”, also on transparent paper, of the mid-Eighties at times have consonance with early Licini works, or with the climate of precocious abstract surrealism which he breathed then in Paris; Licini who returns, but now with culture to the limit of maturity, and together this time with Melotti (the Melotti of the “Teatrini” and of the drawing, especially), to infatuate the marks that Gubinelli deposits on many of his Nineties papers.
This is the time of color; a time that lasts to this very day. A transparent, watery color, as if insecure and self-dubious: almost as if he is unaware of the depth of how much that color will be called to charge itself, in the new pictorial page that it contributes to found. Of course, the introduction of this tenuous water-color definitely removes Gubinelli from the severely analytic and rigorously programmatic tensions that had characterized his debut. The mark that now lives on the surface, and that begins to wander there, restless and dowsing, even if still written in first motion – as he as always done- by inscribing the paper, is by now rather distant (as was lucidly noted by Giovanni Accame in 1993) from the lessons of Fontana, as from every constructive intention (the abandonment of which is accompanied by the overtaking of the geometrical aegis). And lastly, the space generated by that clotting of deep marks has distanced itself from Castellani’s “metaphysically ingenious” space, to reach another one, balanced between dream and rationality; “to move along with the fairytale without ever entering it, without ever giving up those horizons and those licinian precipices”, in which Paolo Gubinelli now lives happily, as Venturoli wrote.
Fabrizio D’Amico, Rome, 29th April 2012
Art meets Poetry: Paolo Gubinelli at the BUB with “his poet friends”
Tonino Guerra, Davide Rondoni, Roberto Roversi
curated by Biancastella Antonino, in collaboration with Artelibro,
Critique by Fabrizio D’Amico
Bologna, University Library , Atrium of the Main Auditorium
MIRELLA BRANCA 2013
The watercolours of Paolo Gubinelli for Giusti
After certain experiences in the late 20th Century the distinctions between artistic categories are becoming more and more blurred, driven by an ever more pressing need by artists to observe the world and themselves, paying attention to a ‘within’ that has nothing to do with nineteenth Century lyricism and which is more focussed on identifying one’s own position in the world, with at times a certain disorientation when faced with a special ‘pulsing’ sensation. From this has emerged not so much a form as the work around a material expressing that pulsation, a material that on occasions could even be that of one’s own body. From this was born a sort of prevalence of thought centred around sensitivity in the face of an enigma that is difficult to interpret.
I believe that this could be a premise for the watercolours on paper of Paolo Gubinelli that accompany the love poems of Giusti. One is in the presence of an artist whose decades-long search has been absolutely consistent (continuing the experiences that can be dated to the founding fathers around mid-century), entirely performed, since the mid seventies, on the single ‘medium’ of paper: folding, cutting, scratching, frottage and finally colour. That his journey was always in the making, a search “anything but closed”, Lara-Vinca Masini had already documented in the wonderful pages written about his work, in 1977 and even more in the following years. There are many references to the work of that period, and of the eighties, by the many famous critics who have written of the work of Gubinelli: from the first folds of monochrome paper, sometimes laid along the ground and later a single long sheet of transparent paper suspended from the ceiling in a location so light as to as to give the observer the sensation of being able to glimpse behind a different reality.
In any case it was a path that in the light and space invoked by a symbol has found its fulcrum: certainly behind it there was above all Fontana, and then also Castellani, or Piero Manzoni, or Melotti; certainly there was also Balla with his Iridescent Interpenetrations, but more than a case of ‘looking at’ it was finding the inspiration from which to begin. Thus paper folded into triangles could also be placed on two different levels (echoes of Munari’s “Travel Sculptures”?) to indicate the centrality of the search within space.
Writers have wanted to experience for themselves the techniques Gubinelli uses in his work on these sheets. The artist responded willingly, in no way feeling violated. He took a sheet of paper, reminding us of the importance of the quality of the paper, always hand-made, choosing for every new application a different thickness bearing in mind the correct slight relief that the scratches would have to impart to the paper.
The paper ‘accepts’ every single minute action that touches it (hence always the ‘medium’?). It is the same material on which words are written ... words of love even. The artist is before a blank sheet, as is a writer is before a blank page, in a search for quality in a world which will be evoked by a symbol rather than a meaning ascribed to the written word. A scratch, created as the result of a momentary gesture with a cutter, impacts for ever and indicates a direction (to see him intent evokes the image of his younger self already with cutter in hand in certain beautiful photos in small catalogues from the seventies; but also evokes the hands of Munari in his laboratory when he was transforming the materials he was manipulating into something else). The incredulity of the critic surrenders in the face of the evidence, that scratch of the cutter hasn’t cut. It has become a sign, almost a small crease in relief.
The scratch has also caused something else: there’s a shadow, an oblique light, an effect that changes as the light changes or if we move our position even slightly. Something’s happening, on that sheet. The scores follow different directions. They are diagonals, arcs, which then intersect and seem to fluctuate, or juxtapose tightly together. A more complex dynamism is created that goes beyond the sheet, not only at its edges but within, as if a new depth had been determined: space is concentrated there. How many signs, and how many gestures, in twentieth century art! They have changed our lives, transforming our way of being in the world into one of contemplating the stars.
In a planned growth (and Gubinelli has drawn plans, almost maps; he has even been part of the world of design), in his current work the cosmos placed on these sheets is defined with colour: pastels or, in our case, watercolours. To the observer his modern sheets evoke the pictorial experiences of the Americans, as Bruno Corà already showed in 2002, to which we seem to have returned, but more than a return it is perceived coincidences along a magisterial road towards depth of colour, within which the emotions are concentrated: maybe today more than Barnett Newman and Rothko. But in this context the name of Joseph Kosuth also emerges (not so much as a general direction of search, more in the sense of emotions aroused by the magical blending of shades in coloured neon writing?)
They are wide or narrow bands, laid out by the brush with the watercolour sometimes denser, sometimes more dilute: graduations entirely of red or a wide grey band against a red or yellow one, or yellow and grey-blue arcs on blurred horizontal red and grey bands. It’s as if it were no longer necessary to communicate by superimposing one transparent sheet on another because the different planes are all there, conjured up within that single sheet through the stronger or weaker concentration of colour
Above all else, even though traced first, are those scratches. More and more it is coloured matter that vibrates in the light.
That vibration is almost like the unveiling of a secret. From it can arise, as a number of times has happened to Gubinelli, a coincidence with the work of poets (once the artist wrote “harmonic vibration / the poetic sound of sheets that graze the wall … love of the material that I desire / to break and that I continue to caress”). Something has vibrated, in reading the love poems of Giusti, or in visiting his house: the colours of the nineteenth century wash on the walls and ceilings; the library with the poetic evocation of the image of “Faith In God” by Bartolini.
The progress of man continues in time, taking paths that mark the passage of the centuries, sometimes with unexpected resonances beyond the obvious signs.
To the writer, in their familiarity with the personality and writings of Giusti, comes the memory that Luigi Baldacci, to whom we are indebted for pages of beautiful literary critiques of the poets, once asked when seeing a garment smelling of age and the dust of time “And if we should try to bring it back to life?” The writer has recalled this a number of times, and has already understood what an immense task it is. Thus, bearing in mind the philological studies promoted for the recent celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of Giusti, this combination of contemporary presences in the house where he was born appears to be a really ‘just’ way to bring it back to life, an intelligent choice on the part of the directors.
Florence, December 2013
Giusti Museum, Monsummano Terme, Pistoia
Ed. Catia Breschi PT
ROBERTO CRESTI 2016
BEYOND THE LINE
The moon of my sky to my continual torment
is ever steady, ever full.
In order to capture the beginnings of Paolo Gubinelli’s creative activity, free and unfolded from different visual areas, and the reasons that bring him today to engage, after other associations with poets past and present, with the works of Giacomo Leopardi, it is necessary to hark back to the context of the XXIX Venice Biennial (1958) when, admittedly with some precedents earlier in the century, there was born an operative orientation, in some ways “intermediate” between the principal artistic genres and, in primis, between painting and sculpture.
Gillo Dorfles immediately described the fact, in general, as a “syntactic dimension […] of bonds interconnecting the signs themselves rather than those interconnecting […] between the signs and their significance or the signs and their users”. In brief, as an affirmation of centripetal and almost solipsistic formalism though not closed in a sign or in plastic borders. The materials themselves attested to this and to the “how” they became worked or created, almost indicating a threshold or a line along which could be discerned a “beyond”
And in fact the aesthetic relationship that the work of these artists sustains with the space, with the absence or with the unformed – and could be discerned in many cases, from Mark Tobey and the Northwest School to Mark Rothko, from Lucio Fontana to Antoni Tàpies – immediately gave the observer the impression of surpassing the three natural dimensions (to a human being: length, height, depth) in favour of a “fourth dimension”, which had already been a Leitmotiv of nineteenth and twentieth century art and of which an authentic, if forgotten, manifestation a posteriori (though with many formal intuitions “to come”) was certainly The Life of Space (1928) by Maurice Maeterlinck.
Maeterlinck, embracing a broad counterpoint between art and science, maintained that research into physics, mathematics and geometry of the preceding centuries had brought into focus a diffuse and almost intangible reality, which constituted the basic fabric of every manifestation of nature and of the human mind itself: “at the touch of a wand of a genius of physics, space awakens, revives, multiplies, is filled with facts and unexpected events, enlarges as far as the eye can see”
It was a kind of Zwischenweg, of “middle path” through all things, which conferred on the entire universe a “how much” or a “limit” of formal indetermination, revealing the existence, indeed, of a “fourth dimension”, of an infinite space embracing all things that, by “common sense”, appeared “in contradiction”. A space populated by geometric figures in permanent metamorphosis according to a synchronism of entities; punctiform, linear, plane or “solid” but without thickness.
Let Us Continue
Returning now, with these theoretical considerations, to the context of the aforementioned Biennial, it should be added that Dorfles suggested a “new phase of modern art”, with a difference of intent to the choices of the early Avant-Garde (Cubism, Futurism, The Blue Rider) given by the definitive removal of the subject or of the (recognisable) objective content of the form, a similar difference, one could add, to a detachment both at a sensitive and intellectual level of the Self from the work, which also seemed to happen in certain models of infra-formal architecture such as that conceived by Giovanni Michelucci (with whom Gubinelli had contact) for the church designed and built on the Autostrada del Sole near Florence in 1960-1964.
At the beginning of this tendency there is a widely acknowledged debt to the “spatial concept” of Fontana, a formula that delivered in fact in the most appropriate intellectual instrument to describe the “informal” yet aesthetic foundation of that art orientated, in one way or another, toward the “fourth dimension”. But how could it be that a “concept” founded a type of art “informally”? Realism involves mimicry, idealism involves stylization, and so on. Here they do not. The practice did not reflect in any way a precise canon of implementation, rather, it resisted it, staying true to indeterminate possibilities in its implementation so as to transform itself into an act the opposite to the traditional, that is to say a “subtractive”, “continuous-discontinuous” act of reducing the matter involved.
On closer inspection of this can be seen a tradition, still comparatively recent, of ambiguously-expressive strategies, from Joseph Mallord William Turner to Claude Monet, from Vincent van Gogh to Paul Gauguin, from Wassily Kandinskij to Paul Klee, as far as Hans Hartung and Cy Twombly or Henri Michaux, artists who had been or were almost always in communion with the East in its most subtle aesthetic forms and correlated to ritual practices often belonging to daily life. Even the interest in paper as the carrier of images (the latter mutated, sometimes, into writing) could relate to those aforementioned, and had links to the practice of Zen painting in Japan.
But whatever the sources that fuelled the work of those artists, we can no longer put off asking ourselves what was the “spatial concept” of Fontana, to which Gubinelli assigns the role of a decisive acquisition for his way of approaching art, not just in historical trends, i.e. at the end of the 50’s (he was born in 1945), but a little later, when “the new phase of modern painting”, as Dorfles had described it, revealed (as always occurs) possibilities, and not a set of rails on which art ran without remission. To choose it was therefore a free act and not an alignment in any way mandatory.
What then was this “spatial concept”? A double negative, though one that implies an affirmation of parts (logical or material) inherent in each of the two negations themselves. Neither idea nor matter, neither figure nor sign, but the relative influence of one extreme on the other in an instant, or in a longer period, but in any case relative to itself or to a hypothetical viewpoint endowed with the same conditions. A kind of partial eclipse, of positive entropy, in the way of meeting between two celestial bodies such as the Earth and the Moon seen from a third mutable star. In art: neither painting nor sculpture, though with a contest of its respective materials, of solids and voids, of outlines and surfaces, that delimited a shape without defining it, in other words that expressed by way of hints, at most, always asymmetrical and variable and possibly intimately phase shifted from its own intermittencies (holes, cuts, etc.).
The “spatial concept” did not limit anything: indeed it made all “space” subjective matter of a narrative without subject, “intentionalising” (to use a lemma of Phenomenology) the aforesaid “fourth dimension”, which cannot be reached because in it there is no kinetic movement, but that, viewed from the other three, seems to be the suspension of all phenomena in a sort of flotation or contactless proximity (as in Alexander Calder’s mobiles). It was a “journey to the limit,” the undertow of a sea in which through all the conflicts of modernity, “the shipwreck” could eventually become “sweet”, according to a verse too well-known to require quotation, that Fontana invoked in his masterly Bara del marinaio (1957).
On the Way
Now we are on the road that finally has brought Gubinelli to Casa Leopardi. But we are still here to give you, the reader, some information about the journey. Many years have in fact passed from the artist’s beginnings in the wake of that hypnotic “ syntactic dimension [...] of bonds interconnecting the signs themselves”, that emerged from the Biennale more than half a century ago, and he has always remained faithful to the lesson of the “spatial concept” of Fontana and the universe of possibilities arising within it and around it, so that almost all the names of the artists we have mentioned are alluded to in some way by his experiments, with the delicacy of a dialogue among initiates.
Gubinelli in general has further refined what was already subtle and has rendered it more essential, projecting its proper function like an invisible prism, in which the cuts, folds and all that he has applied to his materials, or has derived from them, are the unextended sides and the contemporaneous profiles, analogous to the mutable figures of the “fourth dimension” of Maeterlinck. Paper quickly appeared to him the essential material for his work, like a threshold between visible and invisible on which to exercise his eye (and certainly his experience in graphics must have contributed to his choice).
An analogous fascination for this medium, as for other media similar in effect, without monochromatic or polychromatic depth, from which to conjure up subtle and often interstitial presences, is present in the artists he likes to make reference to and who he has met such as Bruno Munari, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Piero Dorazio, Emilio Scanavino, Mario Nigro, Sol Lewitt and Giuseppe Uncini. These are varied and different from each other, but what they have in common is the ambiguity between the geometry, the free grapheme and the image, or between the sign and the background that makes it visible; from which arises, at times, the “indeterminate” reciprocity between painting and sculpture which Gubinelli has interpreted, developing many environments in which he has organised exhibitions of his paper.
However, it is not necessary here to summarise more than five decades of work. The most eloquent record resides in the works produced for this exhibition, graced by “terrible” comparison (in equal measure for those who must write about it) with Giacomo Leopardi. Having arrived at the House that interests us in Recanati, let us now enter together (without opening the door).
It is of the Romantics – on Baroque aesthetic foundations – this discovery of the “fourth dimension”. Ample proof of this is supplied by Friedrich Hölderlin, Novalis, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats and naturally Giacomo Leopardi. At the beginning it is the consciousness of temporal limits of which vestiges of the most noble and idealised past are revealed as subjects: from classical monuments and all antique art to gothic cathedrals; finally the question involves the relationship of man with nature and with himself.
Das Werden im Vergehen (“Becoming in Dissolution”), die Selbstdurchdringung (“the self-penetration [of the Self]”), the esemplastic power of imagination, the negative capability [of the poet], the echo of “remembrance”, are some of the formless categories in which we capture a revocation of logic based on the principles of non-contradiction and on common sense. (Corresponding artistic evidence can be found in the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, of John Constable, or of the previously mentioned Turner. Friedrich, in particular, seems a “double” of Leopardi with the Island of Rügen and the hills of Dresden almost interchangeable with Recanati and its surroundings).
Looking for hidden correspondences and relationships (“I am infinitely in connection” said Hölderlin) became a categorical imperative, which even subverted the distinction between natural and artificial, opening the way for a “modernity” expressed by a Self capable of making itself the centre and of transforming all “finite” material available, or that study had made it such, in an infinite journey of approaches and revocations. Biography, as “spatial concept” of life and nature, transformed itself into a point of “view-and-reform” of “known” things, in which forgotten or omitted, and unknown, aspects were uncovered and brought to light in a never-ending process. Charles Baudelaire will speak, finally, of a “Self thirsty for the non-Self”; and will be able to translate and initiate the best of romanticism in the XX century.
Leopardi, in this sense, is not just the greatest “modern” poet of our literature, a poet whose field is at the same time European without leaving home, but because in his work there is in turn a “terrible” affinity with various questions which have been dealt with earlier. Meanwhile the extraordinary ability to make literature as a whole a ‘body’, abolishing genres or remoulding them in a language where they collectively echo “another time”. And then the language itself that he adopts is a vast synthesis of memories which carries with it, as Giuseppe Ungaretti says, the best of five centuries of literature; and that recreates life, even today, before our eyes.
There is also in Leopardi a metaphysics of the everyday, combined with a broad and persuasive reflection on the limits of the world. And here the “confine” appears as a “spatial concept”, a subtle and formless form, extremely dense in Zibaldone, rustling in Canti; a sensitive thought, and feelings that become ever more repeated thoughts with volitive inspiration, resistant to the rhetoric of the marvellous, erased and rewritten by the everyday. The library is another version of this. The library at home, which formed the first threshold to the infinite: the studied pages and the voracious and faithful writing of “outcomes”.
It is on this fact that Gubinelli has fixed his attention (or so it appears to me). I could not otherwise find a parallelism, which does indeed exist, each according to its place. He brings to you a synthesis of the time, in turn rich in memories and open from the beginning of the “fourth dimension”, which Alfred North Whitehead put in relation to the present as a “vital fringe of memory coloured with anticipations.” His cuts and colours do this: intermittent filters of an internal and external view.
Remembering to anticipate and anticipating the memory to draw even more remote memories from life is the method of a “making infinite” in any circumstance where art and criticism, as with Leopardi, are one and the same. Gubinelli’s installation of paper in the room adjacent to the study of Monaldo Leopardi foreshadows, in fact, the flight of a son from the confines of his father, which is an extension well beyond that of the intransigent sovereignty of the Master of the House. In this way he alludes to a silent breach, as was that which the thoughts of Giacomo produced in that curved and bound paper. Or as “modern” artists have done, rediscovering the West through the East.
The comparison avails itself of handwritten Leopardine pages, in which one can read verses of celebrated poetry and, obviously, of the Infinite, which trace a line relative to which it is impossible to assume a fixed position, but it is also necessary not to fix one, as if moving were the true way of staying still and vice-versa, which is similar to reaching the beginning by reading the verses. This was “nature” for Leopardi who “proceeds” and “appears still”, and in parallel was the “mind” which from the Latin mens shares its etymology with mensis (“month”), derived from the lunar cycle (i.e. men).
Beyond The Line
The Moon, symbol of the “dominant culture” and of the ‘’beyond’’, which gives and conceals, traces an ambiguous line around human life, which bleaches the world, but stimulates us to seek, in the dark, the diaphanous colours of a limitless “fourth dimension”.
Oltre la linea is the Italian title of an exchange of epistolary essays between Ernst Jünger and Martin Heidegger, whose theme is the surpassing of the limits of physics and metaphysics, but which highlights how, precisely from the claim to the transcendence, the stranglehold of the finite is created. Wisdom wants to move beyond the world, seeing it as a step on a journey that
. G. Ungaretti, Influenza di Vico sulle teorie estetiche d’oggi, in Id., Vita d’un uomo. Saggi e interventi, edited by M. Diacono e L. Rebay, Mondadori, Milan 1974, pp. 350-351.
is already taking place and which demands courage and tenderness, as Leopardi had in this “savage town”, now made even more so by the measure of the surveyor. But on high, over the rooftops, the Moon remains unchanged and the Infinite calls on the mind to divest itself of unnecessary fripperies. ‘Bon voyage’ therefore to Gubinelli and (even more) to those who write about him, united (and happy, may I say?) in the same “shipwreck”.
Roberto Cresti, May 2016
Casa Leopardi Recanati, 2016
MARCO MARCHI 2016
Dream and Reason: Gubinelli meets Zanzotto
Anyone familiar with Paolo Gubinelli’s work will be aware of his not infrequent links with poetry, by which I mean written poetry in its widest and most disparate, indeed at times contrasting range of forms and expression, by very different authors, ranging from a text by Maria Luisa Spaziani (particularly dear to Gubinelli) to work by Edoardo Sanguineti, or to a true 20th-century Italian poet belonging exclusively to the century we have just left behind, such as Clemente Rebora, or his equally authoritative and credible contemporary, Aldo Palazzeschi.
In the collaborative sample that Gubinelli’s biography offers, this polyvalence is evident. Nevertheless, I have no hesitation in believing that in such a wide accredited variety, it was the discovery of the verse of Andrea Zanzotto which turned out to be one of the most entailing, if not the most implicative. I wish to define this meeting as an absolutely decisive encounter, in particular that with four extraordinary texts from Zanzotto’s collection of poetry, Sovrempressioni (Superimpositions), which has been concretely expressed in Gubinelli’s work. The encounter was decisive in that Gubinelli, in a Barthesian fashion, seems to have always sought the poet from Pieve di Soligo, Andrea Zanzotto, as if he had intuitively perceived in him and in his work a magnetic primigenial discord in search of a composition not far removed from that which motivated his own personal career as an artist. In other words, Zanzotto is seen as Paolo Gubinelli’s chosen poet.
In a memorable criticism dedicated to the collection La Beltà (Beauty), the Italian poet Eugenio Montale noted in Zanzotto “the tragic discord between what Christians call “the soul” and what scientists call “the psyche”. In pointing out this double knot, Montale centred on and foresaw current and future developments in the works of the poet, throwing light onto the techniques and devices used to deal in writing with this revelation, this dormant, re-emerging need for investigation: “Zanzotto does not describe, he circumscribes, envelopes, takes and then leaves”. This is, in fact, the way in which Zanzotto moves among phonic-imaginative materials which crowd his extraordinary and interminable 20th-century poet’s workshop, comprising semantic and pre-semantic materials, grammatical and pre-grammatical combinations, linguistic and pre-linguistic solutions, constantly in search of the philosopher’s stone which would allow him to reproduce in verse the deeply personal and alienating sequence of events, or fabula, experienced. To quote Montale, the poet manages to create “imaginative and highly evocative poetry which acts like a drug on the judicial intellect of the reader”, attaining a balance between self-realization and relationship with reality through a kind of “mobility, at the same time both physical and metaphysical”.
A “simultaneous physical and metaphysical mobility” which I now find in the works of Paolo Gubinelli”, where “analytical reason” and “gestural emotion” present themselves as inseparable elements, called together in a set of behavioural dynamics of signs whose rhythmic harmony and variegated colours leap elsewhere, aiming towards the “essential purity of light-colour” (Cerritelli). It is a fact that on reading Zanzotto’s high-level, paradigmatic poetry, just as when admiring the exquisitely fine art of Gubinelli, you reach a moment in which the effect of the extraordinarily expressive poetry, together with all the possible acrobatics created by semantic depths and exchanges, by analogies and simultaneity, suddenly ceases, is nullified, and the mind, freed from winking temptations and fascinations, suddenly not only reacquires full consciousness, but is also empowered by the experience from which it emerges, reaching the height of the artistic experience granted, in the ontological coexistence of two levels.
In other words, when Zanzotto’s words and Gubinelli’s lines and colours “leave”, it is inevitable that rational judgement and lucid criticism, which the vision had either momentarily cast aside or transfigured by magically superimposing itself and its features upon the viewer’s attention, should return, or be re-discovered. A parallel in literature which takes the reader on a quintessential syncretistic journey among differing emotions and reflections; between id and conscience, back in art historiography to the twentieth-century crossroads with Mondrian and informality, order and vitality, can be found in the last verse of Zanzotto’s poem, Filò.
“Zanzotto’s poetry”, as was acutely noted by the critic Stefano Dal Bianco, “is a scientific attack on the divine mystery of Nature”. In the memorably intense final lines of the poem Zanzotto has just saluted his Venetian dialect and noted that the “landscape”, the object of his inspection has in no way changed but remained as tragically devastated as that which previously suffered in the Friuli region, with the Vajont dam disaster, due to the draining and destructive neo-capitalism of our time. And yet the poet approves as good and right, the extension of meaning of a word (and indeed of a heart-felt word “par excellence” such as that of a local dialect) to be included in an ecological action opening up to the future: to human hope, according to the prospect of palingenesis or rebirth which can be traced back to the complex relationship of “transcendence” between self and Nature, arrived at in a book written many years later, the Holderlinian collection Sovrimpressioni (Superimpressions), moving with full awareness from “stellar” to “corporeal”, from “alien” to “real”, and finally landing in the “LONTANO QUI” (distant present).
The strings of emotion have been plucked at their highest pitch and now that the farewell to the reader of Filò is near, this moment suggests, by antithesis, liberation, just as in the poem by Ugo Foscolo, Dei Sepolchri, (Of the Sepulchres).
The lines in italics are the original poem in Zanzotto’s Venetian dialect, and below, a possible paraphrasing, given that there can be many interpretations.
But from the few wood coals from up here / from the warm stream from up here/ if the threads, if the threads / of dreaming and reasoning interlace / up here around the breeze of stars / our thousand words will light up / in a conversation that will be the same for all / as deep as a kiss / open to light and to darkness / before the ever-present cleaver planted in the dark with its clear cut and freshly sharpened blade).
Which is the equivalent to saying that with this mingling between textually juxtaposed and hybridized neighbours, achieved through shared imagining and reasoning, we have, in short, a revival of the artistic bet made by a poet like Zanzotto and a painter such as Gubinelli, two upright and magnificent models in the sight and in the name of men.
Marco Marchi, Firenze, 2016
Professor of Modern and Contemporary Italian Literature - University of Florence
Biblioteca Lazzerini Comune di Prato, 2016
Ediz. Alredy toscana - Viareggio (LU)
MARCO MENEGUZZO 2016
I’ve decided to write about you by writing to you, an obsolete classical rhetorical device, I know, but which I feel in this case is the perfect means by which to understand your work. A letter implies a sort of intimacy, a relationship between just two people, the writer and the reader, and it is only later on that the content can be divulged to a general group of readers. It is this sense of dialogue between two people which I wish to retain. You could claim that this letter was written with the knowledge that it was going to be published, and that’s true, but in spite of its form – the epistolary style - it still retains that feeling of privacy, or even reserve, intrinsic to a letter, and that is what I want.
Despite the fact that a number of purely casual circumstances have prevented us from actually ever meeting, I still feel I’ve known you for years, for many years in fact, from right back to when I used to hear from you directly and frequently, as well as getting the odd news through friends. I remember, for example, a few things told to me by Fabrizio D’Amico, who used to tactfully, and never irritatingly, keep me up to date on your work and research through pictures, the occasional catalogue and even seasonal greetings. Hence, your presence became consolidated in my mind, in the knowledge that somewhere in Tuscany lived a kind, secluded artist who was making himself known and remembered.
You, like any other reader, could object that all the above is simply about your life, which concerns only who you are as a person and not as an artist …. but no, that’s not true, because I believe that the person and the artist are one and the same identity, in the finest tradition whereby the artist achieves his or her best as a person (as a man, one would have said before politically correct language became mandatory, so let’s keep neutral).
Let me explain what I mean. For you, being an artist is a need that goes far beyond the art system that defines what an artist is and who is or isn’t one. You have chosen, for example, not to throw yourself into the arena of comparison and competition, nor to follow stylistic or market trends, and I am convinced that you will never stop doing what you are doing now, because this means more to you in terms of your life than in terms of success. In the same way, in line with your unshakeable beliefs, you are not worried about being consonant with history, nor with the history of shapes and images, and this leads to a dual outcome: on the one hand it makes your relationship with the art system much more difficult, but on the other hand it frees you completely from any kind of criticism, contestation or judgment apart from your own personal evaluation, within a system that is totally yours and in which you are the sole point of reference. Certainly, all of this does not justify any old artistic output , and I would not have written to you or about you without taking this aspect into consideration, by which I am referring to the formal result of your work itself. Nonetheless, it is your particular attitude towards art, which puts into the background even that which an artist considers most important, namely, the work itself. What is more, although it is undoubtedly true that no one starts their research in the dark, or fails to take some direction, however general it may be, on looking at your work and how it has developed, or remained, over the years, it is clear that the above can and must be discussed but always bearing in mind the way in which you approach it, the tenacity with which you enter your atelier, and the way you not only carry out research and study but have always done so.
Furthermore, I have noticed how your work always unravels the relationship between sign and colour , where the sign emerges gently and elegantly among equally soft fields of colour, and I feel that in this I recognize your character, which allows things to happen on their own, whilst you limit yourself to evoking them with a kind of respect, and with the knowledge that in any case, they are going to behave according to their own nature. What emerges is a sort of abstract landscape, which in a very natural way does not speak to us of figures and symbols, but of feelings perceived when facing the world and reality, made up of imperceptible changes, like ripples made by a light breeze on a mirror of water. As you can see, I have not spoken of trends in art history, although I could have done: why not perhaps cite the “Art Informel”, or an intimist version of the Color Field Painting? Because they belong to the history of a certain period, whereas your research belongs only to you.
Biblioteca Lazzerini Comune di Prato, 2016
Ediz. Alredy toscana - Viareggio (LU)
ANNA BRANCOLINI 2018
The Signs of the Soul
What is striking, researching the art of Paolo Gubinelli, is the extreme coherence of his journey which, in a minimalism rich with echoes, examines the multiform valence of a sign capable of a dialogue with space and light, scrutinising its infinite declinations and modulations, even imperceptible, that continually open up new spaces, imbued with infinity.
In the beginning – the late seventies – there was white card.
Silent and measured scores, in which the apparently geometrical sign breaks the surface or materialises in rigorous folds that, in a supervised reduction of expressive means, seem to investigate, analyse and measure the space in an ideal way: not only to redevelop our perceptive data - according to the typical research of the period - but also to suggest new trajectories of freedom and to create, through extremely refined games of light and shadow, new spaces, harmonious, practicable and rich in a profound cognitive and ethical tension.
Yes, because those signs and folds that give body, thickness and movement to the card and make them appear fragments of infinity, refusing any form of closure or limit, are not only the fruit of an analytic and rigorous rationality that investigates space beyond the phenomenon, as Argan has already suggested; they are the expression of an inductive and metalogic rationality, free and intuitive, which is coloured by poetic palpitations.
Thus geometrics fades and is charged with subtle tremors, hidden pulses and sonic vibrations that are extinguished in whispers, finally silence, while the gesture that determines it, despite its strength and precision, is never final.
It couldn't be thus.
Gubinelli has respect for the 'other'. And this other is that in the first place the card is not pure support, it is an integral and unavoidable part of the work. Handmade card, rich in warmth, sought after for its different thicknesses, its different tactility, the smoothness or apparent roughness of its surface and finally for the infinite declinations of a white that evokes purity, candour, grace and a quiet completely outside of time.
The card is a constant presence in Gubinelli's work, alluded and referred to, in an oxymoronic fashion, even when the artist works in other materials. It is the sign of his marchigiano roots, of his personal memories, both geographic and historical.
It is a card that surrenders itself to a symbol/character which is, in the first place, that of the artist, who traces his intimate alphabet onto these sheets expressing his inner reality, writing the book of his life. This process is evident especially when the sign loses its Euclidean features and becomes freer, more airy, sweeter, decisive even, but nevertheless loaded with an evocative charm that creates suspended atmospheres, sometimes deviant and incongruous paths, enveloping spirals or lines of escape.
This metamorphic sign, always different yet always the same, is thus charged with multiple values and becomes at the same time an archetypal sign, an archaic trace of a humanity outside of history and symbol / history that recovers the tradition of our past; but it is also absolutely individual, a sign that "says me" and transports onto the card the lines that draw the artist's most hidden intimacy, the lacerations, the wounds, the pains, the voids of existence or, contrarily, the yearning for escape, the hoped-for gates towards an elsewhere of indistinct contours.
A sign of refined results, sometimes almost afraid of bringing out the most profound emotions, disturbing tensions, the saving tranquillity or the utopian paths drawn by the mind and the heart.
A sign, therefore, that evokes, creates and investigates spaces of a different nature: poised between reality, memory and dream, in a frontier dimension that turns it into fascination because it makes it elusive, evasive, pluriverse.
We could define it as a sign / elsewhere, of man and for man; the sign of a 'homo faber' that lies within and beyond individual and historical time, within and beyond the space that surrounds us.
For this reason, at a certain point, it meets colour, with its nuances, its lightness, its transparencies, its bright or evanescent tones, its pearly or blinding brightness.
With this colour the sign confronts and discourses: it runs through it, it weaves it, it cuts into it, it soaks it up. And the cuts or scratches no longer remain such, but become thin, impalpable threads that sometimes seem to recall naturalistic or figural elements, equivocal perspectives, allusive geometries and faded maps of places - real, of the soul? - how they were written; at other times they seem to evoke dreamed ghosts or to open fissures in a dimension different from our own, under the skin of the phenomenon; at yet other times they acquire thickness, relief and material consistency through the knowing use of the blade on the card and project themselves not behind, but on this side of the plane of the work, as if what lies behind the veil of things reaches out towards us.
The works thus find their fullness in what is invisible more than in what proffers itself to our visual and tactile perception, and live unexpressed, in a pregnant minimalism in which what is alluded to is made to transpire through a rarefied atmosphere, blurred and suspended, perceptive charms and trembling vibrations, following a process of progressive dematerialization that nonetheless knows deviations and returns.
The link with music is obvious. Hence the rhythmic exploration of colour and surfaces, their pulsating nature, the tremors, the whispers and the silences, in an artist who has not by chance studied the clarinet; but the relationship with poetry is also obvious and natural, which often prompted Gubinelli to present his works together with the poems of various poets, testimony to a very close consonance.
His signs, his lines, his scratches are in fact like poetic verses and words, they sometimes create singular and unexpected strophic systems or key nuclei and, like much twentieth-century poetry, they become refined, disincarnate, more rarefied and they interact in a suggestive way with the white space that contains the unexpressed and the elsewhere in which, in my opinion, the ultimate reason for his artistic research should be sought.
Thus a profound lyricism runs through Gubinelli's cards; and not only since the colour, in symbiosis with the symbol, has begun to create those dreamy and shadowy atmospheres or those evocative charms suggested by the evanescence of the powder colours spread by hand, or by the diaphanous transparency of the watercolours.
It is a lyricism present as fire under the ashes, from the monochrome cards of the Seventies, in which the cuts and folds traced in white on white and colour on colour the trajectories of worlds, intimate and cosmic at the same time, and the rhythmic and regular examinations of space pulsed with unexpected and imperceptible chiaroscuro tremors or hot and unexpected tactility that allowed every rational and cognitive approach to evaporate and then give way to more emotional, aerial and enveloping signs, true cryptograms and voices of the soul.
Thus the signs of that time - despite having their background in the work of Fontana, Burri, Dorazio and Castellani - were already totally different and personal. Nowhere the aggressive sign / gesture of Fontana; the sense of painful laceration of existence, expressed through crude violations of the material, was sublimated from Burri; absent were those repetitions, even though poetic, of small chromatic vectors according to preordained sequences in Dorazio; and missing from Castellani the rigour pushed to the extreme limits, the analytical vision of a space to be investigated, scanned and ordered meticulously in its infinite variations and perceptive and plastic possibilities. Instead, there was an almost feminine softness, a measured discretion and above all a very particular attention to the needs of the material, respected in its deepest and most cherished nature, touched, marked almost in fear, as something precious which one approaches with wonder and more with the heart than with the mind.
In fact, the signs, the colours, the space and the light of Gubinelli are unique.
Behind them we see significant moments and artists of the twentieth century, breathed and internalized in their seemingly irreconcilable voices, in certain antithetical aspects, which appear as if behind a veil, no more than shadows.
Shadows that undergo a process of purification and sublimation, for which Klee and Kandinsky, but also Mondrian; and then the aforementioned Fontana, Burri, Dorazio and Castellani, American analytical painting or certain oriental, even philosophical, suggestions, and finally the poetic atmospheres of Melotti and Licini remain in the background, to witness the cultural substrate of this rarefied and dematerialized art which expresses only a tremulous glimmer and a small fragment of that light and of that space, complex and multiform, which give life to his works.
Works that are never static, but full of movement thanks to the fluid and nuanced chromatisms, with their illuminations and their dissolutions that give that sense of the elusive, of a dilated and boundless space and of the appearance and disappearance of things, in a cycle of continuous transformation that envelops all and gives meaning and purpose to life.
In fact, the art of Gubinelli is an expression of life and the reason for living; and therefore it is dynamic, changeable - even in its coherent continuum - and difficult to classify because it lives on opposites that change into one another: intuition and logic, feeling and reason, free gestures and orderly succession, chaos and cosmos seem to coexist in his works, in which the signs give direction and movement, evoke forms or fragments of reality, materialize fragments of memories or dreams and the colour seems to be an opalescent and impalpable veil that opens imperceptibly on the internal and external world to probe the most hidden intimacy and, on the other hand, the immensity of infinite space and the voices of the cosmos, dissolved in rhythms, sometimes almost captured in numerical proportions or illuminated by vague flashes that open up before us the incommensurability of emptiness and the mysteries of being, resolved in fragile and precarious harmonies.
Complex art, therefore, in its apparent simplicity, as I said above.
Art as a journey through a strong cognitive yearning and a thirst for space, light and freedom that leads the artist to challenge himself with materials other than card: different materials, ductile to model themselves like plaster, opaque receptor of the soul's scratches and of cryptic writings, or ceramic, shining with delicate or intense colours; materials capable of giving answers to never dormant architectural and design tensions, such as plexiglass, because it translates into light, geometric and plastic forms, materializing into objects / sculpture discoursing with air and light, reaching out towards an ideal hypothesis or a vanishing point and patterns of floating in the void, rigorous or free; and finally, materials that enhance the concept of transparency or play with us in a jesting way, like glass, capable of giving us pages of a diary of the soul that hovers in space and passes through it. A diary on which to trace the usual signs, same and different, and to create perfectly balanced compositions, the result of a rational and speculative art in which, however, the poetic inspiration, as I have already indicated, makes that rationality fade and gives birth to the unimagined, the unexpected, the tangential line and the off-scheme.
There is no discontinuity with his works on card.
We find the same warmth, the same love of the material, the same forms, the same accepted and denied geometrism; and the suggestive circular form, rich in latent symbologies, resurfaces above all in ceramics: the Phaistos Disk, the sphere of the sun, the eastern gong, the Dionysian cycle of death and resurrection, the harmonious and Apollonian order of the cosmos.
Gubinelli is thus an artist of the present and of the past. A timeless artist, always able to rise from his own ashes, like a phoenix.
A classical artist, with a measure that recalls the Renaissance spirit and the profound, meditated and free values of gesture.
But this is precisely why there is no desertion of the metamorphic flow of existence. Instead, there is a strong desire to mark this existence, in a warm and direct contact with his material.
In this we see the Tuscan spirit of Gubinelli, alloyed to his marchigiano origins. This is where his craftsmanship is embedded, his respect for materials and his concept of space as something capable of overcoming mere dimension and private and personal needs to become everyone's space.
How could there not be harmony with Michelucci, of which Gubinelli shows us, in this exhibition at Villa Smilea in Montale, two unpublished drawings, given to him many years ago by the Pistoian architect who wanted some of Gubinelli's works to create a suggestive interaction with some of his furniture, presented in an exhibition, of which unfortunately there is now no trace, at Fantacci in Agliana? (1)
Both are in fact humble and great poets of space, creators of signs of freedom, not constraint: signs that do not conclude, but suggest; signs that try to get to the heart of things, travelled with an airy and musical movement and with a sincerity that leaves its trace - and perhaps even a catharsis - of the intricacies of the heart and mind, with their doubts, their anxieties, their hopes; signs capable of showing the creative process in its making, through their overlapping, intersecting, deviating lines that seem lost in space or establish connections and correspondences and in any case indicate a richness and a fullness that goes beyond their presence.
We see in the two drawings by Michelucci their solids and their voids, their dynamism, their polyphony, their sense of the unfinished to give a glimpse of a further reality to which the expressionistic tension of the lines tends, in part pacified, with their overlapping or thickening, tangling or unravelling, in a process of pulsating and living transformation. And we retrace the metamorphic signs of Gubinelli, that certainly generate and investigate other spaces, but equally express synthetically the constitutive principles of things and invite us to enter the work to complete it and give it a truly complete meaning.
Michelucci was the creator of a poetic and moral architecture respectful of the environment in which it had to be set and of the men who had to live in it. An architecture that made sense if and only if it was not descended from above, but was born from listening to the other, to nature, presences and absences, tradition and history: its leaving the sculptors free to trace their signs on the stones of the path that leads to the Church of the Highway is a significant example of this open and discoursive vision; its repetition of feeling itself an olive tree, an oak, a chestnut because, when it was in the midst of nature, it was in total unity with nature and immersed itself in it without interruption, it is not very different from what we perceive in the works of Gubinelli, that seem to dissolve in its very clean and vibrant signs, white on white, in its heat-rich cards, in its chromatic charms, in its powder colours or in its damp watercolours that evoke rain, swirls, tears, light breezes, mother-of-pearl light auroral glows, silent and immense cosmic spaces or states of absolute quiet. A dissolution that is then an invitation to immerse oneself in those surfaces, in those atmospheres, in those sometimes fairy-tale colours and to proceed beyond the suggested spaces, beyond those signs, those scratches, those cuts: real openings towards the elsewhere, as I said before.
What then have Michelucci and Gubinelli in common?
A poetic sense of space and mankind.
A cognitive anxiety that pushes us to scrutinize the world and the human soul, to never settle for temporary points of arrival.
A behavioural, moral and intellectual coherence capable, however, of renewing itself in parallel with the changes in life and its demands.
A continuous tension that derives from the awareness of never being able to reach an absolute truth and a definitive harbour, and is thus always projected towards the future, whilst ever ready to relive the past in an active and current way.
A deep Tuscan (and Marche) attribute that is linked to an internalized sense of roots and to the rediscovery of an artisan warmth that is the synthesis of doing and thinking, direct contact with matter, dialogue, autonomy and freedom, but also precious guardian of the most intimate and true elements of human personality; an artisan warmth that only the hand of man can give: that hand that draws, cuts, folds, traces, shapes, caresses, touches and knows the poetry of the everyday use of tools, objects and materials. Think of certain apparently incongruous details of Michelucci's furniture, of certain shapes, certain handles, certain hollows or regularities; but think also of those cards caressed by the evanescent colours of Gubinelli or engraved with those decisive and at the same time delicate signs that seem almost to humbly solicit fragments of reality and events to come to light according to their nature and their times. Think of the chalks, marble dust, ceramics ...
There is in both a modesty that is strength and wealth, a Brunelleschian measure that manages to create suggestive synergies of reason and feeling, rigour and freedom, discipline and free expression
For this precise reason the works of Michelucci and Gubinelli, in their specifics, are at the frontier of languages and their "signs" are physical presence, synaesthesia, lyrical evocation, rational research, intuition, memory and symbol. Real investigation and construction, concrete but also utopian, of ideal and moral spaces, open and achievable, never defined, always penultimate, always 'on the stocks', in search of non-predetermined harmonies, but created from time to time, in temporary and unstable equilibrium; guided by the fertile seed of doubt, with the awareness of being a speck in infinite space, inside and outside us: a space to be listened to, investigated, in an attempt to understand, if possible, if necessary in tiny fragments in its impalpable dust and its immensity.
In its mysteries.
This is why their works are rich in lack of expression and gaps, they are surrounded by light and by forests of symbols, they go towards the elsewhere. They are themselves an elsewhere.
And for this - I dare say - both have created, in different ways, a song of man, a new and modern epic of the sign and of space, capable of reflecting in the work of a single - which we perceive as an inexhaustible opus continuum - the deepest identity of a community, the rediscovery of tradition and of those most genuine ethical values, together with that need for cohesion, sharing and dialogue of which the works are at the same time mirror and allusive stimulus.
1) For the singular relationship between Michelucci's drawings and his production of furniture and furnishings, as well as for the peculiarities of these drawings, see a text written several years ago by Michelucci and M. Fantacci, the result of various informal conversations; from this text, printed in only 999 copies. Quotations from this document, where used above, are in italics. A.Brancolini-M.Biagi, Giovanni Michelucci / A living matter, Romani Typography, Monsummano Terme, 1981
E. Apice libri
Villa Smilea, Montale, 2018
Transparencies Francesco Gallo Mazzeo 2019
No scientific term has become more metaphorical than that of geometry, now far removed (and almost nobody remembers this) from its original "measure of the earth", becoming in its various declinations, from the Euclidean to the multiple and mutable non-Euclidean, an abstract and therefore metamorphic term, able to insert itself into all the infinitesimal molecular and atomic spaces,and in their spatial dilatations, tending to infinity. Transparencies are what we call knowledge, while opacity is ignorance, thus tracing the hypothetical path of a going and a coming, which is indissoluble in its mental and visual consistency and is a way of rendering everything as light does, of luminosity that shows us the prominences of the filminess of which the whole universe is made. The part that constitutes our whole is only five percent, yet for us it is so much that it sometimes confuses us and also blinds us to what we can see, in the search, of our interior and of our exterior, which paradoxically coincide in a space-time dimension which never ceases to attract and amaze. An intangible geometry, that of Paolo Gubinelli, played on a wire, on a sign, on a chromatic tract, with a possibility of variations that is a continuous transfer of enigmas and research, which speaks volumes about the supremacy of sight in the establishment of identity and genetic morphosis of the one into the other, of every one into every other, in complement with the sonority that connects everything even when it is silence, of an energy that transforms the marriage of chance and necessity in our great adventure, to see, touch, smell, feel, dream, invent (which is the human side of creating) by showing the connections that can rise and set in a mirroring of the beauty that is measure, order, symmetry and the sublime that is the loss of the border, the power of chaos , unpredictability, bewilderment.
Rome, February, 2019
Ed. Lineadarte Officina Creativa, Naples
Paolo Bolpagni, 2019
Reflections on the art of Paolo Gubinelli
To attempt a sensible contribution on the work of Paolo Gubinelli is not easy, and in some ways it may seem almost reckless, considering that many of the greatest names in contemporary Italian art have written about him, from Lara-Vinca Masini to Giulio Carlo Argan, from Enrico Crispolti to Luciano Caramel, from Paolo Fossati to Giovanni Maria Accame, from Pierre Restany to Cesare Vivaldi, from Carlo Belloli to Fabrizio D'Amico, from Bruno Corà to Claudio Cerritelli, from Giorgio Cortenova to Tommaso Trini.
In short, Gubinelli has already been analysed, placed in the right relief, understood and properly included in the development of the visual aniconic arts of the second half of the 20th Century and the first two decades of the 21st. One of the typical exercises of those who want to frame the activity and the creativity of a painter is to find antecedents, to identify formal or expressive "relationships", to insert them in a "sequence". It is a necessary and useful operation, because it facilitates the transition from criticism to history. It is more difficult, in fact, for the isolates - that is, those that are barely classifiable, which escape or absent themselves from an investigation of this type – to be acquired from the synthesis of the retrospective story (in the same way as, on the contrary, those that are too amalgamated in a trend or in a style, almost become confused with them and lose their individuality). On the other hand, nothing will ever distract me from the idea that, being individual, in his uniqueness, irreducible to any generalization, in whatever key and perspective it is (we are all different, there is little to dispute!), also in the artistic sphere, even in the obvious need to establish lines of connection and development, to recognize relationships and exchanges, to elaborate a "taxonomy" within the phenomenological complexity of expressive and formal manifestations, the problem of full and authentic understanding of the single personality remains. Rather, if we want to bring this reasoning to its extreme, we could reach the conclusion that the work itself is unique, and that discussing the global production of an artist, or even just a cycle or a series of works, risks not reaching the goal of a perfect understanding of its deepest and most genuine something.
The methodological questions I am addressing are certainly not original: it would be enough to look at Walter Benjamin and his reflections on the concept of "criticism" as "completion" of the work and "experimentation" with it, to demonstrate precedents. However, it is also true that these are questions that are no longer so common, in a reality of studies that are often trivially smoothed by irrelevant or secondary issues. These studies are almost always imported from the United States (from the dialectic between modernism and anti-modernism to gender studies), and passively accepted by those who should, if anything, draw on other roots and sources of critical reflection – European, and especially Italian and French - and from these start again on the development of a meaningful analysis and hermeneusis.
So forgive me for the digression of this theoretical premise, which arose spontaneously from meditation on the work of Paolo Gubinelli, in particular his works made with incisions on paper, with powdered colours, watercolours, architectural folds, frottages, excavations in polystyrene, and with reliefs on ceramics, porcelain and glass, of plexiglass engravings, and up to environmental installations. The variety is wide, but not disturbing, because it allows those of us who can see to grasp a continuity of formal recurrences and of intentionality and maybe even psychological attitudes underlying them (on which, however, it would be arbitrary and somewhat presumptuous to opine).
The field of image is constructed from the sign: a subtle and often irregular sign, which has found in the dynamic of scratching its own particular way of expressing itself. I do not consider it an emblem or metaphor for a wound, which would be too obvious, but a search for esprit de finesse, which reveals itself as writing in a highly personal language, a system of symbolic forms decoded only with patience and practice. In this lexicon we find structures of almost parallel lines, similar to fragments of tetragrams or pentagrams (but without notes: reference to musical annotation would be extrinsic), intersecting segments - creating obtuse and acute angles - in sequences of crosslinks, wavy and curving signs in dialectical dialogue with these, diagonals or pseudo-diagonals, groups of straight and sometimes tapering lines that cross the entire visual field of the work, irregular groupings and points, single, autonomous or arranged in sequences. In some cases it is only the linear configuration that determines the phenomenal manifestation of Gubinelli's work, in a monochrome white that in reality is just superficial, since scratches and incisions cause chiaroscuro and therefore gradations of greys, showing the sensitivity of the artist to the both "constructive" and poetic faculties of light. Where colour is used, its function is, so to speak, as counterpoint to the sign, in the same way that in a fugue, the counter-object, or rather the divertimento, lies in the sense of transition between exposures and / or re-exposures of the theme . Which certainly does not mean that it constitutes a decorative or secondary datum; indeed, when it appears it becomes a significant and essential factor in the economy of the work, in the equilibrium of the elements, even coming to be its fulcrum, its magnetic centre. It also happens that it is used in a lyrical-expressive, evocative key, or, especially in ceramic reliefs, associated with certain geometric shapes.
Invariably, whatever the treatment of the visual components, whatever the use of some rather than others, even in very varied combinations with an evident taste for rhythm and harmony, the subtlety of Paolo Gubinelli emerges as the characteristic quality of a truly personal approach to art, which is far removed from precise trends, without prejudice to the obvious presumption of the influence of the abstractionists of the 1910s to the 1930s, of Lucio Fontana and of the Spatialists.
(Botticino Sera, 3 January 2019),
Director, Fondazione Centro Studi Ragghianti, Lucca
ELENA PONTIGGIA 2019
The work by Paolo Gubinelli (born in 1945 in Matelica, Italy) featured in this short retrospective focuses on levity. It may be strange that his art is not better remembered in times like ours, in which we are always discussing lightness and everything aims to be soft and light. However, there is a reason. The levity in his paintings and papers is not an optimistic, triumphal, positivist quality. It is a lyrical dimension that borders on fragility. His delicate lines that cross the page almost without touching it, his diagonals and interrupted circumferences that quickly travel through space, his soft, almost faded colors, speak of a volatile world that
dissolves before our eyes. They speak of a fleeting beauty that tends to hide. They speak of difficult balances, as in his adjacent angle triangles, which could be described as Licini said of his geometries: “They are in equilibrium by some miracle.” What’s more, they speak of a striving for a space different from the limited and narrow space through which we move. Colored patterns and lines convey the idea, in short, of the beginning of a journey. But what interests Gubinelli is not the path: it is the point of arrival.
Elena Pontiggia 2019
Università Bocconi Milano
Giulio Angelucci, Biancastella Antonino, Flavio Bellocchio, Goffredo Binni, Bongiani Sandro, Fabio Corvatta, Nevia Pizzul Capello, Claudio Di Benedetto, Debora Ferrari, Antonia Ida Fontana, Franco Foschi,Carlo Franza, Mario Giannella, Armando Ginesi, Claudia Giuliani, Vittorio Livi, Olivia Leopardi Di San Leopardo, Luciano Lepri, Caterina Mambrini, Elverio Maurizi, Carlo Melloni, Eugenio Miccini, Franco Neri, Franco Patruno, Roberto Pinto, Anton Carlo Ponti, Osvaldo Rossi, Giuliano Serafini, Patrizia Serra, Grazia Torri, Francesco Vincitorio.
GIULIO ANGELUCCI 1982
Personale, Pub. Galleria del Falconiere, Ancona, 1982
Arias from nowhere - Arie da nessun luogo.
Mention - Flash Art, no. 158, Oct.-Nov. 1990.
GOFFREDO BINNI 1984
(...) Gubinelli invents the game of lyrical construction and uses only light or rather, creates for light a new game. A game at times made of nothing because he knows that light is such, even when surrounded by absolute void. They are fragile creations only in appearance but of an absolute formal rigor where nothing is left to chance or improvisation.
Macerata, October 1984
Pub. Galleria Labirinto, Macerata, 1984.
MARIO GIANNELLA 1991
Rettore Università di Camerino
The papers of Paolo Gubinelli. Ancient techniques of distant peoples, familiar to the people of our lands, have come to us in these works where thought can relax and sentiments be confessed. The brush follows words and at times, pursued by the ardour of intimate passions, surpasses them; or it takes a step backward, corrects, modifies, pauses in thought, afflicted by doubts and uncertainties. The letters slowly deform and, losing their outlines, become spots, bizarre figures, uncertain sfumature, ambiguous chiaroscuro. The stroke glides incisively, dips into a thousand colours, then is subtlely immersed in a joyous rainbow, slips away in deeper shades to then return more intense, climbing to heights of solar brightness. Marked by the torments of cuts and folds, softened by gentle pastels and traversed by cold grey shadows, this map reveals niches, cavities, receptors of many colours where the reserved embrace of hormones sends to the surface a shudder similar to a quick breath.
Camerino, September 1991
Pub. University of Camerino, Palazzo Ducale
ARMANDO GINESI 1989
(...) And then the Tuscan Paolo Gubinelli (born in Matelica in the Marches, he lives and works in Florence), lyrical cantor of delicate linear and chromatic games which autonomous signs trace on transparent paper. It has been said, and rightly so, that his works (wonderful encounter between delicate materials, signs and colours) represent beautiful non-verbal poetry.
Jesi, April 1989
Pub. Palazzo delle Esposizioni
City of Civitanova Marche, 1989
ELVERIO MAURIZI 1978
(...) The artist’s papers, in brief, prove to be products of a careful meditation, not only on motivations surfacing from the deep, but also on the ideas stratified in the author in interpreting a precise vein of European and American abstractism. In realisation, the reflection of that search in which personal cadences are recognised, qualified by certain pragmatic sense, the successive verification evidences the aforementioned cultural contributions, at the same time illustrating the autonomy and incisiveness of language.
Carlo Belli wrote that “art does not have to be sensitive, but instead arouse sensitivity.” Paolo Gubinelli uses his emotions maieutically, transcribes them following a harmonic rhythm amplified by those principles of truth and logic chosen as support of action, and proposes them as occasion for careful reflection. Their interpretation therefore requires a meditated disposition “to meditate content, motivations and stimuli.” To reach this goal, the author even utilises the luminous values of the sheet, considered as uncontaminated reflection of a chromatic summa capable of enclosing in the white, often dazzling paper, the contemplative integrity of a “quiet and clarifying” imaginative purity, instrumentalised by the dynamic intuitiveness of communication.
Macerata, October 1978
Personale, Pub. Pinacoteca Comunale,
City of Macerata, 1978.
CARLO MELLONI 1984
(...) The person attempting to decipher Gubinelli’s language/message employing totally personal means (resorting to an interpretation in which emotion prevails) finds a key that reveals a microcosm in which they coexist, along with the proposal to give a rational order to our aspirations without any rule conditioning free expansion on the edge of existence.
Ascoli Piceno, April 1984
Pub. Centro d’Arte Idioma, Ascoli Piceno, 1984.
Fondazione Comune di Papaiano, 1979
Mention - Flash Art, no. 164 - Oct.-Nov. 1991
Mention - Flash Art, no. 168 - June-July 1992
Mention - Flash Art, no. 170 - Oct.-Nov. 1992
Mention - Flash Art, no. 178 - Oct.-Nov. 1993
Mention - Flash Art, no. 184 - May-June 1994
Mention - Flash Art, no. 190 - Feb.-Mar. 1995
GIULIANO SERAFINI 1984
(...) It was the time of white paper which the scalpel cut with subtle parallel nervures, fences and pentagrams, movement at the limit of perception, to prove a spasmodic restlessness, tense and self-afflicting, in the moment in which it implied the coincidence between aesthetic and moral factor.
Even then it appeared difficult to catalogue Gubinelli’s work: Without a doubt a Gestalt-type study, as has been written, but let us not forget his logical-analytic denotation insinuating the design specific of the geometric sequences revealed by light.
(...) Thus after the “physical” phase of light and space, another phase leading to a liberated dimension opens for Gubinelli. The passage occurs by means of colour and in colour: extreme conquest, song opposed to thought, significant signal by antonomasia. Hence ensues a constellation of ideograms, from the “Mandala” to the labyrinth, the emergence of biomorphic energies which become true in dots, spirals, nuclear shapes and cosmic routes. Gesture leads to graffiti, to the innocence of magical practice, to an automatism by which even scalpel strokes become cuts and follow more adventurous courses behind the centrifugal rhythm of the sign still partially concealed in the lower indications of waxes and pastels; or they design curvilinear sections, triangular fields within which the suggestions of Mirò and Twombly are absorbed; as in a diminuendo, they soften in the game of stratifications: from construens, Gubinelli has now reached the tale, the lyrical poem.
Città di Castello, January 1984
Pub. Galleria, Il Pozzo, Città di Castello, 1984
Pub. Galleria, La Virgola, Fabriano, 1986
PATRIZIA SERRA 1985
(...) Then the sign, scratched and subtle as a vein, no longer in the service of the organic development into space of a computed rhythmic definition, unfolds nervous and elegant, ambiguous, in an ever new void, in deep and distorted transparences unveiled to the viewer as though in a concave mirror. The work is directed at a profound enhancement of interpretation, becoming a fragment in the course of a thought, taking on evocations born from rhythms breaking, from devoting all energy to capturing the instant of perception and directing it at its own allusiveness. In the rolls, varying levels of perception receive many different annotations of colour, veined and marked by structures, which the incisive and excited mark breaks into irregular area. In the fragments, various scraps (cuttings) are assembled in the suspended equilibrium of forms, furnishing an example of how subtlety and transparence can evoke, enhancing perception, many divergent and instantaneous experiences which, again caught up in the work’s becoming, give rise to other experiences. Time and space contribute to delimiting the area of intuition where the artist exerts his intention; he perceives their relation outside the optics of sequence and definition.
Milan, November 1985
Pub. Galleria Spazio Temporaneo, Milan, 1985
Pub. Galleria 8 + 1, Mestre, Venice, 1986
Pub. Galleria Miralli, Viterbo, 1987
MARIA GRAZIA TORRI 1986
(...) In today’s disquieting artistic panorama appears the “abstract” production of Paolo Gubinelli, painter faithful to his own feeling past fashion and dermal solicitations of the times and “customs” of art today. I remember four years ago when in the full trans-avantgarde movement, with the same conviction of today, I was introduced to his works on paper, cut and wounded, invaded by white light before all else. At that time, I catalogued him as an unusual painter, a lone wolf among organised groups and arrays; I was perplexed by his subtle, almost “weak” effort of intervening on the paper, cutting impalpable pastel-coloured signs. They were new worlds, unexplored horizons, lyrical and gentle abstractions, heavenly and aquatic games of transparences, light and delicate sensations almost impossible to define, as the Poet affirms, so arduous as “da significar per verba.”
Something reminiscent of an ancient Tuscany, Dante’s paradise, Petrarch, impalpable lightness of colour and support over all else, a substance like a geographical map, nurtured with Petrarchian resonance and disquiet, where one can no longer read the names of places or waterways. Humanist and “stilnovist,” paradisiacal and terrestrial, he employs a “different” way, a new way to speak of things, to evoke painting and the unlimited, unforseeable terrain of its possibilities.
Verona, February 1986
Paolo Gubinelli, Pub. Segno, n. 54, April 1986
Galleria La virgola, Fabriano
Paolo Gubinelli, Pub. Flash Art, no. 143
March-April 1988, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara
Mention - L’Espresso, Sept. 1977
Mention - La Stampa, Nov. 1989
Mention - La Stampa, May 1991
FRANCO PATRUNO 2002
(Director, Casa Cini – Ferrara)
(…) Paolo Gubinelli, having experimented with various supports, projections and ever new intensities and paling of tones, remains faithful to that which is not only a clarification of poetics as the conceptual school intended it; it was they who reflected on a work while demystifying it, convinced, after having misinterpreted Hegel, that art as a formal experience was not only old-fashioned but could even be sung and declared extinct. Paolo’s sense of lightness testifies to his faulty sense of hearing, that which accompanies us in today’s acceleration of history that, thank God, does not dispel the constant essentials of weightlessness.
Ferrara, November 2002
City of Ferrara – Published by Casa Cini
DEBORA FERRARI 2004
Paolo Gubinelli’s work is a testimony to freedom. A force of spirit and creative energy while, at the same time, being shaped in the lightness of his strokes and in the liquid elegance of his colors. His profile speaks for itself; his historical experience with other great names of 20th-century contemporary art, such as his friendship with the greatest living Italian poets, make us receptive to the fervid and fecund embrace that this Florentine painter knows how to offer the people around him. Gubinelli takes to human encounter just as light takes to color: a tension in his work directed towards that very light – human and artistic. There is a poetics of a faithfulness to the artist’s inner imagination in his experimentation that is elaborated according to his coherent hand and gestures, by his color and form which, although in constant evolution over time, nevertheless maintains the roots of its existence intact (…)
Gavirate, March 2004
City of Gavirate, (Varese) - Chiostro di Voltorre
Published by Fabbrica Arte
NEVIA PIZZUL CAPELLO 2003 President, Italo-German Non-Profit Cultural Association, Palazzo Albrizzi, Venice
Fragility and flexibility are the agile elements of the work of an artist living the contradictions of our era, but with a particular awareness.
In Gubinelli, even light has a cathartic function and explodes in one’s iris with the most delicate tones of his colour, while his white heads towards the purity of a geometrical abstraction. A subtle compositional equilibrium organizes the elements in space and emphasizes the coherence and lasting research of an artist who knows no compromise and is able to put himself in the jeopardy of doubt, who accepts the challenge of rejection in order to explore uncontaminated expressive horizons and ever new poetic universes.
Venice, April 2003
City of Venice – Published by Palazzo Albrizzi
OSVALDO ROSSI 2004
Paolo Gubinelli’s Poetic Traces
(… ) The marks engraved on Gubinelli’s colored backgrounds are experiences of confines, of gestures of challenge and continual subtraction in the light of colou r, rarefied presences which, between retreating and being manifested, evoke space in its genetic place. This reveals a conceptual attitude in Gubinelli’s process that, in “a page colored by the reflections of light,” transmits and gathers all the signs of the horizon, that shows the agitation of a creation in the uneasiness of the gesture (…)
San Benedetto del Tronto, June 2004
City of San Benedetto del Tronto, Palazzina Azzurra
Published by Edigrafital (PERSPECTIVE)
FABIO CORVATTA 2009
I met the master painter Paolo Gubinelli in 2000, when I was the Mayor of Recanati since only a year, in the month of June dedicated to the poet Leopardi, on the occasion of the opening of his personal exhibition, which was set up in two Recanati’s places belonging to Leopardi: the Town Hall and the National Centre for Leopardian Studies, managed by the lamented Franco Toschi in those times. Foschi, who was also the Culture committee Chairman of the Municipality of Recanati, wanted the presence of Gubinelli, in order to symbolize a sort of poetic-artistic symbiosis, on the occasion of the well-known Poetry Award “Giacomo Leopardi”, which was granted to the poet Mario Luzi, who founded with Foschi the rising International Poetry Centre and who was its first president.
The exhibition catalogue, which I still keep with care and which was printed in cooperation with the Municipality of Monte Vidon Corrado, bears witness to that important event and those two personalities. The words, which Luzi says appreciating the art of Gubinelli, are very meaningful: “It was really a lucky meeting, in tune with the need of clearness and synthesis proper to the best contemporaries”, as well as the words of Foschi: “The metaphor of the game, amongst the several images the paper suggests us, is maybe the most appropriate for all the operations the artist makes with the paper, always remaining faithful to the search of new ways and never deferring to the taste of the ability game”.
My best and sincere wishes to Paolo Gubinelli for a future care and cooperation in this my new important and serious role.
Fabio Corvatta, Recanati, aprile 2009
The President CNSL
(National Centre for Leopardian Studies)
Municipality of Matelica, 2009
CLAUDIO DI BENEDETTO 2009
Paolo Gubinelli is an ancient master, one of those artists who seem to come from an antique tradition, not greatly represented nowadays, in which it is difficult to distinguish between the artist and the artisan.
His works are only apparently held in the reassuring geometry of well defined lines and spaces. Viewers find in the strokes and in the marks, which make the Marches Master’s works unmistakable, the perception of endless spaces, the creation of emotional states and the identification of the eye with the erudite and the delicate chromatic scales.
I appreciate Paolo Gubinelli for his so consistent and so fine search of the verse as a source and aim of an artistic creation that the greatest contemporary poets dedicated original verses to him and he dedicated to them new works in which, between the written sign and the drew sign, it is nearly impossible to separate the sound of the words from the power of the images.
Gubinelli is a reserved and sensitive artist who does not belong to any art school but who is in tune with the cultural world around him. He offered his works of art to many institutions, including the institution which I undeservedly superintend, in order that the binomial poetry-sign finds its expression and its reminiscence amongst books of art and books of artist.
I also esteem Paolo Gubinelli for his profound humanity and his sense of friendship. This my statement can seem not very institutional, but it carries my own opinion on how to mean the relationships and their languages amongst people with different role who share the same passion and the same mission.
Claudio di Benedetto, Florence, April, 2009
Superintendency for the Historical,
Artistic and Ethno-anthropological
Heritage and for the Museum Axis of the City of Florence
Municipality of Matelica, 2009
ANTONIA IDA FONTANA 2009
It is my pleasure to present an artist such as Paolo Gubinelli, who is also a poet, besides being a painter and who, during the years, has been able to give, through his use of “paper”, emotions only poetry can offer us.
Paolo Gubinelli, who is a native of Marches, since he was young, showed his interest in the art and began to express himself in the various art forms. His talent has been recognized and appreciated by artists, men of letters and architects, such as Giovanni Michelucci, Bruno Munari, Alberto Burri, Mario Nigro, Enrico Castellani, Agostino Bonalumi, Mario Luzi and Franco Foschi.
After his pictorial experiences on canvas, or with non -traditional materials and techniques, he showed a vivid interest in using “paper”, white or transparent, as the works of art collected here testify. In his lasting relation with “paper”, the books have become significant, beginning from the artists’ books where his works of art accompany great poets, such as Mario Luzi, who was deeply attached to Gubinelli thanks to a long friendship.
I met this artist at the National Central Library of Florence, on the occasion of the donation ceremony of a small nucleus of unpublished poems by the famous Florentine poet, which were accompanied by inedited Gubinelli’s works on paper. Our Libraries hold numerous documents where people can be discover how a page of an ancient illuminated code or a contemporary book of art, becomes a perfect place for a comparison between the two different languages. Images and words pursue the same end of the thought mediation, with different means which complete each other, when the relationship between the authors, the painters and the poet, is based on common feelings, though their dissimilar experiences.
The relationship between the poems by Mario Luzi and the acquarellos by Paolo Gubinelli, an elegant and intuitive painter who captures and impresses emotions, thoughts and dreams on the paper, was founded on a shared poetic feeling. The pages, which were donated to the National Central Library of Florence by the two artists and which are now exposed to the public, together with the works of other authors, who during the years loved and lived the Library, if are today a lively artistic witness, tomorrow will receive the preservation and the betterment they deserve, to the advantage of the future generations. I hope that the aesthetic and artistic message of Polo Gubinelli keeps obtaining the merited success.
Antonia Ida Fontana, aprile 2009
Director of the
National Central Library of Florence
Municipality of Matelica, 2009
VITTORIO LIVI 2013
“Spazio Miralfiore” opere su vetro di PAOLO GUBINELLI, FIAM ITALIA - PESARO
Works by Paolo Gubinelli join the “Spazio Miralfiore” art collection
Some journeys are much more than just a succession of roads; they have more distant goals in mind. Ever since it started its business, Fiam has dedicated itself to promoting and expressing the potential of a material, “glass”, initially focusing on “curved glass design” and now, in its fortieth anniversary year, conveying a genuine “culture of glass”.
Along this journey, it has met some amazing people, whose experiences have enriched its art and culture. All this is recorded in a collection on show in a permanent exhibition at the “Spazio Miralfiore”, perhaps the only museum where the works have been produced only in glass, with original technologies and experimental languages, where art and design merge to give birth to beauty. The artists represented include Emilio Isgrò, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Bruno Munari, Walter Valentini, Luigi Veronesi, Umberto Mariani, Marco Lodola, Leonardo Nobili, Garner Tullis, Oscar Piattella, Enrico Baj, Danny Lane and many, many more. Alongside them are major design names: Vico Magistretti, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Ron Arad, Enzo Mari, Philippe Starck, Cristophe Pillet, Cini Boeri, Aldo Benini, Xavier Lust, Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas, Daniel Libeskind and other leading figures in international architecture and design.
Many of these works are in the collections of museums in New York, Rome, Berlin, Paris and Milan, but there are also large numbers in the homes and offices of professionals who have helped to bring prestige to the Fiam name around the world.
Today, this collection’s scope and value are extended with works by Paolo Gubinelli, an artist of great rigour with a conceptual language of immense worth. With his art, he has impressed on glass the message that has made so many contemporary artists great, leaving an indelible mark facing firmly towards the future.
La collezione d’arte “Spazio Miralfiore” si arricchisce con opere di Paolo Gubinelli
Ci sono percorsi che non vogliono essere solo delle strade, ma vogliono indicare mete molto più lontane. Così la Fiam, sin da quando ha iniziato la sua attività, si è impegnata a valorizzare un materiale, “il vetro”, dandosi come prima mission “il design nel cristallo curvato”, sino ad arrivare ai nostri giorni con il suo quarantesimo, in “cultura del vetro”.
Lungo questo percorso ha incontrato personaggi formidabili le cui esperienze hanno contribuito a valorizzare la sua arte e cultura. Tutto questo si è materializzato in una collezione esposta permanentemente in “Spazio Miralfiore”; forse si tratta dell’unico museo dove le opere sono realizzate esclusivamente in vetro con tecnologie e sperimentazioni inedite, dove l’arte e il design si fondono per dare vita alla bellezza. Così tra gli artisti se vogliamo ricordarne alcuni, Emilio Isgrò, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Bruno Munari, Walter Valentini, Luigi Veronesi, Umberto Mariani, Marco Lodola, Leonardo Nobili, Garner Tullis, Oscar Piattella, Enrico Baj, Danny Lane e tanti altri ancora. Mentre nel design troviamo: Vico Magistretti, Giorgetto Giugiaro,Ron Arad, Enzo Mari,Philippe Starck, Cristophe Pillet, Cini Boeri, Aldo Benini, Xavier Lust, Doriana e Massimiliano Fuksas, Daniel Libeskind, più tanti altri prestigiosi maestri del design ed architettura internazionale.
Molte di queste opere sono presenti nei musei di New York, Roma, Berlino, Parigi, Milano, ma tante altre sono presenti nelle abitazioni e studi di professionisti che hanno collaborato a rendere prestigiosa la Fiam nel mondo.
Questa collezione oggi si è arricchita con opere di Paolo Gubinelli, artista molto rigoroso, con esperienze concettuali di alto valore, con la sua arte ha impresso nel vetro quel messaggio che ha reso grandi tanti artisti contemporanei, lasciando una traccia indelebile proiettata nel futuro.
Presidente Vittorio Livi, Fiam - Pesaro
Fiam Italia Pesaro, 2013
OLIMPIA LEOPARDI DI SAN LEOPARDO 2016
I first met Paolo Gubinelli some months ago on a visit by him to Recanati, and was struck by his love of Leopardi and many other great poets who are the foundations of the great culture to which we belong. From exactly this passion, the Maestro draws the sensitivity which is the life-blood of his intense artistic production, his inseparable lifelong companion. After having been inspired by the writings of Alberto Bevilacqua, Tonino Guerra, Mario Luzi, Andrea Zanzotto and Dante Alighieri the co-respondent for his latest works is our Giacomo.
To open the doors of the Library to contemporary artists who draw inspiration from the works of the Poet is not new to Casa Leopardi. Already a number of years ago we had started a process of encompassing the visual arts and it is therefore with great pleasure that we are following this project presenting the exhibition Signs for Leopardi, constructed in the rooms so close to his heart and which bore witness to the germination and maturation of his talent.
In my opinion, the transformation of images evoked by the written word into visual works contributes to a full appreciation of poetry and inspires consideration of the great works of literature from a completely new and different standpoint. This can provoke new reflections in the many who every year visit the places beloved of Giacomo, the cradle of Italian poetry.
I would like to thank Maestro Gubinelli for his commitment and the care that he has dedicated to this project, and for having donated the works which will remain part of the precious heritage of Casa Leopardi.
Olimpia Leopardi di San Leopardo
Casa Leopardi, omaggio a Leopardi l’opera su carta di Paolo Gubinelli, donazione opere
Centro Nazionale di Studi Leopardiani (CNSL)
FABIO CORVATTA 2016
Casa Leopardi maintains with passionate generosity an extraordinary heritage in the library that it has placed at the disposal of students and visitors ever since the days of Monaldo.
The Family have promoted numerous initiatives to recreate the environment as it was in the time of Giacomo, and numerous events and exhibitions that over the years have enriched ‘the infinite’ heritage of studies that the poet undertook during his life.
In recent times the Family have wanted to create a temporary exhibition space, within the ancient House and adjacent to the famous Library, for artists who have drawn their inspiration from the works of Giacomo. When the Countess Olimpia revealed to me that the chosen painter would be Paolo Gubinelli it was a resonance from my past which I recalled with great pleasure. I first met the Maestro in my role as Mayor of Recanati in 2000 when, in the context of the Leopardian Celebrations of that year we inaugurated his personal exhibition in the Civic Hall and in the National Centre for Leopardian Studies, at the time directed by the late Franco Foschi.
Foschi, who also filled the role of Assessor for Culture, wanted Gubinelli as part of those Leopardian Celebrations that saw the award of the ‘Leopardi Prize’ to Mario Luzi, among other things the first President of the new-born World Centre for Poetry.
I would like to take this opportunity to direct my warm appreciation and heartfelt thanks to three great persons who worked so tirelessly to bring into being the World Centre for Poetry, which they justifiably maintained should become a cultural reference point for the World; for their friendship and for all they have given me I thank Countess Anna Leopardi, Franco Foschi and Mario Luzi.
I like to remember from that period the words of Luzi about the art of Gubinelli: “it has been a truly fortuitous meeting, in tune with the need one feels within the best contemporaries, of perception and synthesis” – and those of Foschi: “the metaphor of play, from among the many that paper suggests, is maybe the most appropriate to show all he operations that the artist can achieve with it, remaining ever faithful to the search for new journeys and not ever submitting to the fashion for games of skill.
To Paolo Gubinelli my most sincere best wishes for his new undertaking, to Casa Leopardi sincere thanks for the attention and sensitivity they demonstrate towards cultural initiatives that are brought to their attention.
National Centre for Leopardian Studies (CNSL)
Fabio Corvatta, President, 2016
Casa Leopardi, omaggio a Leopardi l’opera su carta di Paolo Gubinelli, donazione opere
Centro Nazionale di Studi Leopardiani (CNSL)
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0. M. Maeterlinck, Vita dello spazio, Laterza, Bari 1932, p. 5.
0. ibid, p. 28.
0. Dorfles, op. cit., p. 43.
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. E. Jünger-M. Heidegger, Oltre la linea, edited by F. Volpi, Adelphi, Milan 1989.
ndrea Ciapetti, Raoul Dominguez