A daily, suspended tension | Aldo Iori
Renzogallo’s artistic production of the last few years reveals a growing interest in the relationship of work to space and time, in memories of ancient and far-reaching shapes, in the metaphysical rather than in the material dimension. This change of priorities – already discernible in all of his works in the early 80’s – is due to several factors, all intimately interconnected, prompted by new reflections and personal experiences.
First of all, a growing tendency toward the speculative dimension of his work has led Renzogallo to explore and research in depth the realms of philosophical and meditative disciplines through literature, poetry or even direct experience with people and places. As a result, the work becomes weightier through echoes of distant cultures that blend with the original strong Mediterranean roots. A constant feature of Renzogallo’s work is its demand for the viewer’s intense participation. That demand is now even sharper, as its works release, each in its own way, different suggestions, echoes of profound and archaic elements interwoven with classical ideals. The mature awareness of the artist and his proven mastery in handling composition and materials translate the irresistible and intimate need – using matter that is worked, manipulated or left as it is – to give form to something always on the borderline between what is and what unwraps within the observer’s mind (though still invisible to the eye).
In earlier works, the symbolic value and the spatial suspension of forms, as well as the combination of materials, the dominance of specific shades of colour and compositional relationships were already strong evidence of an intense search for an immaterial dimension. It was a dimension, however, that the inherent reality of the works as well as the aesthetic patterns and ideologies associated at the time with art, helped to conceal and, somehow, hide. Today, a stronger concern for the speculative dimension mentioned above, together with the precision of the gesture, the accuracy in the choice of materials and his skill in using them, as well as an evolutionary process even more harmonious than before, are all reflected in a work that is more serene as it reaches its epiphanic moment, free from needless and facile artifices. This contrasts with contemporary trends aimed at bringing clamour to the forefront rather than silence; the artist’s position against those trends, puts him on a parallel line to the path of history where he remains strongly anchored and settled.
A second factor is Renzogallo’s approach to the historical dimension of plastic and pictorial arts. Increasingly, he resorts to elements strictly related to the essence of form-creating and ranging from antique times up to the experiences of last century’s Masters. Some elements, such as the vase and the grille, have been adopted (from the very beginning) inclusive of their successive historical meanings, as archetypes, as anthropological factors, as hinges of the relationship between full and empty spaces. The two-dimensional (or less tri-dimensional) works – that have nevertheless a strong spatial component – owe much to lessons learned from the great paintings: the chromatic choices, the way pigments are applied, the juxtaposition of the various parts or simply some iconographic suggestions or ideas that provide energy and vitality to the composition. The choice of geometric matrices, simple or compound, accompanies and takes over the rational planning stage, reaching for rules of golden proportions in syntony with past and more recent experiences (up to the last Century), including those from Klee to Burri, from architectural rationalism to post-minimalist experiences.
Further elements deserve highlighting, such as the experience acquired through the design and the realisation of works of environmental dimension, set in natural and urban settings; such as his commitment to University teaching. Both experiences have drawn him closer to the problems specific to architecture and to the reality of nature; both experiences have enriched his work with new knowledge and interests. The work of art becomes the lieu that witnesses the relationship between thought and landscape across time and its cyclical progressions.
The most recent exhibitions are a reflection of how Renzogallo understands his work, i.e. as a continuum that accompanies changes of experiences and actions, as if indeed the time dimension in the chronological sense was no longer available. The works are in the same space as a result of mirrored and reciprocal tensions, even though , for some of them, they may be distant one from the other because of date, working method or language; the observer is well aware of their belonging to the same cultural density, of their being part of unicum that has its ratio in that particular time and space; yet a dialogue between viewer and work is still possible, but in addition the space-time value of the latter has been enhanced and made more accessible, even for those who see the artist’s work for the first time. Some works, in particular, included in the two, offer valid testimony to what has been outlined above.
Started in 2006 and finished in 2009, “Diary” is a work that was first displayed in the one-man exhibition at the Galleria Maria Grazia del Prete in Rome and in following exhibition in Viterbo. A black iron cubic structure shows, within its body, en element slightly tilted towards the West: a white vase, an ancient archetypal form originating typically from the visual culture of both the Western and Eastern civilisations; a form that recalls the liquid element, the gift, the reflection, the symmetry, the urn and, in general, the body and the home of the soul. The result of a simple yet precise daily gestuality, it is made out of the layering of horizontal, circular deposits, one over the other until the form is completed, countless layers of tiny pieces of precious torn paper. Tearing is normally seen as a gesture aimed at deleting integrity and unity, that of the sheet in this case; denial, destruction and rejection of something unfinished, not worth remembering. Renzogallo redeems that gesture by turning it into a precise and deliberate intention of construction and execution. The sheet of paper, the agreed receptacle for an image, remains untouched, even though, as a material, it is subjected to violence. The patient accumulation brings forward the temporal dimension of the expansion of the form; titration emphasises the intimate, meditative aspect as if it were the result of a daily Zen exercise or the evocation of the sacred gesture of breaking our daily bread. As a result of the lathe’s circular motion and of the flat hands on moving clay, the external and internal surfaces of the vase are normally taut. Here, however, they should not be touched as they are both fragile and (hypothetically) sharp edged. Abiding by a preset formal rule of execution, fragmentation becomes a determining element in the process of reconstruction; this principle applies to others works in which the shape of the vase is reconstructed using fragmented segments of sinuous lines that are barely a fragile diaphragm between interior and exterior. Perfectly and absolutely silent between light and shadow, in its black and white duality, “Diario” suggests the sound of paper being torn, punctuating with metronomic precision, for ever, in infinite circles, the time of vision. The white is lighted up, inside the square structure made of four industrial meshes – ideally recalling, because of their proportions and dimension, the Vitruvian man – their roughness preserved in order to contrast the delicate presence enclosed. The perimeter of the cubic grate can only be crossed over visually: this enhances the strong metaphysical values of the object, temporarily distant from the observer who is thus forced to keep a respectful, contemplative distance. The enclosure within should not be seen as wanting to protect the delicate central element; its allusion to a cage, in fact, suggests an opposite reading, as for a reversed perspective.
It may well be that it is the very observer who, like Semele, should be protected from the power of beauty and from its terrible assertion of freedom. Awareness of the distance creates both a consciousness of dimension and a new relationship between the viewer and the work.
An another large work “Senza Titolo” (Untitled) of 2004-2005 stands in the entrance hall of Palazzo Chigi. It is an orthogonal steel structure with grilles, incorporating in its interior a semi-circular form, again a vase, yet different from “Diario”: the former, bright and dazzling in its appearance; the latter, material and dynamic.
The work as a whole comprises a large wall panel with the grilles – two modules different one from the other – placed in front of and at some distance from it. In a central position, suspended within the square of the larger meshed grille, is the form of the vase, defined through the breakdown into planes of its various sections by way of a half-turn around the central axis that is accentuated by the insertion of a central horizontal plane. Each part of the vase is of the same red colour as the background. Suggestions and references emanating from this work are many. Above all, the choice of colour and the spatial subdivision into compartments recall the great lesson of Roman painting, with its colour tones and the architectural partitioning of space. These characteristic elements are in fact the source of the most interesting examples of research in the field of ancient perspective, suggesting – through a new reading and interpretation – an innovative fusion of space and time. The threedimensional vascular element and its insertion in the plane of the grille, together with the colour tones, remind one of the tomb of the Renaissance master Verrocchio in the Florentine church of San Lorenzo (it would be too easy and simplistic to link the Saint to the artist’s wide use of grilles for the only reason of their common name): between a chapel and an old sacristy, a wide opening is blocked by a grating that vertically cuts in half the large red porphyry sarcophagus. These two references to history – not quotations but implicit reflections – indicate in any event the artist’s will to confront the problematic question of the work of art as a threshold: between the real and the virtual, between the physical and the metaphysical, the visible and the invisible. More so than elsewhere, this work seems to reveal a close relationship with “Mare” (Sea), realised in Patras, Greece, in 1990; in the present work that relationship is more profound and less iconographic. In “Mare”, a grille suspended horizontally in the space was the carrier of floating elements made of clay. These were later to be reinterpreted, in successive works, as traces provided with evident corporeality. The motionless vertical rotation is accompanied here by the abstract form of the urn, of the body as a vase, broken down in its dynamic and spatial articulation.
The geometry, the proportions of the parts, the tilting and the rotation of the planes, the colours and the simultaneous reference to classicism and spirituality enhance the monumental character of the work that becomes emblematic of the artist’ thought.
A series of works of a smaller format may be classified as paintings, they address issues that are similar to those of the two works previously examined. Precious layers of materials link them to the “Bersagli” (Targets) drawings of some years ago. In these works also, the relationship among various parts borrow from classical proportions, revisited in the light of the meditative, orient-flavoured experience; here too, spatiality is tinged, the result of the relationship between the various elements of the composition: fragments of paper reminiscent of the apparent randomness of the Ching throws, vascular shapes that counterpoint spaces as metaphysical and dreamy elements, small circular shapes that draw the attention towards a kind of prospective and perceptive omphalos, suggested grilles of a light, evanescent consistence yet symbolic of the permanence of an underlying rational alertness, stratifications or chromatic lumps suggesting harmonious sounds. The space between the elements of these particular representations becomes itself a meaningful element, as is the case for all other elements, bearing the same iconic value. The evanescent spatiality, where classical forms give way to ancient emotions, reaches and interacts with the spatiality of the other works: the effect is the simultaneous expressions of different ‘temperatures’ in the artistic production of Renzogallo and of his ever strong and constant intense intellectual tension. So this occurs in the most recent serie “Rosso” (Red), in which the satin texture proposes, in geometric but highly expressive forms, a material painting: the rich and historical reverberations cames from the experiences of the post-war masters and also from the ancient Venetian or Spanish tonal painters.
Once again the work presents itself as a gift offered to the observer’s reflection; it is an invitation to build with it a relation made of active contemplation, leaving aside the outside world, with the purpose to discover silent emotional spaces balancing in a lasting equilibrium between rationality and physicality. The works pose questions, provide no answers, yet they assert their presence in time and space: a fleeting encounter between thought, matter and the invisible.