AS IF THE EYES HAD FINGERTIPS
To look at these works requires above all that sense known as haptic.
Countless resonances and hints jump out: for Pho as he deals with the work in formation, even though it may seem something other, and for ourselves as we engage in looking. Above all in the unstable and spontaneous structures of everyday life in the suburbs: building site scaffolding, allotment fences, rusty corrugated iron are the most apparent working elements, and at the same time a partial working model.
Grassi works in Milan, the city in which one hundred years ago Boccioni painted his famous picture La Città che sale (The Rising City). That moment of declared faith in progress is light years away. For us now, following the grafting into the collective sensibility of the Situationists sense of deriva and the subsequent growth of the spontaneous flora identified by Gilles Clément as the third landscape, the city is lived as a rich tapestry of discontinuities, in which take place the most diverse involuntary and unforeseen transformations: although peripherally, secret and hidden from those with no eye for the marginal.
As did Scanavino with his marine findings, Grassi takes photographs as a reportage which he uses as notes; they are his studies, his sketches.
Often the artist seems to take the place of the atmospheric agents, the passage of time and it’s wear and tear. His materials are those once used by man, at first “put into working order”, then later abandoned to decay. the painter sharpens the characteristics of each one (metal, wood, paper, cement) in a particularly dramatic and expressive way. There is a particular cruelty, almost that of mediaeval torture instruments, in the protruding nails and screws, the sharp, chipped edges of the rusty metal sheets.
These slices of different kinds of space are put together in a concise Idialogue, a rhythmic entablature tending to create blurrings, an off-balance which slightly disorientates the observer while opening up form to perceptual doubt and interrogation.
Is that area made of paper or cement? Is it on top of or just touching that colour field from beneath?
The taste for substance, even if that is perhaps the most obvious, is not all: nor even the love of composition, which becomes clear from a careful examination of the whole. The main motive is the pictorial gesture, the means of applying oil paint in what comes over as a traditional way, aware of its own history, rigorous in palette.The game is played with decided insistence in the more graphically entangled areas.
Some index references to map out the active constellation, the humus, that make up single pages of his background cahier: the energy of Action Painting, Brassai’s Graffiti photographic series, the material turbulence created by Burri, Florenski’s thought on art, Hains’ hands on treatment of affiches, the marks of Hartung, Kline, Soulages; the atmosphere grasped by Sergio Leone in the street settings of some scenes in Once upon a time in America, the speed and ease of Mathieu, a relationship to objects typical of Nouveau Réalisme, Scanavino’s ruffled and self-frustrated mark, Schwitters’ fetishism of everyday rubbish, the wealth and disarming poverty of Tapies, the spatial articulation of Vedova’s Plurimi...
With the inner eye wide open to look, never withdrawing, the potential to transform…
And to end up, a surprise, almost a coup de teatre. Pho has us enter his own creative workshop by the front door, gives us the treasure map, preparing an entire room as a kind of “visual interview” carried out through various means adapted to make an object and photograph based document (the latter by Donata Clovis) relating to his practise as maker and with specific reference to the pieces present in the exhibition: the Walls series. A kind of backstage.
He orders the chaos necessary for the cosmic birth of the work, and shows it. The presence of cigarette butts, the Roots Phrenology CD cover amidst encrusted palette knives and exhausted paint brushes, together with the stencil used in the past to initial each work, all signals his need to underline the existential value of painting, the slice of life… in this really close to the period-feeling of the informale. However, notwithstanding the honesty in revealing the elements at play, it is not really clear to what extent or in what way the existence and dance of these by now spent and used tools helps to concretise what our eyes have already seen in the preceeding rooms.
Works bodily present before our eyes, untiringly active.
Polyphony is never quiet.
Painting as unending entertainment, once again, always.
Translation by Paul Goodwin