THE BODY OF PAINTING
Domenico D’Oora interview with Roberto Floreali
D. D. The title Spiritual Hierarchy that you have chosen for your second one-man show at Folini Arte Contemporanea gallery is clearly in an opposite trend instead of the usual vacuity of the pensiero debole, which is by now, generally verifiable: where and when doe’s your project begin?
R. F. The project implicit in the show is a characteristic that accompanies me for over twenty years. It is a sort of caution, of mental reassurance for the strong and even physical effort that expects me after, when I will start to realize the works. This project is divided into two parts: the second one concerns the enchantment for a territory, Ticino, that thanks to the friendship with Renato Folini I start to know well and to appreciate. The first part of the project, Gerarchie Spiriturali (Spiritual Hierarchy), begins from other suggestions, that are more close to an introspective thinking. Buking the trend belongs to that indispensable outdatness that the artist must be able to keep, therefore I believe today is more avant-garde to turn on Gregorian singing, rather then taking photos of violence in the streets.
D. D. Is it a project similar to “Ottantuno” in 2005, where you investigated about the Spiritual in Art, or this time did you go more far?
R. F. The background thematic is similar, even if in this case the occasional chance and the profundity are, in last analysis, the two sides of the same coin. My younger daughter attends a Waldorf middle school, that follows with rigour the pedagogic method connected to the Rudolf Steiner thought. On one part there is the chance of frequentation of the school library, which offers a complete series of the anthroposophical publisher in Milan, on the other one, there is the presence of an environment who gives a peculiar impression to the “inner” dimension of the individual, the furniture self-made in laboratory, the light that penetrates through the rooms, which are completely realized in light wood, that instils in the atmosphere a sort of reassuring chromatic aura, the peculiarity of the sculptures and of the drawings of the youngsters, above the typicality of the inside canteen, which follows a poor diet and of vegetarian imprint. So, an opportunity of life. A total suggestion that derives from the strong presence of the Steiner’s thought, who is the founder of Anthroposophy, who believes in cyclicity of experience and sees man as a nodal point of becoming.
D. D. A very ambitious project, isn’t it!
R. F. Surely it is not this the aspect that has motivated me in this study. The paradox of living of today, takes us to lead life with a complexity which is often unbearable, and in a symmetrical way, to the delirium of defining it in the most possible banal way. Point of fact, the research of one conscious self, even if it needs consideration and dedication, is the thing most closed to us, the most near thing to recover because it is crucial for quality life.
D. D. So, we mustn’t be afraid of words.
R. F. It is meaningful that there is quite a resistance in front of the match hierarchy with spiritual. But the attitude to complex, that is lived without the presumption of a message more or less high, so without the classic haughtiness of intellectual in comparison with the rest of the world, I think it can be experienced very naturally. For example, in my case, it is part of my most frugal reality, the one that permits me to have human relationships which are even extremely simple. So it is a research of the reasons of existence and not only a run-up the lived life.
I don’t believe we must stop too long on the first impression of things. In fact has happened to me to catch messages extremely simple in volumes with bombastic titles. For example in the acts of the 1951 Triennial exhibition titled La Divina Proporzione (The Divine Proportion) - Am I making myself clear?-, with remarks by Le Corbusier, Lucio Fontana, Gillo Dorfles, Ignazio Gardella, Pier Luigi Nervi, Gino Severini, Georges Vantongerloo, Bruno Zevi… a select group of thinkers who can give you the shivers, I’ve found a very simple and illuminating thought of the Swiss artist -again the Switzerland- Max Bill: The man by his attempts, looks for the equivalent harmony to his personal nature… in the awareness of being wedded to the universe. And even, the reason for the man seeks out constructions based on exact measures and he organizes himself in measurable spaces: Because in this way, he tries to protect himself from the unknown, from the uncertain.
Painting, I believe in the existence of Spiritual hierarchy too, where the known subsists even on a part less in view, that we must look for with the ear, the patience, dedication, like in the very antique tradition of man.
D. D. So an opening with no prejudice towards complexity, that every man should have.
R. F. Of course. Like I was just saying before, the complexity , if heeded, unravels and can become the first reason of every existence, in its essential aspects, the ones that should be the reason of all the others, their first motivation.
D. D. In what you say there is much respect for other people’s thought. Which are the learnings that have, in some way, left a trace in your artist life?
I have been lucky enough to receive many things, from all kind of people. The friendship and the consideration of the musicologist Piero Buscaroli, and the Africa sickness of my friend Danilo, who is a mechanic, the helpfulness of the nuclear physicist Alberto Guglielmi, who was my desk mate at school and the antique dimensions of my judo instructor Giancarlo. In the professional field I remember the appreciation that I received from Giuseppe Santomaso, who was a soft craftsman who had, like me, Venetian origins and love for low chromatic lacustrian tones, and then surely, the big attention of Alberto Burri with whom I agreed even on other human and temperamental aspects, the elective relationship with Mary de Rachenwiltz, who was daughter and first interpreter of the thought and then of the work of her father Ezra Pound, the estimation of Vittoria Marinetti, first-born daughter of such a father, to whom I feel, in an inexplicable way, tied from time immemorial, nearly reincarnated from a futuristic past. This is an aspect that represents even the playful nightmare of my daughters Ludovica and Beatrice and of who is close to me.
D. D. Returning on the show: what kind of new forms has your work adopted?
The most evident novelty is the more marked presence of the colour in the works. Not only for the chromatic lightings that rise from the uniform bases and neither for the brightness of the Flags, but most of all for the presence of shades which are new, like the reddish ones (Polline-al rosso), the rose-coloured ones (Ritorno a casa- l’amore immaginato or Decima Gerarchia), the blue-grey ones of Finali di Partita. In particular the rose-coloured ones, that seem to vibrate, they derive by a nearly alchemic process, where the white paste of the squares absorbs from the underneath base a sort of internal light.
D. D. Paul Klee said “I’m my style”: which are the reasons of these novelties and are they necessary?
They depend on the urgency of the painting, on its energy. On nothing else. And in the specific case of this project, on the strong intrinsic motivations on the thematic adopted, which have probably obliged me to look inside my heart of hearts.
D. D. Roberto, us artists, us painters, we know very well that in the art world, because of the always more marked destination to a function of a mass entertainment, has melded a breed of figures that the only intention is to obtain the most economic benefit. The consequence is that painting, really for its way of being, on the contrary, an always true and authentic structure, which is the mirror of the soul and of the position that the author takes in its becoming towards contemporaneity and even towards the fundamental goal of existence, is marginalized by aids which are much more suitable to a production of purely spectacular events.
So, I’d like to ask you: for the individual Floreani, for your life, what does painting mean?
R. F. The closer contemporary that you are talking about, presumes to subsist on one side on the rigidity of the state-of-the-art and on the other side on the approval of the market, very often becoming an absurd and untrustworthy thing. The best artists of the twentieth century, to remain among the historic vanguards, coming along the time with their intuitions (always very motivated and for this reason, today they are looted in a shaming way) were, of course, outdated at that time; the enlarged consent used to arrive later, when the History used to realize. So today a certain kind of painting is not outcast, only it plays a different game.
For me painting is a road to go along, a decision that leads every minute of my existence. Even the one most unaware and far. Subscribing to Francis Bacon opinion, I believe too that the romantic idea of inspiration like an elevated and distinctive moment does not exist. It exists life with painting. The work. Painting that is asking me a very high tribute, an unfailing dedication, which is demanding, without reductions, and for this, sometimes it gives me back the miracle of feeling satisfied. Without never settling down.
D. D. Is there a measure in this dedication of yours?
R. F. I think that the measure is unexcitingly tied even to the technique I had self invented for pure expressive necessity, in the research of a way that should be simultaneously even the body of the painting. Measure tied to the days dedicated to the indispensable unskilled labour for the structure, for the stratified preparing (four, five different levels) of the bases, at the gradual approach to the work thematic, acting on disguises, on overlays, on drippings, which are already a thinking structure of the work. And other disguises, then the lozenges, then the concentric circles.. Then the abolition of the seven, eight bases with the spreading of the black tone. A new starting from zero. A new starting from the beginnings of abstraction from the Suprematist idea of Malevic’s Black Square. A resetting that lasts hundred years. And the spreading of the water and of the diluted earths, its dripping after the sedimentation of the grounds. The patience for the drying, the days waiting for the reaction of the material, of the emerging tracks of the bases…then, got the essence of what appears, the introspection of the digging, the coming back to the black centre of the work. Line by line, arch by arch, square by square, one at a time. A life together, without the suffocation of daily nature, an obsessive rhythm of a subjected work.
D. D. And the rest of life?
R. F. Absolutely present. Indispensable. I’d like to be able to be what I do, therefore one thing must, in an unavoidable way, power the other one. First of all attachments, nature, praxis. Painting improves and resolves my way of being, but only as long as it assures the comeback of re-entry, not to run the risk of becoming self-referential, aseptic, sterile, straight.
After twenty five years of coexistence, my relationship with painting can be considered on one part an urgency (with no limit of time) and on the other part an inner natural component of my way of being. Very intense but heart-warming. Nevertheless the final result of the painting, only seldom excites me more then the process that has took me to that result…I’ve lived every moment of its becoming, I felt it grow, I’ve perceived by intuition its develops, the importance moment by moment, the originality towards others that have come before… followed at once by the elaboration of other paintings, which avail themselves of this emotion, poured again and again in the next thought, in a circular manner. This is specifically for the dynamic of making a project.
D. D. In spite of its apparent composure, in your work you can always catch waits, tensions, rejections, deep agitations of cultural stratifications, of literal references…
R. F. I am very attached to reading, to the necessity nearly as a rhabdomancer of giving me new motivations, of stoking a curiosity like the Pascoli’s Fanciullino (Little boy), that I always feel palpitating inside me. By painting, but even with the frequentation that wasn’t systematic of some places that I have always nurtured, which are bounded to my childhood, to important life experiences, to deciding transitions. Like in Ticino for example. I love mountain, its lightness, its hardness.
D. D. Yes…I’ve got the impression that, if our prehistoric ice-cold Grigioni mountains would paint, they would paint like you…do you like travelling?
R. F. I am not a particular confirmed traveller. I love Italy, Europe, the United States spaces, a sort of Europe poured somewhere else. Most of all I love the travel to whom corresponds a life experience…and I enlarge this horizon with very care.
D. D. And about time, about its sense?
R. F. In 1994 I’ve titled my first important museum project “La Casa e il Tempo” (The Home and the Time), that were the most near two references of my way of feeling at that moment…fifteen years later, passed the millennium, passed from the Pisces Era to the unknown Aquarius one, I try to live a sort of “enlarged present” with a strong consciousness of the present, which is established by the past experience…therefore the future is now…
D. D. Is even this show a choice travel?
R. F. Of course. Bounded to the places, to the people, to the emotions.
D. D. Returning on the show. The bases represent some novelties too…
R. F. Every important project motivates me at the point to stimulate a sort of dare of the getting over what I know, a particular, extraordinary reason. Working on one man shows nearly always with an underneath project, very often at the exhibitions has corresponded the origin of a new series of works, that I have developed through the years later. That is how it has been for the big wheels of Mondi Sensibili Sensitive Worlds, realized from ‘97, which is the date of the anthological exhibition at the Casa dei Carraresi in Treviso, and the same for the veilings of the whites and the new material bases with water, which were worked out for the big show Memoria (Memory) at Galleria del Credito Valtellinese in Milan in ‘99, and then for the ones of Concentrici (Concentric Circles), presented at the show at Museo Revoltella in Trieste in 2003 and the lighting of the ones of Flags, which have characterized the last year tour. Until today, with the latest series Finale di Partita Final of Batch, conceptualized for my Passaggio in Ticino (Passage in Ticino).
D. D. But already in 2005 you presented a show at Folini’s...
R. F. With Renato Folini I opted for a show with selected works, representative of some periods, but fixing in today, two years later, the realization of a project ad hoc, once the breath of the territory, of people, of things has been assimilated. After having listened to the nature of the places and listened to what they had to tell me.
D. D. Your art is abstract, it doesn’t appear as a private fantasy, but offers some images to think of; these present themselves not like the definitive end of the exploitation, but rather like its mediation, an analogy, a mimesis of something that’s invisible, but not for this, less real…
R. F. I think that abstraction, which is a great novelty in Twentieth Century and therefore of the Modern Era, assures an absolute level of freedom not only for the author, but even for the user of the work, who can find himself on the side he prefers. And even in the user complete rejection in front of the unknown, at the end, can be produced that kind of emptiness, that unaware sucks him in, somewhere else. For this reason the symbolic aspect is very far from my way of painting: my works are there, for how they have been painted and for their strength, if there is one, anyway, it is to take the reader to another place. His place.
D. D. Of course. But now let’s listen to the breathing of your painting.
R. F. Let’s listen. Hoping it will tell.
Translated by Lucy D’Orazio