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Antonio Marchetti Lamera. Tempo subìto, tempo anticipato Eng

Antonio Marchetti Lamera
Tempo subìto, tempo anticipato

Verona (I), Studio La Città
October ― November 2019

Time experienced, time anticipated
Daniele Capra

In our daily experience we perceive the passing of time through atmospheric events, and the shifting of the light that we can constantly see on buildings, trees and on anthropic and natural elements in general. The recent work by Marchetti Lamera explores the physical and chronological manifestation of time, and its concretization in the movement of shadows created by the light of the sun. His practice focuses on the use of a two-dimensional pictorial image to document and record the shadow that an object projects onto other surfaces. The image he creates, condensed on canvas or paper, oscillates between being the result of the experience of linear time – a time that is already in the past, fleeting and elusive – and the prediction of anticipated cyclical time – that is, a circumstance that is already destined to be announced, and therefore foreseen.
Our civilization has always been torn between two antithetical concepts of time, based on opposing ideas of circularity and linearity. Time is circular when the events and conditions that determined them periodically recur, in the same way that the seasons follow one another and the planets move within our solar system. In the words of Nietzsche: “The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again”.[1] On the other hand, time is linear when there is only one direction of travel: a continuous succession of events in a chronologically successive and unrepeatable form. This is the way time is considered in the Judeo-Christian tradition, in which the world was created and in the future it will be destroyed (as predicted for example by St. John in the Apocalypse).
Each of these conceptions, whose implications may at times overlap, tends to highlight different aspects of time, either focussing on the periodic and liberating nature of repetition or else on the malevolent fleetingness of moments and situations that can no longer present themselves as such. The research into shadows undertaken by Antonio Marchetti Lamera in recent years seems to symmetrically touch both conceptions of time, highlighting the aspects of delicacy, intimacy and sometimes of a subtle existential melancholy.

The subject of the cast shadow chosen by the artist refers to the cyclical aspects of lighting conditions, which appear to be almost identical during short intervals on the same day or over a period of twenty-four hours, as long as the meteorological conditions remain the same. Although by its very nature sunlight is always changing, in the reality we observe it actually functions as an interstitial element between the object and the shadow it creates. Furthermore, it is able to align our perceptions, without actually making it possible for us to grasp the phenomena of instant transformation (as long as there are no changes in weather conditions), in a sort of metaphysical suspension.
But the cast shadow, and its slow changes, are indicative of the passing and unfolding of time, intrinsic to a linear conception. This is something we perceive in our daily experience, based on the habit of measuring time. We perceive the continuous unfolding and the unstoppable flow, and we are aware of the infinite transience and of how it is not possible, as Heraclitus warned us, “You cannot step twice into the same river”.[2] Or, by analogy, to see the same shadow twice. All the more so because, paradoxically, we ourselves have partly changed in the meantime: the linear condition implies a constant change, even of the subject who is doing the perceiving. Opposing this change seems impossible for us as humans.

The artist’s work is very similar to photography as a recording method, not so much for its origin as an image captured and stored, but rather for the dynamics of sampling that are inherent to the process. The final image is truly the effect of a sampling of time, a testimony to a past condition, which is at the same time the trace of a presence that has taken place, but which could occur in a similar form, should the same conditions happen (meteorological and the position of the sun). This sampling therefore has multiple possibilities of interpretation, depending on whether we favour the aspects of uniqueness, or we prefer those of repetitiveness: it is at the same time time experienced and time anticipated.

A cast shadow, which is intrinsically unstable and impalpable, is difficult to classify as a true and autonomous subject from an iconographic point of view, since it is only the effect – the evidence – of something that has existed elsewhere. That is to say, the cast shadow shows that objects and artefacts exist, that they extend in space and have a volume whose presence determines areas with less illumination than those where light arrives directly. It is a sort of documentation, a conceptual device, common to all subjects without distinction, that guarantees that something exists, even though it does not possess the standard requirements of a subject.
The ordinary classification that divides between figurative images and aniconic images is completely meaningless in this case. The one chosen by the artist is, to all intents and purposes, an anti-subject – that is, an unaware, hidden and elusive subject. It is like the seed of an unknown plant that the wind has blown into our hands by chance, and that we plant in the ground without knowing which plant it comes from. In this continuous attempt to show that which is a transitory projection (the shadow) completely concealing that which exists (the object that produces it), Marchetti Lamera’s work gives the greatest scope for art to generate visual content by reworking in a subversive way the phenomenological stimuli that come from reality.
The shadows are deprived of any relationship with the primary elements that generated them – such as pylons, trees, or urban and industrial architecture. As such, they become like morphemes that the artist employs and recombines according to his own compositional needs. The results are like haikus, short poetic compositions consisting of a few verses and a tone similar to Hermetic poetry, which condense complexity into a few words. The borderline between the dark shapes and the context are blurred, although elaborate shapes can be seen, made with graphite or colour. The atmosphere is impalpable and suspended, permeated by a melancholy yearning: it is as if his images were maps of places that were once vibrant, but that now no longer exist. Places of which only a faint memory remained in the white-haired head of a geographer about to submit to old age.

Drawing is at the heart of all of Marchetti Lamera’s artistic practice. Not just because of the exploratory aspects of this discipline, but because it is the central medium for elaborating and synthesizing images starting from the endless photographic archive that the artist has collected. Furthermore, it is physically the basis for every piece of work, even on canvas After the usual preparations, the artist first creates a graphite drawing on the surface and only later does he apply colour. The memory of the cast shadow in his painting-drawing, which chronologically occurred in the past, therefore returns not only as a conceptual evocation, but also as an inescapable material foundation. Every one of his works is a drawing, or has been briefly. In the latter case, various layers of colour have then been applied to it in order to multiply and amplify the effects of the light that hits the work. The painting created by the artist is characterized by the use of fields with minimal chromatic variations and by an extreme fluidity of the lines. In this way it also preserves a trace of the memory of the medium that physically preceded it, hinting and alluding to it. Conceptual and technical issues thus go hand in hand, in a kind of continuity that is particularly meaningful.

The images created by the artist gather the writing made by light, fixing it in a static form, and are endowed with a rather mystical and contemplative aura. The visual alphabet used is minimal, the forms used are simple and essential. And yet in that real and unassuming simplicity, it is as if the pomposity and the noise of so much bombastic amazement had faded. It seems, almost, as if there is no room for anything else, as if what was transitory had really transited, and what remains is that which is really worth holding on to and preserving. Thus both depiction and reality cease to exist, dissolving in the shapeless fluidity of the shadows, like snow melting in the sun. Time seems to have shed the urge to advance and sustain change. The light becomes diluted into lines and reflections, into raggi ombrosi (“rays of shadow”), [3] a contradiction that softens, becoming still and quiet.
The only moving thing seems to be the observer, who, with a tilt of the head, moves sideways a little at a time to perceive the differences in the shimmering of light and the reflections of the pigments spread across the surface. A little to the right, a little to the left, moving slightly back so as not to be dazzled by the sunlight reflecting off a shadow, which the sun itself had produced. The light feels no obligation not to contradict itself, and can blind the eyes if it reflects the small darkness it has created on a smooth surface. The viewer turns their eyes, “sees a shadow rise in the distance, grow, approach, change form and colour, fold over itself, break, vanish and flow again. […] You cannot observe a shadow without bearing in mind the complex features that concur in shaping it and the other equally complex ones that the shadow itself originates. These aspects vary constantly, so each shadow is different from another shadow, but it is also true that each shadow is also the same as each other shadow, even if not immediately adjacent or successive”.[4].

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, s.341, Walter Kaufmann transl. New York: Vintage Books, 1974.
[2] Heraclitus, fragment DK 22 B 91, from Fragments by Heraclitus, translated by John Burnet in Early Greek Philosophy, Adam and Charles Black, London 1908.
[3] The expression raggi ombrosi, an oxymoron, is taken from the title of a series of works on paper by the artist created in 2019.
[4] The last lines of the text are a transcription of a passage from the first chapter of Mr. Palomar, written by Italo Calvino (Turin: Einaudi, 1983; English first edition San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985), where I have replaced the word “wave” (onda) with “shadow” (ombra). It is a poetic re-adaptation and I hope the reader does not find it to be sacrilegious of a perfect, and in some ways sacred, text. I apologize to the reader and to the great Italo Calvino.

Superficial Eng

Tiziano Martini, Alberto Scodro, Eugenia Vanni

Verona (I), Studio La Città
February ― March 2016

The surface as a medium
Daniele Capra

Substance and appearance, in other words depth and surface. We often struggle with these two extremes, since childhood in fact when older and more authoritative people insisted we discover what lies far from our eyes, what is on a level that is not immediately visible. For us in the West, it is indisputable that sounding the depths leads to further meanings than does trusting to our eyes, than does the probably fallacious vision resulting from the senses, the investigative capacity of which is little appreciated and is reduced to the level of sensation.

Various evident factors have contributed to this mode of analysis: above all (1) an ascetic moral concept aimed at the control or rejection of pleasure – a concept belonging to the ancient world and which was to be found in both the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian tradition – that leads to doubting or rejecting the stimuli, even cognitive ones, that derive from the senses. Furthermore, in all its various aspects, (2) the Medieval Christian tradition has inherited from the ancient world a condemnation of sensuous pleasure, because it is not concerned with spiritual and divine elements. Lastly, but not least in importance, (3) the philosophical and scientific tradition deriving from Descartes, and of which we are inevitable the heirs, has undertaken a strict dualism by opposing res cogitans to res extensa, with a clear preference for the gnosiological cognitive mental aspect over the material one of the senses. But on a closer analysis, the assumed (objectionable) superficiality of the senses leads us to an ethical kind of bottleneck, and suggests that it is desirable to trust in our own mind and what is produced by logic and, instead, to doubt the senses. And such a precept, one that entrusts the cognitive primacy to the mind, is also one of the premises that form the basis of “cogito ergo sum”, the importance of which has gone far beyond arguments between philosophers.

The combined action of these factors has led us to favour the first part of the depth/surface dualism and to neglect the potentiality of the latter. What is particularly significant is not to consider the surface as the opposite of substance, of what really characterises an object as though, as a last resort, the exterior were the least important and noble part of an artefact or the least stimulating part of a process. Frequently the surface is considered to be a sly attempt to capture the attention and the eye of those who are not in a condition to analyse a phenomenon in order to genuinely enter its depths. This approach leads to considering the surface as an area unworthy of interest since it is a part with exclusively cosmetic relevance, incapable, in other words, of going beyond a refined and servile pleasantness. As against this, we should consider the capacity it has to bear important information of a character that is not merely utilitarian, such as, for example, the history of a material, its chemical-physical qualities, or the use that has been made of it, just as happens when a geologist examines a rock. In this way, as Giuliana Bruno has highlighted in a recent essay analysing the dynamics of surface qualities, [*] we discover it as a medium “which refers to a condition of betweeness and a quality of becoming as a connective, pervasive, or enveloping substance. As an intertwining matter through which impressions are conveyed to the senses, a medium is a living environmental expression, transmission, and storage.”

The works in Superficial aim at overcoming the Manichean approach that typifies our culture by recounting how the surface can be the object of art research or, at least, the field of action on which the artist moves. By making use of processual and pictorial modes, of a conceptual dynamic order and of a chemical and thermal action, the surface in fact itself becomes the medium, because it can also arrive at being the objective of, and the metaphor for, the undertaking of art, and also a meta-narrative that explains and discusses its reasons. And so the vital and incessant work on/of the surface is the final diary of a metamorphosis that comes about as the result of the thoughts and hands of the artists who are able to propose alternative routes for superseding the impasse, for controlling environmental variables, and for exploiting to their own advantage unforeseeable accidents. In its tactile resolution, the surface in itself becomes the raison d’être for artistic research, the centre of an action that produces and records on its. own material a shift of meaning, an occurrence, a relocation, a passing over. Transformations that it is worthwhile understanding, and not just with the eye.

Tiziano Martini
Tiziano Martini implements an explorative kind of painting in which the function of the colour is less important than the artist’s own executive pleasure, the manual realisation of the work. The Untitled works seen in the gallery are in fact characterised by a continuous and rigorous processual aspect in which action and expectation, experimenting and verifying the result, alternate. The artist superimposes different levels of acrylic pigments on the canvas either directly with a brush or, more frequently, with the use of monotypes, matrices that, opportunely coloured, allow the material to be layered like successive imprints. In this way the canvas contains chance elements – the dirt in the studio or the residue of previous works – that become random variables that the artist freely uses/organises in a continuous jazz improvisation.

Alberto Scodro
Alberto Scodro’s art is characterised by a two-fold inquiry: one is concerned with the architecture of spaces, with respect to which he excavates and highlights lines of force and aspects of ideal tension; the other concerns material itself, the properties of which he loves to question and put to the test in order to find the limits of its use. In his Autumn series, he develops a research in which he analyses the generative capacities resulting from the combination of such different elements as sand, glass, and oxides. In fact, the artist inquires into the combinatory possibilities of his material by firing at a high temperature in an industrial kiln prime materials of various origins; these undergo a chemical/physical process similar to vitrification. In this way Scodro creates alchemical wall-sculptures, blocks in which the surface is as rough as rock, but as coloured and fragile as porcelain.

Eugenia Vanni
Eugenia Vanni’s artistic research is characterised by a multi-faceted conceptual activity, one that is implemented through different procedures and media, effortlessly ranging from painting to installations. Frequently, by updating their semantics and traditions, she reuses the techniques of fifteenth- and sixteenth century Italy. In her diptych Ritratto l’uno dell’altro (Portrait of each other), Vanni conceptually explores painting’s mimetic potentialities to arrive at the most extreme results. Thanks to her use of oil and of different ways of imprinting the canvas, the artist arrives at portraying on linen the image of the cotton weave, and vice versa. In this way an essentially meta-pictorial double portrait is revealed, one in which the subject is painting in its material/tactile essence, in its being a palimpsest that embraces the image that is latent in the other. In a logical chiasmus each element of the diptych is thus a negation of its own identity and, at the same time, a representation of its opposite.

[*] G. Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aaestetics, Materiality and Media, London: The University of Chicago Press, 2014, p. 6.

Michele Spanghero. Exhibition Rooms Eng

Michele Spanghero
Exhibition Rooms

Verona (I), Artericambi
February ― March 2010

Derirable Myopia
Daniele Capra

Very often organizing an exhibition is to invite many shows within the shows, almost like a kind of Russian Matryoshka doll. Every exhibition can hide another exhibition.
Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Connective Possibilities

When you point a finger at the heavens, a fool will look at the finger, and as a consequence see only that. This is what we have been told since we were children, in the hope of stimulating us to do the exact opposite. In the same way scientific methodology teaches us that it is necessary to recognize the object to be analyzed and to discover the aspects to be taken into consideration by using our intelligence and, above all, the necessary tools for analyzing and measuring as a means of verification. In other words, this is a methodological aspect, given that – in order to formulate hypotheses and go beyond appearances – it is necessary to know where to look.

This is also what happens when we go to see a show of contemporary art, whether in a public space or in a private gallery: when we enter a place where we know there is an exhibition we look first of all for the works on show. Independently of the fact that they are autonomous, i.e. simply put in that place after being transported from somewhere else or are site-specific, it is the subject contained in the space that draws our attention (even when we are dealing with a basically immaterial work such as a work of sound-art or with the extreme case of a performance where the work is the outcome of the event). The principle centre of interest is, in other words, about what is inside, or what occurs within, the containing space.

Even though in the last decade there has been a certain inclination – at times quite emphatic – to create installations as a deliberate alternative to exhibitions (ranging from extremely refined ones to those which are really slipshod), the white cube is still considered the ideal container: in fact, the white setting guarantees as no other a kind of absolute sensorial experience. In one of his essays, Brian O’Doherty has written, «The ideal gallery subtracts from the artwork all cues that interfere with the fact that it is “art”. The work is isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself. This gives the space a presence possessed by other spaces where conventions are preserved through the repetition of a closed system of values. Some of the sanctity of the church, the formality of the courtroom, the mystique of the experimental laboratory joins with chic design to produce a unique chamber of esthetics». [1]

The analysis of exhibition spaces that Michele Spanghero has been pursuing for some years began, instead, from the concomitant wish to look at the finger rather than the heavens, as well as to show how great a difference is registered between conceptual models and reality. The artist has undertaken a genuine reconnaissance of exhibitions in Italy and Central Eastern Europe (museums, kunsthalle, galleries, and fairs) in search of both the venues’ standard elements and those which are irregular, and as a result he reveals contingent aspects which are not usually noticed. In this way we discover that recourse to the white cube has exceptions and many different variations with respect to the absolute model that we believe to be inviolable.

The basic aspect of this inquiry is the overturning of the functional role and, unexpectedly, of the power and the bonds of visual, cultural, and aesthetic influences that nourish the work/venue hierarchy. By openly showing and exhibiting, not so much floors and pieces of wall, but portions and remnants of receptacles, they themselves stop being aphasic containers of emptiness and begin to whisper and to show unexpected cracks, irregularities, and variations of whites to which we are not usually inclined to pay attention. By doing this the artist undertakes an act of insubordination in the face of that standardized logic according to which roles have been assigned and the script does not allow for any changes, not even at the last minute. Spanghero does not choose new subjects by doing this; in other words, he does not undertake a list of possible things to be looked at, but strips the space of its works: he literally puts them in the attic and ignores them. In fact, what is being photographed is the microcosm that we are used to consider only as the frame. The works – those that already have the privileged status of being works of art and that are hung on the walls or are on the floor behind the artist – are not there: they are missing, and at this point it is not even worth lending an ear to hear if they are definitively silent.

The reconnaissance of all these spaces – the artist has shot hundreds of photos – concludes a fascinating process of visual compression that leaves no space to perceptive kinds of interpretation, even though there are interesting colour effects that might link the photographs to Minimalism. But, as Jean Baudrillard reminds us in his The System of Objects,[2] the repetitive activity of collecting, of gathering objects and concepts with a recognizable criterion, or at least one that can create a logically close relationship, results in the control and mastery of space and time. The artist’s action of recording portions of containers that prove to be empty or emptied, inevitably lead him to the very limits of the representational possibilities of photography but, at the same time, puts him in the privileged position of having managed to record and control a process. This leads to the strong analytical tension of the operation as a result of its caustic repetitiveness, while the conceptual friction between photographing a series of non-objects (such as are the white cubes in Exhibition Rooms) and their evident recognizability (they are pavements an walls) makes this friction coldly biting. At times, however, the magic – as happens in Fellini’s Amarcord when fog wraps the town of Rimini – lies in not seeing distinctly or into the distance, but in discovering it by trial and error.

[1] B. O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube. The Ideology of the Gallery Space, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1986, p.14.
[2] J. Baudrillard, The System of Objects, London, Verso, 1996.