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Carrying out research into the sea, and in particular the sensation of the sea, can take you down some blind alleys.

In fact, getting lost in or letting yourself be tempted by a representation of it is fairly easy, especially if you live on an island in contact with tourists, who would like to take away some kind of souvenir of their holiday experience.

I have had the luck to meet and surround myself with people who have an acute critical and aesthetic sense, who remind me that I am a contemporary artist and of the consequent responsibility, as well as pleasure, to conduct artistic research.

In every research effort, there are starts, arrests, false starts and restarts. And so, a bit like in life, the important thing is to keep looking, to imagine with open eyes, following a guiding thread that sometimes will magically take you a long way.

That’s how it was for the triptych to which I later gave the title Transparencies.

I had come to a standstill in my painting, no longer satisfied with my works in oil and mixed media, because they seemed too material with respect to the subtlety of the sensation that the sea always arouses in me.

And no colour, however delicate, sufficed any longer to produce the equivalent of that complex, multidimensional feeling.

And so I stopped. Like a flat sea, but with a storm raging inside. For a while I didn’t paint, not with my hands at least… Just with my head. And eyes and heart.

When these periods of emptiness happen to me, I go and walk… Often along the water’s edge

The Viste Beach in Portoferraio, Elba Island

I immerse myself in the vision of this endless expanse of water and every time I come back I’m different. The inner sea

But this time nothing was happening. No brilliant idea, no stratagem or solution.

Then one morning, still half asleep, I had a vision of a sea, but it was strange: it was three-dimensional and floated in the air. It was a sea, that was clear, because I recognized the structure that I give to my works, but it was ethereal, no longer made of water. As an image, in fact, it was very similar to the inner sensation I have of the sea.

Opening my eyes, waking up and entering the flow of daily life would probably have meant losing my hold on that ever so strange and surreal image, but as you can imagine, I had to take the risk and return to the surface!

A multidimensional sea

I immediately wrote down a description of that peculiar vision and started looking for a material that I could use to create the sea I had seen.

And it was the material itself that came to me, as often happens when I’m in a receptive mode: it was glass.

This was a material I had never even considered up until then, and yet it allowed me to superimpose different layers and make the image float, just as I wanted.

So I started to investigate and experiment with painting on glass, which I discovered to be complementary to the painting of light, capable of initiating a dance with the colour, reflections and shadows that are transferred onto it.

In the light, my experiments with colour multiplied and opened up to unexpected plays. It was an apparition for me. I felt as if I had started on a work, but that work had then taken a direction all of its own and acquired a multidimensionality created by the colour.

So I started to paint patterns of the sea, which I then superimposed on other colours. In the end that’s what I’ve always done with watercolour, Indian ink, oil, collage… superimpose patterns. This time, though, the glass gave me other ones, in a play of light and sensations.

 

The work that came out of this was Transparencies, a triptych. The choice of the triptych format was intended to allow a subtle variation in the patterns, that  results in the repetition an affirmation in the visual choice.

The tryptich Transparencies

This work was shown at the exhibition of Dimensione Isola, my joint project with the photographer Roberto Ridi of which I spoke here

The colours I’ve chosen are green, purplish blue and yellow. It was a well-pondered choice, made on the basis of the light that mixes up colours and makes them look different again from the way they appear when you paint.

Needless to say, I embarked on a new adventure with this picture, one of which I cannot yet tell where it ends or where it is going. What is sure is that painting on transparent materials produces an image and a sensation that I feel to be more contemporary than ever.

the colour palette of “Transparencies”

An artist whom I have always admired and whom I have borne in mind in this experimentation with glass is Gerhard Richter. More than for his use of that medium in itself, this is because Richter is an example of an experimental artist who has carried out research into the potentialities of painting, varying his styles enormously in order to probe its limits and possibilities.

I remember an exhibition at the Tate in London, at which I saw his series of Strip paintings for the first time.

The effect was that of entering a dimension which was not just spatial, but sensorial.

It really felt like being immersed in the painting, being suspended between one layer of paint and the next.

The source of inspiration

What I want to convey through my work on transparencies is a bit like the sensation I had years ago in London: creating ‘another’ dimension that has more to do with the senses than with space and time.

I still have a long road ahead of me, but this triptych in a way marks its starting point.

A detail of the triptych “Trasparenze”

I have tried to tell this story out loud, bringing you to the island of Elba, at the edge of the sea… If you like you can listen to it here:

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