"Esprit de géometrie - Esprit de finesse"
- DINO FORMAGGIO -
Prof. "emeritus" of Philosophy of Aesthetics - State University Milan - Italy
Essay for the official exibithion " De - Costruzione " by Attilio Taverna. November, 1989 - Bonaguro Palace, Bassano del Grappa, Italy .
The history of painting in this century has been, for the most part, the history of multiple and multidirectional "Abstractionisms", such to the point that perhaps not even one of the aesthetic-programmatic categories has quivered, in contemporary culture, with more diverse semantic values that are even contradictory within themselves.
There is no doubt that this is a sign of an internal and accended vitality that a category - be it logical or artistic - presents itself with vast zones of semantic multivalences simultaneously both meaningful and with internal tensions of contradictoriality.
Historically, Abstractionism already bifurcates in the first decades of the century, as it is known, dividing itself, on one hand, into sensivistic Abstractionism harnessed in musical curves and quoted accents, all vibrant and sensitive of Kandinshij, or, in other instances (but on very different and profound qualities of experiences), of Klee; on the other, there is an Abstractionism that is purely geometric and platonizing, where the idea is decidedly mathematizing and hyper-uranic (and for this very reason antisensitive) like the one emerged in the Dutch school of "De-Stjil", and above all with Mondrian which even since 1910 had laid the bases of those new neoplastic expressions that will have to be celebrated, in painting as in architecture, around the first half of the century and beyond.
Nonetheless, at the end of World War II, from the '50s on, between programmatic fragments of manifestos and aesthetic-artistic programme, there were protestarian riots emerging almost everywhere or even apathetic indifferences, which were more destructive than the actual riots themselves. They used every type of means of mass communication, committing ever more technological and ever more rapid and ephemeral irruptions of bombardments on the confusion of ideas and of taste. So that even Abstractionism, just like its swinging antithesis a more or less naturalistic or expressionistic Figurativism, began together, almost blended into the same mortal embrace, to suffer fierce blows, without, however, any one understanding (or being able to catch a glimpse of), with any evident reason, which perspective alternative they could drive at, or could culturally propose.
The history of the movements of painting had meanwhile duly crossed - as was in the logic of extreme and extremist polarizations - the mined territories of "antipainting" to the point that they were tempted to cross the luminous and deserted doorways of the death of pictorial art, or rather, of painted work and of working in it and with it. If this is, in a very rapid synthesis, the general sense of the path of painting in our century, today, having by now reached its sunset which appears more and more as the sunset of an entire epoch, it could be said - and it is grave - that everything is right and nothing is right of all that which presents and offers itself to judgement in the actual field of the pictorial operations.
Thus the same concept of value has gone into crisis. It has relativized itself as maybe never before, merit and fault of growing cultural confusion in which we have found ourselves to be immersed.
So it comes to be that an "Abstractionist" like Attilio Taverna finds himself fighting a difficult battle to open a route that, in the surpassing of certain "impasses" that block the advance of new expressional discoveries, would make way for some clear re-discovered certainty. The conflict he carries within himself which belongs to the long history of man is, thus, at it roots, that between reason and sensibility.
Relying completely and immediately on reason is at first the most reassuring choice. - But on which "reason"? - Reason is a term that is vast and apparently of simple definition (like anything examined only on the surface) but unfortunately even this definition is vast and contradictory in the modern world, and ever more so in these times, especially after Hegel designed the internal movement of contradiction like that of reason's reason and non-reason's reason.
So that a triumphant negation has invaded every ancient peaceful reign of our time; it has upset the security of many mathematic certainties in the various fields of the sciences and art. Since Taverna's very lively need for cultural systemation didn't miss the opportunity to look around, to go and interrogate the great paradigmatic transformations that are taking place today in science as in art, the dialectic movements of the rational powers of the negative, couldn't but enter into his work.
Thus, his painting in its mature season born as constructivist imagination, later on, warned of the limits of a particular constructivism and of some geometrizing-perceptivist idea, endeavored with intense gradual research and without clamorous breakages to exit from the repetitive narrowness that was lying in the wait, and found the solution by opening the way not only to oblique and undirected dissymetries, and thus to more dynamic and instable equilibriums (to those formal breakages that Taverna calls "ambiguities") but to new level of research that I would define, at its limits, as a "transition to physics". I'll explain: looking at Taverna's latest works it is easy to understand how he is often fascinated by the sciences and above all by physics, particularly (of course without pretending some direct and aware translation from sciences into painting) by thermodynamics.
I don't know at what point this kind of interpretative perusal becomes hazardous, but certainly in a wide analogical interpretation it is possible to read in those diagrammed fields of frozen energies that painted works of this type are, a disposition of states (of the matter or of the image?) which becomes more and more evident by the molecular presence of the spatial particles that are diversly structured and arranged.
These states recall models that in terms of thermo-dynamics are defined as orderly structures with weak entropy (like crystals and their axial systems) in which energy dominates, or, even the opposite, states where it is the entropy that is dominating (like in liquids or in gases) and thus molecular disorder.
It should be repeated that we certainly don't know to what point this hypothesis of perusal remains valid, but it is not necessary to go too far before taking it as an interpretative clue of these atomic and subatomic worlds of lines that are directional, axial and diversly ordinative, of spatial energetic fields that belong to the reign of images. Even more so then if we think that we are in a probabilistic science of micro or macro cellular bodies, even the images are corpuscles and bodies that can and must be described and treated in an enlarged physics. Otherwise we wouldn't know, if I'm not wrong, how to see and comprehend other than merely enjoing their lines and colours (at times precious, as we can see here), the innermost sense of these works. Works, that as models more or less analogic of thermodynamic models (as they can be read), should remain that much further (according to what Prigogine affirms) from "living nature". But certainly this isn't the case of Taverna's works. These continuosly carry with them, and always more so as they progress, the breath, the longing, the joy and the "canto" of the "living" that is sought and corporally thrown ahead into projectual time.
Anyway, as everyone knows not only since today, the difficult antagonistic rapport - perhaps to often antagonistic - between the rational and the irrational has invaded the entire movement of our century since its beginning. Therefore, what can we say today about attempts that we are ever more frequent and on varying levels made by the painting to break away from narrow rationalism without, however, losing the sense and the value of ordinative reason? If we need to rediscover the horizons of that most ample Hegelian model, which has been previously mentioned of a reason that projects itself so much that it includes within it the non-reason (that could be both the most insane immagination and the eruption of uncointainable "living"), thus even the mirage of a rationalistic outcome of the scientific-geometric and thecnological type together, if it desires to unveil itself in a concrete and solid improvement, if it desires to authenticate itself and its presence in terms of an up-to-date culture, it cannot, in the last analysis, offer itself in any other way, it seems to me, than in the manners and in the tempos in which constructivistic rationality's structures will have to become so refined and so lightened that they will have to arrive to the point where they annihilate themselves in a more or less ironic deconstruction of their own internal modules.
So that, these means will the "Images" to be able to rise on new horizons or leaven from their inside, - precisely those Images of the Mother's reign mentioned by Goethe and about which spoke that don't have body and individual and real corporal concreteness, but nevertheless they work as great, ideal schemes of Beauty that defy the impossible.-
It is precisely this world of Images, re-conquered through the descent into the Mother's reign and made transparent on the last annihilated structures of a reason without sense and without passion, that can, to my eyes, design the movement of a powerful and ampler reason, thus become more than reason, where mere abstractionism or raw naturalism, that can be more or less scientistic, no longer exist, but Life still exists.
Life, re-discovered beyond simple or empty schematisms of knowledge, that flows out from their own dynamic annihilation.
In an epoch of profound crisis in the beginning of this century - a crisis which was perhaps not dissimilar to ours at the end of our century - E. Bloch, the philosopher of Utopia and of Hope, already in 1918 was speaking about the impelling necessity of regaining a new life, but to be understood as life "formed, constructed, dominated, conducted to will, radiated by the rationalism of the irrational".
Attilio Taverna is on these trails.
Thus, even if we can understand certain cipher-keys of difficult perusals of accept abstract painting works of both idealistic and concretistic signs, we cannot help but recognise and also often taste even with a subtle palate the silent music that Taverna's painting continues to emanate exactly for this rhythmic dancing of lines and of spaces, and how all this can, at times occur as in the Stravinskjan and a dionysiac sacred mystery of Spring, at times as in the playful and explosive crowding of the a multicolored Carnival, and at still other times, as in the faint monochromies of black and grey backgrounds of some wonderful Nocturnes, romantic even frankly recalling Bach.
Certainly again, here, to worlds exclude each other and seek each other: reason and sensibility.
Reason and sensibility, that is forms and rules, categorial syntax as of an "esprit de geometrie" and, fused together, intuitive corporal vibrations, senses and sentiment of colour, the singing of which Taverna introduces in more recent times, with ever times, with ever more splendour, after precedent monochromatic rigors: a refined expression of a subtle "esprit de finesse".
Two worlds that are not thought of, thus not wanted, and imagined as excluding each other, but are not conceived in harmonious convergences and functiones.
Thus we see appear, inside or above or through the rigid spatial arrangements of the straight line, the varying and vigorous rhythms of the curve from their first appearance on the level of the straight lines, almost timidly, with that slight floating of theirs that seems to allude to the first step of a dance. - The curve above the straight line, that is to say, the vital and the existential above the cage of the scientific intellect.
Therefore it is a search for a synthesis, for a more complete totality, where the lines, like a flight of perspectives and of territorial plots, open mental landscapes of hearty joy and of shadowy melancholy with lights and sounds of musical colours.
With this we even end up understanding how right Goethe's genius was when speaking, in Faust about the artificial creation of the fragile Homunculus (composed inside the vial in a glassy system of equilibrium), said: "Das ist die Eigenschaft der Dinge; Natürlichen genügt das Weltall kaum; was künstlich ist, verlangt geschlossnen Raum". That is to say that it is the property of things that to the natural ones the entire world is barely enough, whereas the artificial and artistic ones required a closed space.
The difficult dialectics between the two systematic levels of open disorder of the natural life with its improbable curves and dissymmetries and the cristalline geometric structures with their forms of linear and ideal orders, this is thus an unending antique and improbable challenge for man which the artist never ceases to repeat and try again every time from the beginning.
As even here it is being gloriously demonstrated.