The mystery and poetry of painting. Art that inhabits space.
The distinctive traits of the “Euridice” collection, in their apparent simplicity, embody an extraordinary and bar-setting complexity stemming from the history of painting, even including the memory of the gesture taught by the Paleolithics. If it is true that “the past is not a father to be killed but a mother from whom to draw nourishment”, the poetry of this series of elegant ceramics proposes a sublime use of porcelain stoneware which, assimilated to a rough canvas, defines a work that is at the same time partial and infinite.
CRITICAL TEXT BY ANDREA BELLINI:”GIORGIO GRIFFA: I DON’T PORTRAY ANYTHING, I PAINT”.
Born in Turin in 1936, Giorgio Griffa is now ranked as one of Italy's most important abstract painters of the Twentieth Century. He began to paint when he was very young, just 10 years old, and for two decades his work was figurative, fairly traditional in subjects and style. His mature work developed later, in the mid Sixties, in the context of the abstract-expressionist and tachiste movements, which based their language on a concept of painting as a sequence of actions, like a repeated sign or form of writing. Rather than a representation, painting became the direct expression of a mental state, a precise psychic temperature, an internal beat.
Historically, his work has been classified as part of this "analytical painting" movement, which concentrated on analysing itself and its internal mechanisms: surface, substrate, colour and sign. However, Giorgio Griffa's work seems to stand apart from that of his fellow artists, and nowadays it is difficult to place it firmly within the historic analytical and conceptual painting movements. His abstract works, consisting of simple signs repeated on the canvas, seem to be not so much an analysis of the act of painting as a homage to painting itself and its history. And this is one of the delightful, central paradox's of Griffa's work: in spite of their conceptual approach, his paintings have a fascinating lyrical component, a radiant musicality, very different from the cold, unemotional mood of the neo-avantgardes.
In this sense his works are something of a mystery for the art world, as lovely as they are indefinable, because in them everything seems to be at once both simple and complex. The types of canvas the artist uses (jute, hemp, cotton or linen) are simple. His painted signs are also simple, or even anonymous: a series of vertical or horizontal lines and - only from the Eighties onwards - stylised floral motifs, friezes and spirals. Yet Griffa entrusts this apparent simplicity with the task of saying what is unsayable by its very nature; of plumbing the depths of the mystery of creation and the unknown. Seemingly banal and obvious at first glance, Griffa's work is actually layered with references to the history of art, Stone Age painting, Zen philosophy, music and – as we have seen – the artistic avantgarde of his own age. All these characteristics are very much to the fore in the artist's works for CEDIT Ceramiche. For this historic brand, Griffa has created five works involving a series of lyrical, minimalist signs, which recall the motifs current in the late Sixties and Seventies. The range of colours in which these signs are presented, with complementary colours and half-tones, seem to be drawn from the Renaissance and the art of Venice and its region in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. The other fundamental point of reference is Matisse, the painter who rejoiced in colour and in whose images signs and colours are nicely balanced.
Griffa's collection for CEDIT sets out to use modular repetition of signs to build up genuine spatial environments for everyday living. The partnership with a ceramics manufacturer is a particularly fertile one for the Turin-born artist. In fact, his pictorial language – based on the concept of an anonymous sign open to potentially infinite repetition – seems to be ideally suited to large-scale reproduction and the decoration of entire interiors. The concepts of fragmentation and incompletion can be easily applied to the decoration of living-spaces of varying sizes, as if they were "portions" of a larger whole, an expanding universe. All Griffa's works use a repertoire of timeless signs, actions repeated over the millennia, on a complex trajectory that combines art, craftsmanship and decoration. In the project for CEDIT, this ancient story of experimentation with the potentialities of sign, colour and matter comes to a kind of natural, fascinating fruition.
Giorgio Griffa (Turin, 1936), artist, has been a leading figure on the international arts scene and one of the most respected contemporary painters ever since the 1960s. In 1968 he abandoned the figurative style to evolve a new language, used throughout his career as a painter: the canvas is peopled with elementary signs in water-based acrylic paint applied to the raw surface (jute, hemp, cotton or linen), which is left “bare”, without a frame. His works are vibrant and free, fixed directly to walls with small nails which only support their top edges; subdivided into cycles, they are known as an “unfinished constant”, with a stylistic language based on repetition, which acquires the rhythmic consistency of the iconic signs and expressive grammar of writing.