PAINTING AS NARRATION – Francesco Moschini
Many of us owe something to Mario Seccia, to his active intelligence, to his continuous portrayal, by excess of discretion, before the banality of daily life, with his frank logic of transgression to his unsettling silences, to his tragic consciousness of the useless of actions, accompanied by a perverse taste for a slow but sure cancellation of his own traces, almost excusing himself to have had the presumption to have left them. I would like, however, to avoid (as it seems to be happening for a long time) giving him a continual “transversal gratitude”, although that is certainly preferable to the regular direct hits to which we are all subjected, especially in this small but tormented ghetto of frustrated souls that is part of culture, and not only in Rome. This risks making one isolated, untouchable and always more distant. I also owe to Mario the fact that he helped me (along with others) to reconstruct the complicated knowledge of architecture in Rome during the 1960’s, and to have a close knowledge of a cultural reality of the most complex and political sort for a period of time, that for anagraphic and geographical reasons I was unable to personally experience. For years I have been searching to retrace and rethink that happy period in critical and historical terms, not for academic or sentimental reasons but because it seems to me to have been one of the last great lost occasions of Italian culture (and not only that of architecture) that could help us to better understand the current stalled situation. Alfredo de Santis is one of the silent protagonists of the years that Mario in his own way encouraged me to discover and to experience. And with him it seems that I am arriving at the conclusion of the restitution of my part in those years, as a kind of huge mosaic that I have learned to know. Attached to Rome, at first I only heard the names, then began to search for situations, roles, public virtues, and private vices, in order to finally reach a great family portrait. If today one can name the protagonists only by their names, if one can evoke extraordinary stories also only by citing these mythological characters, such as Franco, Mario, Duccio, Azio, Valentino or Alfredo, it is because their histories are intertwined with their destinies. They have constructed together with a few others, and undivided compactness, that, even after a distance of years, continues to feel their own insistence, their own generosity, and their euphoria of action implied in their cultural solidarity. For Alfredo, the dedication of diverse disciplinary environments from drawing to graphics, from illustration to painting, coincided, at least at first, with an attention spread to different figurative horizons of the past few years in Rome. This is in contrast with that which succeeded the situation in Milan, linked to the past-Fontana avantguardia and followed by the fragmented results of the cold “informal” of Piero Manzoni, both seeming complete opposites. If one goes farther on in the late inheritance of the polemica between E. Vittorini and P. Togliatti, and regarding the visual arts between L. Venturi and R. Longhi, continuing in the dawn of the warring presence of the protagonists of the avantguard Form 1 such as A. Perilli, P. Dorazio and others, to a declination specifically Roman, of the pop phenomenon. This had a slight characteristic romanticism in the image and in painting but without the “rigor mortis” that characterized the American experience of this period. It is this second aspect that de Santis, with his rapport over several years with Mario Schifano, seems privileged. But is is a kind of inversion of that operation with respect to the connotation of that figurative tendency. A dimensional exasperation substitutes the extremely small, in order to obtain an optic upset. An attempt to go out of the physical limits of the canvas, by a sort of uncontrolled vitality, contrasted with the idea of a fragment, an obsession with a concept of limitation, something quite unusual in recent years. With a taste for colour that shoots off, almost dropping along the canvas and substitutes the tense and terse background. Thus he changes the connotations of an experience already codified, and makes an exact collocation of his figurative discourse, making a world of his own signs that permit him to cross over the limits and separations of diverse fields of application. His result was then, as now, a continuing narration in which repetition should not be read as a coercion to repeat, as the “different repetition” from de Chirico on became qualified, following F. Fossati’s definition as “programmed painting”, but more as a continual process of small signs that operate progressively and with small narrative touches that continually enrich the complex signification. The sequences are thus linked to a unique image, such as Mary’s armchair, which obsessively return in infinite versions: a flying carpet, or more recently, the artist or a tree. This is not done to achieve a clear view of himself, following an optical concept for a better understanding but as an enrichment and continual registration of always new and diverse data. Because these “series” all should register the moment in which they were conceived, the environment that provided them, the memories that continually intercede and finally their subtle and melancholic way of being reduced to pure objects of affection. The cross from the privacy of their condition, almost an “ex voto” of Alfredo, to that of the clearest elements in continual narration. And if the painting seems to still have more body, in its accentuation of material, it is in that desert where the trees seem to be immersed and characteristic screaming gesture gives those signs almost a touching irony. It is the sense of panic of those figures that give body to the landscape, gradually liquefying themselves, revealing the sense of that evocation. And this is none other than the registration of the existence with his own weight, his hardness, but also his characterisation of fascination that still permits him to travel in “plein air” or to transform by enchantment the artist’s studio as mythical figures, the transparent presence of a micro-history, always brought to assume the tones of a higher order and the narrow gap between the microcosmic and the macro cosmic.