Why is Geometry neither an absolute value nor a certain datum?
Why do we speak of a plurality of “geometries” and not as “geometry” as a science?
Because there is NEVER anything absolute in the world of art; everything fluctuates constantly in a kind of perpetual motion that mirrors the continuous change of society, of the world, the human soul and its fantasy, or rather its ability to express itself.
Therefore, let us leave aside geometry as science, principally subject to mathematical rules (which have nevertheless been amply experimented, as witnessed by the Fibonacci sequence and the golden section that has guided the hand of hundreds of artists in the past and today), let us leave aside straight angles and circles and let us put our trust in other spaces and means of expression and interpretation: let us trust ourselves to the sequences of colours that are matched and managed by the mind rather than by the hand; let us read geometries that are new but that still have corners and circles, let ourselves be manipulated by concepts and emotions.
This is why we are speaking of “metamorphoses” of geometries: a change in sign that coincides with a change in concept; the mind ventures beyond a geometric/mathematic substratum, diluting and even liquefying the basic substratum to explore a world that borrows only a few elements from the former, and then completely changes its objective reality. Metamorphoses of a basic principle in many other visual worlds, in new and different visual possibilities. The vision is apparently the same: we are dealing with squares and circles or, in any case, straight or curved lines; the world seems to be a geometric world; but no, all the basic principles of geometry have been overturned to leave room only for a geometry of the mind, that is to say a geometry dictated by emotion. Should we speak of “mental geometries”? Conceptual geometries? Sentimental geometries? Perhaps we should. In any case, we are speaking of Art and of a revolutionary means of expression.
Casentini and Paller are testimonials of a new “geometric world”, a new or simply different geometric hypothesis, a different vision of the form.
Two realities that are comparable in their total diversity; two realities, two ways to do art that have met, also on a personal level of friendship, a creative “meeting”, in which they have read the works of art together, confronting one another in the field of the pictorial space, developing a voice of their own, a personal sign born from confrontation, from dialogue in the field, from interrelation.
Casentini was born and has lived much of his artistic experience in Italy, but he stays for long periods in Los Angeles where he has found a particularly vivacious and free artistic milieu. He has met Paller, who has in his turn visited Italy many times, to absorb the lesson of the past masters.
Two lives, two “parallel” mentalities and two ways to do art which, even if each remains in his distinctive environment, confront one another and intersect on a level of colour and form, giving rise to expressions of palpitating emotionality.
Marco Casentini acts and works on the basis of the historical lesson of the Italian Renaissance. The construction of the pictorial scene and field is “aligned” with the Renaissance lesson in the sense of an expressive and formal rigour, by the rigidity of relationships and volumes. The pictorial space is divided into perspective fields. If we examine the construction of the scene in the Renaissance works of for instance Fra’ Angelico, Piero della Francesca or Raphael, we perceive that the scenes are characterized by a very rigorous geometric plan. The scene is “divided” into squares and/or rectangles that organize the surface of the painting by juxtaposition or superimposition. For instance, if we observe the “Miracle of the Sailing ship” by Frà Angelico (predella of the Stories of Saint Nicolas of the polyptych in Perugia), “The Flagellation” by Piero della Francesca and “Saint Paul prays to the Athenians” by Raphael, we observe a procedure where the surface of the painting is subdivided into squares or rectangles which, being superimposed on one another, create various levels of depth, or in other words perspective. As the geometric forms are gradually inserted into one another, the surface is given depth or, to use a photographic term, the depth of field.
Casentini seems to use precisely this procedure in the construction of his pictorial “scene”. In all the master’s works we may observes a superimposition of geometric forms that gradually become blurred towards the background of the scene, giving it depth and perspective.
Casentini seems to borrow the geometric construction of the space from Renaissance; there is always a foreground in his work, where the eye is attracted by a certain point, and then a second and a third one, and different levels that guide the gaze, leading it into the distance, all the way to a distant and deep “background”.
The gaze is caught by a focal point which varies in the position from work to work, as it may be positioned in any part of the composition, but which inevitably attracts the eye; the levels of reading of the work irradiate from this focal points, and various other levels are constructed by superimposition on one another to render the scene “mobile”. The impression of movement is created both by this superimposition of levels, and – and above all – by the positioning and management of the colours in the single squares in such a way that the eye is captured by the colour fields, either simultaneously or in a rapid succession. All this creates movement within the work. The flat, polished colour, without any nuances, shades or luminous elements, is pure colour. And this is the key to the total innovation and detachment of the artist with respect to the Renaissance and the purely geometric plan of the work. Casentini inserts the colour into his works as “liberating”, either conceptual or emotional, element of his way to do art.
His American, and specifically Californian, experience has undoubtedly guided the hand and mind of the artist towards a new relationship with colour. Colour becomes mass, a disruptive, vital space. A radiant quality inspired, tout court, by certain landscapes and the light of Southern California. In terms of colouristic expression, Casentini has broken all ties with the painting of the Italian Renaissance: there are no longer any “sfumato” and nuances, but a radiance peculiar of Californian painting.
Casentini’s work is a perspective vision based on colour; it is a kind of play with optical effects and perspective, where the artist interacts with the spectator as if they join forces in recomposing a jigsaw puzzle. All the elements must be put in the right place, according to a specific project of constructive and geometric rigour. A new “construction” in which every element of the space is essential to every other, and dialogues with it. The construction of the work is all cerebral, without any concession to the spontaneity associated with expressionism.
The chromatic passages and the succession of forms in the field of the painting are the result of a precise and rigorous project, aimed at dialoguing with the optical vision in terms of perception of perspective and colour. We certainly cannot but think of the early constructivism of artists as Malevich or Mondrian, but the geometric “construction” prevails in their works, because it represents the “revolution”, a demolition and rejection of the traditional pictorial/formal canons: in these artists the geometry marks the transition from figurative to abstraction: abstraction has been born through and with geometry. The colour is chosen as a function of the geometric apparatus, and it is a matter of primary, pure colour.
In the case of Casentini the focus is essentially on colour, and we are dealing with daring combinations of colours, never primary but amply “elaborated”.
It is a matter of geometry, that is subject to and a function of the emotional expression determined by the colour. The work is fundamentally a relation between colours, based on an emotional state.
The concrete art of the early Twentieth century with Reggiani, Nativi, Radice is completely absorbed and overcome, in the sense that they have been interiorized to such an extent as to make the basic geometric canon, the basic cipher, superfluous. In Casentini everything is elaborated, even re-elaborated, under the emotional drive determined by colour. Colour as emotional state.
The Metamorphosis of geometry has been accomplished through the idolatry of colour.
The morphology of Gary Paller’s forms has its deepest roots in the unconscious. The softness of the geometric forms are, very clearly, retraceable to situations of the subconscious, buried in its hidden depths. Paller’s geometries are, more clearly than Casentini’s, decidedly geometries of the soul.
No mathematical relationship, no scientific rigour, only an interrelation of forms and colours that are connected, accumulated, detached; in short, that interact in a relationship that always results in harmony.
Gary Paller’s work is “music” for the eyes.
The eye roams across the work from right to left, from top to bottom in a kind of oscillation that evokes the movement of the cradle – before a work by Paller, our imagination is cradled more than in a dream.
As the artist puts it, his forms have their origin in a biomorphic base, but they are then detached from it, and may in actual fact be forms of bodies, forms to search for in the meanders of Nature, in the amplest sense of the word.
One immediately comes to think of Moore’s sculptures and Frank Gehry’s architectures, where the softness of the embracing forms involve the spirit and soul, in addition to and much more than, the eye and the bodies.
In Paller’s work the construction of the pictorial space is based on fields of colour, with few nuances and without the element of light. From a subdivision of the pictorial space by fields of embracing, soft and blurred colours, found in his earlier works, Paller has in more recent paintings progressed to a true “dialectic of the line”, expressing himself through the introduction of a “line” which defines the space.
The basic relationship of his recent works is no longer: colour+colour+colour, but on the contrary line+color+line.
A revolution in his way to do art, and in his visual world.
The line defines the spaces, above all determining the transition from one colour to the next. Sometimes the colour is reduced to a “monochrome” on which the “lineature” in a contrasting colour, or “interspace” between one field of colour and the next, is positioned.
The work thus becomes bichrome: a basic colour that is defined, overturned, and paced by a line that passes through it, overturns it, gives it movement.
But Paller’s great intuition lies in the relationship existing within the volumetric masses. The section that delineates and subdivides the colour fields, what we call “line” may be more aptly defined a “spacing” between one colour and the next: the masterstroke of Paller lies in the way he balances the colour with this “spacing” and in the relationship it forms with the colour fields surrounding it. If the proportion between the colour fields and the interconnecting space is anything but perfect, the whole work loses its harmony.
The equilibrium between the spaces and the chromatic effects within them is absolutely perfect; the internal and external curvatures of the “interspace” posses the harmonious perfection that makes the work a masterpiece.
Moreover, precisely this spacing between the colours serves to fluidify the movement of the masses of colour or, if we prefer, the “bodies”.
These pictorial volumes seem to fluctuate or dance in space; they appear as “macroscopic images” of parts of bodies (terrestrial or otherwise) in movement, in which Paller has frozen the instant in visual terms, as if in a photographic image. We may speak of “masses” that are floating in space (whether pictorial or real), which Paller has given movement, but at the same time he has synthesized a fraction, “photographing” a single instant. We are reminded of the way an object moves in space without gravity: seen from close up or in macroscopy, it is nothing but a field of colour that “fluctuates” in space. Paller has “photographed”, in painting, the instant in which the mass moves, changes, interacts with another body.
The beauty of Paller’s pictorial composition lies in the fact that it is purified of any other component that obstacles or distracts the eye from the movement of the form. Paller’s research aims at the purity of the form and its movement in space, determined by the colour and by the relationship between colour and colour, or between colour and line.
It is this perfect balancing of volumes and colour that gives the spectator the peculiar sensation of being “cradled” in space, of being carried by a kind of soft waves towards a dreamy and unconscious world not unlike a maternal womb of absolute protection.
And if we want to return to the theme of geometries, from which we have departed, we once again have the confirmation that everything that appears to be geometric in Nature is merely forms floating in space; that geometries are not only the result of a mathematic calculation, but also the synthesis of imagination: pure emotion.