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Cere (1972-1985)

Milano, Galleria del Naviglio, 1985

Giovanni d'Agostino e Guido Ballo

Giovanni d'Agostino e Francesco Leonetti



Giovanni d’Agostino’s work is fascinating for some simple, almost primary and essential reasons. The use of wax, for instance, which is bound to our primary affectivity, to our elementary experiences of touch, sensitivity to heat and cold, as well as to the ideas of cancelling and sealing. Wax can also be considered a physical element of formal speech: a letter sealed with wax has a very special value. Wax is also useful to seal out abusive words, useless engravings, wax spread out is a stratum becomes the anonymous field of any number of possible enterprises and interventions. The very fact of reducing to zero the field of matter is, in its expressiveness, a choice which d’Agostino makes with gentleness and engagement. At first he acted upon that field by inserting it into visual memory. Much as one might introduce a flower petal between the pages of a book, he just set poppy petals on a wax surface. This is use of wax represents one of its primary functions as preservative element, one involved in enveloping an objective fact or an object. It is immediately apparent that d’Agostino perceives preservation as an element of memory, and that his intention is to emphasize time by eliminating any concept of space that is not tied to real space, such as canvas or paper. I believe that it is in the elimination of the spatial element, in the move toward eliminating the weight of time that the engagement of the concepts and material, and the intelligence of the process, comes to life. So, how does one allow time its predominant dimensions and avoid its oppressiveness? D’Agostino has done it through the concepts of shadow and and ghostly image. The ghostly form is not fanciful, it is not a phantomatic, it is only the speech of time set into formal intervention. D’Agostino’s second working dimension within the language of wax has to do with process and materials. D’Agostino knowledge of certain means may be used to work through thermic differences in order to create the illusion, through various intensities of colour, to give the formal outline a greater visual relief. The importance of this intervention is that, as an intellectual form, as formal memory, it represents time as integrated to form, which may be an anectode in itself. It is nevertheless important that in the intervention on wax an open language is of utmost importance. D’Agostino’s language is not an overbearing language, it does not present itself as a classical painting, a signed one. If I see a Picasso, for instance, it might be a great Picasso, it might be a weak Picasso, but I know that it is a Picasso and I accept it as such. It is a painting that projects a message, that imposes a message, it imposes a choice of either total acceptance or total refusal. D’Agostino’s works are open, not in the sense of Eco’s “open” work, but in the sense of echo as word and not as surname, in the sense of echo as common work. It is the resonance of the formal phantom that creates the reality of d’Agostino's language. All this may seem a little too intellectual, a little over-refined, but perhaps it is there that the musical metaphor gives us a rather real and realistic connotation. D’Agostino’s is a quiet language set into the full consistence of a texture. Wax is a kind of global and compact texture and d’Agostino’s intervention is a low voice language combined to, and brought into harmony with, this texture. These may be elementary facts of musical composition, but they may be useful to help us think through the point I want to make here. It would be easier for me to avoid this kind of comparisons or technical allusions in order to comment on the pleasure that this kind of visual object and product gives me, a pleasure that is, once again of a naturalistic sort. Wax is nature as is the act of engraving on it, and as such it is constitutes a commentary on naturalistic philosophy. There is a great difference between some materials and their basic supports, as there is a different affective element in the choice one may make in choosing canvas or wax as working materials for instance. To write on canvas is like writing on any empty page, it is a mere mental fact. Affectivity follows the fact, according to gestural intensity and above all with the intervention of colour and painting as dialectic material. Wax does not accept this kind of dialectic: wax is passive and objective. It can be spread out and engraved, but it remains wax, always objective. Because of this, the artist’s intervention is therefore limited and this takes us back to the emptiness of space and to the predominance of time. The philosophy of time as visual fact is obviously more than an allucination and more than a fantasy. This is the major contribution of the second industrial revolution to intellectual and emotive thought, to our working culture. But, there is also a difference between the numerical digital time of computers. It is not by chance that I am talking about this space negation in favour of time. It is all a problem of the visual language of computers. Computers deny space, they deny it since it is abstract, it is the space of the monitor which may have different dimensions, but the sense of space is no longer important. The important thing is actually the sense of time, but there is a great difference between a computer-designed product, which makes a digital, numerical drawing, and d’Agostino’s intervention on wax. And therefore, d’Agostino maybe strangely but happily points out the problem of the negation of space and of temporal emphasis. He does this by using a strongly sensual material without memory,a material with a great deal of historical connotations, but with a consciousness and a contemporary culture based on the sense of time. As such, his works must be considered as a meditation, a little like those famous chinese stones, not trying to extract a lucky element from geology, it is but the thought of the desired and conscious effect of human intervention in time without space. Pierre Restany 1987 Galleria del Naviglio, Milano

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