This book examines and retraces the collaboration with Nelio Sonego, also through images of the exhibitions that have been put on since the early 2000s and with the republication of introductions and essays contained in the previous catalogues.
The materials that have been selected - both historical and specific to this exhibition - pick out the salient aspects of the artist’s career, with essays by Francesco Gallo Mazzeo, Francesco Tedeschi, Carlo Invernizzi, Francesca Pola, Klaus Wolbert, and Paolo Bolpagni. Together, these essays constitute a comprehensive overview of Nelio Sonego’s creative journey, from the “Strutturali” in the late 1970s, on show here, revealing their constant research into possible variants on the series and into the incessant creation of dissimilar geometrical equilibria, which remain constant also in his later series. In the Rettangolare Verticale of the 1980s, the Angoarcoli of the 1990s, and the Orizzontaleverticale of the 2000s, as also in more recent works, which are on show in this exhibition, Nelio Sonego has constantly redefined space within the surface, to the point of expanding it out into the surrounding environment. I should like to thank all those who have helped bring about this exhibition and this monograph.
Everything is the sum of its parts, of continuity and diversity both given and taken, creating harmonious fusions or glaring juxtapositions, but always in the form of transitive moments. This is because there is never inactivity, copy, or superimposition, but rather, within the chain of time, phases of slowing down, in which one theme appears to assert itself as a metaphor for a formal identification, and cases in which all seems to quake catastrophically. This tension is that of the psychology and anthropology of all of us, but it tends to manifest itself in an imaginary visual way, as the simplification of signs, traces, and colours, or as complexities that combine specifications and transversalities. It is almost as though they were giving shape to cyclical phases in response to inspirations that are diverse (as in our particular case, of Nelio Sonego) but able to make themselves independent. This is never an entirely intentional transcription, but rather a ludus with an internal randomness of its own, which is that of an action with its own inner objectives. It escapes those of the artist, and indeed at times (if not often) it ends up surprising him, as well as us, expressing a formalism that is also vitality and automatism.
1979-1980. Strutturali. These were years of orthogonal signs and aggregations of form, with a light touch giving visibility to phantasmatic chromatic vibrations. They start from a background support that contributes to the protagonism of simplicity and complexity, appearing in the shift from unity to plurality, and vice versa. Linearity is a guide for direction and the emotional depersonalisation of the sign, as though testing the possibility of being in the universe of lirium, which is to say of that profound traceability that unwittingly determines the style of an artist, which then takes shape and even contradicts itself, but it is here that it marks itself out as an event and occurrence, biology, and biography.
This is a graphic verification, which is important but in actual fact it is painting right from the outset, because it is both conceived and made as such, with no didactic intent. Simply with a gentle, resolute, classicist contemplative accentuation (and thus, in this sense, beyond any apparent referentiality), devoted to a profound suspension of time, to a meteoric physical ethereality, extending out from the individual starting point, through to that of arrival, which is metaphorical in as far as it is an entirely temporary repose, like catching one’s breath on an infinite, fragmentary trace.
Mario Nigro’s signage lighting is important not just for him but for all of us, because it renders clear and distinct what is not in the slightest. On the contrary, precisely because it is taken for granted, it adopts a role of high maieutics, of liberation of descriptive and expressive potential, which without his work would not be available, to arouse a desire to clarify what would otherwise remain as mere fantasy of the mind, as expressionless self-contemplation. Because the possibility of an imaginary discourse of new resemblances is brought about also in this auroral essence, pursued with the imprimatura of black or of the particoloured on white, of distinction and penetration.
After a formative figurative period, the conquest of a point zero in metric writing was followed by a zodiacal change in his reason for being and appearing, fostering dissolution if not in liquidity then at least in a degree of fluidity, and in combinative and non-combinative agility. All this in a test that would become that of life itself, following an inevitable discourse on an inclined, clearly metaphorical plane that bears the stamp of enigma - and indeed, enigma it is (...).
A partiality of the alphabet of signs comes to him from the heights of Achille Perilli and also from the whole conceptual galaxy of Rho, Radice, Galli, Reggiani, and Veronesi, but also Peverelli and Gian Carozzi, who constitute a history of artistic language. A sort of conscious and unconscious breeding ground, anthropologically assimilated, one molecule after another, until they form an alphabet. This then allows them to point in all directions, always considering the exertion of a starting point that needs to know - in order to be one, individual and distinguishable, and not just an enunciation of the already said - and to know everything, and, later, to absorb automatically and then forget and practice it.
An ongoing sense of space that Nelio Sonego puts together with an intelligent, passionate fecundity in the form of monologues between him and the paper, between him and the canvas. They are governed by a beautiful, entirely inner music that stretches out along lines that become the facts and organisms of a spatiality that has no confines other than those of the mind, in need of datum points and references. Ultimately, verticality and transversality become the fabric of an abstract organicity, in which meanings are potential and can be applied to a metaphysics of metaphysics. One that never drops below a certain mental and manual temperature, remaining as an open work and fascinating enigma.
- Oscuro/Orizzontale/Verticale. As from an A to a Z, an arc is accomplished from a combinatory, numerical, algebraic geometricity to an abstract, scriptural ornamentalism that constitutes the great anchor of his inexhaustible experimentation of the most simple and the most elementary. He follows his own instinctive lexicology of the fundamentals of visual thought, in the mimesis of flamboyance and in the fantasy of dissemination. This always and instinctively has a precision from which to start out, to conjure a musical score that, if not in the Euclidean mind of its origins, is not in the Pythagorean expansion of multiplications. It can still be followed with intuitions that come from afar - from Archytas and Thales, by way of Fibonacci and Luca Pacioli, in the aura of Piero della Francesca, and in the sense that within this unexhausted work of today we find traces of the relationship between the purity of visibility, as well as in artistic invention, with a whole vulgate of knowledge and visualisation that is a separate knowledge, higher and sublime.
Nelio Sonego is part of a world that gave rise to works of diversity, like those of Hans Hartung, with his caustic energy of the essential, just as analytical as they need to be, paradoxically scientific and yet poetic, with a delicate poetic touch. Another is Franz Kline, who left traces of absolute profundity in the imagination, like a probe capable of being both above and below at the same time, leaving the stylus free to do and undo. Then there is the mirror image of a Paul Klee, roughly sketched out, in the Italian manner one might say, with a clarity and a deep trace and reflection in the border, like when a vein of luminosity expands, or a group of signs rebounds to acquire a greater period of attractiveness with the phenomenalism of celebration, of a place open to the event, which ultimately will never take place. Like Kafka’s trial, because potential is a force in itself and does not accept to be tested, since evocation and theatricality are seen as sufficient in themselves.
There is undoubtedly a post-Surrealist, post-Dada, post-Breton automatism, but with the same attention, coupled with great meticulousness of gesture that follows an initial intention of the work, of every work, because there is a system of consistencies that is immediately perceptible. This is because there is no elsewhere where the visual schema can be repeated. This means that the spatial dimension is a way of saying that it is “meteorological” in the ancient sense used by Empedocles. There is an attention to what may be in the form of shards, meteors, and trails, the material nature of which in the realm of distance sets them up as weightless and possibly even bodiless suspensions. This is because it is always an abstract form of expressionism, the “reason” for which is the challenge of the invisible, always ready to pounce and yet always elusive. Like a shattered mirror that lets no one either hold or correct it, for it follows an immediate dynamism of thought. It makes no reference to other than itself, beyond any tangibility, any concreteness, as if there could be a sign of signs that dwells within a thought of thoughts, sufficient unto itself, like ecstasy in a dream.
I see it as a means, as an instrument, that becomes a poetic vision, the frostiness of which should not fool us. It is but the surface of its classic dimension, offering itself up to contemplation and mute dialogue, skipping words in place of silences in a timeless timeline - anachronistic, maybe, without pretence or facile “likes”, which nevertheless last the space of an instant only to be replaced in an asphyxiating continuation, while here the aspiration, which is achieved, is to suspend time itself.
From a before to an after, to say we are always who we are and, at the same time, different, in so far as there is an ontology in the initial part that later corresponds to an experience and an intense personal story. A before with all the characteristics of the language that does what it can to control its own visual alphabet, dealing with a nomenclature that has a whole classicality of its own, in the metaphor of a deconstruction that has no intention of remaining what it is. One that prepares to become structure, even though the direction is not clear, because there is an experiment with its laboratory on full view, putting all its paraphernalia on show in order to make them the foundations of a poetic vision rather than causa sui.
Between the two, there is all the evidence called Rettangolare Verticale, which in a neo-linguistic mangling goes by the name of Striangoli, or Angoarcoli, or even Orizzontaleverticale, comprising the artist’s books and the singular duets of papers and canvases with Carlo Invernizzi. These are, however, not taken into consideration here, in order to focus better on the specular nature of the points of departure, based on what has been achieved so far.
The after, which is that of a long day today, in which abstractionist grammar, which has never been lost, but has revealed its countless metamorphoses, shows how expansive and all-embracing a universe of signs can be when it focuses on the fullness of the white and becomes a funfair and circus of essentiality. This essentiality appears like a toccata, like a fugue, like Apollonian assays of poetic truths that they themselves contain in condensed form, with an ornate, geometrical plurality that concentrates on itself and becomes stratified. The before had been an area and perimeter, leading all options open to a realm of fantasy and ars combinatoria.