“Throughout his artistic career, Carlo Battaglia fought to avoid being considered an avant-garde artist. But people didn’t always believe him, so, for almost the whole of the 1970s, he found himself representing that trend today identifying itself as ‘Analytical Painting’, which at the time was also called ‘New Painting’ or ‘Painting Painting’ […]. But he must have appeared a heterodox presence next to the theoretical diktats of that analyticity; indeed, he must have looked like ‘another’ possibility […].”
Galleria Il Ponte is rounding off its exhibition season – before the summer break – with a solo exhibition devoted to the painting of Carlo Battaglia, presenting fifteen large works from 1969 to 1979. His work from this decade nevertheless represents the absolute climax of “New Painting”, underscoring the distinctive characteristic of those Italian artists who found themselves in this field at the time. Indeed, while each artist developed their own line, that their work originated from the great Italian painting tradition is evident. “His representation is not imitation: the second term is negative, the first instead constitutes the great tradition of painting […]. In painting, to represent a world... is to create a world with the tools available to painting, not to imitate it: it is what he defined as a ‘parallel image’, namely an equivalent of the sensation, obtained using the linguistic and disciplinary tools that each one of us has chosen, yes in order to communicate, but first of all to live […]. All of his painting is always and only aimed at creating the world in which he felt immersed.”
The two quotations are taken from the text by Marco Meneguzzo in Carlo Battaglia. Catalogo ragionato, edited by Marco Menguzzo and Simone Pallotta, Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2014.
Carlo Battaglia was born on the island of La Maddalena in 1933. He spent his childhood in Genoa and then he moved to Rome. He only lived on his beloved island for a few years as a teenager (1943-1947), a time which would nevertheless leave indelible traces in his visual memory.
After studying Classics at high school, he attended the Academy of Fine Arts, specializing in scenography thanks to his interest in theatre and the cinema. It was here that he discovered painting, and, encouraged by Toti Scialoja, fell in love with American painting (particularly Jackson Pollock, who became the subject of his thesis). He developed his talent by copying the masters, especially Matisse, and he started to travel, to Kassel, Paris (where he lived in 1962 after winning a scholarship), London and New York. His first solo show was held in 1964 at La Salita in Rome; in 1966 he exhibited at the avant-garde gallery Salone Annunciata in Milan, to whose owner Carlo Grossetti he would always be grateful for taking him under his wing (here, he went on exhibiting his works in 1966; 1968; 1970; 1974). The following year, in a stint across the water, in New York, he worked in a studio in Canal Street, forming friendships with artists like Reinhardt, Motherwell and above all Mark Rothko, who for two months in 1965 had been a guest in the Roman home of he and his wife, Carla Panicali – collector, trader and founder of Galleria L'Isola in Rome – whom he would marry in 1972. He worked on the motifs of the “ambiguity” and “illusion” of the visible world with a series of pictures, Misterioso, Vertiginoso and Visionario, dealing with the relations between the full and empty space of the skyscrapers and the sky, and the game of reflections on the glass walls of buildings. In 1968 his works were exhibited in Rome at Arco d'Alibert gallery, the following year at Flori gallery in Florence and in 1970 he exhibited Maree (tides, a topic which would be most dear to him his whole life long) in a personal room at the XXXV Venice Biennale. After the 1970s, he took part in all the most important exhibitions of “New Painting” or “Analytical Painting” in Italy and Europe. In 1972 he exhibited in Livorno at Peccolo gallery and the following year at Studio La Città in Verona in the collective show Iononrappresentonullaiodipingo; in 1974 he held a great anthological exhibition at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, as well as at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara (1976), and at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington (1974); in 1975 he took part in the exhibition Pittura analitica, at Galerie La Bertesca in Düsseldorf, and in A proposito della pittura at Studio Soldano in Milan and at I.C.C. in Antwerp; in 1976 he exhibited for Daniel Templon in Paris (Peinture) and in 1977 at the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam, in 1978 at the Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf, at the XXXIX Venice Biennale and in 1982 at the Hayward Gallery in London.
In 1980 he was invited with a personal room to the XL Venice Biennale; he exhibited in Milan, at Studio Grossetti (where he is exhibited again in 1983). In 1983 an important show was held in Rome at L'Isola gallery (which would continue to host him right up to the end of the 1990s: 1985; 1988; 1991; 1994; 1996; 2000). From this time on, he sought isolation, between Rome, New York and La Maddalena, his final home. In the second half of the 1980s, he held exhibitions at Marconi (Milan, 1986); Deson-Saunders (Chicago, 1989); Rossi & Rossi (London, 2001); Villa Vogel (Florence, 2003, in collaboration with the Centro per l'Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci – Prato) and Jason McCoy (New York, 2004-2005).
He went back to working with egg tempera, like the ancient masters, and despite, by dealing with topics like sea, rain and hail, looking like a representation of the visible world, his works create a “parallel image”. Painting as a metaphor for the landscape, the landscape as a metaphor for painting. Three years after his death – in 2005 – his wife Carla Panicali began the work to catalogue his oeuvre, before her own death in 2012, on the same isle of La Maddalena.