Agostino De Romanis is best known for his Indonesian Works, which he exhibited in over forty years of activity throughout the world and particularly in Indonesia, where the artist lived for a long time and worked. However, his research does not end with that extraordinary season, but in the 2008-2010 production he creates works depicting or symbolically recalling Numbers, in a cycle which is defined At the Origin of Things. For our artist, in fact, if everything is Order supported by numbers, man can find his answers, and also know through the arithmosophy the most hidden mysteries concerning the same God. Keplero, in a letter of April 1599, wrote: "As proof of God, in the whole of the physical world there are laws, numbers and relations, marked by perfection ..." and later he added: "These laws are understandable for the human mind ... Because what is there in the mind of man other than numbers and quantities? ". The abbot Gioacchino da Fiore (1130-1202), theologian and writer, made his prophecies using numbers.
This recent production therefore presents a choice of subjects focused on the figures of Numbers and on the figure of its creator, Agostino De Romanis, who dedicated himself with technical procedures to the similar representation of the "silent life of numbers", to create a series and identify the language of inanimate numbers capable of arousing reflection, disturbance, joy, melancholy and to concoct in painting a new psychology of numbers. It is therefore not the simple reproduction of the number that interests him, but what is behind it, that parallel world that sensitive souls can perceive behind the visible. The numbers are, to paraphrase Carlo Carrà, "miners who bring to light the pain and joy that is at the bottom of the soul".
Following this spiritual, emotional line, De Romanis creates a series of works depicting the 1, 2, 5, 7, 30, etc., oil-painted numbers on paper or on cardboard, as transparent textures of a parallel reality , in short, to mention J. Lotman, of a "cryptography for initiates expressed in a conventional esoteric language" (The still life in a semiotic perspective, in "Critical Tools", 1996). Here then The tree crown dresses 1, Through the 2, 7 twotwoseven, 5-5-5 and the white of the fire, Flight on the twenty-three, Autumn of 72; just to mention some of the most emblematic works.
To realize this idea, this path, the artist has studied the antique, such representations are found in fact already in antiquity, not missing medieval examples, and the borders decorated by the Flemish miniaturists who offer a vast panorama of letters and numbers starting from the second half of the fifteenth century are equally important.
However this is an exception in the field of the history of art. Later, during the Baroque period, the representation of numbers evolved towards didactic intentions or considered a memento mori with references to morality, to the cabal, to esotericism.
Esoteric meaning of numbers and their symbolism
The numbers contain the secret code to interpret the universe, the symbolic value of the numbers is given by their qualitative value and by the interactions with all the other structuring elements of the universe. All the components of the universe are characterized by a numerical sequence that establishes the relationship with all that surrounds it, the interactions composed by the numbers go beyond a mere quantitative calculation. In all ancient traditions the numbers are sacred, precisely because they allow us to understand the order of things and the laws of the cosmos.
For Agostino De Romanis the idea of number takes place according to the laws that govern the human journey, making it different from time to time, feminine or masculine, evident or imperceptible. In the succession of centuries and artistic contingencies, different images that man has built to represent his idea of number follow one another, unconsciously reflecting himself. The means of expression change but not ideas. And in the Master of Velletri these ideas place the figure of numbers halfway between what is material and what is not, the boundary that makes the material a metaphor for the spirit, with the light that becomes the essence of the work, in a set of air and matter in which the soul is lost. This ephemeral nature places it as the force by virtue of which the cosmos moves, in the inseparable unity of the divine.
De Romanis numbers are born from the baroque forms and with them they have in common the search for a vital contact with the public, but from the baroque conception they move away when they overcome the theatrical dimension to entrust the meeting with the spectator a different message, absolutely personal , in which a solitary and surprising introspective path is traced. The numbers become the narration of a meeting, a fleeting contact between the visual (and almost material) plane and the spiritual plane. Sometimes, in these works, the image of the number breaks up or converses with other figures that approach or move away, in a silent movement that revitalizes it by detaching it almost from the paper and lightening it in an aerial way. It is the case of Births on the red background, The fruits of the heart, The white dog, The dance, The flowers of life in the red branch, New births. Each work takes on an autonomous appearance, but at the same time it regains its own sense in its union with the others. The nature of the figures reaffirms itself in its division, which builds and disrupts it at the same time. And time always merges with the overall vision that wants it to be Absolute, summarized in an eternal moment.
The works therefore express the search for what is beyond what one can touch, opening a window beyond the passing of time, beyond the forms we can take, beyond the paper we can draw, linking the transience of man with the incorruptibility of God, in a choral movement in which the image becomes a question to which only the gaze of the spectator can answer.
Numbers and end of the world
There were also those who tried their hand at complicated calculations to identify the date of the end of the world. These calculations were based more on the date of birth of Jesus Christ and from the theory that since God had taken six days to create the world, the duration of the same would be six thousand years after creation. Genebraro, for example, calculated that Christ was born in 4090 after the creation of the world and therefore the end would have taken place in 2052. The humanist and philosopher Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) calculated as the birth of the Nazarene 3958 and the date of explosion of the world 2042. The theologian, writer, cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542-1621), and count Gaetano Bonorius (1861-1923) set the date of the end of the world to 2030.
Last but not least, Abbot Maltre calculated the fateful date at the end of the 20th century or at most during the XXI. The proximity of these dates to each other is disturbing. The years we live in are dark years and both religious and secular prophecies agree on this.
The "presences" and the "fourth dimension" of Agostino De Romanis
In De Romanis' recent works, in addition to the numbers, we also find ethereal figures, "presences" whose tone is always open and indefinable. At the level of aesthetic and formal speculation the artist experiments with different pictorial licenses, such as the partial cancellation of the contours, the inclination of the plans, the changes of perspective; revised and revisited concepts that are found in the genesis of some compositions by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). It is a physical transcendentalism, a "fourth dimension, the dimension of infinity" as Max Weber defined it in 1910 (The Fourth Dimension from a plastic point of View, New York), or as Guillaume Apollinaire states in a conference of 1911 “from the plastic point of view, as offered to the Spirit, the fourth dimension would be generated by the three known dimensions: it represents the immensity of space. It is space itself, the dimension of the infinite and gives plasticity to objects” (Aesthetic Meditations, ed. Milan 1948).
Certainly, behind the use of the term "fourth dimension" there is the influence of theosophy and occult sciences. Certainly the relationship among art, theosophy, science, positivism, is a phenomenon of vast dimensions that has provoked a change of aesthetics and of remarkable artistic nomenclature and that De Romanis has been able to grasp and interpret with the usual audacity, with that his making load of hopes, desires and personal will, contemplating, investigating, admiring the world to dominate art. His language goes beyond logic, because it is mediated by forms whose connections are inaccessible to conscious thought, intuitively recognizable as a significant art.
This serves us to understand more intimately one of the most extraordinary figures in the contemporary Italian painting scene. For our Artist At the origins of things is a way of knowing each other, of being, is the filter through which reality is read, sublimated, interpreted. In these works the reduction of the perspective space is concretized as well as the disappearance of the shadows: it is the attempt of a figurative equilibrium turned to the volumetric and architectural construction, aimed at reabsorbing in the colour and in the light all the spatial relations. The tools at his disposal are the enigma, the spectrality, the irony, the dream, the anguish, the magic, where the number or interpretation of the number is so self-sufficient as to escape even the symbolic function.
The result of his "inner vision" is all in these works dedicated to the Numbers, it is in a variety of forms that is homogenized in a single amalgam free from its physicality, so that the real image is recreated on the picture with a series of values, relationships and harmonies: plans sometimes made with bright colours, sometimes dull, sometimes cold in the shadows where the "representation" is definitely "mimesis" but, at the same time, pure "expression" of pictorial creativity of an indefinable and indefinite moment.