L’école du regard (1) di Antonio Scaccabarozzi
n. rouchota: What would you say to somebody to help them understand your work?
a. scaccabarozzi: I would tell them to follow the usual procedure when faced with an object of art. Understanding and making sense of what we see, through careful reading and gathering as much information as possible, even things that seem banal such as: the title, date, dimensions, the material used, how it was used, why, etc. All this already gives us an important outline of the artist’s thought, which indicates which levels they want to take us to. (2)
The title, defined by Duchamp as ‘mental colour’, also functions as an indicator of meaning in Scaccabarozzi’s work. Let’s see how.
In general Antonio’s titles fit into two different genres: some are composed of objective information, others are freer and more poetic or lighter and tinged with irony. Drawing from the collection that Pulcinoelefante (3) editions recently published in a valuable book, below is a list of titles that seem to have particularly active echoes, which for some reason will not be silenced:
Una idea sul quadrato 
ore 11,30 GRIGIO AZZURRO 
Misura/Distanza Tempo/ storia di un amore 
E il suo contrario 
Punto di vista variabile 
Interesse a sinistra 
Non prima. Forse dopo. Comunque adesso. Nero 
Me l’ha dato Tommasino 
Merate e non ricordo 
Ventiquattro volte NO 
Centottanta volte NO 
Questo è giallo? 
ROSSO SCURO IN QUESTO MOMENTO 
Essenziale con luci pittoriche 
Questo è rosa? 
Processo di eliminazione del grigio 
Introduzione al vuoto 
Introduzione all’orizzontale annullata  Provenienza sconosciuta  Opalescente  SPECCHIO 
Scaccabarozzi created, looked and slowly absorbed the outcome of his doing, next - but not always - he ‘recognised’, and then, only then, did he name what he had made.
We must therefore follow his example and take some time to allow the relationship between what our eyes see and the evocative sound of the titles to settle. They are tips of an iceberg, as Natascia maintains, “part of Antonio’s enigma”.
Reader, I propose a game: for each title listed above, it seems appropriate to highlight a keyword, which appears especially useful in revealing an important aspect of the many that come together to form the work (when the title is composed of a single word we have not written it out again).
Quadrato (square): a reference, through Malevic, Mondrian, Albers and Max Bill, to Apollonian geometry. Intuitively, and perhaps also incorrectly, the word quadro (painting) seems to derive from the term quadrato. The painting would always be a format that Antonio held dear.
Azzurro (blue): the colour of the sky, of depth, of distance, of transcendence. Scaccabarozzi often used it.
Misura (measurement): his work always depends on measurements, initially through the use of mathematics to verify applicability and effectiveness, and therefore more simply, and subsequently by distancing himself from any form of excess and disproportion.
Contrario (opposite): the game of opposites is needed to scrutinize any affirmation.
Variabile (variable): the most authentic characteristic of reality, the familiarising touch.
Interesse (interest): in Antonio’s case, his principal interest is revealing the essence of painting, which is an eloquent metaphor of the tension between being and becoming, between identity and difference, between visible and invisible.
Forse (maybe): a doing that is practically executed in constant doubt could only happen under the aegis of an adverb that indicates possibility.
Tommasino: the inclusion of a friend’s real name underlines that daily affections are also woven into the painting.
Ricordo (memory): in both conscious and unconscious form, with rêverie and desire, it represents the ‘dross’ that clouds the viewing process.
NO: the necessary opposition
?: the centrality of the question. Momento (moment): here and now, we summon the consciousness of phenomenology and the phenomenology of consciousness
Luci (lights): without lights we would not know what to do without eyes. Every colour is of course light behaving in a different way.
Rosa (pink): the primary characteristic of the colour pink is dawn, but by extension, this is easily the case for every one of Antonio’s colours with which he always seems to create a dawn.
At this point we must interrupt this chain of association to apologize to the reader: we have only just realized that we are forced, by the material itself, to break the rules previously established for the game (one word per title), but this is not particularly problematic as it feels, and in fact we know it is, perfectly in line with Scaccabarozzi’s procedures. As we cannot choose between process and elimination, we are forced to list both and, so as not to be redundant, give no indication of reading and therefore start again from where we broke off.
Vuoto (void): the void is much more active than the solid, as is well known in Oriental culture.
Introduzione (introduction): a word very close to approximation, Sconosciuta (unknown): this term resounds, like the sound of the sea in a shell, with a cry to the origins of every creative act.
But perhaps reader, having read once more the list of selected titles, perhaps it would have been more meaningful to instead underline those words that, in our game of free association, were excluded in the first instance?
2 Experimentation and method
“I am a creator of rules. And then, having created these rules, these games, these mechanisms, I can play and I can make others play”.
This affirmation from Alighiero Boetti seems especially fitting, above all for Scaccabarozzi’s initial phase of research, when he puts the elementary components of the language of painting to the test. (4)
Following a certain method soon leads to the discovery that the best method is to overcome the method itself. Measurability, for example, which Antonio revealed in its conventionality, initially using the medium of photography as well. The works known as Misurazioni, with the extended title of Ovvietà delle misure-poetica delle distanze, occupied him from 1979 to 1982. They derive from processes of exploration into measurability in general and introduce with all their force, through paradox, a reflection on the discrepancy between knowledge and perception, like Trois stoppages etalon by Marcel Duchamp.
“The pictorial response obscures the conceptual point of departure […] Scaccabarozzi investigates the relationship between the real weight of the pigment and the possibility of its visual deciphering”, to borrow the words of Wolfgang Vomm (1994). (5)
There are numerous methods of investigation, look at Iniezioni endotela (1980) and Immersioni (1982): the first come from the repeated action of injecting colour from a syringe into the fabric of the canvas so as to verify that it occupies the space each time, expanding into a stain, in ever different and unpredictable ways; the second are the result of he canvas immersion in a ‘bath’ of colour. On the topic of the Immersioni, Antonio himself said: “At this point, which measurements should be declared? Time? Volume? Linear measurements?” (6) Indeed observation of the results of his experiments, consisting in this latter case of soaking a certain portion of quite close weave canvas in a certain quite liquid amount of colour, clearly demonstrates the impossibility of inferring any rule or law; each practical application gives a different result, which fits into a potentially infinite case study.
“Confirm the ideas directly on things” (7) was the inspiration that moved him and made experimentation immediately identifiable as the most radical component in his work.
Perhaps it was precisely in this relentless impulse to never transform doing into a formula, to never fall back on existing knowledge, in this drive to continue one step after another on this interrogative journey, to proceed in his visual acknowledgement for progressive investigations that were not necessarily univocal, in all of this he had to have felt that he had absorbed the restless and sublime example of Picasso. And it was probably for similar motives, strictly connected to the persistent praise of doubt that represents every thought, word and image conceived by Pier Paolo Pasolini, that the poet, director, writer, polemicist and painter from Casarsa, entered into the Elite of Scaccabarozzi’s unavoidable references. And to this end, we must not forget the importance of the ‘poetics of the pastiche’ either, the blend of different levels: noble and low, tragic and comic, etc., that the artist must have admired in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s work.
Scaccabarozzi uses every material with a unique touch. Even the plastics, which were destined to hold rubbish, were treated in such a way that they assumed a luministic and iridescent chromatic and delicate appearance, similar to an eighteenth century watercolour, overflowing with precious, evanescent grace.
Antonio has enhanced the specific perceptive, constructive and plastic qualities of every single material, from the most noble traditionally to the most anonymous and ‘unpoetic’.
However, the body of his work certainly cannot be reduced to testing materials and neither to ideas on painting.
In reality, though his work may appear simple, sometimes even elementary, it hangs in a complex and difficult balance, in a strange combination of asceticism and sensuality, at an altitude where the air is especially pure and thin.
3 Light, colour
There can be no discussion on the fact that for Antonio Scaccabarozzi the canvas principally functions as a filter for light. Perhaps this, this commitment to painting as light, is his greatest connection to Calderara.
If our eyes are not enough, childhood stories reveal all, stories connected as much to fear of light as awe of it.
In her most recent book Natascia gives a sort of portrait of Antonio, who recalled his mother Armida, terrified during the bombings and gluing sheets of blue paper to the windows to avoid their lit-up house becoming an easy target. (8)
His memories are studded with screens.
The most surprising passage conjures the enchanting Naples Yellow (9) up before our very eyes and resembles, by suggestion, Proust’s description, in the parenthesis that tells of Bergotte’s death, of that famous and mysterious ‘petit pan de mur jaune’ (10) that the eye falls on, during the contemplation of the Veduta di Deft by Vermeer. It sparks a luminosity that immediately spreads over the entire surface of the painting. An element that is difficult to identify even through in-depth analysis of the painting, that fragment of ‘alchemical’ painting, to use Proust’s words, reveals a poetic device that introduces a eulogy to ‘I don’t know what’, to the unspeakable, to imprecision and finally to the enhancing void.
In the clouds that miraculously appear, catching fire, before our very eyes during the reading of a passage by Antonio, an image forms that at a first, more immediate, level of reading, is the representation of a natural filter par excellence, while it soon reveals itself to be a convincing and accomplished metaphor of painting tout court. (11)
On a second, backwards, reading of his life, the omens are clearer; when Antonio recounts, many years after the events, how at the age of ten he was intent on spying on his Uncle Alessandro while he painted, admiring his ability to catalyse the unprecedented force of colour on the canvas through a mere paint brush, he communicates both the power of seduction of the process and the development of an internal decision: “I was sure that by next season, I would be the painter”.
The memory too of his grandfather at the table, with a bottle of wine producing a coloured reflection of light that captivates the young Scaccabarozzi, is a precocious memory of the young ‘fledgling’ painter’s. “Lower down on the white tablecloth, the projection of the beating watercolour held my gaze fixed on its transparency”. Awareness gained over time led him to say in the same text: “Some months ago, when the internal logic of my work suggested ideas for my very first watercolours, I remembered this experience. I happily found myself thinking that today’s watercolours had been started that afternoon with my grandfather, even if they had remained in the secret world of my grandfather Pinino’s glass for many years”. (12)
The light of the pigment, bottled in a watery solution in the transparent glass, was certainly a tribute to his grandfather, but even more than that it seems to want to honour the chromatic magic of a liquid presence, almost imperceptible to the eye and yet so powerful and incontrovertible, which performs the same fairy-tale function as the Genie enclosed in Aladdin’s lamp. When the bottle is uncorked, that light will bathe the paper and, flooding it, it will paradoxically strengthen its light.
In Antonio’s watercolours the paper or canvas sometimes appears to disappear, while the colour beams freely like a secret sun, a powerful and backwards moon, a vast, high sky. But sometimes the paintings become dark and glossy like the bark of a wet tree.
Acquerelli, Velature, papers and canvases that seem to push the limits of dematerialization in order to burst open into the light. The author himself ponders on their nature, sometimes sopersistently as to preserve his questions in the title: But is this yellow? Is this pink? In reality they are chromatic misgivings that are born as omens to our eyes. The colour is pure, delicate and necessary, almost in a rising state, present but ever more volatile in its path towards the light. Perhaps this is the common ground on which Scaccabarozzi also encountered Corot, an author he probably observed either on the sly or unwillingly, and it is certainly where the conceptual allure of Klein finds its most justifiable comparison.
And again it is in colour, certainly more invented than seen, that we can identify his familiarity with other more significant experiences: that slow release of colour that even the darkest of Rothko’s paintings emit and that ‘bright feeling of space’ that Claudio Cerritelli highlights in Calderara’s painting as one of the profoundest driving forces. (13)
Ephemeral, runaway colours, yet tenacious in their unshakeable, often equivocal, singularity. Their ambiguous and subtle charm is particularly exciting. Sometimes a colour requires a little time to become accessible, visible and, by its nature, tends to evade any definition.
A piece that every so often finds its primary alphabet and cleans the spectator’s gaze, discreetly but authoritatively proposing an exercise in ‘polishing’ their perception. The more the flood of images from mass society dulls the senses to the point of clogging them, the more that thirst to truly see something seems unquenchable. Scaccabarozzi responds to that thirst with oceans, bright with dazzling light and veiled in soft shadows, tearing immense ‘rents’ in the daily panorama.
His painting opens pores in the eyes that can absorb unusual consistencies; it brings out taste buds that can appreciate subtle unknown differences.
After some initial sporadic attempts to activate the surface through the introduction of a possible real movement (see, for example, Quadratomobile Diagonale, 1969), Scaccabarozzi soon moves on to the challenge of defining the space and making it pulse through an intervention that creates rhythm, initially through three-dimensional elements (‘Fustellati’), then twodimensional (‘Puntini’, or Prevalenze), increasingly trusting the power of painting and progressively abandoning devices and reliefs. The surfaces become ever more aerial and sensitive membranes, until the ‘Plastiche’ (Polietileni) interrupt, portions of electromagnetic and mobile colour and bearers of an uncertain, light and happy quid. Able to shiver like the skin.
“The upper part was attached to the wall, so they would rise and fall freely with the lightness of their body, at the first movement of the air”. (14)
But before tackling the ‘Plastiche’, the peak of Scaccabarozzi’s work, we must make some necessary preliminary reflections.
“They are spatulas of colour mixed with glue, with a glass wool skeleton fixed behind them that provides the necessary structural stability. These works are not supported on a base; they are placed directly on the walls, with small hooks that Antonio attaches to the rear with extreme care”. (15)
The Essenziali consist of a group, a conglomerate of monochrome gestures solidified in motion that migrate freely in the space and impose upon it considerable acceleration.
They represent the most direct antecedent to the ‘Plastiche’, which over the course of Scaccabarozzi’s work assumed the same role as the Papier découpé in Matisse’s work.
4.2 Polietileni: painting as a threshold
Scaccabarozzi’s curiosity must have been inspired by examples from Manzoni and Klein as far as confidence in the use of ‘extraartistic’ materials is concerned, at least as much as he had to have taken from them indications towards the sensibility of the monochrome as the exemplary space of vision.
“When I discovered this material, polyethylene, I sensed straight away that it possessed numerous characteristics that corresponded to my aspirations to work on transparency, lightness, ductility and instability, etc. In fact it revealed itself to be the perfect material”. (16)
The sheet of polyethylene responds perfectly to the demands of a painting that must be simple, elementary and variable; its use represents the most accomplished synthesis of movement, form and colour. Moreover, this material, which introduces a high rate of mobility, gives shape to the concept of painting as a threshold, a sensible membrane between the visible and invisible, which Scaccabarozzi’s work, in its entirety, makes its emblematic ‘figure’.
The Polietileni are flypaper for the eyes.
The Banchise and especially the Ekleipsis, whose mobility, as much sought after as unforeseen, is the most immediately involving element, push the limits of the known horizons; like Herzog with his film camera, Antonio focuses his gaze on phenomena of consistent doubt, like opaque glimmers of unfathomable depth, almost the tips of icebergs, thus skirting the thresholds of the vision to probe the unknown deep space.
These two series, Banchise and Ekleipsis, belong in some ways to the same genealogy as some of Gerard Richter’s paintings from 2009: milky surfaces, occupied by off-white halos, which hide, and simultaneously allow a hardly visible glimpse of, the colours below. In these cases the painting coincides with the interposition of a screen that appears to muffle the sense of sight, as if a type of membrane had unexpectedly grown over the pupils, an opaque glaucoma, a pearly placenta that radically renders an ‘other’ perception. Skirting the threshold of the vision until it is almost reset, courting extinction, the painting teaches us how to see, instilling us with the awareness of sight.
4.3 Velature as doubleures of Polietileni
When he committed himself to the Velature he told me, “I need to feel like a painter”. (17)
The text that Antonio wrote in 2005 to explain the genesis and procedure of this work contains towards the end an interesting consideration that it is worthwhile underlining, as it reveals the metaphysical component of the gaze.
“Over the course of the procedure, if all goes well, at a certain point a particular emotional state sets in to indicate completion, giving a clear feeling of having reached the sense of the union of these two colours, which blend in a new unity through the validity of the process. This result is sometimes obtained after a single layer”. (18)
The creation of a new, original chromatic entity finds in the senses an aesthetic and ecstatic satisfaction that involves the emotional sphere. It is the inner eye, sensory and emotive, that tells the hand when to stop.
5 Nature teaches us to see beyond
The consciousness teaches us to see the seeing
“I am looking out over the garden from a ground-floor window. […] I look again here and there, then I return my gaze: I have just enough time to realize that I have seen the scene through a transparent curtain, the glass of the window, the mosquito net and the wrought iron railing, without even noticing their presence. Now those interposing objects, which I had not noticed, take on huge importance in the division of the space in the distance. They generate numerous connections, they project their image back and at the same time they allow your gaze to pass”. (19)
The dialectics between obstruction and passage of the gaze is something that Scaccabarozzi played on from the beginning, already in ‘Fustellati’ and the so-called ‘Puntini’.
Vision derives from a summation of factors that come together to create a particularly complex mechanism. Scaccabarozzi analyses, moves, disassembles and complicates the thresholds of the visible. The reasoning behind this procedure is an innate part of poetic intuition, a sort of corollary. In fact Antonio does not follow a predestined plan while indulging some of the openings that present themselves as opportunities, proposed by the forces of immanence.
5.1 The search for ‘collaboration’
The fact that the observer is the central element in the creation of a piece of work has long been universally accepted, especially since Duchamp formulated the pithy affirmation: “The spectator makes the picture”. From an interview with Luigi Erba in 1981 we gather that at that moment Antonio was working on a series of work entitled Strettamente personale, which were the direct result of the ‘dictates’ of the so-called ‘user’: “I am in fact working on the basis of responses to two questions that I ask people, I ask which colour and geometric shape they prefer and on the basis of their answers I create an object that is almost always a declaration of surfaces or volumes […]”. (20)
This choice, which seeks the intervention of others to establish the fundamental information on which to build the pictorial operation, falls entirely into the strategies of ‘objectification’ enacted, especially from the late Sixties, by different artists, Boetti among them. They were aimed at liberation from the angst of the individual dimension, from its cultural and aesthetic automatisms, introduced at the time to achieve distance from the expressionist heritage of the informal ‘academy’, to flee the narcissistic complacency of the psyche as much as the bravura of manual skill and/or material.
Immersioni (1980) and Iniezioni endotela (1982), which were born mainly of the intention to make materials speak for what they are, also found their most genuine raison d’être in the effect/ surprise connected to the unpredictable and constantly changing behaviour of the forces in play.
5.2 The position of the work
“The idea is to position the work as a boundary-area of opposing forces, where the tension that is established between the configuration of the object and the gaze that goes beyond it, carries this idea of vitality”. (21)
It seems clear that the work should be located in a spurious area loaded with tension, formed in equal measure by the intentions and movements of the author and the interpretation, even of a projective nature, of the observer.
Fontana’s lesson was probably absorbed by Antonio despite himself, without it being directly mentioned in the sources we currently have available; it must have been a perfectly natural fact, as much as breathing, insomuch as that it happened to almost all the artists who were formed in Milan in the Fifties. It seems clear in some ‘Plastiche’, especially the first versions that use a single sheet – overlapping would arrive later -; these are mostly squared and function as frames, light ribbons that outline the ‘void’, the absence, the neutrality represented by the monochrome wall, normally white, to which they are applied. These ‘frames’, which sometimes delineate considerable portions of wall and at other times barely part in thin cracks, like the line of light, or dark, that filters as an ‘other’ presence through a drawn curtain or a closed door, serve to emphasise the concentration and attention needed to read any visual phenomenon. The white of the wall outside them is different to the white ‘cut out’ within them. Only this contrast, difference can offer a real possibility of discovering identity.
In her last book, so inspiring that it is impossible to resist the temptation to pilfer from it, Natascia wrote: “When a breath of wind moves the leaves and makes them tremble, it teaches us to be light of hand with the shapes and colours on the canvas and to give space, weight and meaning to the void”. (22)
Nature and its cycles also teach that everything changes and nothing remains the same. Not even art can escape this logic. Control is an illusion.
Antonio has known this since the Seventies; it was clear to him almost from the beginning, he was certain of it since Interrogazione sistematica (1977), along with Nato Frascà and Paolo Minoli and with the support of critical thought from Alberto Veca and Paola Mola. (23)
In more recent times, the choice of sheets of polyethylene indicates his choice of lightness, fragility and precariousness as foundational values, of which only the first was indicated by Calvino (24) as part of the equipment that should be taken to the third millennium. Antonio’s indications, more current than those of the writer, are particularly useful for orienting oneself in the ‘disposable’ world that Guido Viale (25) sketched particularly sharply under our very noses. Every stage of Scaccabarozzi’s development, every piece of work, obliges us to take stock of the exact situation we find ourselves in: it rips the observer from the buzz of daily life and delivers him to an ‘other’ reality that can produce, like an empty mirror, pure reflection; anyone who looks shall find themselves in a ‘shot’ marked by a silence that bears the splendor of certain bright summer mornings, combined with the spleen of twilight.
This ‘almost nothing’ that covers the surface is capable of release, of bringing with it the omen of a complex and vertiginous totality. A sense of suspension and pregnant waiting is the sharpest aftertaste. As Luigi Erba wrote, “[…] seeing is like being sucked in by a thought that the artist has still not expressed. What has to happen is still more absolute. It is the totalizing sense of waiting…”. (26)
Observers of Scaccabarozzi’s paintings will find themselves implicated in the very process of formation of seeing. In this sense we can refer to the installation created in 2004 in Edinmburgh, (27) in which a sheet of transparent Polyethylene stretched, like a diaphragm, to cut the room into two portions, worked as a threshold that created a gap in ways of seeing, like a lens that, altering the vision, imperatively implies the awareness of the eyes that look through it.
Burri too has occasionally used a ‘sheet’ of plastic as a screen between the observer and the space of the environment, but only ever partially and mostly to enhance the expressive and dramatic values, very different to Scaccabarozzi, who on the contrary only cared about the peculiar, elementary and structuring values.
7 The environment as painting
His painting shows a precise autonomy as much as an environmental vocation.
His interest in involving the environment, present in nuce since the times of the ‘total space’ of the ‘Fustellati’ and the geometric grids created by the Prevalenze, is openly proven by the Barriere series, whose form recalls as much the fence as the arcade of a Greek temple. (28) These are positioned in the space so as to function as elements that create a considerable alternation from the regular rhythm: the gaze is at times free to wander to the end of the pervious space to reach the join between the floor and the walls, at others it finds itself bounced back by the net of bright references tangled up in the transparencies, profoundly conditioned by the effects produced by the presence of the plastic membrane.
One installation in particular seems to be the result of a game of ‘opposites’ played with the bare and radical intervention in Edinburgh described above: it is the one in the Sala Civica Comunale of Merate, 1994, in which the given space was activated through the thick and regular dissemination of a pattern of Essenziali, which in its form, dimensions and colour picked up exactly the squares of the decorated floor. The effect of multiplication, achieved with the Essenziali which were in particular contrast to the background of snow-white walls from which they stood out, put the spectator into a three-dimensional chessboard, made unexpectedly inhabitable. (29)
8 Apropos of style
n. rouchota: “Your work is apparently abstract, in the sense that it does not reproduce an already familiar image. How do you define yourself?”
a. scaccabarozzi: “Well, precisely because of this, I would define myself a realist if anything, given that I do not reproduce an image that is familiar in the reality that surrounds us, but produce image unknown of reality, from which a cognitive adventure begins”. (30)
Even Bacon claimed the label of ‘realist’ for himself. Every painter paints what for them is real, their own obsession, their own gaze on the world. While Bacon lives in a butcher’s, Scaccabarozzi overlooks a celestial terrace.
Towards the end of her most recent book dedicated to Antonio, which I have already quoted, Natascia notes: “The last words I found written by him, in a notebook that I had given him, were Realism? Thought?”. (31) His thought still assumed, and will always assume, the form of interrogation.
In Scaccabarozzi’s case style is certainly not an outstandingly technical question and neither is it linguistic but rather coincides with a discussion connected to the quality and cleanliness of vision. On this front perhaps Morellet is the closest?
9 Proceed in series
Each series, generated by a new dialogue with materials and methods, constitutes part of an exemplary path of experimentation and research into ways to activate surfaces.
As Burri devoted himself to a varied and exclusive confrontation with the expressivity of the material, Antonio subtly investigated the structural possibilities of vision.
His series, like those of the great Monet and all those who have no alternative but series, once their elements and basic values have been highlighted, established and put into action, seem to assay, through their declination, the endless diversity of painting.
Each painting is a provisional stage in a profound and radical inquiry, as Alberto Veca (32) said so well, a fragment torn from the nonstop explorative and cognitive flow.
The idea of series, of cycles, naturally contains the idea of ‘recovery’ and ‘variation’, exactly like phrasing in jazz music, a genre that Antonio perhaps preferred over all others.
A shot was discovered in the archive of the photographer Luigi Erba, dated 1980, which depicts Antonio Scaccabarozzi, shot from behind, with his face reflected in a mirror perched on a tripod from which dangles a classic pocket watch (the classic ‘turnip’). The title is Autoritratto di tre minuti (Self-portrait of three minutes), a brief performance, signal of the intention to encompass within the picture the complexity of life, impermanence showed by the flow of time which seems to be the primary culprit. In confirmation of the heartfelt need to encompass time, the presence of a work/mirror, hung in a room of the home-studio in Montevecchia: it is a bare portion of mirrored surface, in which, naturally, anyone leaning over it is reflected. Its title Misura/Distanza Tempo/Ironia (Measurement/Distance Time/Irony, 1981 is composed of four terms which each denote a fundamental aspect of Scaccabarozzi’s doing. Especially irony which, as detachment from passion, seems to automatically include the others.
Antonio’s work in series indicated the centrality of time, the importance of the interval was demonstrated, the passage from one painting to another, from one fragment to another in the endless vision of the world, the function of the margin was highlighted and, by extension, the corner as place of tension for change.
Some works reveal particular attention to the corner. The most emblematic is certainly the installation with the eloquent and tautological title Le Coin, (33) in which the painting applied directly to the walls occupies only the join, or the corner. But various Essenziali also took advantage of the corner in the environments in which they were placed. The interest shown in the ‘leap’, the junction in which the change of direction of the space takes place, which is generally ignored or used as a sort of neutral margin by traditional painters who only occupy straight walls, confirms that Antonio does not experience the position of painting as a reassuring surface on which to reproduce, or produce yet again, gestures, let alone images. He has clearly always and systematically preferred research to the certainties of what is already known.
His inclination to consider the corner, the margin of the visual field, the limits of vision, falls under the same logic as disruptive action toward some colours that, with their undefinable and evasive body, call the threshold of the visible into question. Painting is above all the activation of a space. Scaccabarozzi chose to dedicate himself, coherently and faithfully, to the alternatives that surface and colour seem to offer, once previously proven formulas and references outside language had been excluded.
11 Most loved authors
Natascia’s notes, which have returned to us some sides of Antonio that would otherwise have been lost, are valuable. He hints at beloved authors: Nietzsche, also certainly for the fundamental concept of the eternal return, and Proust, definitely for his being, or wanting to be, a Vemeer who uses words instead of colours. Leonardo da Vinci holds a special place, unparalleled champion of the curiosity that drives scientific and poetic research, and which, specifically to painting, returns the atmospheric substance, loaded with air and distance, through the blur.
Is each of Antonio’s colours not perhaps also widespread? Leonardo also proves himself to be the author of an extraordinary modernity thanks to his famous affirmation, repeated so many times by conceptual artists: “Painting is a mental occupation”. Antonio’s most accomplished thoughts are his paintings. “Every so often you need to return to Yourcenar” was one of his favourite saying according to Natascia. But what did it mean exactly? It is important to work out the meaning…
Hatching visual weaves and testing perceptive function which, as is well-known, cannot be reduced to the physiological mechanics of the eye, but implies different zones of feeling, cultural regions and heartfelt reasons. This is the task that Antonio Scaccabarozzi constantly performed over the course of his work, a task as vast and variable as his gaze
1 L’Ècole du regard [En. Trans.: The School of the Gaze] is an alternative way to define the French literary movement otherwise known as the Nouveau Roman, of which Alain Robbe-Grillet was the main exponent. At the centre of the narration objects, with their incontrovertible yet endless presence, their mute ‘thingness’, come to be in a process of writing that distances itself from any psychologist of the characters and/or the narrator. This title, Ècole du regard, is applied to Scaccabarozzi’s research to underline at least two aspects: the action of cleaning and the instructive function that this performs on the gaze of the observer, through the centrality of the corporeal presence of the pictorial object in its pregnancy.
2 Interview from 2006 published in Antonio Scaccabarozzi. Talento & rigore, Casatenovo, Villa d’Adda Mariani, from 9 to 13 April 2009, p. 23.
3 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Titoli.
4 velature di terra verde, Osnago, 2012. 4 In a piece of writing from 1977 Paola Mola clearly identified the cultural position expressed by such operations: “A sort of grammatical analysis of the figurative language: forms/colours/volumes fixed in a rational succession of elementary relationships, easily read, that wants to demonstrate their vast potential, and especially their relativity. The object is therefore the relativity of the fact, which emerges from a doubt, a systematic interrogation, [...], operational attitude that implies the denail of any plan a priori as much as the refusal of any methodology that is not systematic criticism of the very method of departure, once scientifically verifiable phenomena have been assumed as the only acceptable starting point [...]. Art that is research, with no divine truths or myths, substantially problematic, which translates its own refusal to endorse acquired mental positions, into the rejection, at an operative level, of forms and colours that are already meaningful in some way, of any symbolism, metaphor or external reference”. [Paola Mola, L’interrogazione sistematica, exhibition catalogue, Galleria Lorenzelli, Bergamo, May-June 1977; Studio Rotelli, Finale Ligure Borgo (SV), from 9/7/1977.].
5 Wolfgang Vomm, Antonio Scaccabarozzi. Eine Werkübersicht [ Il suo lavoro], in Antonio Scaccabarozzi, exhibition catalogue, Städtische Galerie, Villa Zanders, Bergisch Gladbach, from 9 January to 13 April 1994. 6 Antonio Scaccabarozzi in Luigi Erba, Due “personali” in Germania del meratese Scaccabarozzi, in “Giornale di Lecco”, 29 August 1983, p. 3.
8 Natascia Rouchota, L’emozione del metodo, Crocetti, Milano 2012, in course of publication.
9 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Giallo di Napoli, 2006, in “Nuova Mèta”, n. 31, Neos, Turin, 2010, pp.64-67.
10 Marcel Proust , En. Trans., In Search of Lost Time, Einaudi, Turin 1964, vol. III, p.174.
11 See to this end Hubert Damisch , En. Trans., A Theory of Cloud: Toward a History of Painting, Costa & Nolan, Genua 1984.
12 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, 1983.
13 Claudio Cerritelli, Visibili pensieri di luce, in Antonio Calderara, Fondazione Zappettini, Milan, from 28 September to 25 November2011, p.3.
14 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Lo sguardo attraverso..., Athens, July 1995- Montevecchia 2000, in Idem, p. 29.
15 Natascia Rouchota, L’emozione..., cit.
16 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, in Idem, p. 39.
18 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Velature, 2005 in Antonio Scaccabarozzi. Talento... cit, p.47.
20 Antonio Scaccabarozzi in Luigi Erba, Antonio Scaccabarozzi <<strettamente personale>>, in “più idee”, Bergamo, April 1981, p. 55.
21 Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Lo sguardo attraverso..., cit.
22 Natascia Rouchota, L’emozione..., cit.
23 L’interrogazione sistematica [Systematic Interrogation] was the title of a series of lectures held in different locations, the Lorenzelli Gallery in Bergamo, the studio of Paolo Minoli in Cantù and the Rotelli studio in Finale Ligure. 24 Italo Cavino, Lezioni americane, Einaudi, Turin 1988.
25 Guido Viale, Un mondo usa e getta, Feltrinelli, Milan 2000.
26 Luigi Erba, Ragione-emozione, in Lecco Arte Festival, from 16 May to 19 July1998, p. 38.
27 Installation at the Sleeper Gallery in Edinburgh, reproduced in Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Antologica 1965-2008, P420, Bologna, from 6 November to 8 January 2011, p.20.
28 Classic Greek temples were frequently travel destinations for Antonio and Natascia. At any rate, regardless of biographical contingencies, as Henry Miller wrote: “Greece is what everybody knows, even in absentia, even as a child or an idiot or as a not-yet born”. See in particular Untitled 1998, 500x100 cm. Its installation in 1999 at the Villa d’Adda Mariani, Casatenovo, is reproduced in Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Antologica 1965-2008, cit., p.17.
29 See the work, entitled 25 Riferimenti, reproduced in Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Antologica 1965-2008, cit., p.16.
30 Interview from 2006 published in Antonio Scaccabarozzi. Talento... cit,p. 11.
31 Natascia Rouchota, L’emozione..., cit.
32 Alberto Veca, Lettura a distanza, Milan, January 2009, in Idem, p. 9.
33 Work created at the Museè Cantonal des Beaux Arts, Sion, CH, in 1988, reproduced in Antonio Scaccabarozzi, Antologica 1965-2008, P420, Bologna, from 6 November to 8 January 2011, p.14.
34 Term for which we must remember the etymological meaning connected to SENTIRE (be of opinion, feel, perceive).