Art Informel

I recently discovered artists and a movement I know little about, but found inspirational at this apparently transitional point in my project. Although a tendency throughout Europe during the early 1950s, it seems to blossom in Italy. The artist which first attracted me to the period is Alberto Burri whose sack collages and burnt plastic seemed so simple yet powerful as matter takes precedence. Exploring further I find a text Beyond Painting: Burri, Fontana, Manzoni 2005, by Matthew Gale and Renato Miracco, and discover similar motivations or goals to this Italian trio which was unexpected. It originates within the ideas of the Futurists but is most clearly expressed in the writings of artist Enrico Prampolini who states, “To become matter: the concept of metamorphosis underlies the creation of the elements in a composition in a conceptual process of spiritual transfiguration and formal transposition.” (Arte polimaterica 1944) I again think of the shroud process. My dilemma is how to continue working on the shrouds adding new matter equivalent in value to the bodily stain. It is useful for me to currently build on my practice in the following terms as I, like Prampolini, view paint as matter and therefore any matter as a potential painterly substance:

“Prampolini was the first Italian artist to question the difference between the use of material and being in matter…matter was an object in itself. It was a fragment of a past and present life, rendered rich and evocative either through its own material qualities, or through its juxtaposition and relationship with other materials. From this juxtaposition arose a revelation of various sorts, equal to the ‘flashes of inspiration of “ordinary things”…[that, when they] illuminate art, create these elements which are most essential to our everyday reality.’…it is defined, in essence, by different types of matter, by their intrinsic qualities, and the relationship established between them. These polymaterials became known as (‘encounters with matter’ or literally ‘interviews with matter’, terms coined by Prampolini). In 1944 he wrote: ‘Encounters with matter were not about a battle against painting, but about taking to its extreme the idea of substituting completely and fundamentally the reality of paint with the reality of matter’. This explicit difference, which forms the basis for a coherent revisionist dialogue between artist and viewer, allows the viewer to distinguish completely a painted reality from a material reality, so that both can co-exist. The work of art is thus no longer confined arbitrarily within a pictorially defined dimension, but is able to extend towards a reality that can also be founded on matter. ‘Polymaterial art is not a technique but a rudimentary means of artistic expression’, Prampolini stated, ‘the evocative power of which resides in the formal arrangement of matter…Matter being something inherent within the natural world (a living organism, consisting of atoms in perpetual motion) as well as having formal transcendence…Matter can be made spiritual and harmoniously arranged over surfaces in space, where the lively and direct juxtaposition of different materials raises to a higher level the human vision of our era.’”[p.20-1]

Camera Lucida 1981

Reading Roland Barthes insights concerning the affect of photography prompted me to consider the shroud, passages seem to describe the affect of the decomposition print more than photography. Simply replace ‘photography’ with ‘shroud’ For example,

“Since Photography [a shroud]…authenticates the existence of a certain being, I want to discover that being in the Photograph [shroud] completely, i.e., in its essence, “as into itself…” beyond simple resemblance…something inexpressible: evident…yet improbable (I cannot prove it). This something is what I call the air (the expression, the look). The air of a face is unanalyzable (once I can decompose, I prove or I reject, in short I doubt, I deviate from the Photograph [shroud], which is by nature totally evidence: evidence is what does not want to be decomposed). The air is not a schematic, intellectual datum, the way silhouette is. Nor is the air a simple analog – however extended – as is “likeness”. No the air is that exorbitant thing which induces from body to soul – animula, little individual soul, good in one person, bad in another…The air…is a kind of intractable supplement of identity, what is given as an act of grace, stripped of any “importance”: the air expresses the subject, insofar as that subject assigns itself no importance…And mysteriously, this coincidence is a kind of metamorphosis…suddenly the mask vanished: there remained a soul, ageless but not timeless, since this air was the person I used to see…Perhaps the air is ultimately something moral, mysteriously contributing to the face the reflection of a life value?…Thus the air is the luminous shadow which accompanies the body; and if the photograph [shroud] fails to show this air, then the body moves without a shadow, and once this shadow is severed, as in the myth of the Woman without a Shadow, there remains no more than a sterile body.” [p.107-110]