Marco Gradi

Criticism

Black (with its overtones of shadow and twilight) is misleading and, by now, is permanently hampered by symbolism and metaphor.
Not only is it milleading but it also presupposes, or so they say, an enrichment of meaning, a growth of the inwardness of the work which, automatically; accretes to itself all the usual complex of concepts, literary allusions etc...
And so, it would seem, black is the dominant tone of Marco Gradi's work: decidedly black. And yet it is just as decidedly free of any simplistic interpretative or animistic aims.
Any hint of literary allusion is absent as are any shadowy or gothic references. (There is no suitable background here for heart-searching dramas and crimes of passion more adapted to black Anglo-American novels or to Norwegian masters). Due to this the works arrive at a point of neutralization, a conscious alteration of the optical and reordering necessities of the viewer.
Gradi knowingly reacts against landscape homologation by working along two paths which diverge and yet which co-operate within the work. Side by side there exist emptiness and deviation, temporal stops and starts; they trace out the work in the same way as a topographical survey, as geographical change (due to phenomena as natural as they are mysterious). We are dealing with an exploration-analysis, of "putting into play" (not play for its own sake but rather as the risk undertaken in each work), of allowing certain variations along the road, of tricking the eye of conscience by the laying down of false trails.
And so in these large canvases, as in the small "atlases", the center of the painting, of the earth but also of "reflection", is to be found everywhere while the mark acts as a horizon hidden at every point of infinity. And in infinity it is impossible to grasp a recognizable filament, just as it is impossible to refer back to geometric scale or to the "prime" and dense marks of certain works in order to grasp them: they are demolished by interpretation.
The work is compact, superficial and divorced from any physiological (legitimizing) need for a "key to reading". The canvas refuses any (ordering) "inward gaze" by reflecting the artificial light which illuminates it: the lucid, sharp, fragmented material acts as a shield in order to protect its independence from the viewer.
Due to this independence of the surface the gaze slips and confronts it without managing to perform its task: that of "the deception" of (decodifying) interpretation.
Deception is always in play and cannot be avoided, just as the dichotomy between naturalistic "recognition" and "remembrance" (dependence) cannot be avoided.
Recognition reveals not the essence but merely vague appearance which for the painter is dangerous, debilitating and limiting. The way to avoid this deception is to invent a "free rule" for which "... the only answer to chaos is chaos". Gradi stands at the center of his own currents in search of an essence which is as manifest in the surface as in the construction-synthesis of his small works (conclusive correspondence). This is a tendency to present the huge black marks as though they were negative, virtually compact veils, shielding marks against the filtering light. The mark, then, does not intervene in order to underline its presence but in order to hold back the latent force to be found in the second attitude of the surface (withdrawal-light).
We are witnesses not of the resuscitation of a dying landscape but of the moment in which the primary elements of the landscape reveal themselves. They are icy surfaces (in a particular presentation of Cosmo genesis) which open to allow the penetration of a hypothetical "Creative force".
The canvas is the flat shield where those black reflections begin to glow, slowly and under our very eyes.

Luca Massimo Barbero

[Dal catalogo di Marco Gradi "Zanzibar: o i racconti nella notte"]