Carlo Fontana

Criticism

The imaginary World

The flight from the real is a theme that has accompanied the artist since the romantic age, being a form of compensation for the loss of direct contact with reality, imposed to the individual by the new ways of living.
Partly, this is true also for Carlo Fontana who paints ordinary, to a certain extent well recognisable, rather characterised forms and objects, in which he figuratively recovers a typically childish innocence, purity and spontaneity. There is an escape from the contingent world yet at the same time the will to remain anchored to a tradition, a typically Italian, Mediterranean cultural humus. And you can see it in the forms and colours of his pictorial compositions, where we find archetypes, therefore the original models of house- and tree-shapes illumined with a blinding light divided into the colours of the iris through a many-faced, cubed structure. The house and tree the artist paints are simple: the tree has a folded, compact hair, characterising the Mediterranean pine; the house is made up of a cube and a triangular sectioned solid. It is the Italian house deriving from the Greek temple, composed of pronaos and tympanum; the house that any child living in any European country by the Mediterranean would paint (1).
These are archetypes sited in a sun-flooded ambience lapped by an azure sea, such as that of his homeland, Naples, to which he feels steadfastly anchored. A homesickness, of romantic Sehensucht, typical of those who like Carlo have left the places of their childhood, their affections, the cherished objects, to move elsewhere, to another place where to transplant his roots. And Fontana does it with painting by rebuilding his microcosm made of objects, ambiences, situations and values. The Neapolitan coffee maker, the sea, the sailing boat, the little sitting-room table embellished with three or at the most four flowers are not only objects dear to the artist, but they express a cultural milieu to which the artist is proud to belong. For he is still bound to a world centred on the single person, on the affections, the relationships with people, family. And this becomes clearer in the paintings dedicated to domestic interiors, where in the foreground are a round table with multicoloured tablecloth with cherries, coffee-maker, flowers, coffee cup. Although the human figure is missing, we feel its presence through these objects, through the intersections of landscapes and interiors seen as from an open window over a solar world that recently the artist has made more recognisable. The recent interiors have the soft and sensual shapes of some glimpse, some bridge, some undefined Venetian isle, now the windmill pushes us to imagine faraway places, in the north.

Although man is absent, his brain is visible in the architecture, and in the objects built. Lately, the artist has felt the need to insert also the human figure in order to underline the relationship between man and ambience, meant as a place composed of both a physical, objective part and a mental, subjective part. The figure of Pasolini, sited by a window, is not representative of a real space, but of a site beyond the mind, of thought, study, reflection, meditation, imagination.
To conclude, in the series Yogananda, the author develops a relationship between mind, body and surrounding space. The title is composed of the words Yoga and Ananda. Yoga is a discipline meant for purification and uttermost self-fulfilment, consisting in the recovery of the constitutional position of the soul, that of being eternal servant to God, while Ananda was Buddha's main disciple. But Carlo knows that such practices, unless subordinated to the search of peace and spirit, unless aiming to control the mind and to search for ultimate salvation, cannot have real vigour. Thus he transfers the calmness of the spirit to that of painting by practicing, metaphorically, the fundamental virtues of compassion, joy (or serenity) and balance (or indifference).
This is why Yogananda represents the union of spirit and body and painting; the word does not exist in the philosophy of Indian religions; it lives in the imagination of a dreamer and of those who, like Carlo Fontana, aspire to happiness and the world's harmony.

Footnote:
1. This house-form is the most common in Latin countries, since fit for mild and temperate climates, whilst in the northern countries, where climates are colder, penthouses are steeper. Thus, a child native to these countries is prone to represent a house with a different shape in which the gable roof stands out.

Maria Luisa Trevisan

Interiors / interni

When for the first time I saw Carlo Fontana's paintings I immediately appreciated their airiness besides the emotional splendour of the colour. Yet because I suspect all things I like, a few minutes afterwards-for nervous defence-I drew his new paintings from my mind and wandered through my memory in search for a cultural parallel. I found it at once: curiously enough, his post-cubist image reminded me of Lyonel Feininger (New York, 1871 / 1956), not a well-known name in Europe and yet a perfectly fitting one. And there I stopped my search.

Then, in time, I reversed my judgement of Fontana's work and lingering on all its debts to history (deliberate and unconscious), I greedily began to love this painting, so mellow, so bright, so thick, so alive. Its Neapolitan interiors took me again to the harbour city, to the waterfront, with its round-vaulted porches, its typical (and peculiar) coffee pots ever ready to offer you a drink, its cherries on the table recalling your girlfriend's lips, both during the day and by night. It also recalled the famous "cerase" (1), immortalised in Neapolitan singing literature.
Personally I love Naples, everything of Naples, shamelessly. From the baroque to the clamour of the spoken language whose passages I sometimes start singing. Indeed, I sustain that the passion of Greek tragedy and theatre today is completely contained in the Neapolitan song. Here only is the true Italian song: certainly, in this circumstance neither the Milanese Madonnina, nor the Venetian Gondoletta or the Silvery Arno can help us. No, what helps us is the Neapolitan song!
Don't forget that at the end of the nineteenth century several English peoples have Italianised their names to live in Naples, giving birth to one of the greatest painting schools of that century: the so called Scuola of Posillipo.
But let us come back to Feininger who, thanks to Delaunay, develops the full round sense of colour and who, when in Germany Nazism wins, returns to New York in order to paint the sea and the port with its coloured sails entering the city like lances in a feast of colours.
Carlo Fontana picks up handfuls of such fluxes of "chromatic emotions" thanks to his natural sense of colour, himself coming from a city as colourful as Naples. Furthermore, he gives us a compositional perspective of the interior / external kind, so that who is inside sees outside and at the same time from outside you can see inside. In this way, his colour assumes a further valence: of architectural structure. For this reason, his paintings remind me exactly not of glazed but of soft interiors stirred by the trembling light of evening, of twilight.
Ah! Marvellous mystery of painting that makes us wonder and surprises us also thanks to the doubtless skill of Carlo Fontana, a painter with young instinct, "new savage" remained such thanks to his incorruptible Neapolitan dna.

The whole of the South is within his painting that gathers the collective imaginary of the northern men. Remember the Expressionists' descents to Morocco or to Tunis? Or Gauguin's escapes to Tahiti's islands? Or Goethe's and his friends' journey to Italy? Or, further, Picasso's stays in the south of France?
The south: centre of the heat of our belly. There is always a south in every part of the world; it is the place of ardour, whose etymon, by rhyme, you can conjugate with colour. The south is the centre of civilisation: from Tigris to Euphrates, from Greece to Rome. Here is our south: here the concept of pleasure was born, of pain, of light, of colour. Where was Eldorado for Pissarro if not in the South Americas?
For the Assyro-Babylonians, just as for the Incas, as for a first Dionysian Greece, there were but the mysteries and the sacrifices where the blood (just as the wine later) swept everything away, erasing every memory. This is, therefore, how we can explain the genesis of this bright colour, red-orange, its promise of Stendhalian happiness almost blinding us. Not a simple reference to the culture of the turn of the last century, but rather trace of Mediterranean life, over-historical vision of our most authentic soul, ancient itinerary evoking manifold cultural weavings. And at nightfall we can be sure that the day will break as in an "evening and May". But in case everything disappears we still have a little light: a painting by Carlo Fontana reminding us of the sun, the light, the colour, the interiors, the magic of a south that revives the heart.

Footnote
(1) The lemma "cerasa" (cherry) has several variants that obviously our artist has no interest in catching, being less concerned with the detail than with the general meaning. Here are some variants: cerasa cannamela, particularly sweet, majateca, big. Tosta o de muntagna, bigaroon or mountaineer. L'amico cerasa, used to refer to a known person among the people who are speaking. Schiocca de cerase, bunch of cherries. I' parole so comm'I cerase, words are like cherries (they follow one another), and the same phrase is used for misfortunes.

Boris Brollo

I paint, therefore I am

When the world ended at the pillars of Hercules (Atlantis being reduced to a vague reminiscence and its land to impracticable mud for ships) scarce was the power of painting and its will to define the colours of the rainbow.

The idea of a wholly experienced art able to conglobe the project of the painting with that of its frame-of walking with thinking, of acting with stillness-is not conceivable as a modal art in which the artist interprets a reductive task. For, by its own specific nature, art must invent new worlds, stir up radioactive behaviours and must not live on the already invented, on the stacked undertaking.

Apparently, a single person must have drawn a list of all the existing colours. One needs not the skill a psychoanalyst to understand the level of such a list: at a certain point, the colours collapsed upon the maker of the list. And, strangely enough, he continues to claim that these colours contrast with the greyness we find outside as compact reality.

The pigment is never neither glowing, nor polished, nor varnished. It has nothing that is loud, opaline, reflective. It always tastes of honey. In this respect, the saying is true that reads: through the narrow, steep path of the clouds, through the wooden rungs they climbed the poplar.

It happens many times that the matching of casual things implies the use of a casual colour: immense constructions with five colours that blur the sight. They are not distinct because thought refuses to be so. In this sense, schematic, precise, strict thought is abolished. The image has few limits, few boundaries; it is enlarged, fluid, perhaps it has to get moving, perhaps it has to give the impression of fragility.

The figurative is present roughly with a certain indifference to the finite detail: the individual expression, the precise features of a face or a vase become superfluous. Fixity and deformation prevail over the minute stroke. Such negligence is accepted because Matisse and Picasso cannot have been in vain, but also because abbreviation never reduces itself to incomprehensible stenography to the non-practitioners. But not only this. On discussing such a point one is not doing rhetoric, neither does one want to persuade by honeyed words. This is why this indifference is justifiable: it knows how to be appreciated and recognised.

In the future, will craft still rely on the hands, or will any feasible sequence have to rely on a machine? In 3001 will anyone be able to carve a little piece of wood or to decorate a wall by polished stucco? Perhaps things are not exactly like this. Several image eaters have understood that one can go on relying on painting-based cut and stitch, which needs neither electricity nor expensive equipments. The slap they give to the machine is: "otherwise, where would manual skill abide?"

Handle with care, this is the rule. To grasp a pencil, to draw a line; catching a colour is like catching a cricket with the hands: not to humiliate it do not close your hands. Lightness is like grace: it comes from above like a breath of wind.

Art of removing or frenzy of placing, culture of subtraction or practice of multiplication: the passage won't take place from stronger to feebler, from analysis to synthesis, but rather from the dispersion of the contents to their centrality, from the opaque materiality to the brightness of the pigment, from the digressing spark of the compact mirrors…

Going out, crossing the limit. Not lingering to analyse the walls: this is the moment to inquire its basements, and therefore to grip the visions in the whirlpool of a laic materiality with a psycho-physical prose that gives to the exit. The foundations thrown by the fathers are important, but the future must mark their interpretation.

One finger of Carlo Fontana indicates the rainbow; the other is earth-bounded, specifically pointing at the tail of the peacock: ascertained conquest of the dialectic principle, no rebellion spirit in the historical background. Prosaic narration is preferred to metaphor, redundant brush of the tongue. To force a line of the horizon or to deform a figure outline may mean the same thing: the projection of a wholly personal progress within the most intimate nature of the everyday.

There is no arsis, there is no catharsis. Everything slides into the only cauldron: "And as if at the hint of Pluto, all things, sacred and profane, mingle, and at his own will war are made, peaces, empires, counsels, tribunals, assemblies, marriages, treaties, alliances laws, arts, serious things, funny things; in a word all public and private matters of the mortals". They enter the heat of the pigmented nectar.

Roberto Vidali