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In the flash of an istant...I reset and rebuild the ideal image - 12 May 2011

An expressly figurative painting.
A corporeal, physical, sometimes tactile painting.
An allusive, emblematic, symbolic painting.
Salvo Pastorello’s painting.

Yet, what sense does it make to still paint in the era of network, of visual art, of Trash, of performances, of installations?
World’s speed is not the same as before, when painting’s and mural poster’s invariability were the only visual possibilities for masses. When “visual contemplation” was an intellectual practice more than an optical one.
Then it came the cinema, first silent and then talking, and the television, first black and white and then colour. But in the beginning, editing, narration still had literal rhythms linked to the Past.
And then it also came Advertising that starting form cities’ wall conquered more and more new medias.
Advertising became commercial and our sense of vision changed radically.
Everything became faster, subliminal, “shouted”, anxious: just like our life.
Images started to overlap on the retina with a growing speed and “memory of vision” started to disappear faster and faster in the stratum-shaped geology of “newer and newer”.
In a word to “fade”.

Today we live in a world where images, in a kind of modern cannibalism, eat each other and move on onto an endless sequence turned ahead, towards the future.
In this world, where everything seems more “communicative”, because direct, actually people have became waving islands in the see of indifference, they can at most touch but they always remain distant. Well, in this world of televisual and telematic passivity, Painting can be and become one last hope, an antidote to visual homologation, to intellectual lobotomy.
But there is a condition: that is Painting must distance itself from another dangerous homologation, the one of the so-called, or so-thought, contemporary avant-gardes. Avant-gardes that actually profess the positivism of the “weak thought”, of the democratic creative standardisation and of the constant, exasperated overtaking of the present refusing a possible “meditative sphere”. In this they mirror the creative flattening, subordinate to method and market.

We must not forget that before historical avant-garde’s flattening, art was a practice of the beauty, an aesthetic in action. Then it went slowly dissolving into a series of centripetal pushes that on one hand have made painting enter a competition against other expressive means, on the other they have give body to a growing area of ephemeral creations, not lasting, technically minimalist, within masses’ reach, becoming in doing this a true sociological event rather than a total aesthetic.

In this “global” contest of contemporary art, Salvo Pastorello’s works are fully in tune with what we can define as a “painting re-appropriation movement”, but at the same time they also welcome contemporary trend’s social needs. I say so because Pastorello has transposed on a visual level a universe of symbols that refer to the proper existential tensions of his and our time, in particular the apparent “normality” of masses, caught in their everyday life, here “serialized”, that is of large numbers and with precise references to the country that is by definition the one of large numbers: China (where among other things Pastorello has worked and recently made a big exhibition).

And if we talk about painting, in short we must talk about “painting practice” that is made of “thought”, “project”, but also of “second thought” and therefore “erasure”.
“Erasure”, not seen as “second thought” (therefore “correction”), but instead as “resetting”, or as an extreme synthesis, has been one of basis for historical avant-garde, such as, for example, Constructivism, but also the ones that took place during the postwar years. One above all: Minimalism.
If we would like, we could consider a previous period, during 1915, when Malevitch “paints” his research’s two extreme points: the “White on white” and the “Black on black” that are, as we can easily understand, the resetting of painting (and image), just with the intention to go beyond, but starting from that “blank state”. The further outcome, Constructivism (gone through the “settling room” of Suprematism) will make the iconic resetting the one and only possible practise for the work of art reconstruction.
Thinking about us, about Italy, that incredible European avant-garde called Futurism perfectly agreed with these researches. Balla and Depero were working on “analogue” abstraction since 1914 and, in 1915, they launched a totally revolutionary operative manifesto: Ricostruzione futurista dell’Universo (Futuristic reconstruction of the Universe). Once again it is supported the total resetting of positions, both theoretical and “material”, to the extend that Balla started from scratch even making his own paintbrushes. But their resetting was not an extreme act to return to a “pompous” and “reconstructive” painting, such as the Jonuesque overflowing one of 1920s neo-realisms, but instead a request to overflow in everyday life, that is rebuild every aspect even the existential ones and in this way actually bring art in Life.
They were not understood by their time critics, not even by later ones, that were too busy accusing Futurism to be fascist in everything.

However Pastorello’s behaviour towards “erasure” is not isolated or new. Quite the opposite, it finds contemporary premises and confirmations in literature and art.
Almost three century ago, in 1733, Alexander Pope wrote in his book Imitation of Horace “the last and greatest art, the art to blot”. After some decades, in 1791, Samuel Johnson urged his fellow writers saying “read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” At the beginning of last century, Carlo Dossi in his Blue Notes (187071907) judged that “an author’s art is erasing” and then, closer to us, Pitigrilli in one of the many aphorism of his Dizionario antiballistico (1953) said “it takes ten years to learn how to write, but a lifetime is not enough to learn how to erase”.
These are only a few of the many quotes that can be found on this topic.
This day and age we cannot eventually forget the continuous and methodical work of an artist that has made of this practise a “golden rule”: Emilio Isgrò. And to get even more inside current institutional events it is not out of place to quote his thought about the erasing of Italian Constitution that took place in November 2010 in Verona: “It was not easy for my to get ready for this challenge. Indeed I feared that somebody mistook it for a useless provocation. Instead especially two things touched me reading our Constitution. First, the language: a fluent and bare Italian that has nothing to do with the bureaucratic language we are used to. Second, the greatness of the principles to which the constituent assembly referred their text”. And finally: “To erase is not the same as to deny, but it is to plough the field of writing where new dreams and new thoughts can sprout”.

Has Pastorello got anything to do with all these things? He has, because Pastorello works on the same devices, on the same premises, of course with the precise references of his time, or Isgrò’s literal aptitude, but certainly with the same tensions.
We could quickly finish this subject quoting D.E. Hirsch that affirmed (or reaffirmed in turn) an old opinion much more bound to common sense than to deep theories, according to which work of art means “what the author wanted it to mean”.
Is it banal? Of course not! That’s because “codes” used by artists, that is those psycho-visual mechanisms that have always been (and keep being) symbol, allegory or emblem, are not always (rather almost never) used consciously, that is in the full consciousness of their deep implications, just because their function has an archetypal nature and it goes beyond pure rationality. In other words such mechanisms work on applying level that has a phenomenical nature that is specifically the one on which Art bases its own being highlighted.
These psycho-visual mechanisms that entail a “path”, a “series towards further meanings” can be recognized in Pastorello’s work too and they are the first condition for his “cyclical” work, together with a narrative strength that is embodied in a hard core of “high poetry”, at the same time it does not reveal contemporary society’s hypocrisies. It goes without saying that talking about poetry we are referring to the etymological root of the word poiesis that not only means “create and compose lines”, but also, in its imperative form poièin (precisely) “make” (pragmatically) and therefore “build”.
So who reads some artistic criticism or the very Heidegger’s books can wince for statements such as “Poetically inhabits, Man…” questioning how one can “poetically inhabit”? But we have to agree that that “poetically” is “poetry satisfaction”, is the strength of the word and of the thought that becomes volume, the becomes “Construction”, poetic, philosophical, aesthetical and pragmatically material.
As if to say that Man while building the World “in harmony” does himself a poetic action.
To hark to Pastorello, he says: “I like to search a balance in irregularity, in discord, erasing what has just been written, the incomplete, the unfinished, the draft. The return to the starting point without coming back, the closing of the circle”.
There is in this some sort of melancholy that is not the researching for the “perfect” work, but rather for the “ideal” one that never seems to be “here”, but always a bit “beyond”. This apparent “reject” for his work (erasure) to star afresh is only turned towards a utopian jump “onwards” to improve and than come back and so on. There is in this something “archaic” as the “eternal comeback myth”, the permanence of oneself through his own works (…these are the things that remain…).
But then – appealing to Heidegger – “when, as they say, we come to ourselves, we do it starting from things without “giving up” our stay among things…just because this “staying” establishes since the beginning Man’s being”.
In sum, our existence – our “being in the world” – is a nonstop loop and we always come back to the starting point, but we’re always different…sometimes enriched…sometimes not. A loop that we find in Pastorello’s other free thoughts: “The one who creates is the created itself and it is feed by the very action… The work and the creator chase after each other and sometimes one come before the other… The snake bites its own tail and then there is no more tail or head but only the conscious action… Truth is in the soul that guides action and it comes back to it…”.
And in this whole art express itself with all the strength of his “symbolic” action.
And “symbol” is not a noun that can be replaced with another, as many people (including some colleagues) believe: “…this work highly symbolic, almost allegorical…” as a critic judged some years ago maybe without even knowing what he was talking about.
Symbol (from the Greek words “syn” and “ballo”, that is “put together” “link”) is basis and engine for universal harmony, for that Unity towards which we must aim. Metaphorically, this function is put in practice by the action of “bridging”, “linking two shores”: incidentally it comes from the same concept the “pontifical” function of the Pope (also called “Pontiff”). For this very reason symbol became one of the “slight” mechanisms artists used the most, its opposites are “disharmony” and “desegregation” forces identified (and shown) with the Devil (from “dia” and “ballo”, that is “separate”). Allegory, mentioned by the unwise critic from before, is totally different; it comes from “allo” and “agorejo” that is “other meaning” that can be translated as “nice lie”. So “symbol” and “allegory” cannot go hand in hand…
This short etymological digression allows us to talk about Word’s poetic function.
“In the beginning was the Word”. That is how the “book of books” begins and precisely it says that the Word “was” (that is “existed”) and therefore it was Power because It gave off the “creative” function, that is to say Mater function. And so Word, that is express through Poetry, “produces and builds” thoughts, “bridges” and “works for harmony”.
Now, it is not a coincidence that at the time when Art, thanks to the invention of a tool that faithfully portrays reality (the camera), starts to research how to exceed what is real, that is to move from a “retinal vision” to an “intellectual” one, the first avant-garde movements are given birth and that they ground their very own reason for being on Poetry.
Poetry is therefore the one and only fil rouge of contemporary art.

When an artist creates a work of art, he does not just “represent” thoughts, ideas and poems, but he “symbolize” them. That is to say that he does not simply “mark” a canvas, but he fills it with meanings.
Unfortunately today both language and contemporary visual practise promote an ambiguous reason of thought and of significance, placed between literal and metaphorical where we tend to mistake the “noun” with the object he denote, the image with its prototype. Aby Warburg has defined this phenomenon as “the loss of independent thinking space”, while in turn Hans Sedlmayr talked about “loss of centre”, when the plurality of meanings and of semantic tinges tends to “mistake” art symbolism with an aesthetical problem, while it is an ontological one.
Contrariwise in Salvo Pastorello’s works there is something clear and certain: art must consider as its centre the trouble that derives from the implications of a close examination of the relationships between spirit and matter, illusionary and real truth. And this trouble materializes in “second thoughts”, “erasure” and “reiteration of creative fact”.
This trouble is not, and it cannot be, just virtual, mental, speculative, but it is deeply physical, that is of a human physic made of both thoughts and passions, certainties and doubts, violence and love.
It is a trouble that is not in fashion, fashionable, trendy.
It is a trouble that only the ones who strike a discordant note can experience and that drives to a sort of “contemplative fixity”, the one with which Pastorello “”freezes” poetical thought in the short instant in which (maybe) he upsets your heat.

Maurizio Scudiero

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