Antonio Catelani


Since the mid-1980s, Antonio Catelani has been engaged in a reflection on the regulatory processes in the field of sculpture, with clear references to architecture. Each action is a particular sounding out of the status of the work, where the physical nature of the sculpture is driven to the uncertain borderline between project and object, through a weakening of the boundaries that separate the various disciplines. Formal reduction does not lead to the objectification inherent in Minimalism and indeed differs from it through the discontinuity and provisional nature of its forms, as well as through an excess of meanings and perceptive data. The model becomes a paradigmatic body of this condition and conception of transient reality, which is constantly changing and never fully presentiatable. It can, however, be intuited by means of bipolar affirmations which never cease to shift the stated datum into a dialectic dimension filled with contradictions. Doppio ordine (1985), Ordinare (1986), Modelli (1987), Prolungarsi (1988) and Tipologie (1988) all date from these years. In the 1990s, the direction shifts in terms of form but not of substance, with a new focus on painting. What emerges is, however, a form of meta-painting that is subject to the laws of gravity. This tends to be objectivised to the extent that, through a metonymic function, it does away with the distinction between matter and image. This cycle includes Il corpo del colore (1995), Madreforma (1997) and Concordia (1999). Even when the evidence seems to point towards a greater focus on the painting process and the inclusion of the work in a particular disciplinary field, as is the case of the oil paintings of 2000, there is nevertheless a substantial shift of field, which is made possible by the use of a technique borrowed from the world of printing. The laying of the oil colour using a screen-print frame leads to absolute flatness, to a depersonalisation of the action and to the disappearance of texture. This can be seen in Trapezio (2000), Talea (2001) and Ipercromo (2002). The reticulation and modernist grid reappear in Reziario (2006), even though in a softer, flexed manner. The image obtained appears as a limited portion of something that extends beyond the physical perimeter of the work. It has no precise spatial definition but, in the fold and fringing, it hints at a potential geometrical and structural extension. The reticular element also constitutes a clear outline of what is absent within: a place than is obliterated and reduced to more than a slim outline. In the new Assenze cycle of paintings of 2009, we see a significant shift towards the monochrome that Catelani reconfigures on the uncertain borderline between image and objectification of the plane. Verification of the physical plane of the painting, closely bound to the ontological level, is taken right through to the act of touching the painted surface, which immediately shifts attention from the visual sphere to that of touch, invalidating the chromatic factor. Blacks and greys, as well as metallic tones, firmly establish the absence and the inconsistent trace, in the negative, of a dubitative action. The trace we notice on the canvas here is thus the only concrete evidence of an event. This is also true of the Limen series (2010), in which the tactile, tautological repetition of the edge of the canvas indicates the boundary within which the painting is formed and, through extensions and releases, it reveals the tension of the painting surface in its entirety. Through the application and release of pressure on the screen-print frame, it is left to the colour itself to spread out or rise up according the inherent tectonics of the painted surface. In the recent installations, Turnturm (2010) and Twisted (2010), it is once again the plane which generates volumes and voids, and thus introduces the third dimension. The sculpture consists of elements in black cardboard and metal parts which, despite its solid look, actually create a thin body that contains a void, the physical inconsistency of which refers back to the two-dimensional plane that generated it. Similarly, it is the superimposition of the module-elements that lead to the sculpture being raised to architectural status. Klettersteig (2010), a slender sculpture in curved aluminum tubes, consists of numerous circumferences moulded around a classical column, rising up from base to capital. Deprived of the physical and semantic support of the material body of the column, the various parts lie on the ground like pieces of wreckage, one on top of the other, annihilating the elevation that created them. The work thus appears as a simulacrum and the result of an operation that goes from potency to action / from action to inaction. Each cycle of works is brought about by bringing their antecedents into question, by breaking them down into their constituent individual linguistic propositions and, from these, reassembling them to create new assertions. For Catelani, de-construction always implies a memory of provenance and of place, where the grammatical value of each enunciation is made manifest by a close/distant reading which demands constant focusing, from detail to general and vice versa. What is brought into play is therefore a thought which is digressive but, at the same time, also one that returns to the specific discipline.