Roberto Caracciolo, “Six”

Introduction in the catalogue of the exhibition Sei, Galleria Corraini, Mantua, February 2002

Six artists in the show; six abstract painters of different generations and coming from different places; six experiences and six points of view, united by their common interest in color converge in this exhibition to confront each other. Two women and four men: Chung Eun Mo and Maria Morganti, Richard Gorman, Roberto Rizzo, Sean Shanahan and Roberto Caracciolo. As different as they are one from the other they are united by the fact that they paint – color on surface – believing that it can still be done, that there are still questions to be asked. Six ways of doing, of testing the impossible, of questioning the unpronounceable through the sensual and perceptive play of colors on a flat plane.

Even a single color, put down in the most uniform way possible, color that is only color when applied on a painting that is a square or rectangular surface does not exist alone. It exists in relation to the white of the wall and to the physical distance between the two – the depth of the stretcher or the board or whatever support that one is using – from the wall and its proportion to the size of the painting. And this relationship is altered not only by the light in the room but even and more so by the color on the painting, its value on the chromatic scale, if it is dull or brilliant, if it is opaque or transparent, dark or light. In finding the right “placement” of the surface through these means remains the personal choice of the individual, and it reveals the psychological attitude.

Not all colors behave in the same manner. There are colors that have the capacity to remain absolutely flat, without depth, while others inversely open up in front of eyes as though they were composed of two elements, one sinking away in depth while the other emerges towards us. These colors have a soft and vibrant space that arches towards the center forming two surfaces: one convex and the other concave. An intangible void that causes a certain insecurity in seeing and that captures us because as we watch we are unable to stop the space in any given place.

If one leaves part of the surface on which one is painting visible then the color will have to relate to it and together, in a lesser form, they will have to relate to the white of the wall. Whether the surface that one is working on is white or colored will have a vast impact because this will clearly create more or less distance from the white wall, give a different feeling of weight. Using the color of the pre-existing ground – considering even the white on a canvas such – and another that is applied over it, not only will we have the drawing of the four sides of the canvas or other support on the wall, but even and more so we will have the drawing within the surface. We will then have the contrast of volume and of intensity between them. With our eyes we are unable to follow the line of division in-between the two colors, as it does not exist, if not as extreme limit of color and so we pass from looking at one limit to the other, and in so doing alter the spatial relation in-between the two colors.

Two colors next to each other set up a dialogue. And in this “conversation” they lose part of their identity becoming what the other will make each seem by contrast or by association. Two colors can sing together or be out of tune, they can exalt or weaken each other, they can posses a saturation in common that will hold them together or belong to different worlds. In this not all colors behave in the same way. Some are so strong and aggressive as to be able to impose their identity upon their neighbour, others can duel evenly. There are colors to which it is always easy to apply a name, that anyone would recognize at first sight. Others colors are weak and shy, they hide next to the other allowing themselves to be transformed into what they were not alone. Colors that become indefinable and ambiguous, that know how to puzzle the viewer, hiding their identity. The former use their strength and clarity to emerge from the surface of the painting while the latter tend to fade into the background. At this point only the composition can balance the different weights of the colors creating more or less volume.

Two colors one juxtaposed upon the other also have a dialogue. Far more mysterious and secret, they are complex accords where the single note is lost in the whole. They become the sum of various passages that are hardly retraceable, yet each passage remains present in the final color. Opacity or transparency alter the relationship among these layers of color, the state of unity of the final impact. In this juxtaposition ambiguities are created both in color and of placement in space, and therefore of movement of surface whether receding or emerging. Color becomes harder to identify and changes with light: its “temperature” and the angle at which it reaches the surfaces, thus making it impossible for the painting to be always the same and so in continual change, adapting to its present condition. Space can be ambiguous because the underlying color may contradict the one on the surface, holding it back when it would seem to want to emerge or pushing it out, towards the exterior, when it would apparently want to recede.

On a painting with two or more colors each time that we move our eyes from one color to the other the sensation of placement in space changes creating a “breath”, creating a sort of body on the flat plane. If then one or more colors are repeated on the surface of the painting this creates a further rhythms as the eye searches for the certainty of the equal. Instead jumping from one color to the next, for a brief instant, we retain the previous color on the retina juxtaposing it on what we are now seeing. And only as this “impression” vanishes does the color become itself, do we see it for what it is. But if the eye is beckoned to move across the painting with a certain speed, from one color to the next, each color will then be illusion in a constant and pulsating state of becoming.

Six artists in the show: six abstract painters, six states of experience and as many attitudes. United by fact that they paint believing that it can still be done, that there are still unanswered questions to be asked. Six ways of doing one’s art, of challenging the impossible by questioning the unpronounceable through the sensual and perceptive play of colors on a flat plane. Six ways of using colors to express feelings and transform thoughts and complex concepts into something that is beyond theory and the already known, to reach a little bit further, beyond the last syllable.