Piazza Fratelli Cairoli, 1, 06049 Spoleto PG, Italy

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"Filippo Marignoli" by Giovanni Carandente, excerpt from "Filippo Marignoli. Works 1952/1984" (Spoleto, 1996)

Filippo Marignoli, a differenza dei colleghi stanziali, aveva spirito avventuroso.

E difatti, il giovane Marignoli guardò con vivace interesse a quanto era appena successo a New York, dove si trasferì nel 1959 e dove l’Action painting e l’Abstract expressionism erano nel momento del loro maggiore fulgore. Più tardi, nel secondo soggiorno romano, si ricorderà dapprima della lezione di Rothko e subito dopo, nel sua penultima fase di lavoro, del pre-minimalismo di Noland.

La sua stagione informale fu intensa ma non duratura. Conservò le caratteristiche di quel genere di astrattismo, dalla violenza espressiva dei segni alla forza gestuale, al polimaterismo (persino compaiono in un gruppo di tele le garze incollate per rendere più tramate le velature: esse anticipano di un bel po’ d’anni la tecnica adoperata da Franco Angeli).

E infine, c’è in questa pittura un in psicanalitico che vistosamente fora la superficie dell’opera. Se ne accorse già Maurizio Calvesi nel 1959, alla mostra del gruppo [N.d.R.: il Gruppo di Spoleto] nella gloriosa galleria l’Attico di piazza di Spagna a Roma, allorché scrisse di “spazi bui e sommossi” che l’artista si portava dentro “come grandi paure” e di un “sedimento surreale […] di impulsi irrealizzati”.

Ma c’è anche, nel lavoro di Filippo Marignoli, una sorprendente fase conclusiva. Essa non rinnega le esperienze precedenti, come era del resto già accaduto nel trascorrere dall’uno all’altro motivo. La formula, pero’, con un linguaggio novo e diverso, reso contestuale al momento in cui le opere vedevano la luce ( la fine degli anni settanta a Parigi, nella galleria Denise René). Il furore espressionista vi si è acquietato. L’immagine si stempera in un lago di colore unito e compatto. Talora esso è ricoperto da una sottile trama grafica, minuta e insistita come in un gioco optical. Spesso lo spazio viene squarciato da un’esile lama di luce verticale, misteriosa quanto spietata. Filippo Marignoli, passando dalle ricerche sulla luce nel colore della precedente fase, da quel tipo di luce che in Rohtko proviene da dentro il colore e non viceversa, a queste ultime composizioni sobrie e rigorose, percorse da luci fredde, controllate dal rigore dello spazio e della forma, sembra volerci trasmettere che la sua dedizione alla pittura fu fino alla fine assoluta.

Vertigo is the pictorial action that transforms space into an abyss; forcing the gaze to contend with absolute verticality. The gaze drowns, because the work , like every painting, remains motionless. In this final works, spanning over fifteen years, Filippo Marignoli succeeded in what every “modern” artist longs to achieve: the invention of something never seen before. And like every artist worthy of the name he did it without planning; using his “Informel” novitiate experiences with Sargentini, the influences of his American years, and the analytical sharpness than ran through the exhibitions at his Parisian gallery (Denise René). Filippo Marignoli moved, travelled and constructed rather compact islands of expression. This Roman exhibition at the Museo Carlo Bilotti is shaped around four of these islands: the years between Rome and Spoleto, experimenting with matter and gesture painting; New York and Honolulu, where he encountered new American art; his return to Rome and the exploration of a secluded and lyrical landscape; and finally Paris, where he created his “Vertical Landscapes”, which in some cases become no less unfathomable “Horizontal”. Nobody will miss the fundamental links connecting all of these islands like recurring baggage: especially the landscape, not as form, but like an unyielding knot around which every expression unfolds; and his enlargements, almost restoring the monumentality of Italian painting, harmonizing with the expansive surfaces of American art and providing an “abyss” even in his “Vertical Landscapes” of smaller format.

Vertigo is no less related to love than it is to art: it’s the gaze and the body sinking into the gaze of the loved one. It is not by chance that Hitchcock’s celebrated film, which played a part in naming this exhibition, was entitled “The woman who lived twice” in its Italian version.

For Filippo Marignoli, the horizon is a conditional affair, or, if one prefers, conditioned by the idea of an idea. If, as is generally accepted, the line of the horizon signifies the sudden end of the gaze, the painter has objectified this instant, this limit situation, giving us ‘his’ glance on the end of the gaze.

Truthfully, what happens here is an actual complicity, one that the artist establishes as the basis of his visual dialogue with others. We are invited to propel our own act of looking on the gazed-upon gazes. Thus, our eye emerges in a third position on these spatial cut-outs which act as staggered verticalities, and here the immense green expanse of the landmass seems to want to eat the blue sky, pushing it towards the upper limit, and also wants to overwhelm, in the lower section, the brown tones that belong to the shoulder of a highway seen as a linear arrow. Elsewhere, the proposition is inversed and it is the sky that expands enthusiastically.

Therefore, what we have here is a profound speculation on the data that is immediately apparent in our perceptive conscience, and at the same time, the putting into question of the concept of the horizon. The procedure is deliberate, and the process of communication particularly effective. Marignoli’s landscapes, reduced to their quintessential structure, evoke within us a dominant, omnipresent sensation of verticality. The intentional reduction of its chromatic range emphasizes again the effect of ambient weight. Here is painting that has much to say, and with a remarkable sobriety of means, both on the level of colour use, as well as on the level of structure. This is no miracle: if Marignoli’s work conquers our attention in such a decisive way, it is because the artist has been able to suddenly see clearly so as to instinctively establish an efficient visual strategy that is based on the rigorous complementarity of two phenomena of perception. The relativeness of the horizon line implies as its corollary the sense of total verticality of space. On the level of communication, the effects are immediate. Our eye is caught in an interior vertigo that stimulates the concatenations and associations of dazzling emotional flashes, vague sensation of déjà vu, or rather already felt – as if this painting, in acting as a catalyst of our mental laboratory, suddenly releases the opening mechanism of the sluice gates of our visual memory.

I was particularly struck by the emotional and intellectual shock from my first encounter with Marignoli’s work. These paintings I was confronting, provoked in me a spectacular mnemo-technical chain reaction. I thought in one go, and in the flash of the same instant, to three sensations-memories of extremely different spatial locations, a short landing on a tropical terrain in the Pacific, a ascent in an exterior lift of a New York building site, the vision-flashes of slivers of landscapes between two tunnel of a highway on the Ligurian coast. I have since learnt that Marignoli could have experienced these very impressions in situ, as he has lived in the Hawaiian Islands as well as New York, and that Italian highways are familiar to this son of Umbria. But this is not the issue. What linked these memories was their common sensation, stronger than any anecdotal difference, of a verticality experienced and felt as a physical totality. The artist builds the efficaciousness of his language on a strategic concept of the gaze. In Marignoli’s relative universe, the horizon is a gazed-upon gaze. It is now up to us to measure how much of our interest we will bring to this brilliant exercise of conceptual visual hygiene

Intending to frame the work of the artist Filippo Marignoli, first of all, one needs to understand his personality. It is via his biography and artistic production that we are allowed to deduce, without categorizing, three fundamental traits that appear to be contradictory, though it is precisely because of the contradictions that the specificities of his career are defined: restlessness; change; coherence.

His is the restlessness of a person who grew and received his training at the end of the fifties in Umbria and in Rome, centres of an authoritative cultural ambient and a centuries-old pictorial tradition. After which followed Honolulu and immediately after that New York exactly at the time when the city is the centre of the Pop Art movement. A few years following, he moves back again to Italy, in Rome. This time, however, he seems to retreat from society. These years of silence are followed, in the early seventies, by yet another move that will stimulate a new and intense season of work and exhibitions; during this period he chooses Paris. This geographic and cultural restlessness is compatible with Filippo Marignoli’s intellectual curiosity. For example, his awareness of a new artistic climate in America (already noticeable when exploring the Informale movement with the Group of Spoleto) influenced his choice to move to New York.

Essentially, the transformation of the artist’s artistic expression is the fundamental consequence of Marignoli’s restlessness. It is for these reasons that the his exploration will evolve from the centrality of the Informale period of Spoleto in the fifties, to artworks which emphasize the parameters of an uncompromising abstract composition belonging to his Parisian period in the seventies. This itinerary goes from Informale painting to results which are close to minimalism, all under the influence of Abstract Expressionism.

Thus, restlessness and change are nevertheless coupled with coherence. This coherence is manifested within an individual personality influenced by an emphatic cosmopolitism, exactly because he confronts himself with the new. Filippo Marignoli, even when travelling and moving from place to place, “constructed rather compact islands of expression” (Enrico Mascelloni). Furthermore, his increasing independence from art currents, “stands to settle importantly against the oversimplification of apparent categories” (David Gothard), and establishes on his part an interesting independence from trends, during – and maybe because of – his withdrawal from society.

Filippo Marignoli is Italian and remains European. He comes from an ancient family history, but nonetheless he doesn’t use an ancient vocabulary to express himself. His artworks don’t present those old-world references that we can find in many other painters with an aristocratic past. He is moderntout court. He reclaims and revises painting in a contemporary interpretation and from the beginnings of his career, his “pictorial consistency” (Jole D’Arsiero) is noted. Therefore, he reaches a “quintessence structurelle” (Pierre Restany) that will remain the characteristic and the legacy of his work. The structural quintessence achieved by Marignoli at the peak of his artistic development – especially in Vertical Landscapes – is crucial to an emptying of predisposed meaning of the artwork, yet maintaining possible future meanings open.

That opening is precisely where lies the dilemma he leaves us with. It is the strength of his art today. Precisely that dilemma is what has drawn the attention of the art world during the latest retrospective, and this has highlighted how the numerous public was ready to welcome the restlessness, the change and the coherence of Filippo Marignoli.