Mediations and contamination By Alida Maria Sessa
They are not collages. There is no much glue, just the little quantity needed to substitute pegs or pins by which the artist assembles papers and different materials during the composition phase.
They are not traditional collages, maybe assemblages, puzzles in which you find remnants, feathers, shells, many leftovers from children’s items, matched together to become a concept and elements taken from the world around us.
Groups/Sets explore the conflagration of the composition of many worlds beneath reality, namely the unconscious possibilities of an object in current use came into contact with its similar.Furthermore, the sensation of a peaceful cohabitation of past and present, the significance of is expressed of by the insertion of at list one lived life, when not even frayed, object which presents visible effects of usage and of the time flowing and of the faber man’s hand.
Even anthropological finds, through the play of blends and mutual influences. An inventor and mediator collage.They are not even traditional Benaglia’s collages, there has been an hybridization process ascribable to the last years, since 2000, considering that currently the artist imprints a radical change to the final asset by inserting the most mysterious object, the foreign body par excellence, in its traditional collage, the painting object.
The sitting ground, the background, anonymous and neutral of its traditional collage of the 70s or 90s, a plank of grey plywood or of balsa wood intentionally left with open pores, is currently polluted with paint. To let it breath or emphasize better, often the support is no more a wooden panel but a linseed toile on a common stretcher. In a word, a canvas. And this says a lot about the ongoing change. Nothing accidental or involuntary. There is already a departure, a different purpose that plans a different outcome through the space for painting pursues multiple shape, through pictorial and material values.
Then, straight afterwards you realize that it is neither the usual painting following the artist’s code, namely that sort of cloudy but substantially smooth, two-dimensional, tissue deriving form the influence of Balthus, his master at Villa Medici. No, here we are facing great pictorial materials, lumpy, shaped on the whole extension of the stretcher, which deserve a careful in-depth analysis. Because since the initial choices the contamination amplifies the characteristics of the work and generates a sense of wrong foot.
It appears immediately clear that these new works are not mere steps of an ongoing process towards painting, that is to say the oil picture as an object depicting a collage of papers. These are works finished in themselves, the arrival point of incubates and includes all the potentialities carried out by the contamination between the two techniques. It seems like the artist had achieved a complete maturity which brings him to start and conclude on the same surface the research that was previously developed in several stages. If you take one of the last Benaglia’s assemblages and put it under the direct light or against the oblique light, you discover that he has worked on the background with a finicky, passionate stratification of chromatic materials, palette knife strokes greasy of colour, clots deliberately left savagely drying, or abraded with the palette knife when they were already in part dry and the blade necessarily mows down also the underlying colours previously jointed, merged or stratified. Sometimes he ploughs with his fingers, as to create centripetal vortex in colours. Other times he simply scratches with the back of a big paintbrush. These effects are obtained at high speed, heatedly, with interventions divided in a succession, , requiring a long time for drying, that one for oil colours, and so mused rethinks.
These interventions cannot be repeated and replaced with a copy. Sometimes, as in “Child playing with a feather”, on a oil background, exhibited without a protecting glass to grant a simpler understanding, there is an original superposition of pastel powder which, by finding colours still liquid, creates a cloudy effect. In the areas where the chalky powder is not absorbed by the oil, lets you feel the asperities of the background, borders abraded by colours, the arid areas and those still liquid of the matter, as in a frottage.
The white clouds appears also in “Girl carrying a cello”, a cloud filled with music, since notes are raining on the girl’s head. In both works the white background serves as neutral element for uncommon, compounded colours, clouded by the surrounding jarring spectrum. And it lighten the gloomy backgrounds uniformed by iron grey and brown, quite rare in Benaglia’s work. It seems that in this last period the sitting ground is a mind game, impulsive surrender to the potentialities , even sculptural, of the painting material.
It suffices to see “The eclipse”. In the background there is a crown of very fluid resins left dripping and drying. In the centre, under the paper picture of the cock, a perfect round burn in the wooden tablet represents the eclipse. Downwards there are few lines scratched in blue, drawn with two listless palette knife strokes. Pure experimentation. We don’t have to wonder because if behind and inside an informal painter there is always a figurative painter, the adage can be easily reversed and on the sitting ground figurative artists there is all the passion, the science and the cultured contagion of the informal artist. I’m thinking of Benaglia, but also Calabria and even Sughi, artists that I had the fortune to deal with. .
You only have to take a fragmen of one of their works, isolate it, eventually enlarge it – in your mind, rather than with a magnifier – sensibly oversized, to understand that the great painting has always been one. There is or there isn't. the rest is only a trend or a cultural debate. I don't want to poor oil on troubled waters of white hot polemics, of internal and dynastical conflicts, that have inflamed the last century, and in the Buri's home town, fancy that! But it is obvious that painting as an evolving language lives an amazing double step, overlooks the future form a present full of past and so with different solutions and climax, it is absorbed and finds articulations and mental processes which produce different outcomes in each outcome.
Painting is like poetry. Fortunately, for some years the discrimen has no longer been between opposite trend or between the Milanese school and Roman school, but between good and bad poetry. But let's talk about the paper component of these assemblages. Apparently they don't seem to have changed a lot from the first technique and the current works, they are innocuous paper scraps that make think to a play. They are characters that can give us the basis for a second interpretation, more profound and less ingenuous.
Scraps are then folded to create a relief, a depth, a perspective, a movement full of lights and shadows, and pinned on a surface. They are human opposed finds that are in the running for best describing the rality. Cuts are made in notebook sheets, packing paper, dust paper used to realize rough sketches, everything on hand in the atelier in that moment, miniature masterpieces on horseback of a galloping fantasy that, while cutting paper, plans the picture and already thinks about the sculpture. Mannequins and models of many pictures articulated in spinning, fluent or voluntarily stubby movements, as to represent the human alter ego in the world of Benaglia, an artist who now tames nightmares and restlessness and recomposes everything in a vital and redeeming parable. This characteristic emerges especially in his last works: his figures don't have any more corroded and burned margins, avoiding masochist rituals that bring them to play with fire of magenta matches. They don't live on narcissistic and self-punitive folds. It seems like they have matured, coming out from an agonizing teenage: the direct comparison between the collages' historical section and the current one, infected by painting, will bring you beyond the analysis of an evolution, towards more complex and stratified shapes, the immediate analysis of the clearing of a uneasiness. Comparing the model and its portrait, as in the big exposition in the rocca Paolina in 2005 (maybe Umbria let us do excursions on key concepts of Benaglia's poetics?), there is now the possibility to mark over the years the differences in the changes of mental conditions which come along with the translation form collage to oil, form paper scrap to sculpture, from collage to picture.
While in the first period of his research the artist inquires into new and original expressive properties of paper, starts folding sheets as to articulate his figures in movement, making them alive – in a word, Benaglia is born – it's only now that we see the cut figure no longer as a simple instrument subdued to painting, simple expression of an idea, but becoming the idea in itself.
There is no distance between matter and form, now it's an identification between content and language. But the exposition in Città di Castello, focusing on this field grounding Benaglia's poetics, reserves many other foods for thought.
See, for example, the collage of the forest of 1979, embryo with elementary and dreamy features, with trees crowded up to claustrophobia, is only the clue of a long incoming trip. It is realized as a picture only in 1991, with standard dimensions 1 metre x 80 cm.. It is the transposition from a collage, but also much more, and not only for the new painted elements. The translation as oil on canvas "Forest's memory", becomes a work grounding the artist's poetics. First of all, the picture, part of an important private collection, considerably amplifies the play and the rhythm of the tree-cards. The collage here painted prunes the vegetal caos, unties till the last possibility the limits of the papery matter and the potentialities of the white colour, dressed up as violet shadows, but above all matures the intentions and strikes the involuntary mystic tension.
The "obscure swarm" of the forest is brightened up by the redeeming light of an uncommon comet rushing in the night sky. An exceptional inventive freshness for a great visionary metaphor.