- Enrico Castellani
- Superficie Bianca
- acrylic on shaped canvas
Renata Wirz and Federico Sardella, Enrico Castellani, Catalogo Ragionato, Tomo Secondo, Opere 1955-2005, Milan 2012, p. 382, no. 246
Composing his flawless white canvases with a sequential pattern of nails using a nail gun, Castellani created a progression of negative and positive poles, a rhythmically undulating relief suffused by a dynamic interplay of light and dark. Appropriating an almost sculptural language the artist achieves the illusionary effect traditionally created through the painted chiaroscuro. Germano Celant has written of this extraordinary effect of light that exists within works from the Superfici series: "Light illuminates the reliefs, creates shadows and reflections, flattens and highlights the surfaces, and thus confers existence on the painting. Therefore Castellani could not fail to gradually approach its splendour through the use of the absolute colour white, which radiates, slides across and unifies the surface and at the same time functions as a register of total freedom" (Germano Celant quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Milan, Fondazione Prada, Enrico Castellani, 2001, p. 17).
Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Lucio Fontana, Castellani reviewed the discourse of painting via artistic reduction in search of an elemental art that would reveal a new dimension beyond the traditional canvas ground. However, in contrast to the violence that underlies Fontana’s radical rupture of the two dimensional picture plane, Castellani's act is a sensitive modulation of the surface. Similar to his contemporary and co-founder of the Galleria Azimut, Piero Manzoni, who saturated his canvases with kaolin in order to create his famous Achrome, Castellani makes use of the physical property of the canvas, liberating it from its traditional role of support and asserting its individual materiality and objectivity. Through a heightened dedication to a consistent, rational and minimal artistic language the artist looked to elate the ideal of nothingness as the real domain of art. As pointed out by Bruno Corà "[the artist’s] phyisical punctum – distinguished in ogives and regressions, Pythagorically managed and addressed towards creating image – rhythm by way of regular intervals or progression, fixed or variable quotas is an elemental entity, indefinitely repeatable, the generator of a differentiated infinite" (Bruno Corà, Castellani, Milan 1996, p. 23).
Frequently employed for its properties as a ‘non-colour’ by artists who subscribed to the Zero mentality, white truly exemplified the nihilistic reduction of the artwork. Freed from the constraints of representation Superficie Bianca encourages the viewer to look beyond the picture plane and posit their own ideals and theories onto a 'blank' canvas. Castellani outlined his overarching concern to forge a distinct artistic dialect devoid of all traditional chromatic and figurative implications by explaining: "For me, the question is that of creating a totally white surface outside any pictorial phenomenon, any intervention extraneous to the value of the surface: this is a white surface that is a white surface and nothing else. With the ‘lines’ there is not even the possible ambiguity of the picture: the line extends only in length, it runs to infinity, the only dimension of time… There is nothing to say: one can only be"(Enrico Castellani quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Milan, Fondazione Prada, Enrico Castellani, 2001, p. 45).