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Details & Cataloguing

The Italian Sale

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Paolo Scheggi
1940 - 1971
INTERSUPERFICIE ROSSA
acrylic on three superimposed canvases
49.5 by 70 by 5.8cm.; 19 1/2 by 27 5/8 by 2 1/4 in.
Executed in 1963.
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This work is registered at the "Association Paolo Scheggi", Milan, under the number APSM134/0006.

This work will be included in the forthcoming Paolo Scheggi Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by Luca Massimo Barbero. 

Provenance

Collezione Fabio Andreoli, Campo Bisenzio

Galleria il Ponte, Florence

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008

Exhibited

Florence, Galleria il Ponte, Paolo Scheggi. Ferri tele carte. Una retrospettiva 1957-1971, 2007-08, n.p., no. VIII, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

In Intersuperficie Rossa, Paolo Scheggi bridges the gap between sculpture and painting through the dramatic placement of voids across a captivating composition. For its emphasis on the physicality of the canvas, and for its bold simplicity, this work should be considered amongst the most engaging of Scheggi’s remarkable yet tragically brief oeuvre.

The volumetric overlapping of canvases and the studied placement of voids were the central tenets of Scheggi’s distinctive visual language. In this way, he is best considered alongside his close contemporary Lucio Fontana. Both of these artists advanced conventional concepts of painting by puncturing the canvas, and thus eschewed the Italian painterly tradition of which they were intractably a part. In doing so, they refused their viewers the right to look through the picture plane into a fictive world beyond. They smashed the window of perspectival recession, instead demanding that their paintings be considered as non-representational objects in their own right. Furthermore, in conscious reflection of contemporaneous advances in space exploration, both Scheggi and Fontana purposefully pushed their work into a new dimension through harnessing the power of the void. In cutting through the known limits of art, and breaking into the physical space beyond the canvas, these two heavyweights of post-war Italian art echoed and recapitulated the concurrent breakthroughs in space travel; the emptiness of the voids in their work directly reference the incomprehensible vastness of the cosmos.

However, where Fontana’s artistic and conceptual act culminated in the linear cut, lending each of his works a mood of violent finality, Scheggi went further. The younger artist’s method of superimposing planes, through which presence and absence weave and intermingle, creates a more complex, more dynamic composition. Scheggi’s knitted canvases offer more than the infinite oblivion of a unilateral void; instead creating a reflexive counterpoint, evoked through the considered juxtaposition of colour, space, and shadow.

The present work is exceptional amongst Scheggi’s work for its pseudo-biomorphic dynamism. Where many of this artist’s other works are inflexibly geometric, imposing perfect circular punctures upon rigid angular vectors, or arranging apertures in schematised tangential order, Intersuperficie Rossa is remarkable for its elastic organic grace. The three visible voids, stretched across two layers of canvas above a seemingly blank third, appear as elegant ovals, almost languid in their elliptical extension. Furthermore, by centring his unconventional composition around a single sliver of overlap between the voids of the first and second layer, Scheggi charges his work with a sense of preclusive tension. The viewer is forced to consider the work from multiple angles and is compelled not to just look at the canvas, nor to look past it into some recessional realm beyond, but rather to look into it, to appreciate it in its entirety, and to consider it as an object in its own right.

This notion of the painting as object was one that was rapidly gaining traction in Italian artistic circles at the time. Following the Second World War, Italy had experienced a period of incredible economic growth led by the industrial cities of the north. Milan, the capital of this economic miracle, subsequently became one of Europe’s most culturally progressive. Scheggi moved there in 1961, and became one of the core members of the Pittura oggetto movement, led by Fontana, and followed faithfully by such worthy peers as Agostino Bonalumi (with whom Scheggi exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1966), Enrico Castellani, and Dadamaino. Intersuperficie Rossa is a masterful work that aptly encapsulates the values that this group sought to achieve, whilst also maintaining an idiosyncratic sense of poise and grace.

The Italian Sale

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London