Afro’s early career in the 1930s focused on painting still life, landscapes, portraits and murals, absorbing the artistic influences of the time. An opportunity to travel to America in 1950 to visit the studio of Arshile Gorky, confirmed to Afro his new interest and tendency towards the decomposition of elements, disconnecting them in a static sense, but still united by a centrifugal motion. Lucid signs, rounded contours and a brighter palette replaced the angular forms and monochromatic pictorial language of earlier years. The light deforms and frays the thickening image and its colours. Freed from representative restrictions and resigned to an abstract language, Afro’s paintings after 1952 feature objects that have been more and more diminished. The acclaimed Italian art critic Cesare Brandi recognised that “Afro’s paintings can be interpreted in terms of light. A light which is behind the colour, praises it, pushes it forward” (Brandi Cesare, Afro, Siena 1981, n.p.).
Afro took his inspiration from Venice, drawing on the city of celebrations, of free and joyous festivities. The focus is not however on twentieth century Venice, but the Venice of the Venetian noonday or rich sunset. This is the reflection of colour we see in Afro’s canvases. His link with this tradition, with the glories of his great predecessors is how we are guided to view Afro’s work. Even though Afro uses his heritage as a muse, it is always his own sensibility, that unfailing instinct for the handling of his means which gives his work its’ consistent air of spontaneity, grace and gladness which today sets Afro apart as one of the pure lyricists of contemporary painting. Afro himself stressed the spiritual quality to his practice; "my painting has always been subjective and always pursued a space composed of memory, rediscovered emotion and intuition" (Afro cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Connaught Brown, Afro Basaldella 1912-1976, 2015, p. 13).
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