Carlo Battaglia (1933-2005) was a cultured and cosmopolitan artist. Like all learned artists, he matured his conceptual, aesthetic and formal convictions over time, unlike those who are suddenly “illuminated” by intuition, but once acquired he analyzed, experimented and used these skills to explore all boundaries, perhaps even pushing himself too far. Convinced that an artist should know the languages of others to build his own, he searched with the humility of one who feels he is destined to notable things to penetrate the lexicon of those to whom he felt an affinity, not so much with his own way of expressing himself, but rather with his own way of feeling. For this reason, he chose New York at the end of the sixties – in 1967 – to personally meet Ad Reinhardt, Robert Motherwell, and most of all to deepen his friendship with Mark Rothko (who had been his guest in Rome for two months), and perhaps also to revisit that essential grid of Manhattan that had caused even Piet Mondrian to change his thinking. He would return multiple times with his wife Carla Panicali – who at the time directed Marlborough Gallery in Rome – at least until he decided that the learning was over, that the social life was no longer for him, that it was time for solitude, and to retire to a place that is the opposite of a big city, like his small native island of La Maddalena, north of Sardinia, facing the far away horizon between the sky and the sea.
In the middle, between the end of the seventies and the nineties, there were numerous exhibits, two personal shows at the Biennale of Venice – in 1970 and in 1980 – another one at the Palazzo Grassi (1974) still in Venice, the repeated participation to the so-called “Pittura analitica” (a sort of European equivalent to American “Fundamental Painting”), the acknowledgement from other artists of his intellectual stature, as well as his importance as a painter. But at that point Battaglia had reached another level. Once a personal language is developed, everything is reduced – or rather broadens – to the Self and the Other, and the limited field of the canvas becomes a place of contention, an arena where the painter “stops” the world at every instant, knowing that a moment later it will no longer be the same, and he will have to start again, day after day, year after year, for the rest of his life.
And what is a better subject than the “sea” to exercise this ideal and vital conflict? The sea is the metaphor of life, always the same and always different, but for a painter (and for a painter who was born in front of the sea, lived in front of the sea, and died in front of the sea) the sea is also the sea, in its literal sense, not metaphoric. In a phrase, it represents the visible and invisible, the physical and metaphysical in the world.