Vincenzo Balsamo or The Zen Wind Stirring the Heart of Creation
Works on canvas and works on paper from 1957 to 2015
curated by: Prof. Floriano De Santi
In the wake of Heidegger’s Nietzsche, a philosophical idea, a phronesis, has initiated a deconstruction of the foundations of ‘truth and beauty’ as tradition once conceived them. Concomitantly, starting with the historical avant-gardes of the last century, our visual arts have broken off their pursuit of harmony in form and composedness in content. Instead of certain and unequivocal knowledge, contemporary creativity offers us disorder, bewilderment, emotions that find stability only in the realm of chaos and indefiniteness. Vincenzo Balsamo’s lyrical abstraction belongs to this kind of poiesis; it is an art that re-echoes an empty surface in a filled one, seeks the illusion hidden behind another illusion, the directedness of Logos towards the point of origin of the Cosmos. This pictorial ‘leap’ is already present in the first nightscapes of 1962, and in the conflagrations that were to come fourteen years later: it is a topos visited by every great Italian colourist, from Balla to Birolli, from Severini to Corpora.
In Balsamo’s most recent paintings, the sign, preceding the sense of the thing with a foreshadowing that is in itself a manifestation of another, metaphysically presages the notion of Theos, of God. Yet it is neither symbolic nor allegorical: it is something living like a tree or an animal, but without Arp’s reflected biomorphism. It is something instantaneously but irrevocably complete, in which the context of sign develops the picture’s musical score, from the overall structure of the mounting down to the minutest reticular dimple on the canvas, until it reaches the monochromatic eclipses of blues, of reds, of ochres, of purples, of the past two years, when colour and light return and a visual silence gathers around the texture, with an inverse process to that of Rothko’s chromatic and luminous expansion.
At most, in the 2015 paintings Thoughts along the way and So warm and bright, Balsamo is distantly reminiscent of Robert Ryman, who just like the Italian painter, challenges the temporal continuum and brings into play his cognition of a limitless spatial immensity. In Ryman’s white, matter sublimates itself into light; in Balsamo’s blue or red, light extinguishes itself in colour, but in compensation its sign acquires a marvellous splendour, an extraordinary extension and variety of morphology and of tonal registers, an incredible freedom of movement and, at the same time, a dazzling, undiminishable force. Unlike the US protagonist of post painterly abstraction, Balsamo’s pictorial research is an attentive act of auscultation, sensitive notation of the secret, subliminal life of the image. It is all-eyes essentia, autonomous and more complete than the rational, which, in line with the phenomenological-existential philosophy of Husserl, Sartre, Ricoeur and Banfi, is called by Arnheim ‘visual thought’, and by Benjamin Angelus Novus.
by Floriano De Santi