By Matteo Vanzan
My father tried to explain to me the importance of the brushstroke in painting. I spent several afternoons in his atelier listening to the imperceptible noise of bristles on the palette, savoring the unmistakable smell of turpentine mixed with a cigarette that was slowly dying on an almost full ashtray. He introduced me to the secrets of color sampling and light searching through the works of the great masters: Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, leafing through catalogues and taking notes with worn pencils in notebooks scattered everywhere. A life dedicated to art, to the study of painting and the Masters of the past thanks to the secrets of a few artists who were silently revealed in the slow progress of painting. Cigarette smoke made vision blurry; a fog that hung from the lips of a painter always turned away, attentive, his gaze fixed on a precise point, a fig leaf to be precise. It is immovable, my father, waiting for a material that is just waiting to settle on that imperceptible point giving life to an otherwise still life. “The secret”, he said, “lies in knowing how to use grey”, and, as if to truly recreate that absolute grey enveloping the primed canvases, I patiently waited for the initiation ritual proper to the darkest parts of the subject – one must always start from the shadows!- he repeated – getting ever closer to the light, to the point of a brush that lights up the gaze, that filters forests to make us glimpse a sun hidden by the incessant tangle of nature which, after centuries of academic studies, comes alive. We talked about painting, my father and I, and how it is impossible today to recreate such colors and drafts, despite all the experience we have. The expressive power of Lucian Freud or the thicknesses of Anselm Kiefer could come close to that emotion: reinterpretations in a distorted key of a history by now saturated, a humanity aimed at the decay of the flesh and at the cynicism of a painting that shows us all the negativity of our little planet. We all know it, finding the courage to shout it to the whole world only because hidden behind the impregnable shield of beauty and technology. It is objectively impossible to recreate that unforgettable past as the technique of those artists is unattainable. Let us consider the immaculate marbles of Canova, in which the mastery is the fruit of years of study that consecrated a genius of execution and elegance. How unattainable is the Sistine Chapel, whose walls are described by Pope John Paul II as the revelation of a “human genius who drew his inspiration by undertaking to cover them with forms of unparalleled beauty”. As far as I’m concerned, unreachable is the idea of presenting a urinal in one of the most important world events in 1917, the only work rejected among the 2500 presented, very late understanding the words of Louise Norton, explaining to me that ” Whether or not Mr. Mutt made the fountain with his own hands doesn’t matter. He chose it, creating a “new idea for the object”. It is in front of a pizza at Amadeus, a small pizza parlor in the province of Vicenza, that these words of mine fell free on years of teaching and consumed cigarettes, throwing up centuries of Academy and knowledge and finding in my father a valid destructive ally of the past and unthinkable innovator with an eye to the future. I was almost afraid to pronounce those words, exactly because of my radical conception of the history of art which led me, over time, to recognize the beautiful painting from the great idea, dividing protagonists into three large sections: Artists, Great Artists and Definitive Artists. Artists are inimitable conceptual researchers who are part of manifestos and artistic currents that have marked an era. They are mentioned in art history books, historicized and exhibited in the most prestigious international museums, to all intents and purposes impressive protagonists of a cultural ferment bearing the name of great art capitals such as Paris, Rome and New York. It is a vast group of eclectic personalities able to animate art galleries, dealers and collectors in search of business and new trends. Quite different from those who really marked the era, influencing entire generations of artists and becoming undisputed leaders. On the other hand, not many Cezanne, Picasso, De Chirico and Fontana can be born, especially in a single century. They leave their house, and you understand that they are the Art; they are tireless researchers and absolute masters of the technique, now conceived as a means and not as an end, to trace the path of a stylistic renewal capable of changing a now obsolete language. Cezanne traces, Picasso finds, De Chirico condemns and Fontana goes beyond the canvas waiting for a jar full of feces which denounces the decline of an art world that has the presumption of giving us as music what in De Filippi’s programs is “created”. A world where these Great Artists are harassed with requests from gallery owners and dealers who want to satisfy the demand of an increasingly vast market and willing to pay their weight in gold even for the most ignoble crusts as long as they are signed and authenticated. So it must be said that one no longer follows the concept of Art or that of the careful research of the work with a capital W, which in the end has the same value as a secondary one by an equally important author, but one wants at all costs to own an artist simply for the vanity of asserting “I have it”. That’s why I talk about Decisive Artists. Artists who have the courage to choose – Duchamp – or the courage to say – Warhol – changing forever, and finally I dare say, the cards on the table. Beyond being the greatest interpreter of his time, guessing industrial production had a potential to be exploited in the conception of mass-produced work, the genius of using silk-screen printing on canvas and paper (with a certainly different commercial value , but with the same artistic importance), Warhol had the courage to say that we don’t buy a Ferrari car, an Iphone e, a Warhol painting, but we spend our money on a Ferrari, an Iphone, a Warhol. That indefinite article represents everything the following brand represents: car, cell phone, art. He said that it in the simplest and most effective way possible: by signing the money and elevating the value of a $1.00 bill to a $ 4500.00 bill. “Here is the power of my thought” Andy seems to shout to us from the grave, “an idea is a world capable of transforming an object of little value, like a soup can, into an object of collective desire that I will make you pay by weight gold only thanks to my autograph”. This was his greatest revolution, that of telling us that we buy what the work of art represents, money and business, giving voice to the mysterious impulse that a few years ago prompted me too to say “I absolutely must own it”. Having one of his works on the wall in my house has made me part of his universe made up of Factory, creation, genius, life to excess and a vortex that attracts everything, from Mick Jagger to the suburban collector perhaps because, as he loved to repeat, “pop art is a way of loving things” and in the end everyone has loved, or should start loving, Andy Warhol. Today we celebrate him and I would like to do it thanks to the meaning of the words of a friend, the critic Alberto D’Ambruoso, who years ago told me: “had it been a fashion, Pop Art would have died a long time ago”. Instead, we are still here today discussing and arguing about the concept of original and copy in Warhol’s work, without understanding that these stakes no longer have a reason to exist. A Warhol is a Warhol and that’s it!