miscellanea

Filippo Rossi: painted music P. Marko Ivan Rupnik Artist, Director, Centro Aletti, Rome

Filippo Rossi: Painted Music “He who goes beyond a superficial – and thus erroneous – conception of things sanctifies the visible, has for food the invisible logoi and reaches contemplation of the Spirit’s nature… He sees the spiritual sense of beings through their visible form…and, in that way welcoming the manifestations of the divine, his intellect receives a more godly transparency” (Maximus the Confessor, Questions put to Thalassius 27, PG90, 356a. The time when Vassily Kandinsky sought, in painting, to make colour an autonomous language today seems far off. Both Matisse and others like Arshile Gorky wanted to show that colour itself has symbolic contents of incalculable depth, and were convinced that such contents, to which one gained access precisely through colour, are not bound to objects or to the materially figurative world. And this itself is enough to make us see that it is not an accident that all these masters were somehow rooted in the world of Byzantine art. It was Byzantine art, in fact, that emphasised the importance of pure colour, affirming that the chromatic harmony does not depend on mixing pigments, depriving them, as it were, of their ‘personality’. Thanks to these ideas, a new way of doing symbolic art was inaugurated, unbound to the image. But people justly have many spiritual and even religious expectations, and history has not been linear in this movement toward ‘liberating’ colour from figures and objects. Rather than opening the path of deeper symbolic meaning, in a spiritual sense, artists have opted for a liberation of expression that is massively psychic. Various expressionistic currents have seen the light: abstractionism, informal art, and so on. All this has given an outlet to a language rich in suggestion and to the affirmation of a subjective code of reality—and, in fact, at the same time there appeared a culture with strong subjective and individualistic traits, which in the final analysis celebrated as ‘artwork’ the mere fact of human expression. In the wake of these developments, one way or the other we have reached a kind of suffocation of artistic creativity, and artists’ work has been ever more strongly characterised by incommunicability—and thus by solitude and, consequentially, by precariousness. We have not succeeded in breaking through chronos and have contented ourselves with various installations and experiments in virtuality, at times indeed reducing art to an open challenge as to who can dare more. In that way, the investigation begun by Kandinsky and a few others risks remaining a parenthesis without true results. The pressure on ‘subject matter’ that had accumulated down the past centuries was too great, and thus, once the lid came off, an explosion ensued. If Western painting had for so long a time chosen the real, understood and elaborated in an ideal form, in the 20th century a reversal of direction was called for, in which it became impossible to glimpse either reality or, still less, its idealisation. These two possibilities of art were openly challenged by a spirit that rebelled against the one and the other. Against this backdrop, Filippo Rossi today appears practically an isolated phenomenon on the stage of contemporary art. In courageous counter-tendency – in explicit and avowed fidelity to fundamental initial intuitions – he wants to carry forward the search for metaphysical, symbolic and specifically spiritual contents in colour and matter. And it is important that someone wants to pick up where the great pioneers of symbolic colour and matter investigation left off, freeing that investigation not only from the world of images but above all from psychological and psychoanalytic condensation. The first thing that, as he developed, Rossi discovered and accepted was that colour bears witness to light, and that matter with light becomes a manifestation of life. That is the reason for which his use of colour has become ever more refined, sensitive, delicate, decidedly oriented toward gold, that is toward light. More than ‘colour’ it becomes a cloud that lets us see the light, and the more it transforms itself in that immaterial spectrum that collects light, the more the matter in his works becomes mobile, wounded, pierced with holes, perforated, as if he wanted to get beyond the outer shell of things. But every wound in matter discloses light, and matter sinks in light. Thus Rossi’s world becomes an archipelago, an allusion to the relationship between the earth and the waters in the hexameron of the Genesis. In some of his works, one no longer is sure whether the islands are matter in the ocean of colour, or the ocean is matter sown by light sand colour. I am not surprised that Rossi has begun to write music in his painting (that’s what happens in the work entitled Annunciation). For me, this confirms that his art seeks to be a seismograph of the most imperceptible tones and sounds, and that his main interest is the interpenetration of light and matter—an interpenetration that we call colour. That is why I am convinced that his ‘picking up where others left off’ will push him to run harder, working more and even sweating. Everything, in fact, seems to me to announce a new phase, which sooner or later we will see in Rossi’s production: a phase in which colour, as virginal encounter between light and matter, creates the image. The first images in Rossi’s art are the cross and music, and they announce a Paschal future. Along the way, these images are inevitable, since form alone, by itself, cannot say everything about colour, light and matter. Everything can be said only by the Face—but this gradual return of the image and of the face will have to be as new as it once was for Kandinsky to free colour from the image. Rossi’s soul already lives this encounter, tasting it in everyday life. And when someone lives true life he cannot not reveal it, for what we see and taste we express and realise in our creative acts. Marko Ivan Rupnik Director, Centro Aletti, Rome