Anno 2005


          The power of the human eye can make out clearly defined forms and figures that people the vastness of the world. In his work, Antonio Papasso points exclusively to signs, imprints and wrinkles. Why? His vision is tactile, only tactile, and shifts our perception from the inferno of reality to the paradise of pure sensibility. For the Greeks the soul indicated the vital breath, ànemos. And Papasso goes straight to the soul, where he lives out his split seconds of ecstatic illumination.

          There are some wonderful words of Leonardo da Vinci: "Among all the great things that are to be found among us, the existence of nothingness is truly great&qout;. The existence of nothingness is the rare neutrino - magically produced by and "in" the human psyche - that Papasso seeks out and bears witness to. So small and sensitive and so fleeting that it is close to nothingness. To Leonardo’s "truly great nothingness". And he, Antonio Papasso - this monk on the Mount Athos of perception - patiently extracts it. Poor means, delicate colours, thin voices, humble and touching transparencies.

          Brittle marginalia, like sighs and breaths. Papasso’s activity seems weak and understated, but what meaning does it have in the end? First of all, let’s give it a name: In praise of lightness. To explain its content better, let’s add a sub-title: In search of the tactile unconscious. And only then let’s analyse it, entering into its hidden meanings. The operation may seem banal to the superficial, but its half-light illuminates important things.

          The Italian word for "light" derives from Vulgar Latin. Weighing little, imperceptible, and so anything that is delicate. But the Latin levis means "lighten". The word still remains in Italian in the term for a midwife - levatrice - the person who lightens the mother of the new-born baby. Turning to the paintings, this praise of lightness is made up of works that are a mixture of etching and collage. If we think about it, they lighten those who look at them.

          One after another, Papasso’s icons are an exercise in penetration. As we look at them we leave the shop-soiled world of things and are gradually lightened of the weight of daily life and its repeated density. And just as the midwife delivers something living, the etchings and collages deliver one emotion after another in us.

          Let’s start here. And then what happens? The psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte Blanco pointed out a little-known truth of the psyche on this. He claimed that "emotion is the mother of thought". In concrete, it is only under the pressure of emotion that something arises in us, and a vibration is born that lifts us up and carries us aloft. Today it is easy to fly, with a plane, a helicopter, a glider or a hot-air balloon. But man has always flown! Yes, he has flown - with his spirit, in imagination or through art. So where does Papasso make us fly without reproducing the heavens?

          In 1925 the poet Antonin Artaud urged the ordinary man to "Give in to integrated thought. The Wonderful is at the root of the spirit". And it is this wonderful that he pointed to that becomes in Papasso a very small and fragile wonderful. An exploration full of magic, enchantment and wonder. These three extremely rare feelings take over us as we look at his works, like a suffused visual spray.

          We journey in an intra-chromatic and extra-chromatic texture. We are stripped of the clothing of stereotypes, iconic convention and figurative models. We abandon optical truth. His frottage de-physicalises the idea of reality and charges it with concentrated fragments. Or rather with tactile and psychic electrons. Space appears as if invaded by a strange, infinite swarming. The aesthetic neutrinos that take us over and penetrate us set off something - upwards on the level of beauty, and at the same time downwards on the level of the unconscious.

          We have reached our destination - which is the artist’s search in the area of the tactile unconscious. The delicate and almost subliminal weaving of unforeseeable signs brings together paths with neither beginning nor end. We seem to lose our way in the infinite series which enclose other infinite series. There is a labyrinthine dynamism of sweet and succulent savouring. Mental energy in this way is conveyed from the conscious to the unconscious, and so our vision loses its precise, well-defined outlines. The forms perceived become more fluid, mixed and divided in a continual flux, a fibrillation, both optical and psychic, brought inside the area of the "micro".

          What are we to conclude? The paper game, the sensory instinct for chromatic signs and the humble morality of the materials all serve to set off the ascension of our soul as we look at them. Clearly a controlled ability governs the beautiful flux of pigmented neutrinos. It is the poetical material of this levitation. In this way our tiny ego - both accomplice and wayfarer in the infinite series, with other infinite series inside - turns in perpetual motion in the tactile unconscious, loses itself for a moment and then rediscovers Leonardo’s "existence of nothingness".

Riccardo Barletta(*)
Milan, September 24, 2006

(*)Riccardo Barletta (Milano, 1934). Italian Modern Art critic, he taught Design’s history at the "Scuola Politecnica" in Milano and wrote several books and essays concerning with iconology.
Since 1969, he is writing for the newspaper "Corriere della Sera" in the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, design and applied arts.
For Riccardo Barletta's full BIOGRAPHY (on PDF format)


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