Martina Corgnati: “A priori and Gradations”

All originates from the matrix, the code. The code is a set of information, whose arrangement in the three dimensions, gives rise to a form. The code tends to be symmetrical, but this symmetry is not to be intended as a merely mechanical necessary doubling. Symmetry is interweaving, joining, is an active and activating principle. If then, as physics suggests, we decide to consider the plane not just as a simplistic, two-dimensional element, but as a projection of a spatiality, which is at least three-dimensional and which develops itself in the picture’s depth, well in that case we can be certain and sure that our eyes will not ferret out all the possible expressions of symmetry in the picture we are looking at. I am speaking of Bruto Pomodoro, of course – one of the most serious (may sound presumptuous, but it certainly is appropriate) contemporary painters, with a keen interest in science, his field of study at university.

No problem, obviously, even though some apparently feared or were scared of the risk of a possible “prejudiced” approach: Bruto Pomodoro is in the company of other excellent artists (in a broad sense)/scientists, among which we can find Burri (a doctor), Dorfles (a doctor and psychiatrist) and Nabokov (a brilliant entomologist who discovered and named several species of butterflies). The deep knowledge and understanding of science these people shared, enabled them to make amazing and original works of art, expressing fundamental configurations at the basis of mathematics, life or nature, with a more or less strong emotional component.

As regards Bruto Pomodoro it is not, at least for now, a question of emotion but of structure, symbolism and sensitivity. A priori and gradations: the artist discovers, is aware of this matrix a-priori determining the development of organisms; in recent works of his he calls it “algenic”, openly referring to requests aiming at perfectionism on which much of today’s genetics is based, above all in its engineering and modelling components. The code is a nucleus implying and involving elements with a high symbolic tenor, such as the circle, the oval, the spiral; curved lines, unfolding in the open space. As we learn from the DNA , the code is always present in all the cells forming an individual, with minute variations in individuals belonging to the same species and then, with a growing margin of change, to the same family, order, class, reign. Science, indeed.

However, what is less known and more unsettling is that similar forms and codes, we could call algenic-symbolic, can be found in fossil shells at the dawn of life, in the position of galaxies, in the formation of crystals. I hope Bruto does not mind if, mentioning these things, I sound as inaccurate as a dabbler of the worst sort, the most superficial. I just want to say that the universe is full of recurrences, which can be discovered everywhere down to the infinitesimal sub-atomic particles and their behaviour. This eternal recurrence of the equal or the similar deeply affected Einstein and makes us think of the Absolute.

Instead, Bruto Pomodoro is not just an amateur and, in a few lines he has recently written about his story, from biology classes to scientific illustration and museum rooms, he has insisted on the importance of bringing out the generative, formative character and, at the same time, the fascinating connotations of this constant, which he appropriately calls “archetype” (a very different archetype, even more primary than Jung’s ones).

Embryology, fundamental rules: ontogenesis encapsulates phylogenesis, in other words: the evolutionary story of each single living being retraces the fundamental steps of the evolution of life, in other words: there is a stage in which man, or rather the human form, is very similar to that of the sand dollar, an echinoderm predecessor of vertebrates. But then, in zones with an unsettling name – presumptive territories – which the matrix apparently already knows, the structures of the new organism start defining themselves on the basis of a tendentially perfect, though unknown, arrangement. The works of Bruto Pomodoro find their place around here, even though, it’s years now since he has freed himself from the necessity of repeating given morphologies, following a fixed schematization alien to art, to his art in particular. In fact, the artist quite rightly speaks of avant-gardes, organic forms, Arp, yes, Arp, whose mature plastic works and works of sculpture, focus on the unsettling, additive process of growth of some vegetables, spores, or cell colonies.

The curved lines and the organic forms which are to be found in the matrixes or archetypes of Bruto Pomodoro are not part of a free (that is casual) expansion process, instead they are made clearer through their epiphany, well defined in their symbolic and pictorial manifestation, almost as secret architects, space-generating impulses, or rather, configuration criteria of a space-time system always masterly varied.

Indeed, not only have archetypes, as arché, always existed, but they also implicitly play the role of constituent principles of each single work, whether they are circumscribed ( Algenic Code – The archetype’s dwelling, works of 2002 or before) or unrestricted among the more or less geometrizing elements of the picture itself, freely interfering with the ensemble, yet different and alien to all circumstances because recurring in all circumstances.

And here is undoubtedly the beginning, the immobile engine of each becoming, of each process. And here is the meaning. It is worth underlying, that the artist treats this fundamental form with great care and a wealth of nuances, one could say, he strokes it with the brush. Indeed, archetypes come in vivid, pulsating, shaded, soft, deep colours, above all in the works carried out in later years, after 2000, (Algenic Codes and Archetypes). Bruto Pomodoro does not allow himself smudges and focuses on consistency, vibration and meaningfulness of his refined, transparent hues from time to time describing silky or velvety epidermis, confluence of complementary or opposite elements, such as cold and hot, silvery and golden, positive and negative (again symmetry or mirror reflection).

But this is not always the case: for the archetype is a question of skin, there is a skin, elsewhere the surface, the coloured area is more compact and solid/impenetrable, more “mineral”, to paraphrase an adjective which is dear to Roberto Longhi, or sterile. The refined choice of tone-colours responds to symphonic criteria: reds tune to browns, as old friends, sand shades to ochre shades, blues to ice blues, aquamarines, cobalt blues, greens and emerald greens. Each work presents itself as a visual concert of forms, lines, but also tone-colours, alternating and varying to embrace as many gradations as possible.

Bruto Pomodoro is not afraid of repeating for decorative purposes these colour combinations and joining abstract forms with full and enjoyable tones: after all the European tradition, our tradition, based ab antiquo on watercolour painting has always availed itself of abstract decorative elements (from Greek key design to entrelacs) to embellish objects and works in a broad sense. It is no novelty that our century has showed a recurrent interest in primitive arts, and today we can explain this attention to the past as something more articulate and complex than just a simple attraction to the purity of the origins. From Levi Strauss on anthropology has taught us that the mental space of primitive cultures is not primitive at all; and instead of speaking of a raw reproduction of reality for lack of better means, today it seems far more appropriate to speak of composite mental processes, carried out with adequate means, where rites, myths, rhythm, knowledge, images, signs, symbols, alphabet converge; processes aimed at creating a mental space based on criteria that our culture has partly forgotten.

The interest in primitive arts intends to renew a faraway memory, crumpled in the folds of history. After all we are learning to consider as works of art objects that not so long ago we simply considered as past finds.

Matisse, probably aware that Paul Valery considers decoration a means to interpret the different concepts of space and time through history, regards decoration as a supreme creative means. In the same period, Loos, with avant-gardes, maintains that decoration is a crime. But the contradiction is only apparent: the rejected decoration is that which is debased, pure negative value, in line with a way of thinking which, as stated by the neo-platonic scale, separated the upper steps – the creative, within the competence of the artist – and the lower steps – the ornamental, within the competence of the craftsman.

Coming into contact with art in countries where our social system is unknown, Matisse intuitively understands that the problem is not only different images, often used as such by the avant-gardes themselves, but that decoration, in these dissimilar cultures is not just a tinsel, something extra, rather it is rhythm, instrument of knowledge through the rhythm of sowing and harvest, it is poetry through orphic patterns, it is music through percussion instruments, it is part of everyday life and fortunately it has not been forgotten.

Consequently, the relationship with the primitive, with decoration, in the case of Bruto Pomodoro is not to be considered an escape back in time, ridiculous in the computer age, but an urge to restore memory, similar to that which the presence of archetypes imply; a memory we deem prophetic as progress in cybernetics disclose new hypotheses of knowledge.

In fact, Bruto Pomodoro recovers also the Bauhaus, Albers, in particular, through his insistent use of the symbolic and geometrical square, first closed and static, then enlivened by diagonals and a series of elements projected in perspective, then finally open as if to spread out the secret knowledge of which the archetype is the bearer, precise and exact knowledge like the initiation process which leads to beauty.

A metaphor of knowledge then, again; or knowledge itself under one of its many possible disguises, certainly different from that which wants to exorcize the unknown (the knowledge of the whys), to give answers, but rather one which poses questions. The problem, in fact, is how things happen, how the rules from the ancient time of things, forms and knowledge evolve and stretch forward to the future of what is in nuce.

That which in every new painting returns in its unique character, with the recurring forms of pure potentiality and with the decorative rhythm of curved lines. Here the ritual gestures of the shaman and the analytical operations of the scientist coincide. And the archetype shines with new gradations.

Martina Corgnati

From “Codici Armonici” exhibition catalogue, Ed. il Vicolo