Ingegno e indipendenza (Talent and independence), 2018
HD video duration 07:20
A small folding table accompanies the artist on his pilgrimage from the Central station - the symbolic place of his first arrival in the city - leads him through Via Indipendenza and then to the center of Bologna. At each stop De Mattia, a barker performer, stages a different chapter of his small art market. From the MAV* membership campaign, an ironic outlet of repressed feelings, to the game of three cards, a classic scam disguised as a quick investment, each of the seven performances makes the fragment of a self-portrait of the artist at work which, with exhibited ease, makes the public wait for his next trap transaction.
*Movement of Violent artists
Decorazioni per cavalli da guerra (Decorations for war horses), 2021, laser print on Arches Aquarelle paper, white lead, acrylic, cm. 75x109
I seem to remember that my father was afraid of horses. Not me, I loved riding as a young girl and I did it until my left knee broke and without a cruciate and with a frayed collateral, riding a horse is impossible. That is because the animal feels if the rider is strong, smells weaknesses, perceives uncertainties. The relationship between the horse and the rider is similar to that which exists between the artist and painting: you need to be prepared and mentally strong to tame it because painting is a beast. When you think you tamed it, it rears up, when you think you have put it quietly, it jumps and swerves, when you are sure you are done, it snorts and shakes off all your certainties, making you start all over again. And then it takes a caress, a brush stroke, a special ornament, a whisper. Concetto said that art is constantly on the run. Like an indomitable horse, always ready to jump over the obstacle, over the fence.
PS: The papers on which Giuseppe De Mattia painted and drew his racehorses were still unpacked in the Concetto Pozzati’s studio. Giving them to Giuseppe meant returning them to art, to the hands of an artist. My father would have liked this dark horse, with bright eyes, decorated with strong, magical and ritual signs, because he was tamed, only momentarily, by painting.
Tre forme semplici, autonome e rotanti (Three simple, autonomous and rotating forms), 2021, polyptych composed of an acrylic on canvas cm. 130x180, a terracotta sculpture cm. 90x48x10, an ink drawing cm. 30x40, two photographic prints with silver gelatin cm. 14x18 with acrylic interventions * (note 1)
In the work Three simple, autonomous and rotating forms (2021) the processuality of Giuseppe De Mattia's work emerges clearly. The starting image, a still from a family film shot in 8mm by Angelo Marzadori in 1951 and found in the Home Movies archive, becomes the subject of investigation by the artist who, through different viewer’s visual solicitations and playing with his skills and interpretations, transfigures: the gasometer and other historic buildings of the industrial landscape of Bologna become simple geometric shapes capable of a new autonomous life. Freed from context and original meaning, these shapes transmute, rotate in search of new identities, interact with each other, as if they enjoy switching from photography, drawing, painting and sculpture to ceramic.
Fatterelli. Qualche centimetro quadrato di Casa Arcangeli (Fatterelli. A few square centimeters of Casa Arcangeli), 2021, photograph in silver gelatins, pastels and fountain pen ink on preservative cardboard, cm. 82x61
Fatterelli, which in Italian means “minor event”, which is not a fact, nor a crime. Something that perhaps seems of little importance, taken little seriously, a game, but behind these "minor" there is always something important, fundamental, because as a work they have “the everything” inside. This event is a plunge into the process, into the gray matter, into the syntactic connections, into the significant visual paths of De Mattia, almost a resume of his artistic practice. A visual and linguistic pastiche, the union between photography and precisely through writing - our involuntary cardiogram - which refers to the film, to the very beginning of the artist's career. I have always liked to define Giuseppe as a "serial collector ”, a bit like the protagonist of that Franzen book. Gatherer and collector, of stories, moments, fragments of life. Or parquet, like this one in the photograph, stolen by the artist from the Arcangeli house, the heart intellectual life of Bologna, detached from that floor trampled by who knows how many feet and the protagonist of who knows what stories. A few square centimeters of Bolognese life, in this exhibition which is a bit of an ode to the Emilian capital that welcomed Giuseppe 20 years ago. This is therefore an important fact, indeed, a very important fact because in addition to all the Bolognese stories, A few square centimeters of Casa Arcangeli also presents the most important story of all: that of Giuseppe who by visiting the house at number 49 of Strada Maggiore, discovering this Wunderkammer, which was Casa Arcangeli, became aware of being an artist.
Orsola Vannocci Bonsi
Gran copiatore (Grand Copier), 2021, Ricoh Aficio MP 2000, Crush Corn A4 120gr paper, stamp and red ink
A photocopier and a stamp are borderline objects. They lead to the margins of narrow contemporaneity through channels that transform images into documents. Between studios and offices, the humble fidelity of the photocopy is always reassuring. As happens in an old joke where you have to throw away some sheets but, in order not to risk losing something important, copies are made first. By mimicking the bureaucrats, the artist certifies the uniqueness of the work as a memory. Preach the radical mantra of dematerialization to the sound of parastatal stamps. For an elegant advantage, he restores the social sanctity of the visit to the gallery and of lending himself to intellectual play as good manners. The figure of the artist is once again safe, haggled with a mask that has the same function as a face on a banknote.
Disegni segreti. Guardando negli occhi un fiero leone (Secret drawings. Looking a proud lion in the eyes), 2021, polyptych composed of a copper sculpture cm 120x4 on the wall containing a drawing in green marker on dusting paper cm. 50x70; lightbox cm. 20x2
Of all the works that make up the Secret Drawings cycle, this one has a title that is perhaps capable of enclosing the main elements of Giuseppe De Mattia's research, unless it is yet another critical mistake. Looking, for the artist, is always an act that requires effort or, even better, it is an action that if carried out under stressful conditions can lead to fruitful revelations. Aren't these the cases that lead to the production of “devices for not seeing well”? In front of the eyes, translucent glasses, lenses, filters or real erasures stand between us and the world (of images). So isn't hiding a drawing by rolling it up in a welded metal tube the reverse process of opening a roll to discover its hidden impressions? And isn't observing a photograph making your field of vision coincide with that of the author of the shot? A matter of trust, it seems. After all, you try to hold the gaze of a proud wild beast.
Forme di protesta (Forms of protest), 2021, acrylic on reused canvas,
At a time when no critical text has the same scientific value anymore, I find it stimulating to accept Giuseppe De Mattia's invitation: several friends and colleagues discuss a single work as if it were an "enhanced" caption. And here I am writing about a work belonging to the series Traditional forms of protest. It doesn't surprise me at all: protest is as familiar to me as my constant distancing from tradition and its multiple forms of representation. Even today, after the quotationist binge and differently repeated by the "ways" of recent decades, we are still here trying to define the space of action and responsibility of the artist and the system that represents him. "Here everyone can get a free work" states the slogan of a hypothetical event: old canvases bought in some market, already painted by some "colleague" of Giuseppe, are covered with white acrylic, and are rewritten by "fragments of a artistic discourse ”where lost times echo. But if then the utopian hypothesis of changing the system could have been imaginable, now that power of the imagination has turned into the dystopia of an arid reality, armed only with economic aggressions in which the artist and the work remain only the certainty of its immediate devaluation. In a time when almost the entire art system has accepted the oblivion and silence of the prolonged pandemic closure, what will we still be able to protest against? And who would accept the challenge of stating that "we know who the culprits are but we don't have the evidence"?
Cancellature rosse, mangia-carta, (Red erasures, paper-eating), 2021, Xerox print and acrylic on cotton paper, diptych, cm. 60x40 * (note 2)
The red cancellations (2021) represents a clear example of how in recent years Giuseppe De Mattia's research has followed a line - that of the analysis of the relationship between photographic image and pictorial sign - aimed at investigating the interaction between two different expressive forms, and above all of the mechanisms underlying the use of the work by the viewer. The background for the pictorial coverage are the stills from a family film shot in 1940 at the Giardini Margherita in Bologna, at the time a sort of city zoo. The red erasure covers the surface of the image, leaving three spaces free on the margin: through them, almost like the decomposition of a film sequence, we see the face of an animal between the bars. However, the scene is difficult to grasp immediately, our vision is hindered: the deletion selects a detail, places it at the center of attention and at the same time accentuates its indeterminacy. An exercise for looking in front of the images, the city is the frame.
* (note 1) Frames taken from family films, digitized and preserved by Home Movies - National Family Film Archive. Author of the film: Angelo Marzadori, 1951, Gasometro (Bologna), original format: 8 mm. Inventory: HMMARZANG_0005
* (note 2) Frames taken from family films, digitized and preserved by Home Movies - National Family Film Archive. Author of the film: Oliviero Mario Olivo, 1940, Giardini Margherita (Bologna), original format: 16 mm. Inventory: HMOLIVOLI_0001