Nicola De Maria

Galleria Toselli

The paintings Nicola de Maria showed here can be divided into three distinct groups: those in which expansive fields of color and geometry are dominant; those in which the incision, the scratch or the scripted mark is emphasized; and those that partake of more traditional painterly depiction.

Dominated by primary colors and simple configurations of circles, rectangles, triangles and starlike forms, De Maria’s seemingly childlike works suggest a quasi-theological notion of origin. The materials and the forms he calls into representation seem to proceed from an intentionally ahistorical conception of form, as if his pure and virginal depictions had not yet belonged to any other reality nor served any previous purpose. De Maria creates something out of nothing; through a process of transcendental metamorphosis, he identifies his production with the mythical creators of the material universe. Playing the role of artistic demiurge, he distinguishes our outer reality from his enchanted inner world of art. His production, whether directly representational, grounded in the material transformation of a real space into a stage for his abstract scenes, or based on the childlike manipulation of color and form on canvas, seems initially to promote a certain wordlessness in the viewer. The work thus favors a reading anchored in its sensuous, visual nature. A complete reading of any of his paintings, however, must include the evocative textual inscriptions and titles. The titles of these works provide the viewer with sensory instructions; they import signification from the world of language, representation, facts and names, and once read, whatever hermeneutical dissatisfaction the viewer experiences with the speechless music of the artist’s inner world is replaced by an apotheosized sensational emotion. The work’s telos depends on the delicate balance De Maria establishes between these two opposing worlds, a balance governed by authentic emotion that permits the weakness of our own modest nature to be momentarily eclipsed by a fantasy of a demiurgical creation. De Maria’s Dipinto di un volo notturno (Painting of a nocturnal flight, 1981–1982), depicts a window conveniently nestled within the borders of this small canvas; in the image’s background, just outside of the represented window frame, he presents us with the delicate limb of a leafless tree. But through the title the entire canvas escapes toward a metaexperience beyond the physical boundaries of the work itself. Two small paintings hung at eye-level, Testa incantata (Enchanted head) and Testa solenne (Solemn head), both from 1989, maintain similar relationships to their titles, which simply present these complex, vastly different arenas of abstraction as “teste,” portraits and/or personifications of the enchanted and the solemn. Testa solenne belongs to that body of work that incorporates and emphasizes the written/drawn gesture. In this work vividly colored circular dots of varying sizes have been uniformly distributed across the white surface. A large incised spiral occasionally interrupts, outlines, or bisects the colored dots. The yellow-orange and blue triangles, and the red circles appearing in Testa incantata are enclosed within a series of frames. Their presence within other closed forms contrasts with the open quality of the spiral in the previous painting, combining the notions of personified enchantment and the theological.

In these works we are not distanced from De Maria’s notion of the sublime which encompasses intimacy and immediacy, rather we experience them as epiphanies and, within the moment of participation, surpass the limits of our own nature.

Anthony Iannacci