Pizzi Cannella

Santa Maria della Scala

As if to illustrate the cliché that painters are always creating the same canvas, the Roman artist Pizzi Cannella works in cycles that never seem to be quite completed. Cannella’s recent exhibition was not installed chronologically, but rather in a circular layout reflective of the cyclical aspect of his project. While not a complete retrospective, the show did bring together approximately sixty paintings and thirty works on paper ranging from 1978 to the present.

Motifs such as clothing, jewels, wrought-iron pieces, and vases reappear intermittently in the canvases. Emerging out of a dialectic between light and shadow, they suggest the traces of an intimate but mysterious tale, or a prolonged meditation. This is, at least, the predominant reading in the catalogue texts. The images (often of prosaic items, such as tables, bowls, dried flowers, railings, and doors) remain ghostlike, suspended against blank grounds. Yet, perhaps because they seem to hover on the threshold of a transformation, they are able to truly inhabit the surrounding space, in the process engaging a fabric of correspondences.

Cannella’s palette is predominantly white and black, although various grays, blues, ochers, and reds also appear. His paint application, which was more pasty and opaque during the ’80s, has slowly become smoother, drier, and in some cases almost transparent. In terms of composition, horizontals and verticals form the painting’s structural axes. Cannella mines a no-man’s-land between abstraction and figuration, and the images are at times barely recognizable, appearing more as an attempt to achieve distance from the objects than to approach them. Numerous examples of this come to mind, from Viaggio a Tunisi (Voyage to Tunisia, 1989) to Concerto a tre (Trio concerto, 1988); and from the “bagno turco” (Turkish bath, 1992) series to this year’s glass pieces.

Cannella’s rhythmically repeated motifs, grouped in diptychs and triptychs, often seem to suggest a meditation on the nature of ornamentation. The paintings also have a temporal dimension; the recurring drips, interrupted layers, erasures, and abrasions all combine to evoke a process that is at once conceptual and material.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.