Angiola Gatti

The Box

Angiola Gatti is a self-effacing painter from Turin who has been working for years without much notice. She deserves more attention for her novel investigations of abstraction, achieved by saturating the entire surface of her large canvases with interwoven patterns of ballpoint-pen or colored-pencil strokes. The resulting sequences of marks create fields of variable density, areas of greater or lesser concentration. Sometimes there are spirals, forms that expand outward from an energetic inner core. Or the marks may accumulate in heavy, motionless rectilinear figures that alternate with or are superimposed over areas that are characterized by more fluid and dynamic drawing.

The wall painting and two large canvases included in this exhibition revealed new developments in Gatti’s work On the canvases—Oscillazione (Oscillation), 2000, and Mixing Memory and Desire, 2001—color has become an autonomous element in relation to the marks. Light, delicately colored patches float against the backgrounds and convey a luminosity that sets the paintings’ emotional tone. The interwoven marks, on the other hand, with their structural variations, layer the surface with allusions to perspectival openings, to irregular and multiple spatial constructions with many vanishing points in which light or color is trapped. With their superimpositions of ethereal membranes, the paintings evoke shifting mental landscapes, projections of psychological states.

The wall painting didn’t give quite this same impression of delicacy. Rather, it was studded with structures that seemed to have become preemptory geometric figures. Conceived specifically for this exhibition, Solstizio d’estate (Summer solstice), 2001, filled all four walls of one room accentuating the emotional value of the ephemeral artistic act as opposed to the stable and salable object. The intervention in real space also emphasized another of the work’s quixotic aspects—namely, the use of subtle pen or pencil marks instead of brushstrokes to make such a large-scale painting.

Gatti treated the four walls of the room as intersecting surfaces in a spontaneous ensemble and gave its various areas distinct rhythms. In this work, too, zones of great density alternate with more fluid passages. Summer Solstice emerged out of the artist’s encounter with underlying aspects of the physical context—for instance, the roughness of the wall, which, treated like a sheet of coarse drawing paper, led to varying thickness in the strokes—or even in response to the music coming from the nearby conservatory, which provided a rhythm. Thus the viewer was able to reconstruct the genesis of the work and its different tempi, whether the slow and meticulous pace of the overall structures or the lightning-quick speed of the marks that traversed the walls like flashes of energy.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.