Domenico Bianchi, Untitled, 2020, oil and wax on fiberglass, 55 × 43 1/2".

Domenico Bianchi, Untitled, 2020, oil and wax on fiberglass, 55 × 43 1/2".

Domenico Bianchi

Galleria Lorcan O'Neill

Domenico Bianchi is a secular alchemist. His research is conceptual, anchored to tutelary forefathers, all of them Italian: Gino De Dominicis, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz. He is especially indebted to Alighiero Boetti, from whom he has absorbed the ability to work within a given set of rules. When Bianchi started out in the Roman milieu of the early 1980s, the most pronounced trait of that post-Transavanguardia generation was what he calls “arrogance,” an excessive and bombastic attitude related to their reliance on certain colors, forms, and gestures. Bianchi takes inspiration from elsewhere—from a material. He seeks it, finds it, chooses it: wax. But no technique exists for doing what he wants to do. He has to invent it; he must be the one to find the system. Since wax (mixed with oil paint) can only cover a limited area of the fiberglass he settles on as his support, the artist is forced to structure his larger works by aggregating rectangular modules. The technique itself imposes an internal geometry. But it is precisely through the imposition of a rule that he always discovers a new world and opens up the freedom of imagination and of vision, sustained by conviction, even obsession.

Bianchi’s work is based on a series of opposites, the first of which resides in the nature of his chosen medium and in its metamorphosis between a liquid and a solid state. The milky smoothness of wax is moreover contrasted with the varying refraction of the metallic material that often accompanies it: palladium leaf, a precious metal that is the same color as silver but does not oxidize. While wax is warm, luminous, and translucent, palladium is cold, opaque, and shiny. Another dichotomy exists between the free and spontaneous gesture of the initial drawing that constitutes the beginning of each work and the artist’s subsequent manipulation of it in a virtual simulation on the computer, observing it as if through a glass sphere in continuous motion that offers infinite variations. In the interplay of two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality with which he constructs his works, we find the opposition of chaos and harmony—a Platonic vortex without emotions, between gravitas and action.

In fact, there is nothing emotional in Bianchi’s works, which are uncoupled from the need for representation. In order to attain a universal form, he steps aside and becomes a vehicle so that the form, whatever it is, can come into the world—from the microcosm of a germinal seed to the macrocosm of the galaxy. The original nucleus at the center is always a space in expansion, a centrifugal movement, a combination of fluid and agile lines, circles and spirals that wrap around themselves, never static, like fragments of exploded stars dragged by a cosmic wind. His Untitled paintings of 2020 look like something straight out of a Russian Constructivist’s studio; cinnabar abounds in the central geometric forms. With slow careful movements, he carves open the flesh of the wax and pours in vivid-red mercury oxide. He then rubs and polishes the surface, and, at the conjunction of the two materials, creates an imperceptible halo around the colored area. The luminosity of the red expands into the whiteness of the wax, blurring the outlines and creating a sort of radiance.

In some works the perfectly smooth surface allows a perception of depth, of different planes of immanent luminosity; in others, denser portions with granular markings emerge. Controlling his medium like a true master, Bianchi welcomes the manifestation of infinite permutations of geometric forms, which he renders like a portraitist, considering these shapes to be as unique as the people who live in the world. Viewers of Bianchi’s work must patiently observe its variations and become attuned to its internal vibrational musicality in order to grasp the idea that nurtures his passion, to breathe in beauty and harmony.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.