Sky is earth


‘An encounter always has a chance element; in any case it depends on an unforeseeable matter of minutes and even on apparently irrelevant incidents. This has also been the case with this unique exhibition, where a group of paintings by William Congdon and the photographs of Elisabetta Vallarino Gancia are shown side by side, despite the difference in the two expressive languages. “Congdon has been the first to perceive what my skies represented, and with few but incisive words has given me the self-confidence and the incentive to further my research”, says Vallarino Gancia in the presentation of her “Cieli. Trentasei nostalgie d’infinito” (Skies. Thirty-six Nostalgias of Infinity). This book reached Congdon’s desk in the summer of 1996. It was then that Paolo Mangini, the great connoisseur of the old artist’s work, decided to hang together fifteen of his paintings (also featured in this show), selected from among those forming the FIUA collection. The exhibition was extremely coherent and suggestive, especially because these works had never been displayed together. They belong to that very particular phase of Congdon’s production, between the ‘Eighties and the ‘Nineties, which his admirers found disconcerting because it lacked the unmistakeable touch of the American master as well as his usual way of organising the pictorial space. For the first time, then, an exhibition was entirely devoted to the works of this enigmatic and, in any sense, extreme, period of Congdon’s artistic production, without references to “high” and more celebrated seasons. As we have seen, the present exhibition features two groups of works that are genetically, if indirectly, linked, the one being the other’s predecessor. There are also “internal” reasons for such a combination: both artists, each one in his/her own way, have measured themselves against the indefinite and indefinable. It is as if they had wanted to challenge the limits of the image and the representable world by touching the very root of what is imaginable and representable. In his beautiful introduction to Vallarino Gancia’s book, Furio Colombo observes that “the sky is the only part of nature to be pure image”, and adds that “because it is only image, the sky exists twice, within and without us”. The sky, one might say, is the perfect mirror for both nature and the ultimate destiny of man. Having spent ten years as a painter of “lands” (the fields of the Bassa, around Milan, where he lives), in the group of works shown here William Congdon tackles two situations at the limits of visibility: night and fog. They are both, paradoxically, a sort of net in which to capture a light which is made almost independent from the properties of refraction and reflection. Neither artist claims to reject the visible and concrete world (the earth, the clay man is made of), or an escape from it. Rather, here we find ourselves before the attempt to offer a representation of reality at the level of the human desire and destiny. It is, therefore, the attainment of realism. Furio Colombo suggests: “The sky is not a metaphor”; to which Congdon answers: “I discover that the clouds don’t always belong to the sky, which is our soul, but to the earth, which is our body”.’


24 Agosto 1997 - 30 Agosto 1997


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions