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Notes for the landscapes of time byFranco Guerzoni: from the pictorial work to the original printed multiple - 2021, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

I state that I do not want to pose as an art critic at all or make judgments on Franco Guerzoni's artistic work, but certainly if I hadn't immediately perceived the fascination of his works and a commonality of sensitivity that leads from a peeling "wall" to multiple suggestions and reflections, the operational path and the solutions adopted to translate unique works onto printed sheets would not have been so immediate and spontaneous from the beginning in the hazard of choices.

How to reproduce Guerzoni's flayed walls in original printed multiples that preserve their colors, semantic values and poetry?

Guerzoni's paintings have multiple surfaces on multiple levels and have a chromatic tone that is not dull, not warm but makes use of materials provided with their own specific light.

After numerous visits to the studio, bringing tests gradually carried out (visits that have always left me a pleasant feeling of friendliness), after having observed several times works and technical tools, it was the words of the artist, intent on retouching with a brush with an amaranth red, to give the interpretative key and the certainty that, after the attempts, we had perhaps reached the desired goal of reproducing, for the book Manto by Osvaldo Coluccino, five color plates: its torn walls live on "overlapping colors, covered and then brought back to the light give the colors themselves a mutability, compared to the original hue, which simulates the passage of time. The ultramarine softens, the white becomes dusty ... ".

For the first panel, the sinopia of all the others, we resorted to a pencil lithograph transferred to the stone through the artist's drawing on transfer paper, which was superimposed on a dry impression from magnesium cliché, reproducing the texture of a second drawing.

The next problem to be solved was which material to use to adequately reproduce the fragments necessary for the progress of the "unveiling" of the following tables. Declining lessons from Atelier 17 practices and Goetz's collographic method as needed, a specially treated wooden cardboard allowed Guerzoni to create the required matrices and model the carborundum acrylic paste on them.

Later, which inks. Oil-based, they would have rendered a gloss extraneous to the artist's work, so we opted for water-based inks, both chalcographic and monotype - the two best brands on the market today - mixed with stiffner, desiccant and in some cases even with the powder pigments used by Guerzoni for the paintings. The transparency and tactile effect obtained is consequent to non-linear printing passages at the chalcographic press, such that areas already imprinted and rich in color are discharged on the subsequent matrices: here, therefore, perhaps even a little by chance, that effect of tearing, of surfacing, of unveiling of underlying chromatisms that are such an important part of the artist's poetics.

Finally, the inking with a brush has added an element of minimal variability to the repetition of shapes and colors that makes each print almost unique, as if it were monotypes but repeated forty times.

The emotion that the landscapes created by time on the walls that Guerzoni so poetically translates into painting arouse, I hope is the same that reverberates from these printed pages.

http://https//www.laboratoriofratellimanfredi.it/content/catalogo.aspx

 





Previous future - notes for Luca Pasqualini, 2013, Nicola A. Manfredi

I am convinced that in the drawers there is a deposit of hidden works, accumulated over time, and that the ones we see now are nothing more than the result of an eruption due to the lack of space and the awareness that the time has come to show themselves. This artist is an enthusiastic neophyte of one of the rarest and most difficult religions to follow, that of engraved graphics.

The printing works, which were sea harbors beaten by engravers of all storms, today look more like abandoned stalls where the star wheels of the presses creak at the settling of the dust. But every now and then some good sailor, eager to gear up for unusual routes, arrives again: the ink shines again, all the equipment and experiences are back on the move, at the service of the last good arrived, today Luca Pasqualini.

The technical skill of this young engraver appeared complete and precise from the first moment, always aimed at the graphic idea. He likes schematic and geometric shapes but also random inaccuracies and elegant drawing. His aquatints and woodcuts have a tone of déjà vu, of flavors that perhaps have known each other but that we feel as new. There is an echo of Depero and of certain Munari collages, of Enzo Mari's wooden joints, of Capogrossi's stylistic features and chromatisms, in the whole of a figurative culture of applied art typical of the near past and combined with suggestions of the best graffiti artists. But the proposed iconography, these faces that contrast, repeat, contrast or follow each other, hieratic and astonished like Easter Island moai, bear the unmistakable signature of Pasqualini. These plays of primary and complementary colors in combination, although already tried many times, are his. His are the ideas of unusual formats and papers, his are the matrices which, after the use of printing, appear to be decorative and complex tangrams, objects ready for new and still unknown purposes.

Pasqualini moves in a whirlwind of graphic ideas, assimilates and re-elaborates every compositional memory and every suggestion, with his artistic approach, denying the opinion that engraving is only a slow practice of points and acids. Make excellent engravings at a running pace. And if the printer is not quick to follow him, he risks being supplanted by the machines of a fab lab. Which, as far as I'm concerned, I sincerely hope does not happen.

Stefano Grasselli - 2009, outline for the presentation of S. Grasselli at the Officina delle Arti Reggio Emilia

Good evening to all present. I'm Nicola Manfredi and I'm here to talk about Stefano Grasselli again, to say something else about his work as an engraver, in addition to what is already written in the catalog. We have known each other since the late nineties, a working relationship that I dare to say has turned into friendship or at least on our part into deep-rooted esteem (I say ours to also include the others who work in the worshop).

Grasselli, compared to engraving, presents that complementarity between technique and expressive force that is the prerogative of complete artists, artists tout court. For Calvino, the artist is a methodical craftsman, who every day tackles the same themes, the same tools, the same methodologies to bend them to top quality executions. And it is from this repetition, from this obstinacy that art springs. Such, it seems to me, since I've known him for so long, is Grasselli. An artist moreover of a seriousness and honesty of the past, with all that can be understood. On which you can always rely on common projects that are not fashion carelessness. Who even in commissioned works, accepted without ever presuming to be superior, knows how to express his vision with dignity. (For example, the lithography for the municipality of Casina).

By repeatedly printing the engravings of an artist, one appropriates his world, as long as it is worth it, until seeing certain characters, certain landscapes, certain glimpses of reality, or reading certain books, certain texts, we are told : "But look, it looks like a work of that or that".

Basically this is how, as far as I'm concerned, an art book is born, when you discover the affinities between a writer and an artist who could accompany the words.

For example, after having appreciated and tried to fully understand the deep meaning of Grasselli's engraved iconologies, of these engravings that are not simple frames but scenes, stories in the making of an inner world, find and read the words of a much more authoritative voice, that of Pablo Neruda, who explain their own poetics, well, it was a revelation. Because for Grasselli the engravings are precisely the Nerudian songs of the heart. In the heart there is everything: the deformed and the harmonious, happiness and fear, darkness and light. (Think of the engravings with black beasts, temples and white horses). I believe that Grasselli derived all the images for his engravings from the very heart. And therefore, struck by this discovery, we could only entrust him with the graphic accompaniment for Neruda's centenary volume.

We find the same images and expressions of a stepmother nature, which gives us life, but at the same time inexorable and ineluctable in its evolutions, in the novel by Ciro Allegria. By entrusting him with the task of illustrating it, I have the presumption that I have done Stefano a great pleasure. Clearly to myself too, because I knew it would do a great job. A pleasure because finding a brother of visions is always comforting. It means that perhaps you are not wrong, that you are not alone. It means that we can persevere on our way. And that's what I hope Grasselli will do with his excellent works.

To conclude, partly joking. I did not know how I could have entitled this speech of mine. Then, looking at the illustrations for Hungry Dogs, the deamicisian Dagli Apennini alle Andes came to mind. There and then it comes to laugh, but in reality the reason is serious. The ribbed mountains of Grasselli, which are the iconographic and synthetic repetition of our Pietra di Bismantova, become, in these engravings and in many others, all the mountains in the world, all the Andes in the world, hostile yet vital and familiar places, also them songs of the heart.

Here I stop and thank those who wanted to listen to me and Stefano Grasselli who trusted to invite me.

The songs of the heart - 2008, Nicola Manfredi

I printed Stefano Grasselli's first etchings in 1998. Remembering now, I never doubted, from the beginning, that a highly respected engraver had arrived in the workshop. His recipes are apparently simple: drypoint with intertwined signs drawn with control and medium strength, an orderly hatch, more often in scrolls than straight, reminiscent of the chiaroscuro of the ancient masters of the burin. Sometimes conducted over light aquatint etchings, to reinforce the dark atmospheres of many of the subjects dealt with.

And certainly the constancy of the iconographic themes contributed not a little to making me appreciate Grasselli's engravings: not to devote himself to the squares of bourgeois living room graphics but to characters, animals, dark landscapes, which recall the griffins of the grotesques, the bestiaries engraved in the 16th century, but also the visions of Kubin or of some surrealists, it is an act of courage and coherence towards the persistence of one's own sources of inspiration. And knowing how to translate one's inspiration with an appropriate technical language is characteristic of great engravers.

Grasselli is an artist convinced of his work, reliable for the momentum and commitment he spends on art projects. Over the years I have passed many of his plates under the press and some of the printed sheets I wanted to keep them for the expressive vehemence, for the beauty of the nightmare and the foreboding they emanate: The great vulture, Shepherd with nightmares, The great pitfall … Until the opportunity arose to edit a text by Pablo Neruda on his own poetics. Reading the prose of this solar poet, understanding that poetry lives in the contrast between light and shadow and approaching it with Grasselli's dark engravings was sudden. Neruda says, regarding the themes of the poem: "some hunter alone, imprisoned in the middle of the woods, oppressed by the celestial aluminum, smashed by furious stars, solemnly raises his gloved hand and hits the place of the heart. The place of the heart belongs to us. Only, only from there, with the help of the black night, of the deserted autumn, the songs of the heart come out at the stroke of the hand. Like lava or darkness, like bestial tremor, like the tolling of an unbroken bell, poetry plunges its hands into fear, into anguish, into diseases of the heart. Outside there are always large decorations that impose solitude and oblivion: trees, stars. The poet dressed in mourning writes tremulously very solitary ”. Here, Neruda's words best evoke the themes of this engraver, which are songs of the heart, a heart capable of translating the dark side of humanity and nature on paper. The three drypoints on Plexiglas, with their signs cut without beards, were the best equipment for the Nerudian text.

Shortly after the publication of this volume, we faced Ciro Alegria's Hungry Dogs. Author coming from the same landscapes as Neruda, the same harsh and splendid nature, relentless and lavish, man like a straw that bends, breaks, is reborn, animals as a threat and as a resource. And again Grasselli's engravings, black masses of signs and some whites, generic yet recognizable mountains, portraits of men as beasts and beasts as humans ... The essence of an extraordinary novel in five small perfect plates by Stefano Grasselli.




Thousand engravings - catalogue of the Galleria L'Ottagono exhibition, 8-4-2005, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

In my father's studio, on a table, leaning against the wall, there were always some plates already waxed and ready to be drawn. A little further on, two trays covered with dusty glass, one with the blue acid for the copper, the other for the zinc. Some have emphatically called it the alchemist's corner. But nothing was more natural for him than drawing and engraving a plate, a practice by no means secondary to painting and so refined by experience as to appear banal.

He believed that the value of engraving resides in the design and harmonic construction of the compositional space rather than in various technicalities; nevertheless, its flat biting for such a streamlined and rounded stretch in the hollow was the result of an ability to do and a knowing how to see matured to the maximum degree through that daily and repetitive craftsmanship that ultimately distinguishes true artists. The dry points are equally extraordinary, but not so much in this case for the way of engraving, as for the way he printed them, caressing them with an incomparable lightness and wisdom in naturally bringing black back to signs. He told us that he had learned it from Ciarrocchi, after being teased because he moved, with disastrous results for the cleaning of the ink plate, the palm from the bottom up and not vice versa. And only after years of trying did we children acquire the necessary skill to print them. The engravings of the year 2000, almost all of which have not yet been seen except by some collectors, seem to us to testify well to the perfect synthesis between technique and rendering of the drawing achieved by our father.

Color printing from linoleum matrices was also congenial to him. For several years many, as well as the engravings, had been printed them in our workshop with our help. To achieve the desired extenuation of the chromatic tone, he printed with the download technique, using numerous sheets to then choose a few good copies. I argued that there was nothing worse for a printer than throwing away a lot of paper. He replied that he didn't care about quantity: “Maximum quality with maximum waste!”, He replied, offering me this funny concept as authentic by Maccari. The colors had to compose the image while remaining almost impalpable, contrasting with one or two more intense backgrounds. The fact remains that the chromatic refinement that he knew how to obtain is unique, never found again. These pages of The leg of Namur are the latest delicious fruit.

Notes for Gino Forti, 2 - 2003, Nicola Manfredi

Often guests in the house, observing the portrait of Beatrice with the dog, utter a:

- How wonderful! Whose is it?

- Di Gino, Forti.

Then they browse again and inevitably, in front of the great Owl on a black background:

- And this?

- Also from Forti.

If there are children, at that point the following will intervene:

- Look, look, an elephant with sheep!

They are in the large oil painting with a circus scene, hanging in the hall: the flags and the big top ring with color accompanying a cheerful march of animals on a very green lawn. Forti's painting is in fact cheerful and serene. My son Orpheus then arrives holding in his hands the little Portrait of Pinocchio that the artist gave him and who, from the bedside table, receives his goodnight:

- This is mine!

In the end I have to show all the works by Forti that adorn the walls: the oil with the Yellow Carp and the one with the Jumping Frog, both on a black background, the colorful linoleum of faces, landscapes, pinocchios, other animals, the engravings wise. And the viewer I notice, from the comments and expressions, that he always receives a sensation of pleasure, beauty, well-being, serenity. In fact, what more can we say about the art of this painter with whom we have been working for years, as printers and friends, in harmony, always carrying out, thanks to him, high quality and satisfying enterprises? Even now, finally printing after a long delay, the splendid engravings for the edition of Pinocchio - hoping to have found the graphic design that best suits their beauty - I continue to amaze me with Forti's mastery. Mastery of design, synthesis, sense of space, balance of blacks and colors. If there was a speaker corner nearby, I would like to shout an appeal:

- In these dark and ignorant times, buy paintings by Forti, because they are beautiful and will make you happy in many!

Alberto Manfredi's etchings - 2000, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

From the very beginning Alberto Manfredi has used intaglio engraving as an artistic language that is not subordinate but complementary to the pictorial one.

His prints are intended not as minor art, but as a black and white translation of the iconographies and stylistic features of his painting.

For Manfredi, however, engraving is essentially drawing, a synthesis by harmonically organized lines of the chromatic and volumetric values of the painting. If in the female figures and in the landscapes with houses, straight signs prevail that articulate the space of the matrix in an order of angular geometric modules, in the faces - often portrayed - the lines take on circular or elliptical trends converging to the optical center of the image.

Manfredi consciously assimilated the rules of classical and Renaissance harmony and adopted them in style, filtering them through the impressionist lesson - which often resurfaces in the softer and more curvilinear signs - and then the cubist and expressionist one.

Hence the sense of compositional harmony that persists in his engravings, despite the distorted perspectives, the squashed volumes, the optical deformations, the alphabetic inserts and numbers apparently incongruous with respect to the scene.

Favorite technique, etching by unique engraving, which does not allow fakes and errors in the drawing. Drypoint, the other favorite technique, used individually, has sometimes been folded to liven up the regularity of the etched signs with a more suffused black. Manfredi does not like pictorial cuisine provided by aquatint or soft wax.

With this distilled and sober etching language, the iteration, through infinite variations on the theme, of female figures, landscapes, portraits and self-portraits, of animals, generates, in Manfredi's engravings, the sublimation of the represented object and creates the topoi of the art of this one among the last great peintre-graveur of the last century.




Notes for Gino Forti - 1999, Nicola Manfredi

For those who print, for an art editor, meeting a Gino Forti is great luck. The main qualities of the person, of rare balance and joviality, are in harmony with those of the artist: who is versatile, whimsical, with a never dormant passion for work, ready to discard the unsuccessful and the unchangeable.

Watching Gino Forti print his own engravings can be a difficult test for the printer to pass. Those inking never completely repeated, those retroussage shots with the tarlatan in seemingly random, that sometimes insisting with the fingers on some part of the plate, at first cause horror to the palm purist. However, you will notice later that it is the right method for obtaining beautiful prints: Forti will have taught you it for free, rich baggage to add to your skill set.

When, having printed the first test, Forti grabs a scraper or burnisher or tip, or again looks for the acid, to scratch, lower, tap, engrave, seeing it modify engraving that seem perfect to the amazed eye of the press laborer, one could get angry if we should not think of the ancient masters procedure: correcting to obtain something that offers an iconography that is ever closer to the creative feeling. Lights appear where they were shadows, blacks instead of mid-tones, drypoint overlaps with etching, a more ferocious aquatint cancels both, the artist's elan vital is all tested on metal. It is the Fauvism of Forti painter who moves from oil paintings and tempera to apparently monochromatic engravings.

Forti is not a purist, he does not prefer a technique, but uses and mixes etching, drypoint, aquatint, lavis. And this experimentation is fruitful because, at the root of this pictorial way of engraving lies a rare ability to draw and graphic synthesis, as instinctive as you are looking for. Above all - what a satisfaction to be able to say it once - he is an artist who knows the ways to obtain the precise reflection of the movements of the soul from the plate. The style is outlined: he looked at Kubin, at Chagall, at the expressionists, he assimilated and reworked Bartolini's blond and dark ways. Now Forti looks only within himself, at his own joyful graphic fury, and sets out to completely conquer the heroic engraving language for strength and purity of the Maccari, the Ciarrocchi, the Manfredi, his other masters of reference.

The ability to evoke complex scenes in a short time makes him an excellent text illustrator. It is difficult to keep the editions designed with him in step with the quantity of chalcography, woodcuts and linocuts - another etching technique in which he excels - and lithographs - his first lithographic prints made in the old fashioned way, have given excellent results - produced to illustrate them .

While with patience and commitment we spent the days making the menabò for an edition of four cheerful stories by Chekhov, combining texts and his stupendous etchings, linocuts and lithographs, Forti, feeling unemployed, satisfied the ancient desire to illustrate Pinocchio. The result was two engravings per chapter, in total sixty-four, all worked with the same creative force in a complex graphic imposing in quality and quantity. Again - while these lines are being written - we have not finished the edition of Chekhov and we tremble at the idea that Forti is passionate about another theme after Pinocchio. But, for those who print, for an art publisher, meeting a Gino Forti is always great luck.

La Cirenaica - notes for Gino Forti, 4-5-1997, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

That restaurant name, La Cirenaica, evoked in me as a child images of a distant and exotic world. It actually stood, as a simple and square building, at the corner between the bridge and the stream, in area already of low and humid lands, anticipation of the rivers of the Po, famous for its specialty of fried frogs. Rarely passing along that country road I imagined beyond the embankment, just outside the courtyard of the restaurant, adventures, swamps, fishes and I heard insistent croaking frogs, frogs, frogs. But I have never eaten. I have on the other hand, a splendid yellow and green frog leaping into the black, painted by Gino Forti, recently hung on the bedroom wall, a rare case of a happiness that has come to rest precisely on the memories and desires that had aroused it. As well as the great owl that looks at the lemon moon in the dark night, suspended above the frog and that emanates the same mysterious charm of the stuffed strigid on my desk as a boy, over time devoured by moths. Happiness of painting that sublimates the real into fantastic representations. Dancing elephants, turtles, girls with ice cream, fishermen, fish caught, cats, ladies with dogs, Pinocchios of all colors, boys with balls, dancers, are moments of everyday life and fragments of visions that we are often no longer able to focus on and that only Forti's childish soul is capable of transforming into vital events. One is pleasantly amazed by the creative happiness of an illustrator, engraver and painter that animates this artist. The sure sense of design and the sweetly fauve chromatism give his works a particular impetus and give pleasure to the eye. Not a little value today. The subjects, usual yet unthinkable compared to traditional canons, reconcile us with the ancient order of natural things. Forti's art, so rich in passion, not very artificial but wise in method and genius, is a viaticum for the progress of our spirit.






Al Ragno d'Oro - notes for Vincenzo Piazza, 1996, Nicola Manfredi

We often went to dinner at Il Ragno d'Oro restaurant, under a pergola leaning against the walls of the Albornoz fortress, which, open only in the evening, served no more than two or three local dishes. We were attracted by various reasons: the coolness of the site, the few customers, little shopping, the large portions and, above all, a waitress who seemed drawn by Faulkner's pen. Tightened in a short floral dress, she had sun-dark skin and two round breasts that did not fall even when she bent to lengthen her reach. Her thighs and breasts, generously offered, uprooted my eyes. Her face always appeared frowning, almost as if she wanted to show everyone that she was a waitress, but one day she would leave, and then ... Then the beans with pork rinds - as an aspiring lithographer I thought it my duty to face the most varied tests of strength and such a dish in a very hot July was - and the conversation with Vincenzo Piazza diluted the gazes turned to the erotic, surly muse into more myths and artistic horizons.

It is from these few beautiful evenings of 1989 that the custom with Piazza engraver was born. We both attended Carlo Ceci's lithography course in Urbino, I to learn the art of printing, he to try it as an art form. I think he was disappointed. He had designed and made a sunflower with the technique of engraved lithography, one of the most difficult. I don't remember how it was printed. However, it seems to me that it was an unsuccessful digression from the groove he had already taken, that of the real, intaglio engraving.

I got to know the Piazza's engravings later, a little at a time. I own some, some others I have been lucky enough to commission from him, some I have printed, I have seen all of them published. I noticed a growing coherence in the expressive choices. The dotted language, or with thin threads, which is not dense and coarse hatching, but a very light and fine touch, always bitten by etching for roofing, has gradually become more imperceptible and refined in adding up to form blacks. No haze or gray backgrounds, but black ink graduated from the marks and clean white of the sheet. Gone are the sunflowers, the cold Escher-like games of fictitious perspectives, the subjects on commission, which sadden the vein of those engravers not already tied for their poor taste to the trite artificial compositions of objects in the studio, or to ostentatious and sterile Morandian subjection: little by little the sense of a magical realism, of a romantic Mediterranean leisure has crept into the plates of Piazza that first made him abandon here and there in the image roses, chairs, gowns, other simple objects but of a mysterious tone, then he pushed to blow the wind above them, to mess them up, to make those personal poetic symbols fly towards the uncertainty of universal understanding, emerging from perspectives now so happily unhinged with a hint of distorted expression, but still contained in rationality, perhaps a legacy of studies of architecture. The stars have appeared, with a conventionality of form that suggests, at first glance, banality, while I think they are nothing more than the manifestation to the layman of the spell dust that spreads over the everyday for Piazza.

Piazza engraves with seriousness, modesty and passion, does not seek acclaim or easy money, even if both, by artists of all kinds and printers are never despised as such, but is still one of those engravers in which the pleasure of discovering something new and beautiful in oneself always prevails, superior to what has been done until then.

I haven't seen this friend in years. We feel by letter, I often receive small engravings, easy to send without being damaged and that I like more and more. I don't know who he's become by now, but his papers tell me he's getting better all the time.


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