Giovanni Manfredini: Dall'Inferno all'Infinito, 2009

(Exhibition Text)

At the beginning of this year, Giovanni Manfredini’s solo exhibition Gennaio at the centre of contemporary art La Lune en Parachute in Épinal, France, attracted astonishingly enormous interest. Organized in close collaboration with our gallery, the exhibition showed, besides the artist’s oil drawings, works from his series Tentativo di Esistenza – imprints made with his own body – and Estasi – white, partially mist-enveloped circular discs on a black ground for the first time to the very open-minded public there. The exhibition was attended by more than 200 visitors on its opening evening.

Giovanni Manfredini sees himself as a painter.  He uses a mixed technique, his whole body serving as the paintbrush, so to speak, and soot as the ground.  A wooden panel serving as the support is coated with a layer of finely ground white shells mixed with resin as a binding agent. As soon as it is dry, this light, bright, glittering primer is blackened with soot from a torch flame.  Giovanni Manfredini then presses his whole body – or just parts of it in torso fashion – against the panel. The parts of the body in contact with the panel absorb the soot, thus exposing the light, glittering surfaces of the ground white shells. Thus it is not the addition of material that makes the imprint – as would be the case with any traditional printing process – but rather its removal. One has the impression that the image was already latent in the primer. It is not until one approaches and touches it that light is shed on its mystery and one perceives an astonishing variety of details in the artist’s image: hair, wrinkles, pores, even blood vessels. Once the image has been coated with varnish and placed in a solid iron frame, which is either painted black or left in its rusty patina, all the human physicality of the image yields to the hardness and stability of a surface coating that will preserve the imprint for ever.

In his more recent works, Giovanni Manfredini has been replacing the human body by a circular template. Whereas hitherto the focal point of a work was the existentialist self-portrait, the figurative has now given way to a luminous disc that seems to lift itself away from its deep black ground. Through a sfumato effect, which he employs with varying intensity, Giovanni Manfredini complements the chiaroscuro effect of the image with a further traditional technique of art-historical significance. The title of this group of works – Estasi (Ecstasy) – aptly describes the atmosphere created by these hovering, gleaming forms that seem to emerge from another, completely unknown dimension.  No matter how they may be interpreted, they operate like dreams, inspiring the imagination of everyone who looks at them.

In his forthcoming exhibition, Dall’Inferno all’Infinito, Giovanni Manfredini will be showing new works from his Estasi series.  These works, which differ enormously in size, from pocket-format to monumental, including a large tondo, will plunge the gallery into a vast black-and-white cosmos. Here, too, the title of the exhibition is most apt, for it poetically alludes to the artist’s idea of preserving his images, which have their origins in infernal fire and physical pain, for eternity.  

The film "L’Arte del Pugile" takes us into the artist’s studio and shows us how Giovanni Manfredini goes about his work. While it is a portrait of the artist, it does not neglect the human side of Giovanni Manfredini’s life.  This video film may be obtained through our gallery.

translated by John Brogden, Dortmund

Galerie Henze & Ketterer
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Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
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