Paolo Serra: Distant Memories, 2009

(Exhibition text)

Fascinating contrasts of colours and materials, the effective use of perspective, the revival of traditional painting techniques and the combination of mathematical/scientific principles with effects created purely by chance are the distinguishing features of the oeuvre of the painter Paolo Serra (born near Rimini in 1946), whose latest works will be shown at our gallery in Riehen from 7th February onwards.

Many aspects of Serra's work testify to a strong interest in, and a deep commitment towards, the artistic processes of bygone centuries: the use of ancient methods and materials, such as pigments bound with egg, the application of translucent layers of paint on wooden panels, the use of real or imitation gold leaf for the ground and the basing of all dimensions, both of the outer format and of the individual elements of the composition, on the Fibonacci sequence. Nonetheless, Paolo Serra combines all these aspects into an artistic language that is not only unique but also entirely in tune with developments in modern and contemporary art.

Serra's compositions are based on such elementary geometrical forms as the square and the rectangle and are dominated by monochrome fields of colour that seem to hover against the background. They consist of several hundred layers of transparent colour applied one after the other. It is a painstaking glazing process, but one that permits the artist to reach the desired result gradually and carefully, making only the finest adjustments of colour at any one time. It is also a transparent process in the truest sense of the word, for it reveals itself to the viewer in every smallest detail. Thus, once finished, Serra's works achieve their effect through their countless layers of superimposed translucent colours, an effect that is further heightened by the reflection of the colours in the thin metallic ground, mostly gold in colour, on which they are painted.

Under the title Distant Memories, Paolo Serra will now be showing a group of egg tempera and glazed panel paintings that do indeed seem to have come from another world. These paintings are undeniably sublime, not least through the technical perfection of their execution, the impression that their forms seem to emerge from the picture plane and hover in space, the frequent use of gold for the ground, the ever changing incidence of light that seems to lend them an inherent luminosity. This is particularly manifest in such works as Polittico, which is illustrated on the invitation card. Here the chosen type of support alludes directly both to religious depictions of the past and to the present day.

Paolo Serra's paintings invite us to take a journey into the past, to immerse ourselves in them, to discover them, to let our gaze penetrate the latticed layers of colour in our exploratory search for the golden ground on which they come to life.

Translated by John Brogden, Dortmund

Galerie Henze & Ketterer
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Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Wettsteinstrasse 4, CH 4125 Riehen
Tel. +41 (0)61 641 77 77
ghkt (at)