Born in Lecco in 1937, Tino Stefanoni will celebrate his “first” eighty years with a solo exhibition in London entitled Little Anthology. Exhibiting work from different periods of his career, between the late '60s and the present, Stefanoni continues to demonstrate his ability as a fresh, youthful painter in full form.
As a student of architecture at the Politecnico in Milan, he began his career between 1967 and 1969 while the Arte Povera movement was forming. Although his work, from the beginning, was always grounded in the realm of the conceptual, Tino Stefanoni was still a painter, capable of combining the pleasure of the medium with the theoretical challenge of language. It would be unthinkable for an artist of his generation not to combine the innate aesthetic components of painting to something decidedly more intellectual in approach, not simply intellectualism, but rather lighter and hyper-theoretical. This was an attitude consistent with the artistic climate of Milan at the time, through the rise of abstraction, but also with the work of Munari and Manzoni.
In response to the excess of theories, in fact, Stefanoni offered lightness, wit, puns, word games, and semantic shifts. These were characteristics present in his works since the early '70s, such as Segnali stradali, and Rilievi sagomati—exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1970—everyday objects painted on raw canvas, laid out in serial order. Because of his intellectual propensity, while not giving up the role of the entertainment and visual pleasure of images, we can consider Stefanoni a key artist in the transition between established modernist practice and the new post-modern sensibility that has spread throughout the West. Thus, the works from the beginning to late 80s entitled Elenco di cose seem to extract more conceptual fragments from de Chirico, quotes from Giulio Paolini who like him was passionate about design, and above all from the literary universe of the great Georges Perec, whose motto was Think/classify.
Even in his most mature paintings where color begins to enter, or in the beautiful and essential Sinopie, he never loses the conceptual nature of his research; if anything, it is developed and matured into a poetics that takes shape in the form of a minimalism renovated in style and content. Stefanoni, the failed architect, presents architecture in the way just mentioned, with unfinished monochrome sections, suspended between real and fantastic figuration, and with a mastery of style that allows exquisite use of color—in this Stefanoni is truly a theoretician of flat painting—with vibrations of light, both analogous and complementary.
His work, over the years, has often dealt with the decoding of reality; objects are simplified and presented in their most complete obviousness, becoming a set of graphic signs. In the new paintings, all made for the 2016 exhibition, the images, silent and nocturnal, are revealed through major crossing lines distinguishable from one another by the chromatic elements that, through a play of light and dark shades, emphasize the structural simplicity of the work. They could be ideas of the city, summarized in few but sufficient elements, hardly recognizable, that tell of a reality still seen, or represented, at least in Italy, in the small towns and medieval villages.
by Luca Beatrice