Following on from being one of the stands out artists in Christine Macel’s curated exhibition Viva Arte Viva at last year’s Venice Biennale, the 84-year-old Florentine Riccardo Guarneri will be having his first solo exhibition in the UK at rosenfeld porcini.
Slowing Time will showcase Natura Morta by Giorgio Morandi and Ironia by Fausto Melotti. These will illustrate how, notwithstanding Morandi is a figurative painter and Melotti a sculptor, their poetic sensibilities and artistic objectives are similar to Guarneri’s abstraction. The three artists’ works present a conscious absence of emphasis and a lengthy meditation is necessary to absorb their unique qualities. The main body of the exhibition, however, will feature a selection of iconic paintings spanning over 50 years of Riccardo Guarneri’s practice.
A musician as well as a visual artist, from his debut in the early ‘60s Guarneri, focused on a radically visual investigation built around the idea that mark, colour and light constitute the intrinsic essence of a painting. The works selected for the exhibition document the formidable stylistic integrity of an author who has devoted his whole trajectory to a continuous variation on a theme.
An independent figure as much as a precursor of the international contemporary artistic research which blossomed through the ‘60s, Guarneri concentrated his study on the essential aspects of painting, liberating it from any representational concern and descriptive temptation, yet eschewing the conceptual dogma at the core of minimalism in favour of a lyrical abstraction.
Characterized by an apparent stillness coupled with a rigorous weightlessness, Guarneri’s works conjure up a natural tension as his imperceptibly asymmetrical geometric structures confront a light that consumes and unravels them. Subtle variations of graphite handwriting, semantically meaningless but visually substantial, confer texture and enhance the rhythm of nuances.
Though certain critics suggested a parallel with the sheer simplification of the Colour-field painters, Agnes Martin perhaps presents a far more apt comparison to Guarneri’s Zen-like approach and lyricism. Similarly to her, Guarneri’s line only carries the illusion of being something definitive. His pastel colours convey softness and the dissolving of one into another reinforces a sense of tenuous boundaries.
Hardly perceptible, the subtle shades and impalpable tones of Guarneri’s paintings deter photographic reproduction today as they did almost sixty years ago. At odds with contemporary art’s obsession with instant consumption and over-reliance on digital imagery, his whole repertoire, encompassing geometric structures and warmer, unconstrained spots of colour, can be seen as an ode to ‘listening’ as the ultimate act in allowing the melody is hidden within the work to permeate us.
Entering Guarneri’s studio feels like stepping back in time. Crayons, watercolours, rubbers, pencils and rulers recall the romantic, pure universe inhabited by children as they make their initial steps into making art. Guarneri’s sophisticated paintings are obtained with the simplest of materials. His absolute faithfulness to his medium is a testament to both the timelessness of painting and its extraordinary capacity for continual reinvention.