As you may begin to notice, the 2006 Artist of the Month competition is just an excuse for me to think and write about an artist every month. And, as such, there are no rules about who I may chose: they may be from any corner of the world, using any medium, old or new, alive or dead…
March’s artist is a dead painter and, in a way, also a painter of the dead. The body of works of Giorgio Morandi mainly comprises still lives made of bottles, pots, jugs and trinkets found in and around his studio.
It was Jorge Oteiza, a Basque sculptor, who first brought Morandi to my attention. In 1957, Oteiza received the International Grand Prize for Sculpture at the fourth Sao Paulo biennial. True to his personality, Oteiza publicly stated that he would not accept his award should Morandi not win its painting correlation. Luckily for him and the biennial organisers, Morandi did win the painting award.
Some years ago, as a painter, I was in awe of Oteiza’s vigorous sculptures and wondered who was this Morandi that inspired such feelings in him. I was surprised to find delicate, small scale paintings. One of the things that most impressed me of Oteiza’s oeuvre, was his Chalk Laboratory, where, with small pieces of the material teachers use to write on blackboards, he thought of space and matter.
Oteiza’s Chalk Laboratory. Oteiza’s museum, Alzuza, Spain
This was the first time I encountered art for thought’s sake, instead of for gallery’s sake. The same attitude is visible in Morandi’s bijou paintings. The first time I had the chance to see one life (it is an imperative to experience Morandi’s paintings life) was after Tate Modern’s opening in 2000. The gallery was crowded with people, art and space symbolism, famous and infamous pieces cut out of modern and contemporary art books, people crammed in front of them awaiting for an osmotic phenomenon to occur, crowds looking at high ceilings and long floors… Morandi’s painting, small in scale, empty, tragic, honest, devoid of spectacle, representing the existential questions still lives’ tend to do, were revelatory in comparison.
Geirogio Morandi (1890-1964) Still Life, 1946. Oil on canvas, 37.5 x 45.7 cm, Tate Gallery, London
Years later, Tate modern opened a retrospective of Morandi’s work. In the repetition of his architectural motifs (I got to know his trinkets as if they were mine), and their placements in the real and pictorial space, I found new depths in the meaning of the word pathos. When one of the objects got overturned or the corner of a table appeared it was as if a violent, dangerous thought, a vast precipice, an incomparable void and existential chasm had happened.
For more information on Giorgio Morandi, visit The Museo Morandi
ARTIST OF THE MONTH COMPETITION: