Giorgio Griffa

- Approach to Gilania -

"I wish I had something What would not require Expression and form"

The archeologist Riane Eisler named Gilania a Neolithic society of east-central and southern Europe, of large extension, devoted to agriculture and based on a parithetic relationship between man and woman. Such society that completely ignored weapons in about thousand years, between 4000 and 3000 B.C. is dominated by populations coming from northern steppes, essentially shepherds and hunters, who had complete control over horses and weapons, representing a model of dominion still winning today.
The name Gilania derives from the Iink of two words, woman (gunÚ} and man (anÚr).
Carbon dating fixes the age of objects and allows us to make hypothesis about this developed society, no longer matriarchal and not yet patriarchal, organized in a non hierarchic system that raises many a question about several aspects of our past.
I'm not interested in verifying the scientific base of this charming discovery or invention, but the approach to Gilania rather led me to some unexpected connections, a glimpse of a large project that widens over different human disciplines.
I may see, in our century, several phenomena which, within the model of domination, break the instruments used to dominate the world. Time, space, metre and clock were at the top of scientific observations as stable, fixed elements, on which knowledge and dominion of the physical world were organized. Such hierarchy falls with Einstein, space and time become relative elements mutually connected, since they themselves represent a correlation. Afterwards, with the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg, Science assumes the unknown within its procedures, it becomes part of the scientist's activity. Observation influences the observed phenomenon to the point of making some of its aspects undertermined. The observer has no possibility to stay outside the process, and that was a typical aspect of domination. Geometry loses the absolute value and becomes variable because of the crossing and summing up of the force of gravity. Perhaps it vanishes into black holes in the universe where the force of gravity lumps in mighty concentration of energy so compact that neither light can escape.
Guattari and Deleuze tell us that reality is a rhizome, in spite of our efforts to simplify it in binary systems controlled by reason.
They are only allusions.
They suggest the hypothesis that humanity started to think over the principle of domination; the economic and rnilitary instruments of domination have becorne too dangerous, they must be tempered with something else.
Two arguments, the control of men and of the world, have been overlapping in my words since they are facets of a unique system. 

When I am working on a canvas, my hand follows what is happening and I am tool and creator, at the same time, I am not able to specify my stilema that overlaps to my memory the memory of the flowing colour and the signs that follow each other, neither I'm able to value any impact on the spectator. Among the three characters, author, work, observer, my concentration verges completely on the event in the middle, however much I may be conscious.
This is not a novelty, I think that this is a steady attitude of doing, the relation with colour, with marble; with stone, with the memory of matter. It assumes various aspects in different ages and in different artists.
But the relationship between work and observer is something that cannot be eluded.
We built, at a certain moment, the perspective, that trough the optical box fixed an objective sight of the world external to the spectator, a clear process of domination of vision.
With sublime results.
A system in which on one side, one could see from outside, like from an open window and could read from the outside the story; on the other side the inner involvement, the emotion of letting ourselve's absorbed, crossing the threshold, entering into the work; was hidden, entrusted to the wisdom of spaces and materials.
Then, the prospective vision was no longer sufficient; the categories of thought that supported it flaked off and the window began changing into a mirror, then simply into open space.
I remember, for example, when the painting of landscapes started to cross the perspective with the excrescencies of nature, and water and boats metaphorically invited the observer to embark in the painting; when CÚzanne used to break volumes and open the space, and others painted the frame breaking into the diaphragm of separation; or when the water lilies of Monet checkmated the domination system since matter gets the upper hand on hand and its eye, gettirig blind, produces a growing quality of light instead of reducing it as it would be obvious in the logic of sake of dominion.
If we accept this path, where the difference between figurative and not becomes less relevant, we may remark that the invitation to the spectator to enter into the work scanning it, generally goes with the disappearance of the story; it is no more a banquet of Gods or any story to be read from outside; figures or signs, that is almost the same, are there, suspended, unsettled things waiting for the spectator sitting at the table.
The prospectic work was watched from the outside. These were not.
I think that nowadays a scientist is conscious that his action interferes with the observed phenomenon, he knows that he is not investigating that fragment of world as it is, but as it reacts to provocation. And he gets fragments of knowledge of becoming, therefore not only the creator interfa.ces with the phenomenon but even the spectator.
Let's not forget this aspect, nor another that will be useful later.
Up to a certain limit the phenomenon is dominated, it may be observed by the outside and reproduced by man's will, either lighting the gas or making the atomic bomb:
But when the phenomenon is not linear; and it increases or it is reduced so much that other casual aspects, that in the dominated measure were present yet not relevant, enter into action, it goes off the dominion, develops and develops according to the concurring causes as it itself were a thinking subject.
We can therefore say that beyond that limit the domination system is checkmated. The phenomenon aims to escape control.
Instead of having a decrease of knowledge, as it would appear obvious. We assist to a so rapid increase that a few decades have taken science light years far away. In quantum physics a phenomenon exists in various aspects, contemporaneous, different and contradictory, and this is another good point coming into play. The aspect we are investigating with the cognitive procedures  is only one of the many possible, the phenomenon is almost beyond control, it can be dominated only roughly.
After crossing into the second half of our century, I may see a rapid change in conceiving such creative art: the artificer renounces to dominate globally the process, from rough material to the complete work; he exerts a limited dominion or better he puts himself into a different relationship with.his materials. Instead of dominating the process from outside, he exalts the participation from inside; he lets matter speak instead of making it a narrative tool from outside.
So I can tell you about Pollock's hand that limits itself to arrange the dripping colour on the canvas. That of Morns Louis, conducting the slipping of colours on the canvas.
It's clear that the procedures are under the artist's control but in some way the hand is asserved to colour, upsetting the domination system.
Dorazio uses the brush, but the procedure is not dissimilar; the artist's purpose appears clearly subjected to the vibrations of light and the emotions that colour creates flowing and interlacing, it is the hand which becomes the brush extension.
Painting in Ryman is exhausted and sublimated in the simple antique gesture of brushing the canvas; the artist withdrawes his personal memory in favour of the millenary memory of painting. With Burri, the attention moves to matter; both in combustion and in the crucibles, hand puts only the initial gestures. The process develops on its own, inside the stuff that burns or dries out.
With Anselmo, the oldest material on which man exercised the highest qualities of dominion, the stone manipulated but not moulded exhibits its memories by simple significant interventions. It is always the hand of man that extracts memories from materials, but the procedure is invented, it does not require a form to be modelled and, if there is a form, it comes from other paths. Richard Long organizes these same stones, broken, limiting himself to order them in large circles of barbaric weight, which keep us suspended among millenary ancestral memories, the breath of great sculpture and the precise sense of a strong mutation.
Mutation which in Gastini physically concretes itself in the canvas, which is at the same time support and protagonist, tool and agent, as colour, iron, signs and space are, in a mutual dynamics, and here weight sublimates itself into an exchange with air.
Where one conjectured the existence of one way from the artist to the work, and from the work to the observer, obviously enriched by the inner valences of the work; I find again a two way transit. The artist, smoothing his own relation of dominance over matter, is available to receive from them, and not only to give, while his relation with the observer the artist himself places the determined elements of an undetermined story, the boundaries for a path along which the observer observing reality, might modify it with his observation.
Concerning my paintings of the eighties Paolo Fossati wrote of a narrating and tale telling with the final approach to Citera. I feel that, what I've been telling for almost thirty years on my condition of tool rather than artificer, may firid with Gilania a more precise motivation, an undetermined tale telling which lives within signs. I should say that the detachment from Perspective and Form, is manifest and I `d rather not emphasize it. I wish, instead, to dwell on a strong sense of continuity hidden below a sharply discontinuous appearance.
Looking at the works of the past we are well aware of how each of them is inseparably connected to its own time, of whose notions it was nurtured, but we even feel the strong and insuppressible sense of presence in our time.
In the physical impact with a Bach sonata, a Petrarca sonnet, or a Raffaello painting, the feeling of a presence that passes through centuries and persists in different ways according to our changing, is an experience as general as the mutation in time and much more exciting.
Therefore the work belongs to the present both of its time and of future times. 

And at the same time historically it always belongs to the past. I say always because the moment it is finished, it becomes past, as it becomes past this sentence I'm writing, when I put the final full stop that concludes it.
It's a duplicity that I see as precise sense of continuity among the various ages and civilizations and among the discontinuities of history. It allows us to consider the work as a subject instead of an object, active entity that in the relationships with people, variable for persons and ages and for different civilizations, subtracts itself to its own objectivity.
Such aspect of continuity partakes in some way of doing, belongs to the web of relations which build up the work and not only to its qualities when it is finished; it is like saying that space of action widens to include aspects that were not necessary in a dominion relation with matter. Chimical reactions which often complete the works of Zorio keep taking place in the completed work, and in such a way attribute organic character to that peculiar sense of present which persists in time.
My works are never finished, signs stop before the end, as if to try and elude that moment of the conclusion when present ceases to be such.
These are different ways in which the ambiguous relation between past and present becomes part of the constituting process of the work.
And here the observer returns into play.
To this area of activity, so much wider than the episodes I mentioned, belong works that, strongly characterized as they are, yet leave the relation with the observer undetermined, displaying rather the way of their own making.
They leave to the observer room for an active intervention; to compare his memories with those of the work, room for emotion and estrangement, which, all in all, appears to exalt the specific aspect of the work as subject available to a relation with other subjects, superposed like a quantum object to its simultaneous being an object.
Under the domination of perspective, the observer would find himself dispossessed of his own body, he had a soul, an intelligence, a heart, the body was the container. With this passage through matter, in their memory and their physical impact, we realize we have an expanding body, orient is no longer so far away.
The artist is aware, even if he does not know it, of that vast chain of causality that in the physical world takes phenomena out of control, and hence he simply fixes the body of that painting, of that sculpture, the constituting nexuses, the corporeal sense of the work, letting to it to tell itself, to give and receive in the undeterminable relationship with the observer, which cannot be dominated but within the roughest limits.
I am sure I can claim that probably among all those who in the centuries read Dante's Divina Commedia, truly read, not only studied it at school, it is impossible that there may have been a reading equal to another. This is the body of the work: Which has always been. It becomes the only protagonist, 'in the mutual relation with the artist's body, who does not limit himself to sowing but leaves to work what the work itself suggests in its becoming, and in the two way relation of giving and receiving with uncountable bodies of its observers. The other facets, ritual; magic, religious, fictional; celebrative, ect. have become undetermined. A non trivial analogy with scientific thought.
Giorgio Griffa

by  Giorgio Griffa - Approdo a Gilania
Gallery Giancarlo Salzano - Turin (I)  1998