Colloquio davanti le opere di Bruno Lisi – Marisa Volpi

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Marisa Volpi: You told me that years ago you used to work with white: what was it that de­termined this transition from white to colour? Or is using colour the same thing for you?

Bruno Lisi: I used white not to obtain the ab­sence of colour, but to destroy it so as to ob­tain another one which would contain its echo and point to an ambiguity of «reading» in every sense, by emphasizing its unspecified distan­ce beyond form and space.

In some of your paintings, as in those of the «centrality» series, or in those in which there is this wave of light in movement, or in your most recent ones which have a vaguely illusio­nistic sense of space — even though it is not an emphatic, but only a barely accentuated il­lusionism — I notice that there are elements that lead to a symbology, although an intuiti­ve and not an intellectualistic one. An echo of something, because your painting is always characterized as a kind of echo — an echo of an echo of something that is very far off and that is picked up by the antenna of your sensi­bility.

The symbol is always present, irrespective of the feasibility of being able to «preconstruct» the symbolic image. It is present at the sub­conscious, archetypal level. Something that is, against your will.

Is it the contest itself? Physically and spiritual­ly?

It’s the thing itself. But it’s not the protagonist.

There are various types of mysticism: an un­controversial, serene and contemplative mysti­cism, and a dramatic, conflictual mysticism. Yours doesn’t seem to be dramatic. By pain­ting you attain, it seems, a kind of «peace». Yours, moreover, is a visionary, and not a ve­ristic form of painting.

The great aspiration is that of belonging to eve­rything, of transcending the purely contingent. Art leads us — no matter what means the ar­tist uses — far away from the quotidian.

I agree with you that art is very far from being the same thing as craft. Yet there is an obvious common ground on which the two are forced to meet. There is within us an urge which I would call a «neurotic symptom to express something». Then there is the «project» that permits this something to go beyond the «symptom». And the «profession» in turn is the medium which we are obliged to work with to go beyond pa­thos, eros, mysticism, etc. Don ‘t you agree?

The medium is always and invariably a pretext and a means which must aim at the overcoming of the professional skill and the restricting tech­nicalities whenever these become protagonists in their own right. The creative magic moment, within the consciousness in which the project is developed, is the goal.

After the liberation that you say was achieved by abstract art, can we really touch greater dephts, and freely express them in ways which bear no relation, however, to occasions of quo­tidian, historical or religious life? Other moti­ves are finished: realism, because we have pho­tography; religious symbols and iconography, because in crisis, and so on.

On the other hand, the development of scien­tific technology seems to devalue the particu­lars of experience.

Art seems to have lost just those characteri­stics that denoted it as such. Ars, meaning the capacity to make something with craftsman­ship: the knowing how to make something well, whether it be a vase, a madrigal or a story. All this «knowing how to make something well» has been swept away, and naturally we find ourselves possessed by a great emotiveness, possibly stronger than that of our precedessors, who were undoubtedly less socially imbued with pathos than we are. And we have far less means at our disposal.

Non-religiosity, in the sense of belonging, is the new liberating condition in the degree in which each of us succeeds in transmitting love in creativity, in which the absence of pathos is often concealed by professionalism. As part of this new reality, the recovery of a feeling of love is, I believe, the problem: certainly it’s mine.

Art, moreover, has nothing at all absolute about it, and the communicative potential of an object is something relative created by the human mind. Precisely due to its intrinsic li­mitation, language has, in the concreteness of emotional, psychological, historical, philoso­phical and ideological life, no less moves to ma­ke in a more or less skilful manner. In the ma­ny moves you make you then find the one cal­led art, which is nothing but the product of this effort of transfiguration which someone ma­kes in tackling a material which has no intrin­sic characterization on its own, and, by means of an enormous transformative process, finds a novel and original form. But contemporary man has nothing to do this with. You say he has science, but… science. You teli me that science is important?

When I speak of science I speak of the ideolo­gy of science that adds absolutely nothing more to what is represented by the life of the body and its events, which are events of love, pain, sickness and death: a destiny similar to that of the plants and the animals, with the differen­ce that man has a painful consciousness of it. And it is in this painful consciousness that beauty is revealed: the beauty of nature, of life, and of artistic creation.

Science is this enormous and unforseen possi­bility of knowledge: of knowing what perhaps we knew, what we have always known, intui­tively. It now forces us to ereater and wider forms of penetration, to better focused and less casual reflections. Paradoxically, the more we focus things, the more they elude us and refer us to that unspecified distance beyond form and space. It only remains for us, therefore, to counter the fascinating and challenging ap­peal to scientific analysis, to ascertainability and reproducibility, by giving priority — though not in opposition — to mysticism and illumination.

At one time you did restorations of frescoes. How do you make use of this experience in painting your pictures?

Fresco is the magic of colur absorbed by the plaster so as to incorporate it and restore it in its abstract potentiality. It is every time an al­chemical operation that I try to carry out on the surfaces of my paintings, using extremely simple techniques.

Rome, September 24th 1984

(text written for the exhibition at Temple University Abroad, Roma, 9-30 November 1984)