The Giacomo Manzù Museum in Ardea (RM) inaugurated, at 16:30 on 16 March 2022, In the colors of the day. For a monument on the unknown limit, an impressive painting by Roman artist Matteo Montani (1972). The painting won the PAC2020 award, the Plan for Contemporary Art commissioned by the General Direction of Contemporary Creativity of the MiC (Ministero della Cultura), and occupies in its entirety about one hundred square meters of the southern wall of the structure opened in 1981.
In the colors of the day appears only after coming into contact with water. Thanks to a controlled irrigation system, placed on the top of the building, the facade – whitened by a special paint conceived by the artist – gradually reveals the presence of a complete chromatic spectrum, whose frequencies appear at first in the forms of thin pinnacles – a constant presence in Montani’s formal vocabulary – to slowly penetrate one another, reciprocally, giving life to wider chromatic fields and bringing the multiple back to unity.
The title of the artwork clarifies the fact that the rainbow is the chosen phenomenon to be evoked, in the enchantment of the instant when the sunlight hits the waterdrops suspended in the air. The rainbow is a surprising phenomenon, able in slowing down the obsessive rhythms of thought and in relaxing the soul, dilating time and making the momentary collide with the eternal. The time of Montani, a painter always “on the hunt for the sky”, to use Fabio Sargentini’s words, is a concept in which the opposite polarities of the Whole and the Null are found on the threshold of art. A free territory in which every clash, every contradiction dissolves. Montani – who is the guardian of the threshold – finds in such a controlled abandonment the main road to that limbo. Shitao, a Chinese painter from the seventeenth century – and undoubtedly one of the privileged access keys to Montani’s pictorial practice – loved to think of his landscape painting as “an experience […] of acclimatization, in the sense that the painter becomes one with the landscape, with the world around it; we re-know with it, through it”. Standing on the threshold, Montani seems to tell us, means identifying the point of equilibrium where the anthropic dissolves into the environmental. Such a complex coexistence is nevertheless achieved by Montani. This symbiosis has also been sanctioned by the successful formula, Paesaggi dell’anima (“Soul Landscapes”) which entitled the 2011 exhibition in Wurzburg.
The concept of threshold, therefore, far from being resolved exclusively on the formal level of the work, is also the guiding principle that underpins Montani’s artistic practice on a procedural level. An anti-authoritarian practice, which allows the painting to simply happen, free from any intellectualistic constraint and any bottlenecks of the reason, left free to proceed slowly, but never completely dissolved. The artist’s “open” approach allows him to welcome suggestions that are not necessarily visual: Shitao, who defined his painting as a synaesthetic experience, allows us to introduce the strong musical dimension of Montani’s work. During the inauguration, the progressive unveiling of the work was accompanied by the performance of Facades, a piece by Philip Glass taken from his album Glassworks (1981). Such a long-lasting partnership makes Montani extremely attentive to the musical potential of the words. Montani – who declared that some of his works started from the preliminary choice of some key words – has already been inspired by music. His Quartet for the end of time was inspired by the homonymous piece by Olivier Messiaen, a French composer who had directed his research towards the hypothesis of a synaesthetic music, in which the idea of equilibrium necessarily translates into the diversification and the wise dosage of various sensory stimuli.
If in the past the alchemical game of balances had made Montani an artist always at ease in the opposite waters of the tsunami and the calm, in the wall painting of the Manzù Museum the tension embodied by the work highlights the incurable contradiction between the two extremes of time. Once the palmar recognition of the individual realms of color was completed, Montani’s pictorial trajectory, in which the internal movements of the material were brought to light, from the delicacy of infrasound to the telluric disruption of micro-rallies, the artists chooses a satellite perspective, an overall look that does not allow the eye to linger on the molecular plots of the individual chromatic characteristics, previously investigated with the chemist’s lens.
The work, revealing itself and then withdrawing itself from the gaze, is a visual essay on the finitude of the human gaze, on the irremediable partiality of its perspective. A memento mori with delicate features, with a sweet physiognomy, and which nevertheless reminds us that death is here to prevent us from crossing the threshold of the unknown. The ephemeral, transitory nature of human experience is readily redeemed by art: if in the space of life every attempt in the direction of the search for meaning is void, it is the perimeter of art, a land in which the paradoxes flourish and where contradictions return to coexist and offer themselves as a safe haven. Only in art, therefore, is it possible to erect a monument to the unknown. Such a concept is evoked in the “subtitle” of the work and – contrary to the strongly temporal dimension of the latter – runs after the dimension of the eternal.
Matteo Montani, Nei colori del giorno. Per un monumento al limite ignoto
Museo Giacomo Manzù
Via Laurentina, km 32
00040 Ardea (RM)
For all the images: Matteo Montani, Nei colori del giorno. Per un monumento al limite ignoto. Credits: Sebastiano Luciano, courtesy Museo Giacomo Manzù and the artist
Graduated in Conservation of Cultural Heritage, he is currently attending the master’s degree course in Visual Arts at the University of Bologna. He is part of the team that manages a well-known cultural dissemination blog and is also a contributor for Juliet Art Magazine. He believes in art as a space for recovering a lost complexity.