Achille Bonito Oliva


“Each experimental initiative requires a delirious yet extremely lucid interpretation” (Klossowski). The relationship between Luca Pignatelli and language is based on the reflection that it represents the whole of reality that needs to be addressed. It is the starting point for carrying out the experimentation with a potential tear that can underpin a new framework.

Art always requires an experimental initiative as the first approach for transforming the impulse of the imagination into an objective result. Experimentation does not just concern technique but primarily the method and therefore the continuity of a perspective that is neither uncertain or hesitant. The artist’s drive leads to the discovery of language as the field in which a gesture becomes a distinctive trace.

To the extent to which the artist is driven by personal necessity, without having a set idea of the final outcome, it is necessary to have the courage to conduct an “experimental initiative” which, in its own right, verges on a state of delirium. Being “delirious” means doing something out of the ordinary, going beyond the standard set by the previous acquisitions of language.

Pignatelli is aware of the state of excess required to create a personal image. To create a form, the artist must possess the lucidity that enables him to control the delirium without reducing its intensity through the control of pure reason.

He has created paintings and sculptures that represent the formal concentration of a vision. Being a visionary does not necessarily entail altering the symmetries of linguistic communication but bringing them to a point that corresponds to one’s own imagination.

Pignatelli’s strength lies in his capacity to create a landscape of figures and objects that, in their altered state, are not intended to come to terms with the visual codes of reality. From this perspective, the artist’s work cannot be reduced to an expressionist framework. He does not hold grievances with the things that surround him. However, armed with an

indispensable feeling of omnipotence, he adopts artistic creation as a means of constructing an autonomous universe that is separated from things.

His images do not childishly transgress the canons of harmony, proportion and symmetry. They do not represent a purely sentimental landscape of iconographic resentment that reflects the cold landscape surrounding mankind. In terms of language, Pignatelli puts himself in the shoes of a builder who aims to create, with his own hands, a world that corresponds to the desire and representation of his own vision.

Without Schopenhauer’s pessimism, Pignatelli uses the lucid delirium of a creative process based entirely on the economy of a purely figurative and sculptural language.

His paintings and sculptures possess a plastic tension that is inscribed on the two-dimensional canvas or three-dimensional space with the force and necessity of their own inner proportions. A constructive approach always accompanies the work, which is always created with the awareness of a whole that must stand on its formal self-sufficiency. A vertical force supports the image, which has to challenge the laws of gravity, the possibility of building a system of signs that is not at all arbitrary but requires rules that are proportional to the effort and tensions within the language employed. Each work requires special care and attention proportional to the creation of the new form.

Like Alice in Wonderland, Pignatelli is fully aware of the importance of going through the looking glass before creating each work. This precautionary phase ensures that the artist can free himself of the perspective of everyday life, traditional procedure, the normalized gaze and finally of the surprise that would ensue if he adopted art as a flagrant process of surpassing reality.

He goes through the looking-glass, the pure mirror-like relationship with the world, the moment in which the decision is taken to become an artist, act as an artist and produce images. From this moment on, there are no surprises and not even the recollection of ancient rules. He adopts an “experimental initiative” that frees him from a state of euphoria or simple transgression and leads him to start creating a completely harmonious universe using his own imagination.

Pignatelli always tends to create a total form. In other words, he makes an attempt to find correspondence between feeling and visual form. The work never conveys the idea of a fragment, a detail that floats separately from an overarching system. Pursuit of the whole is the constant objective of Pignatelli, who possesses the crucial sensibility that always leads him to the condition of demiurge.

This is why he challenges any form of language, whether abstract or figurative, since he is supported by a space-time delirium that always enables him to establish the necessary conditions suited to each specific creation.

He adopts the twofold emotion of nostalgia and fear that leads him to shift the Nietzschian pathos of distance towards language, the only reality upon which and with which he constructs his image: nostalgia of History, which seems to be increasingly separate from nature, and fear of violation, which is implicit in the experimental initiative – the only one that is capable of leading him towards creativity through the form of a natural sentiment.

When he creates works with anthropomorphic forms, Pignatelli constructs a formal condition of symbiosis between mankind and nature that allows for the possibility of integration and continuity, a visible flux between organic natural forms and cultural forms represented by mankind, accompanied by tools or weapons. When he makes sculptures of objects or arcane forms, he chooses a plasticity that is highly accentuated in space in order to celebrate the presence of the human or animal object more effectively.

However, all forms have the strength to preserve their identity even outside every frame of reference, abstract bits of material and colour that resist, by virtue of their very inner autonomy, outside any precept of memory.

The “will to power” that underpins Pignatelli’s creativity leads him away from the possibility of considering a work simply as evidence of the imagination, a metaphorical detail removed from a hypothetical totality. This distance provides him with the necessary detachment to empower language with its potential intensity. The sense of pathos is implicit in the artist’s awareness of his struggling to bring language to a formal state that was absolutely inconceivable before his intervention.

The violation of the historical language of art implies the actual fear of the artist who is not fighting phantoms but the pressing need to bring the urges linked to the divine nature of mankind and its evident creative capacity into existence and formal life. The evidence can be seen in the drama facing the artist as he tackles the simple mysterious appearance of the image and the incredulity of the world.

He searches for a possible past that does not seek to celebrate itself but to introduce innovation in the present. This heroic effort underpins all of Pignatelli’s work: he tries to lay down statutes of readability for the whole of his painting and sculpture through the support of a history that cannot be eradicated but can be severely tested through by being used.

In conclusion, Pignatelli violates the existence of language and its optimism by combining a total time that contains the initial time of life and the final one of death, terms that also belong to mankind’s fate. In the tension between life and death, between present and past, Pignatelli detects the time of the resurrection of a language capable of creating the heroic sense of an image. The perishable appearance of flesh is replaced by the fleshy and basic skeleton of a language that lasts over time. This creates the freedom of art and its expansion during a long lasting period of peace.

“A destroyer who adds to existence” (Cioran). This is a good definition of an artist who adds cupidity – covetousness – to the ordinary desire for beauty. Beauty is always the result of nostalgia for an unsuccessful attempt at creating perfection. It implies working through the mourning for a dimension that is hard to achieve and thus yearned for. It is the impulse that aims to overcome the appeased horror created by one’s own imperfection, life or death.

In Pignatelli, the cupidity of art is the practice of excess, reinforced by its own production in the realm of sensibility. It is a sort of imbalance, a deformation achieved through the maximum concentration of form. This is the dramatic side of artistic creation that is not an answer to a question or a response to a social vacuum, but declares and imposes an alternative and a new visible reality that destroys any possible memory of the double through language.

An imperious gesture by the artist clears the field of any appearance that precedes his creative work. He settles down to work with an initial feeling of destruction before inserting the tangible presence of his form into this void.

A new physical and mental space begins to appear: the beauty of neutrality, the appearance of a slow form that is not attracted by the arrogance of rigour or the geometry of pure consistency. In this case, beauty stems from the fact that the imposition of innovation or the elegance of quotation do not exist. If there is any duration in the work, this is due to the ethical duration of action that does not imply improvisation but, if anything, conservation.

Pignatelli wishes to safeguard art and life without overwhelming either of the two. He gives life to a new form of neutrality in which barriers of art for art’s sake or walls of politics do not exist. The aim is to neutralize the arrogance of art and the vulgarity of life by means of constructed forms.

The long lasting nature of artistic form implies a sense of construction that does not wish to be cancelled by a subsequent work nor metaphorically duplicate external reality. Art is the ambivalent movement that plays on presence and absence, contact and separation, eroticism and detachment – approaches that are not conflicting but complementary, underlining a different relationship with reality.

“There is no safer way to escape from the world than art, but there is no safer link with the world than art” (Goethe). This approach encapsulates Pignatelli’s position, a philosophical stance that initially seems to distance itself from things but then adopts them to construct a formal order that designs a new form of reality, albeit through its contamination. The formal order adopted by Pignatelli does not play on pure accumulation or on the presentation of a random assemblage that metaphorically duplicates the quantitative dissemination of external reality. The work takes on a phenomenological rhythm that is immediately contradicted by the substantial order that underpins it, one that does not mean accumulation but a necessary interpenetration, albeit inhabited by unexpected relationships.

In Pignatelli’s work, the formal unpredictability of the work is amplified by the texture of the materials, sometimes by the intentional unsuitability of the combinations, and also by the elaboration of juxtapositions that verge on the limits of geometry. This is because the object cannot be eliminated or become the effect of an appearance, but should be adapted to an imaginative use that, on the one hand, recognizes its tautological presence and, on the other, challenges the apparent passivity of its use. This sometimes leads to an ironically monumental use, its transfer to a different scale, its inverted use between closure and openness, and its decontextualized position. There are no privileged objects in terms of recurrence or affectivity; instead there are states of necessity that determine use according to the desired result.

Form tends to combine elements to stimulate a twofold process of knowledge: one specific form of knowledge regarding the work and another more general one regarding its relations with the world.

The new relationship is not established through the simple difference produced by the unusual combination but rather by the creation of a formal method, made even more striking by the connection of the materials used with the outside world. This connection avoids any easily-created surprise and the resulting sense of astonishment; it becomes an additional challenge for the artist who distances himself and simultaneously intervenes with things by adopting them, facilitating the testing of the new formal order.

According to Pignatelli, art does not involve bringing order to the world but suggesting methods of aggregation that are capable of developing processes of internal and external knowledge. The work is not the result of hardening and paralysis that dry out all forms of sedimentation, but rather of practices of appropriation far removed from the principle of possession: this is the basis of a method that is also capable of giving a method to the life itself of the artist.

This does not mean forcing the artist regressively into the logic of poetics or the metalinguistic coherence of the work but rather establishing the lightness of being within the evident coherence of the work and through it.

The artwork does not involve accumulation, i.e. an object, albeit formalized, placed beside other everyday objects. The order that regulates the work, without excessive severity, has the task of establishing a boundary between two worlds that live together but which, at the same time, are regulated differently.

Pignatelli’s method does not sublimate space through the pure evocation of time but accepts the encumbrance of the object in its thick physicality, enhancing it by juxtaposing it with other forms of physicality that are certainly dissimilar in terms of use.

The artist is someone who adopts a sort of radioactive procedure for contaminating and adopting an everyday object, one which has already become tainted by its historical affiliation. Another transfiguring type of history now affects the everyday object, since it cannot be reproduced culturally. The object preserves its viscosity and often its decoration but is modified and adopted for a transversal use that is only possible for the artist.

However, Pignatelli does not use this approach to redeem himself or atone for history, but rather to trigger formal processes capable of producing signs of resistance in the present that are made strikingly clear by the construction of a visual machine: its functioning consists of individual elements regulated simultaneously by the idea of complexity and unity.

In Pignatelli’s work, time is neither chronological nor linear but relatively circular. History is not archaeology but a cultural legacy made continuously present by the immanence of art. By definition, the flagrant nature of the work eliminates all archaeological distance. In this case, art stems from art. Pignatelli retrieves stylistic icons from antiquity and transfers them from the three-dimensionality of sculpture or bas-relief to the two-dimensionality painting. Thus, Mithridates King of Pontus, The Aegean Nymph and Aphrodite, Heracles, Satyr and Hermaphrodite, Caesar Augustus, Hermes, and The Chariot from the Vatican Museums represent the iconographic basis of Pignatelli’s work designed to create an eternal present in art.

This has led to the central role of the large painting dedicated to Pompeii, specifically to the House of Marcus Lucretius Fronto, which encapsulates the marks of time that transforms everything into ruins, sealed by the creative gesture of the artist.

However, for Pignatelli, painting is not just a means of designing the past but of destroying all temporal and spatial distances in order to create a territory of images overseen by the gaze of the artist himself. His final work is proof of this: an aeroplane, a symbol of modernity, flies above mountains over the artist’s iconographic family. This is the immanence of art, which lies between spatial coexistence and temporal difference.

A.B. Oliva, M. Bonuomo, A. Tecce, F. Vona, Luca Pignatelli, Museo di Capodimonte, Napoli, Arte’m Editore, Napoli, 2014
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