For observers Luca Pignatelli’s work generates a field of tension between proximity and distance. His archaeology of forms and gazes evokes the famous 20th-century image of the Angelus Novus that, in the storm, stretches out towards the future with its face turned to the past. For those of us who are waverers, the work tells us of the artist, the icons of Classical sculpture are the memo of a lost and uncanny equilibrium, and the wounds and cracks and lacerations of the city of Piranesi announce the signs of the threat and imminence of the storm.
In the present. And in the contracted and chill shade of the future.
This is my first comment on Icons. The second comment focuses on the artist’s double commitment, the two-fronted nature of his exploration of the space of forms in time. Luca Pignatelli is attracted by the whirlwind of nostalgia and accepts the challenge that here consists in suffering in full the pain of the return to some place of beginning or origins but, at the same time, the artist remains firm and intransigent in exercising resistance to the return of lost forms. We are now inactive witnessing the ceremonial and the rites of citation. We are summoned personally into the theatre of metamorphoses and transformations. Towards the future, with our movable gaze turned to the past.
For this, the lost forms, the images of Classical sculptures, the great male and female nudes, the great androgynous nudes, the masses of large bodies of human and non-human animals, the ambiguous faces of enigma, sidereally remote in time, are delivered to us thanks to the custody of an archivist or a collector of gazes who preserves them, keeping himself at a distance with force and rigor.
Thanks to distance, the artist’s gesture is the gesture that violates forms, that wounds them, lacerates them, establishes movable confines for them, subjects them to an effect of alienation, alters them, playing on the insidious terrain in which variation and invariance lock horns in an endless duel, with at stake a time found again, full of uncertainty and marked by the béance of wounds. Gestaltung and Umgestaltung, as we read in the scene of the Mothers in Goethe’s second Faust.
Let us now, in the third comment, consider more closely Luca Pignatelli’s descent into the risky, friable mean- derings of the archaeological stratification of forms over time. His genealogical recognition of Freud’s fueros. And thus we are faced with the great repertoire of Icons. In the great repertoire there are no objets trouvés. There are images moulded by the double movement of nostalgia and resistance. The icons of Classical sculptures, which are sidereally remote and which summon us into the abyss of times of yore, seem like dead stars generating a gestalt field that attracts and promises bright equilibrium. After all, the light radiated by the Classical survives the dispersal of its source and origin over time. But the icons of Classical form do not persist in the duration without being contaminated and violated.
The price of persistence, also in the world of forms, is proportional to the amount of wounds, of contaminations, of lacerations to which, in order to be preserved, they must be subjected. It is here that the tension between invariance and variation is at its peak. And in the language of Icons Luca Pignatelli tells us that something remains. Something preserves the image of a gravitas and a venustas that have a Vitruvian and, therefore, architectural flavour. Just as the architectures of Piranesi remain, always in the double register of proximity and distance, his views of the urbs and the civitas, defaced and suspended in an interval of time that has the flavour of the lucid logic of delirium.
The fourth comment avails itself of the effects of the artist’s exercise of resistance. It is true: something remains. But let us ask ourselves: in what way, in what form does the something that remains remain? We will respond as follows: the icons remain in the form of wreckage. Or of detritus. After all, memories are made of impressions, traces and vestiges. Thus the exercise of resistance evokes the great musical motif of the archive. And, as Marina Fokidis has observed, the desire for archive is connected to the perceived possibility of forgetting. In any case, archive fever, of which Jacques Derrida has spoken eloquently, exemplifies the desire to return to the origins, “to the most archaic place of absolute commencement”. Nostalgia, as we know, is the pain of return. And the archive is the theatre of memory or, rather, of memories. The icons are as if fixed and suspended, like the beetles or butterflies in the collector’s cases. This, and nothing else, is the collector’s safeguarding of repertories and fragments with his face turned to the past that stretches out towards a future marked by the imminence of the incessant storm.
And here is the fifth comment. As we have said: if there were not the possibility of forgetting and dissipation, there would not be the desire to safeguard nor the compulsion to archive. The imminence of the storm of the Angelus Novus is physically perceivable by the observers who notice the suspension of time in which the icons of Luca Pignatelli are registered. The icons of sculpture and the icons of architecture. The artist knows well that there is no value that is not exposed to the risk of loss and dissipation. And that this is all the more intensely true in times when the shadow of the future is contracted onto our present and it so happens that we perceive something like the dictatorship of the present, which nails us and traps us in our personal and shared destinies. These are the circumstances in which the sense of the past tends to negate itself. The circumstances in which we are induced into a sort of cognitive hypocrisy or sloth. The circumstances in which chatter governs our ways of being together. And we happen to live our lives with the automatic pilot on. Luca Pignatelli’s work is focused on the intransigent rejection of all this. Icons tells us we must not give in. That we cannot seek to leave the never ending enterprise of the attempt to find some Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth, where some Minotaur, threatening and lethal, wanders around in the opacity of meandering.
Icons tells that we have the responsibility to continue, each in his or her own way, in the exploration of the ways, mutable, contingent and situated, of making sense of humanity. One of these ways is that so excellently exemplified by the work of Luca Pignatelli. In his double commitment: in the exercise of nostalgia and in the exercise of resistance. As if to say: here I am, and I cannot be otherwise.
And this connects and renders congruent, in Icons, the multiple and often conflicting dimensions of the aesthetic and the ethical. As if a strict passion for justice were interwoven into the inexhaustible dream of the justness of a world of forms and images that offer us waverers, in the memory of lost beauty, their Ariadne’s thread.