Michele Bonuomo

Luca Pignatelli walks over sheets of paper leaving his footprints as he paces. He explores them
almost as if they were uncharted territory and measures them in great strides, marking out the confines
of a new and mysterious experience. His design moves between the sense of discovery and that of measure:
a secret, unstoppable action that has always fuelled his artistic discipline. On tiny scraps of paper or
huge surfaces – characterised by an intrinsic expressive quality owing to the fact that these materials
are often “found” and not always destined for the purpose – Pignatelli gives form and order to apparent
chaos, which however already holds everything within: past memory, present signs and future hopes. Out
of a magma of seething matter he extracts and solidifies visions that are surprising every time and, when
it requires, he certainly does not lack the courage to destroy them in order to create something else
from the ruins. There is a precise method in his design technique whereby he wants it to be like an open
structure in which an idea becomes a form. And thus Alfred Kubin’s reflections at the turn of the last
century on the deepest meaning to attribute to design, are once again relevant for interpreting the
discipline that Pignatelli is nowadays imposing on himself: “The spirit and will of the artist”, writes
the dream sketcher, “aroused by a mysterious non-human phantasm, formally construct the graphic artwork
in lines, marks and dots, varying the appearance of the vision. At the same time, as if threatened by
spectres, the creator stares at the whirlpool in the river of chaos: snatches of memories, dreams, masks
and monsters emerge on the surface to then plunge back down below. It’s not about reproducing a creation
like this in the attempt to match it, because that would be impossible; it’s about making it abstract,
creating designs capable of transmitting the experiences of the soul observing them in a different way.
Inventing forms and signs is therefore the main task of the construction. The two components of rhythm
and construction come together in every drawing. They totally fuse and can only be distinguished and
comprehended with the mind. They interact like soul and spirit, like heart and mind (…)”. *
Luca Pignatelli touches the paper sheets, glues them, cuts them, crumples them up, scrunches them
up, spreads them out, marks them, colours on them, annihilates them with black and makes them welcoming
via continuous handling that is never satisfied. By doing this his design becomes a sprawling gesture
which creates visions that are never static nor can be reduced to a single definition: meanwhile in
painting a sign, a fragment or an idea tend to set solid in a monumental, domineering dimension; they do
not limit their mutations on the paper sheets. One of his paper sheets will never be completely defined
or finished, because it is actually the continuous movement that makes itself object of a flux which is
shaken up, altered, openly declared or denied via the hands. When you create a design everything is
touched by your hands, and those hands are the mindset and tool of the unlimited metamorphosis that art
has pursued and supported since its most ancient expressions. It is in fact no coincidence that handprints
– the ones among the many left in the caves of Borneo, Patagonia, France or Grotta Pagliacci in Apulia –
are indeed the most ancient representations that we know of, perhaps the first that prove the existence
of human creative desire. It is therefore the hand that identifies and defines art and its creation: “Man
enters in contact with thought through his hands; they dislodge it from its block, giving it a shape, an
outline and a style in writing (…) Art begins with transmutation and then moves into metamorphosis. It
is not the vocabulary of the man who talks with God, but the perpetual reinvention of Creation. It is
invention of materials and at the same time shapes; it has its own physical appearance and mineralogy.
It plunges its hands into the guts of things in order to impress the desired figures on them. Art is first
and foremost artisan and alchemist… In the violence and shrewdness of the spirit these powerful hands
precede man himself… In the artist’s studio the attempts, experiments, divinations of the hand and ancient
memories of a human race that has not forgotten the privilege of handling are written everywhere.” **
Luca Pignatelli’s most secret moods leap about on his sheets of paper: those that were created out
of timeless fascinations that are sometimes identified with the canons of a distant classical nature, and
sometimes with the formal disequilibrium of a contemporaneity open to continuous hybridizations.
Everything becomes solid on his papers in complete liberty: silhouettes cut out from the pattern of a
very distant memory are overlaid in rhythmically spaced lines that mark out unusual geometric shapes,
figures that materialise unexpectedly, like in a shadow play, and which disappear with the same velocity.
Pignatelli keeps working away on the same sheet without putting a brake on his strokes, and if by accident
or by choice he were to have only one piece of paper available he would keep on tormenting it until he
reached a state of mind that is more about obsession than perfection. As we all know, obsession belongs
to art and makes it human; perfection belongs to God and, for this reason, is unbearable. And who knows
if in the end this is not the very path to perfection that is still worth taking… It is certainly the
extreme, solitary path that the proud, mad Frenhofer of Balzac’s tale followed in pursuing his unknown
masterpiece. Indeed the old master worked in complete secrecy for ten years on the portrait of a beautiful
young woman, always the same, and when he finally decided to show it, the eyes of his sceptical students
Pourbus and Poussin saw only a tangled scramble of lines heaped on top of one another. Only the “tip of
a bare foot emerging from that chaos of colours, tones, uncertain shades, a sort of shapeless haze”
escaped Frenhofer’s maniacal eradication of his Belle Noiseuse: yet a delightful foot, a living foot! They
stood awestruck before that fragment which had survived an incredible, slow, progressive destruction.
That foot stood out there like the torso of a Paros marble Venus rising from among the ruins of a burnt
out city.” ***
In Pignatelli’s signs and designs there will always be a vital, brilliant fragment which, having also
escaped destruction, will be the start of another obsession. Yet another new one.
* Alfred Kubin, Disegnatore di sogni, Castelvecchi, 2013, page 46
** Henri Focillon, Elogio della mano, Castelvecchi, 2014, page 17-27
*** Honoré de Balzac, Il capolavoro sconosciuto, Nino Aragno editore, 2012, page 118-119

M. Bonuomo, Luca Pignatelli, Off Paper, Galleria M77, Milano – St Moritz, 2015
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