Vincenzo Balsamo Interview (By: G. Granzotto, Monography, Year 2000, ed. G. Corbelli)
We arrive in Verona to interview Balsamo in June, a hot, sunny Monday that feels like midsummer. His appartment is right in the city centre, in a lovely sixteenth century building.
His studio has many paintings on the walls, others are stacked on the floor, some are finished, many canvasses are under preparation. Balsamo cannot keep still: ha shows us his latest work and his early, figurative, works, he explains his ideas and shows us through each room.
He worries that there is enough light from the large windows for the photographer to work: we must photograph this painting and that painting, as each work is the clear representation of a well defined period in his work.
"You see, I have opened and closed five distinct periods in my paintings. I tend to experiment a great deal and when I find the right path the past and what I have done until that time no longer interests me. I move forward according to what I feel inside.
Looh here: the nebulous work of the 70's, the decompositions, filaments using an air-brush, these are seldomly published works and have never been shown because they are extremely private. They helped me to find the path I am following today, and I didn't like them at the time...
The same applies to sculpture. This year I am also interested in sculpture, but I must still study, understand what I really want. That will come in time, I am in no Hurry."
Therefore the synthesis of signs we see today is the outcome of all these tests?
Also, but above all it derives from what I feel, from my personal journeys. I believe strongly in research. A few years ago I was painting things that were forerunners of the things we are seeing today, but I didn't understand them ta the time because I was still uncertain of where I wanted to go...
Yes, a synthesis, now I am increasingly projected towards synthesis. For example, today I am synthesising and analysing the thecnique of cubism and futurism, and I am developing everything according to my own personal interpretation. The most important discovery for me was that of Futurism, and I matured with Braque and Picasso. Nonetheless I must state that I have never been interested in specific movements and trends, I have never drawn inspiration from anyone. Perhaps only during the 50's and 60's when I lived in Rome and mixed with the artists of the Roman School, but I was young, and the young, we know, always to others.
The Roman period...
Ah, that was the best time of my life.
His eyes light up, and he gives me one of his rare smiles.
Zizzari (Angelo Zizzari, the Gallery owner) had opened a gallery in Trastevere, right in Trastevere, in a place where no-one would have dreamt to open a gallery. Mafai and Vespignani lived close by, and Monachesi, Moretti, Vangelli, Penna would arrive in the evening. Sometimes Pasolini would also arrive, and we would talk about art, we would argue and we would experiment.
Then Zizzari moved to Via Margutta, and became a "Marguttiano" while in 1963 I was chosen, with others, to represent Italy in Paris. To me this was like a dream, I saw the Impressionists and the Fauves, Picasso...
And also Klee and Kandinsky, I assume.
Are you asking me whether I drew inspiration from Klee and Kandinsky? You see, these matches are due mainly to the critics: would you believe that I do really like Klee. I found Mirņ and Kandinsky rather inspiring because of their use of colour, but in reality the colour derives from my closeness to the Roman School.
Perhaps I cannot be classifed as part of history of art, I am myself, that's all.
Are you a pure painter, one who lives through his paintings?
Certainly. Each work contains something of myself: there are Neapolitan songs, my dreams, music... my Mediterranean origins, for example, which determine the light that inundates my paintings. The white houses, the sea air, these are things one always carries around within oneself. I have painted paintings that have never been shown, that are almost white, because I carry the brightness of Brindisi inside myself. I live for my work. I have no friends. I am happy being alone and isolated. I work fifteen hours a day without getting tired. I do not want to seem proud, but there will never be any false Balsamo's.
No-one can copy the work I do: the preparation of the canvas is so long and meticulous that I challenge anyone to try it.
Could you explain how a painting develops.
It is a long process, I take days just to prepare the support.
I must first do the priming work; let's call sponging, with special brushes, this is followed by a netting that gives that sense of divided application: then another sponging. Then the canvas must be cleaned, and all impurities removed. Then I begin to draw with extremely fine brushes, in order to create a network of lines that grow... or dissolve. Today I tend to de-materialise signs.
You spoke about Divisionism...
Yes, Previati and Segantini. I like Segantini very much, he is one of the great Italian painters that, in my opinion, still have a lot to say. But mine is not proper Divisionism, I do not take the theory of decomposition of colour literally. I use this technique in my own way, without being a slave thereof. It helps me to give vibration to the whole.
We are speaking about painters you admire. Are there any amongst your contemporaries?
Burri, Fontana, Veronesi, Radice. But I like Dorazio best of all, due to his ability of animating colour and his technique. I think that Dorazio is still underestimated in Italy.
One last question, Why do you never gives titles to your work?
I have already explained this a number of times... and perhaps he would like this to be the last.
I do not title my work because I want everyone who looks at a painting to see in it only that which attracts him. A title would force the viewer to see through my eyes, and that is precisely what I do not want. Human beings are different, we have taken different paths; I do not want to impose my own experiences on them... It is enough to know that they feel something when they see one of my paintings.