Monography, in Italian language, essay by M. Calabrese, A. Del Massa and U. Mannoni, year 1968, ed. Il Poliedro of Rome

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This is the first Vincenzo Balsamo monography, edit in the year 1968.

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Monography essay


_ ___ __ ______ _ _______ calabrese

   Wraiting about art has always been an effort for me.

   Yet, since I have been the editor of a magazine - which was born half - jokingly -, to the great dismay, maybe, of some of my colleagues, who use about a hundred words, mixed in various ways, to (vainly) try to explain something to their readers, since then I have written about a hundred pieces of art criticism, ending up, beyond my merits, in various domestic and international monographies. (Ihope my presumptuousness can be pardoned, in a world so full of presumptuous people).

   I have always chosen my targets with care, concentrating - just as everybody does - on names which give absolute guarantee: when you write about them, there is nothing to be lost.

   Vanitas vanitas...

   I am just in the mood for confessions.

   It also happened to me, on very rare occasions, to play my cards on some young artist, a hope who, much to my relief, has later on revealed it self wide and clear as an act of faith.

   I will repeat it: on very rare occasions.

   And, notwiththstanding my imperfections (I have so many of them, what a great sorrow for reactionaries) I believe I have always hit the mark.

   I am not a generous person. In fact, if I had to give some ideas about myself, I would say I am rather proud, arrogant, provocative.

   I have made myself bit by bit, with patience and stubborness, like the mules from my distant lands.

   I have received no presents because I have never asked anything of my fellows, who have the habit of relyng on strong shoulders: on those who win, no matter how they win. So, talking of a young man whom no one has dared to talk about with sincerity - except my dear friend Giovanni Omiccioli who is more unconventional that the Aretino - is a thing which will not particularly please those people whose main occupation is writing panegyrics to extol the paintings (let's say) of Domenico Purificato's (a great painter and a sweet friend whom I hold in the greatest esteem) very latest exegete. After all, these are the sort of traps where many university professors are caught, who would do better, maybe, to interest them selves in Dante or the Ptolemaic system.

   I am fully aware of the risks I am running, now, to write about Vincenzo Balsamo's painting.

   But I am also totally sure he will not disappoint us.

   In the general framework of his production it will be possible to discover faults and imperfections of all kinds.

   But this is not sufficient matter to decide that he has nothing to offer and many things to say to the ones who are less fearful, those who can see beyond certain prejudiced stereotypes, built ad usum Delphini.

   I remember one evening in Milan when I, partly because I wanted to be at rest with my conscience and partly because I wanted to measure my attitudes in the field of art criticism, asked Corrado Cagli (an incomparable Master) and my dear, brotherly Alfonso Gatto to examine certain colour prints still smelling of ink from Vincenzo Balsamo's latest production.

   Well, and I beg your pardon for my immodesty, there was full coincidence between out judgements..

   Maybe I wasn't wrong. I am happy in fact of having been the interpreter - in advance maybe - of a reality which was hidden somewhere in the air, by signing this monography of Balsamo's work, which has had the collaboration, more authoritative than mine, of almost all the critics of the Poliedro: from Aniceto Del Massa (the autor of the work on Michelangelo's drawings and the real mainstay of our Magazine) to Ugo Moretti (Viareggio Prize) and Ugo Mannoni (special correspondent for «Paese Sera»).

   I believe in young men like Balsamo, because I have always believed in self-made men who have fought against the wall of conventions, taboos, overbearing actions and the thousand mean things which are so common in our world based on lies and self- interest.

   Balsamo's painting is his tale: an ininterrupted love song for men who, against and despite everything, still believe in something true, beautiful, eternal, as the poetry of colours.

Top                                                                            (1968) Michele Calabrese

_ ___ __ ______ _ _______del massa

This is an extract of the original text.

    His landscape are sometimes based on a sort of naturalism I could call brutal, so devoid of sentimentalism are the frames and the stresses, and some other time they are almost abstract in the tangle of lines and tones where the painter, following his ispiration, has almost drowned, forgeful of reality, seduced by the arabesque which came to life under his brush; these are effects of original intensity and liveliness, but they are not thought of as such and this is the reason why they are artistically and stylistically effective. We know that style must be conquered, it can be obtained only by hard work; then, its presence is unmistakeable even it we can't precisely define it. In this collection, which is selected from the works belonging to a ten-year period, it is easy understand the experiences the painter has lived, controlling his resources and rehearsing together his instruments and his culture; inventions, then, authentic ones, real findings, each one of them characterised by the impulse of giving some sense of reality, half seen, half felt, the synthesis of intarnal labours, supported, helped, matured by a positive faith in the values of painting.

Top                                                                     (1968) Aniceto Del Massa

_ ___ __ ______ _ _______ __ mannoni

   I have always thought that Vincenzo Balsamo was a stranded man in Rome. A visitor, always ready to jump on a train. "Goodbye, I'm going back to Brindisi". Maybe it's his eyes which give you this sensation. Restless eyes which investigate things with mobile melancholy. The eyes of a man who wants to see everything, to suck emotions from the source to blend them with the ones which are in his subconscious and may be glimpsed in his moments of relax: hard, violent experiences. Also externally this man strikes you for the doubleness depicted on his skin, from his features to his clothes: in contact with the glorious revolutionary anxiety of today but linked with the romantic astonishment losing itself in ancestral nights.

   Vincenzo Balsamo was born and grew up in Brindisi. This can be only a geographical reference for people who know our country only on maps or through the monotony of false images given in schools. But I, whose blood is full of the germs I captured travelling across the endless national wound, I think this fact is extremely important. If Verga had been born in Biella, among the growing woods of smokestacks in the Strona valley, he would not have received, in his flesh and spirit, and in such a rending way the story of the destruction of a fishermen's family around which all the life in a village revolves. I am saying this because in Balsamo's oils and monotypes which illustrate with long brushstrokes the theme of Roman landscapes, I have always seen Brindisi's countryside, abandoned to the pressure of secular problems. We can't kill the unhappy man who is inside us. Each of us, before he takes by storm the castes full of sorrowful maidens, has lived his cycle in reality.

   Vincenzo Balsamo became a man in Brindisi. He unconsciously preserves the memories of that land Greece, Rome, Barbarians, Byzantines and Saracens. If the painted in a tance, we would see in his pictures the old walls of the Swabian castle, the amblazoned doors of the city,, Saint Lucy's crypt and the faded tesseras of the great mosaic in the Cathedral. The faces of the poor peasants and the unemployed workers. But Vincenzo Balsamo is a landscape artist and he came to Rome to live and study in the world of international artists. If I had met him fifteen years ago, I would have told him: "Stay at home and paint the history of your people". Now, it's too late. His paintings have titles as 'Porta Portese from Lungo Tevere", "garda Landscape", "The Vicolo della Luce in Rome", "Vico lake landscape".

   There is a sort of grudge in Balsamo's paintings. Critics and artists have felt it. It is his limelight despite the serene experiences in Via Margutta. Balsamo is a landscape artist who was united his quiet original fatalism with the restless curiosity of modern man. He has found the secret ingredient to amalgamate the variety of inspirations which has been transmitted to us by the romantics, the impressionists, the 'macchiaioli' and then by the cubist and the futurist.

   In his paintings, colour is not a phenomenon of light, but a modality of volumes and surfaces. He ignores fashions and trends. He paints impetuously, with wide brushstrokes looking like wounds from whose edges repressed memories come out. Troubled, deeply felt themes are always present, even in shade.

   The painted representation of natural landscape is perfected through congenital suffering in Vincenzo Balsamo's paintings. It is not by chance that the predominant colours, deep blue and the various hues of green, evoke nightmares which it is difficult to tear away from the recesses of our instinct.

   These basic themes are the background and are sometimes blended with the whites made hot by the scorching sun which Balsamo took with him when he left Apulia. They amalgamate with the colours the artist has found in Rome, blazing and shameless, hibernated by time on the ruins covered in ivy and bright flowers.

   If I could change with a simple sentence Balsamo's destiny, I would advise him to write. His paintings are tales. Experiences which have been lived, full of tension. "A Tribute to Mafai" is a bare, essential, sorrowful biography. In his paintings before, during and after the storm there are invisible electric discharges which lose in thundering shivers the perplexed hues of pictorial language. I have never seen a painting the artist would be able to describe in a terribly realistic way the anger of the landless peasants.

   The balance of composition is innate in Vincenzo Balsamo. He can't be diverted by details. They are elements of a general vision caught and reproduced in its essence.

   It is the instinct of the self-taught artist supported by his experience. A man can't communicate with a world of deal people if he doesn't shout loud and Balsamo learnt to shout when he was a child to get his piece of bread. He keeps on shouting in his paintings, because that sharp frenzy is still in him. He is one of those who won't stop, not even when people will buy his scrawls on paper napkins in bars. Is it a goal or a condemnation? I don't think artists can be happy. There is too much sorrow around and those who shut themselves up in their warm placenta lose the sense of life. A simple look at a painting by Balsamo and we understand that the artist has received his wounds. He will keep on painting, with sorrowful commitment.

Top                                                                            (1968) Ugo Mannoni

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