Catalogue essay by E. Di Martino and V. Apuleo
Enzo Di Martino
The two basic expressive elements used by Vincenzo Balsamo are signs and liht. The signs are "docile and
obedient", and sometimes assume an automatic character pursuing forms and figures that seem to acquire
consistencly only when they are "named", or made to appear upon the canvas, by the artist.
Balsamo's expressive intention has nothing to do with fixing static images on the surface of the picture. On the
contrary, he chases after those lines which form the images; images that mingle and then shatter in a constant,
unending and open process.
Reading what happens on the canvas, therefore, necessarily imlies and emotional response that involves both the
artist and the viewer to the same extent.
It is a fantastic game in which many figurative elements can be perceived at a personal level - a face, a micro-
organism, a kite - in a vision that, despite appearances, is anything but non-obiective.
It is, if anything, closer to dream, a place in which the lines of geometry and imagination can exist together in a
harmonious dimension that has no need to justify itself.
The light plays a very significant role in Balsamo's art because it annuls the physical quality of the material-colour
and accentuates the surreal atmosphere within which definitive images appear.
It is clear at this point that Balsamo's formal references move constantly backwards and forwards between his
great historic maters, Klee and Mirò.
I mean by this simply that Balsamo does not ignore the paths that have already been trodden by figurative art. He
grafts onto them his own personal "dream of art", which resides in the emotional flow of the most hidden and secret
reaches of his imagination.
The intensity of this dream is related to the reality of the image that appears. This image, in its turn, must measure
itself against the expressive language that Balsamo is able to organise.
Vito Apuleo writes: "A language that is not satisfied only with what it sees, but that brings together the different
experiences it has of reality, leading them back towards unity through a prismatic reading of the external
It is extremaly relevant to note that all notions of space and time appear to be completely internalised in the work
of Vincenzo Balsamo. It seems to possess a kind of inexpressible self-sufficiency.
The truth is that Balsamo organises his expressive space in such a way as to reveal the actual structure of the
painting. If we look closely inside this structure we can see not only signs and forms but also the conflicts that these
signs and forms have undergone in the process pf appearing.
It is precisely in these conflicts that the interior quality and intensity of the Roman artist's imaginative proposal
apeears to reside.
This proposal is not intended to represent anything. Responding to it is own inner rules it produces a form of
expression that is based essentially upon stylistic or "linguistic" research.
It is paradoxical, therefore, that it should be impossible to "read" Vincenzo Balsamo's work, an art that simply
offers us the chance "to become lost in contemplation".
The variegated texture of colour that accompanies the signs and lines of the work is another emotional field in
which the artist leaves marks and gestures deriving from the most profound reaches of his imagination. Attempts to
decipher their improbable significance lead one straight into a trap. It is a kind of reading that leads nowhere since it
provides no more than a fleeting, reassuring relationship with the work.
Natutally the language of Balsamo's painting is also seductive, since it knows that it must conquer indifference
and the distance that exists between "speaker and listener". But the real relationship that the artist hopes to create is
the disturbing relationship formed by the work of art, closed in upon itself like a kind of question that has no answer
and needs no justification, in an activity during which the artist pays heed to no one.
What is extraordinary, however, is the disturbing way in which the painting reflects us, the viewers, even against
our will, as we are finally forced to come to terms with invisible thing inside ourselves.
The visual experience that characterizes the research of our times continues to use objectual relationships in
perpetual oscillation. This means a perpetual alternation of prospectical urges that cyclically moves from the
image to the concept and vice-versa, with some moments of reflection inclined to connect the extremes of space
left to variants. This movement appears in the sphere of a choice iteration related to the ancient dispute between
the ethic way and the aesthetic way, between mental engagement and linguistic question, to withdraw from nature
this quantity of materc silences and shades and to bring it to the essence of image.
In spite of any hypothesis of death or overstructural annihilation, art shows its wrinkles but prepares itself
in a constant process of generation, adapting to history and following the utopia of renewal.
According to this we find the crossing, the quotations, the passage from metaphisics to expressive attitude due
to a daily spontaneous casualness, characterized by the appearance and disappearance of object-subject
proposed in its strctural organicity aiming to overcome the limit of definition of art as synthesis of feeling and
This involves the idea that in the variegated experience of a world where platonic and aermethic tradition coexist
with magic and theosophy, vitalistic exaltation alternates with existential alienation.
This brings to a polarity of kind of research that alternates the clearness of Mondrian or Malevic forms and on the
other side, looks at the integration between nature and geometry, postulated by Kandinskij and Klee. In the middle
we find Picasso, De Chirico, Duchamp and a Doctor Freud.
This formulation may be recollected to history handbooks but it is undoubtedly true the renewal of linguistic
solicitations in this path suggest itself as a connective element, able to probe a question when requested by the
examination of a contemporary artist.
We will make reference to this interpretation to read the work of Vincenzo Balsamo, not only related to his
pictorial proposition but amid the different stages of this changes. This approach confirms the belief that the artist's
choices grow up in a slow ripening and increasing association to history.
Many changes occurred from the 60's when Balsamo followed a figurative way shaped on naturalistic patterns,
full of materic chromatism insistently bound to landscape visions, expressed with wide, large stroke 'à la tache',
inspired by the old longed faraway South. At those times, Ugo Mannoni wrote about Balsamo "the image of natural
landscape patterns in Balsamo's paintings is brought to perfection by innate sufference. The prevailing colours,
deep blue and different hues of green, do evoke nightmares that live in the instinctual sphere. Those themes are the
setting, impasted by the whites made red-hot by the metaphorical thirst that accompained Balsamo when he left
And they mingled with the new colours the artist found in Rome: blazing and indecent, freezed by time on the
ruins covered with ivy and brillant flowers".
We may underline the mood of this creative season, the sincerity of temporality ruled by the chromatic texture
that spacing, when not didascalic, canalizes where compositive syntax pursues the skeim of strng tones to testify
the trust of the artist in nature.
And this applies to the description of mountain neture open to light as to the slow running of Latium hills in the
rude sweetness of slopes surrounded by silence. We may add to this attitude the tickness of coagulated substance,
sometimes spread and written with semplicity, ad a constant alarm in the realm of reality: a sort of challenge surely
naif and fragile, to the tensions belonging to the artistic research of the period. And this challenge gave way to a
practial knowledge of pictorial means ans expressive aims.
If we consider those landscape again, we discover the particular angle of Balsamo's painting. We may guess
the use of volumes and surfaces, and the dialectics between colour and structure, connecting the different sections
of painting, alternately linked to reproduce, in an elementary way, geomatrical fields, stratifications and
sedimentations directed to complete a vision through permeating light.
In the highest pages of that season, we do not percieve any imaginative story through anecdotes but we give
them the seal of archetypes, the anticipative dimension of his absolute determination of present solutions.
Balsamo creates the most recent proposition, coherent to the same operative order: the growing process
developed in the space and colour organization on the prerimetral space of support. He repeats the formal warp
pursuing the dialectic relationship between sign and colour. He underlines he space gap but he developes the
poetic of abstraction cojugating, in his own way, the integration of nature and geometry postulated by Kandinskij
and Klee, already mentioned, and the general lesson of historical avantgardes. The artist uses the expressive
means of painting with absolute freedom and catalogues data in order to establish a private touch which the
swiftness of optical and prospectical moviment makes dynamic. As a matter of fact Balsamo yearnes for a
dialectical relationship where man, the meaningful element, is still present in spite of his physical absence. His aim
is reached when, in the increasing process of form, the elusive image creates, as a fluenty breath, peculiar
suspensions where his awareness ripes comletely.
Balsamo is conscious of the inner world he expresses and the external materials he works with, and he steps to
a place where he can look in himself and at the past, sure that from a sincere relationship of these components may
rise a general urge able to open new horizons without falling in abused quotations and revival.
The innovating will of avant-garde is his immediate past that permeates a vision evolved in an unusual enlivening
power, never satisfied by simple reality. A power able to give the pure force of simplicity, a sensation of dignity, a
renewed tension to actuality, enlarging the expressive space with experience.
Balsamo assumes the aesthetic proceeding as a behaviour pattern and in his abstract choice, he conveys the
artist's desire to comunicate, to fit his own specific language to the opportunities of dialogue that present time
offers. We may easily refer to Gombrich's thought: "the private, personal, psychological significance of painting is
the only real meaning, transmitted if not to the con-scious world of the onlooking to his unconscious one".
Balsamo previleges this involvement in the perceptive space on sensorial and conceptual basis. He gives up the
new expression of the manierist method and the repetition of optional choices of the new geometry and cold
abstraction. His research aims to globally solve the problem of language.
Language, as he considers it, overcomes appearance and relates various experiences of reality, leading them
to unity through a prismatic interpretation of the outer world. Balsamo defines his vision in the synthesis of multiple
and articulated perceptions, and he avoids an excessive fragmentation of representation. He gives new life to the
concept of duration in Bergon's thought and uses Kandinskij metaphores of vital uncertainties.
Sign, line, colour, light, music are the leading structures of his research. Balsamo uses a method of considering
artistic phenomena as the creative tension recovery which in its vitalistic principles is ready to find roots and
functions amid the hints of artistic experience.
He has the skill to discover the symbolic values of changing forms in fixed spaces and different combinations
and relations. In spite of his rage, ("there is a sort of grudge in Balsamo's paintings" wrote Ugo Mannoni about the
artist in the 60's.) he follows an optimistic language. He must take part in the purpose. He longs for a
Weltanschauung and the vision of the world that does not itself in an unfruitful scattering. He does not oppose a
nihilistic indifference to the nihilism of this century. His choice of observing the world has its foundation on artistic
language as a deep internal necessity that overcomes the monotonous repetition of elemental schemes. He goes
beyond the weak thought' and find the right orientation to disentangle himself among the daily solicitations of the
civilisation of images. He does not try to untie the knots of all avantgarde experiences to determinate a linear net of
relations but he finds some ways where he reassured himself trough the expressions of the "possible".
His recent compositions works on subtle inlays and an abstract geometry that create joints, helicoidal spaces,
volumes playing on psychological and enviroment changes. His path shows a construction arranged on weft and
texture where a strong sign emerges and either cut the space out or cut it diagonally, as a dynamic vision that
produces a junction of figure and icon.
If Balsamo recalls the visual direction through jouful colour hues, light covers the structural models, wraps them in
prospectial space, evokes natural images opened to charming paths. In his lyrical abstraction, the visual production
of Balsamo changes from one painting to another, with a rigotous control on chromatic texture. He runs after the
tension point where neither horizontal and vertical concepts, nor nature and history exist, but, on the contary, a
sketch of signs of an ideal pentagram writes a perfect partiture where strings overhang brass.
In this way he allows a true approach to his painting and avoids the danger of snobbery that a careless reading
may suggest. An option way of operating is the fulfilment of a labyrintical path, a real project that understates his
choices, meditated steps that Balsamo potentially verifies in hispictorial text.
The exaltation of colour that characterizes the new artistic season is meditated. A thick colour brush pulsating in
an handicraft process, in the determination to find exalting artfulness. This art fulness underlines the theorical
presuppositions that give way to visual communication and chromatic and light refraction. Balsamo operates
through the intelligence of the exposition in fragmental poetry, using axiomatic processes. He expands the painting
fields, integrates the same fragments and unifles them in a subtle line. We are witness of a deep meditation on this
painting that overcomes the mood and leads to Klee's thought: "the logical foundation of figurative idea is
determinated by the painting surface and follows its own specific ways". And, "Figurative art never starts from a
mood or a poetical idea, but from the construction of one or two figures, the harmony of colours and tonal values...".
Klee and Kandinskij and Mirò in a way, are the models of Balsamo's attempt to deepen the formal education he
believes in. He is persistent in the research of a language that peacefully complies with the expressive potentiality
emerging from his need of communication.
These symptons, and certainties and vision of the world flow together in the constant evolution that qualifies his
research. His sign writes the story of crossing, a subtler, sinuous, fragile sign that mimes the flight of butterfly, the
whim of clouds, the thread the child tremblingly holds looking at the evolution of a polychrome kite.
Apparently weak, the thread is strong, tight, and ready to create new flight path and win its battle against time.
Courage is always present in Balsamo's experience and his research spontaneously leaded is like a purification
bath that give a new magic energy to tones and volumes. His pages is animated by lines, points, modulations and
waive-motions similar to natural mavements: the wind blowing on high grass, the curve of a rainbow in the air, the
echo oa a bunch of sounds coming from a mental construction perfectly logical. The decorative touch looses
harmony, in the allusive appearance of order where his taste for elegant plays relies upon a prose of melodical
lines and brillant "a solo".
The eleboration and cohordination of these sounds carries Balsamo to a gathering use of joints, a sort of
"collage" or puzzle where evocative, geomatric modules are unceasingly repeated and create fancied and airy
entreaties of memory alternated to some linear resting places where dissonancies are effaced. Centripetal and
centrifugal lines connect crystal fragments and suggestions of colours as produced by light passing through a
window. It is not the evocative and grave light of a gotic rose-window, blazing in the ogival arch of a dark and
mysterious cathedral, but, on the contrary, the joyful light of window opened on the countryside or on the sea, or on
the sweet melancholy of a square at sunset, full of round-about sounds and colours.
Balsamo's painting is a subtle and precious fantasy. It is the outcome of his effort to gently offer the sweet
sensation of time and the natural contribution to a long term project developed on colour stratification that gradually
conquers the page, modifies it and settles till a complete domination of issues. Balsamo transforms the emotional
suggestion of the artist into reflection. He sincerely desires to discover the fascination of material and spiritual
potentialities of a world ridden, only in the excitement of fantasy, of the dull trivialitu of daily life.