Monography, in Italian and English language, essay by E. Crispolti, F. Boni, G. Montini and R. Torti,
Year 1992, ed. G. Corbelli of Brescia

"Not available-out of print"


This monography, of 216 pages published in year 1992, it contains a series of essays that have been published in the previous years. The essays have stayed brought again following the exact chronological order of printing, you could read them choosing the Critic that takes an interest mostly.

Renato Torti   Enrico Crispolti   Francesco Boni   Gigi Montini
  Enrico Contardi-Rhodio   Giovanni Omiccioli   Angelo Zizzari   Sergio Rossi
  Enzo Di Martino   Marcello Venturoli   Michele Calabrese

A letter to a friend

Dear Enzo,

                    the occasion of your anthological exhibition, underlined by a monograph on your long career as an artist, written by one of our best critics, fills me with the nostalgia of distant memories, always present to me.

We mwt by chance in the middle of the 1950s at Brandi's, the frame-maker and craftsman of Trastevere, where we had brought our pictures. You were little more than a boy, just arrived in Rome from your hometown, Brindisi and you already conquered - it was simple, it was possible, then - a luminous studio overlooking the plane trees of Lungotevere degli Artigiani. It was just walking along the Tiber - we were so young, and I a little older than you - without much money but rich in dreams, we met the first important people of our life: Renzo Vespignani, Antonio Vangelli, Ugo Attardi... who, like us, stayed up late looking for inspiration. It was still a naive country, Italy, with the open wounds of the post-war period, but already rich in cultural ideas, for example, painting 'en plain air' on the Roman outskirts. From those walks came the first ideas for landascapes which are now in the history of Italian painting. And which had been earlier 'landscape of the soul' the gasometer, the bridges on the river, the trellis of Purfina.

Then the 1960s came and Trastevere, so authentic, so untouched, became the Roman Montparnasse, much better than the sophisticated, conventional elegance of Via Margutta and Via del Babuino which attracted the curiosity of foreign tourists. The 'real Rome' found its shelter there, the artists chose it as their citadel, transforming its streets into a sort of 'moveable feast' of creative pulsions and chromatic emotions.

A young man, a crazy, reckless talent, Angelo Zizzari, after a short apprenticeship at Brandi's, without a lira, opened the 'Bottega', in Piazza Gioachino Belli, which we proudly defined the first art gallery in that area but which was only a workshop for frames (this was needed for his survival); it made us artists - we were all poor - very happy because we had found a public nail to hang our pictures on. Angelo was 'a man of the night' and as it fatally happenes in creative and unpretentious years the 'Bottega' slowly became the aggregation point for an extraordinary slice of mankind: watermelon sellers, carters, idlers, innkeepers, whores who constituted the real essence of 'romanità'. There we played cards, drank wine and 'were doing art'.

How sweet, romantic, eccentric those years were; when the evening arrived, we saw the likes of Luigi Bartolini, Carlo Levi, Ugo Moretti, Mario Russo, Sante Monachesi, Toto Vangelli, Pie Paolo Pasolini who caught there so many intuitions for memorable pages on the despairing mankind of the outskirts. Sandro Penna was there, too and looking at the public toilet in front of the shop, he wrote the famous 'forbidden' poem: "The handsome boy is coming out of the public toilet...". And then the great Mario Mafai who, talking with us, decided to paint, as an interlude for his red-hot landscapes and dead flowers the fascinating series of the 'brothels', in decadent slendour. Talking about that, how can I forget the exhibition he organized at the Bottega and which it would be impossible to do now, not only for its completeness and quality, but also for the enormous costs it would require. Well, Angelo Zizzari, who should have been the custodian, went after a woman and so the gallery was left open with its treasures, protected only by the affectionate but occasional attention of the neighbours. It was our way to be young. And free. "Sorcerer's apprentices", I, you, Giuseppe Bartolini, Carlo Quattrucci, Gilberto Filibeck, Enzo Tilia, Rodolfo Guglielmi, Salvatore Provino, the Antonaci brothers - we watched in enchantment the exhibitions at the Bottega and the daily discussions of the 'masters'. These often ended up in violent quarrels which looked like irrimediable breaks: the day after, it was peace again, as if nothing had happened. Extraordinary lessons of life and art, for us.

The passing of the years and the arrival of easy money made society and our world more vulgar and gave our ideas a bourgeois turn. The naive Roman bohéme dissolved and the friends separated. Some of us met seccess while still alive. For some others it came too late. But historical memory shows that each of them has been a fundamental presence in the Italian cultural panorama of our century.

Now it's up to you. And success maybe is a negligible thing for one like you with this experience of life and tenacious devotion to art.
What else can I say? Remember that my wishes this time, and always, have something more: thirty-five uninterrupted years of trust, complicity, love.

                                                                                                                       Genzano di Roma, August 1992, RENATO TORTI


Enrico Crispolti


Enzo Di Martino was certainly right when he wrote, a couple of years ago: "Balsamo's 'expressive project' does not consist in fixing static images on the surface of a painting; it wants to chase the 'forming lines' which continually interlace and break up in reality in an open, endless process". However, the chase takes place on a dimension which is elastic but is anyway a surface, as if it were a revealing screen where we can observe, as in a sort of monitor, the forms interlacing and breaking up, in their evidence of meaningful, formal pictorial construction, in a condition of substantial motility.
Since the middle of the 1980 Balsamo's pictures have been based on costant foundations. On the surface, which is elastic but actually insurmountable in the meaningful plotting which formally and chromatically constitutes it, giving it a frontal dimension, and which can be surmounted only as development in space, mentally imaginable rather than visually perceptible, a mobile, dancing plot, or better embedding, appears: it is made of formal shapes, characterised by their supple linear profile, curvilinear but which is sometimes exalted towards the clerification of evocative symbolic primary hints, whose function is to determine the meaning of the image which the plot or embedding of shapes inevitably assumes. This is not ubiquitously expanded on the whole surface but softly oriented towards the centrality of the event which is both formally and chromatically the protagonist if the scenic fiels, given by the weft, tissularly uniform to the surface itself.
The surface, on its turn, is not seen as compact bottom but as detailed, orthogonal, chromatic weft, able to offer to the very strcture of the protagonist image the basic colouristic intonation, getting lighter, or darker or red, but also becoming the internal body of the formal shapes graphically dafined in their changeable profiles. Above all, it generates, through the chromatic quality of the signs, the endogenous brightness which the variable (even if, from time to time, tuned in a rather univocal way) chromatic quality of the orthogonal plot exalts and transfers to the formal shapes, offering them the texture of internal consistency.
This tipology of the foundations of his work gives Balsamo's pictures the quality of the proposition, aggregative process, substantially an open one, continually reformulated, even if in analogous, clearly seen directions. We are then offered the place of a frontally formalized image, the winking cadence of a confidently organic analogy, and exactly a possible space in memory, which is collective in its hints, not inclined towards individual research. A dimension of memory which is completely, so to speak, decanted, separated from every fortuitous referential definition and pushed forward as in a sort of hinting inventory of the possible archetypes of assumed basic naturalness, obtained through lyricism but also playfully. This happens without any primitivist displacement, on the contrary through their decided formal acculturation creating fables, and their recitative designation, almost a routine, but never extinguishing the happy freshness of authentic evocative invention.
Actually, Balsamo, more than a space of memories, specifically suggests a space, or better a screen of the activities of memory, as the well ordered and not unforeseeable manifestation of possible lyrically evocative activity, as a fantastic, spontaneous process, and a natural one, therefore continually reoffered as the vital imaginative flux appearing from time to time in new combinations. Space or screen of memory as the field of manifestation, recovery and reproposal of the imaginative activity which is anthropologically necessary, therefore of a fiels of activity which is specifically poetic, brought back to its sources against the referential, detailed description of further narrative developments. We could difine it as the institution of a contact with the inexhaustible flux-which for Balsamo is somehow intransgressible-of lyrical, fantastic evocation as structural activity, anthropologivally vital.
It is not then imagination freely evoking but, we could almost say, evocation of daydreaming: it is directed combinatorily to the construction of a sort of phenomenology of fabulous possibilities within a basic language of signs using elementary-but at the time sophisticated - hints referring to eventful plots (as the well defined result of the motility of costant ingredients).
Also, a sort of formalized objectivation of something as conscious oneiric activity, scenically using the process of aggregation and automatic development, but within the limits of a precise, unbreakable 'expressive project' bearing witness to unbroken activity . continually reproposed in its constitutive elements - of imagining the 'forming lines' of formal-graphical combinations whose foreseen unforeseeability outlines, as if on a monitor screen, the rhytmic physiology of the pulse of a vitally imaginative activity, which is necessary both for the artist and the person who contemplates his work and is offered such testimony.
Hence the constant analogy of principle in Balsamo's pictures, since the middle of the 1980s: it has been stubbornly chased and somehow guaranteed, in an inventory of possible results, predictably endless. It is continuos, conscious reinvention we are talking about, certanly not repetition, that would be even statistically not provable. In fact, Balsamo monitors microscopically the formal processes of a sort of fantastic physiology, reinventing every time the chromatic set which characterises its intonation.
Some critics have talked of his debt towards Klee, not a literal one, but seen as a basic introspective option. In fact, if we examine the level of signs and formal solutions, the most relevant suggestions seem to come from Mirò (in some particular cases from Kandinskji in his mature years). But Balsamo's phenomenology of pictorial work doesn't share with Klee the formative principle, unconditionally genetic; on the contrary it asserts the rights of an elementary formal combinatory principle, all of his own.
I believe however that Balsamo owes something to Mirò's lesson: in particular the represented extroversion of detailed formal descriptions with their symbolic hints which characterise all the images he has given us. On the other hand, these are devoid of poetic mystery and cherged with evocative allusiviness which has a foundation more natural than psychic (Vito Apuleo in a 1990 text recalls "the flight of a butterfly, the whims of the clouds, the thread which the baby's hand holds while anxiously watching the movements of his multicoloured kite"; and similarly De Martino talks "a face, a microorganism, a kite". These 'forming lines' constituite on the surface - plotted with signs in a very regular way and luminously activating the endogenous potentialities of a 'display', a pictorial one in this case - from time to time the unrepeated phenomenology of possible narrative itineraries, which are equivalent to the revelation of the microprocesses in motion of an imaginative physiology, chancing colour every time according to different possible cadences of humour, evocative, joyful or mediative, sometimes even almost dramatic.
Balsamo's pictures are not then pages from a diary, an accidental, chnce diary, of course, but, I would like to say, something as prearranged graphical-formal performances, at the same time consciously improvised: a sort of free but also oriented music derived from free jazz, creating a sound which is rather predictable but always different and surprising. Those 'forming lines' constantly interlace their narrative events in a sort of mental biomorphism, episodes from an inexhausted tale, taken to its extreme towards an imaginative formal synthesis; this is part of the nature of testimony, present in all of Balsamo's paintings of the existence of naturalness of fantastic activity which he can catch in his private interior hearing and which he propoes, iconically ordered, as the index of a possible imaginative displacement, lyrically rewarding, which can be shared by his reader. In this tale, inside the basic humoral intonation chromatically determined by the colour quality of the underlying plot of signs, he is able to develop different suggestions, not necessarily, it seems to me, with lyrical, sentimental, evocative references but with allusive combinations (but they also can be found in an inventory) inside which we can observe the work of subtle irony. Widw itineraries of linear interlaced profiles which, if they penetrate the formal hints, substantially biomorphic ones, are then detailed in episodes with a sharper outline, decisive under the narrative profile. These are itineraries which clearly Balsamo determines using functionally a process os automatic invention, giving however this other margin only the combinatory formal freedom, in order to obtain a scenical, choral proposition of the aggregation ot the image, eventually solved in the thickening of the dislayed formal plot, detailed in decisive occasions of symbolic allusiveness. Hence the appearance of "unspeakable self-sufficiency" that the paintings of Balsamo's latest phase (which has been going on for quite a long period of time now) constantly and stubbornly show. I think De Martino is right, once more, when he advises us: "Paradoxically, the possibility of 'reading' Vincenzo Balsamo's work does not exist; we only have the chance of 'losing ourselves in its contemplation'".
About 1985 Balsamo's research reached the structuration on which it has consolidated in the subsequent yaers, and up to now: drawn plots, interpenetration of the shapes of evoked images. Just before that there had been the meeting, a decisive one, I believe, for his future orientation, with Klee's introspective formal universe. He had got there through his work on the dialectical composition of formal shapes, sufficiently compact in their chromatic principles, expanded on the surface . This happened in the early 1980s, specifically underlining the final conquest of a space in memory, an evocative one, which had begun to appear in Balsamo's research at the end of the 1970s (about 1978): to be precise, it was a particular and rather irregular experience of indirect marks (from ropes, above all) inside a pictorial texture entirely based on the use of the spray gun (without any effective relationship with Cagli's experiences, which are only instrumentally similar) resulting in hints of images, signs etc. inside an implicit spatiality in reference to memory.
If the experience of the early 1980s with its pagination interpenetrated with forms to create evident images offered an archetype of the modality of the composition's framework to subsequent paintings, where, however, the formal entities were graphically lightened, giving up the task of their chromatic substantation to the basic plot and its signs and colours, nonetheless a distant but significant precedent - indicating the willingness to identify the substance of the pictorial surface with the graphic plot, in a phase of Balsamo's research which was still esperimental - had appeared, in a still earlier period, precisely in the 1977 group of paintings, based on the pulverization of microsigns on the entire surface, singling out subtle itineraries and tangles. These experiences were leading to the decisive maturity of his work, beginning with the middle of the 1980s.
Remote but significant premonition, one for the definition of the mentality necessary foe the composition's framework, the other for the tissular attention which constitutes the actual pictorial surface. In the middle of the 1970s Balsamo had reached the phase of non-figurative propositions, creating pure formal entities, predominantly curvilinear in their profiles, completely laying them on a plane (he titled them Abstract Composition and numbered them). Behind him he had fifteen years of figurative painting, which had shown, at the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s, some 'roman' link, in his cursive practice (especially portraits), chromatically tapered in its local attention but still in a vague contact with tonal culture. Then he was an expressionist in other portraits and in the landscapes (some of them Tuscan) of the early 1970s and beyond, up to the square still lives, more carefully constructed chromatically standing out even in wide, almost deliberately rough drafts (about 1967). Almost a 'neo-fauve', but with more care, in others between 1968 and 1970, while in his syntetic landscapes he relied more freely on the constructivity of colour (maybe with some suggestion from Mafai's last figurative phase). At the beginning of the 1970s the framework given by postcubist synthesis provided him with a landingplace on the plane in still lives (1972 and 1973), with flat areas, curvilinearly encircled, and with rather rough, very bright colours. This is the presupposition for the non-figurative solution which appears in his work in 1974, almost in 'concrete' terms, of a pure formal framework, constituting the compact image standing out on the background. The image is built through the interpenetration of formal elements, its chromatism is very bright, but there are still some inflexions of the tonal echo.
But these are still experimental years for Balsamo: in 1976 he suggests a scattered definition, through signs and matter, of the entire surface, up to some black matter paintings, very suggestive, whose title is "Decomposition": there is some evident attention towards Burri's early metter paintings. Surface made of matter, uniformly black, where fragments of objects or matter, again, emerge. A very interesting moment in Balsamo's work, even if a bit unrelated to the itineraries of recent research; unless we want to see in that an exercise in the possession of the entire surface and a test of the scattering of the most signifacant signs. The sudsequent year we have the pulverization of microsigns, always on the entire surface, and 1978 the experiments of surface with the spray gun: indirect marks, hints of image signs etc. and the conquest of a dimension of geometry.
We finally get to the experiences of the early 1980s, the trace of the constitutive combinatory modality based on plot and embedding leading to the better known tipology of Balsamo's work, since the middle of the 1980s, whose original characteristic we have tried to illustrate.
I met for the first time on the walls of a stand in The Arte Roma exhibition. I was impressed by evident margin of their singularity, even if within a framework of apparent decorative challenge. But reading Balsamo's pictorial texts in a decorative way means not to understand substantially the sense of their irreproachable inventive variety of experience, singled out and not repeated within a constant modality of presentation. We can consider this as the choice of a tipology of controlled and ordered monitoring of unrepeated manifestations of fantastic physiology, subtly allusive, fabulously poetic. These are not variation of the same formal framework; they are the continuous, stubborn reinvention of possible monitored itineraries, the iconic signs of his imagination, captiously evocative in its own way.

                                                                                                                           Rome, June 1992, ENRICO CRISPOLTI


Francesco Boni


Almost five centuries have passed since Leonardo wrote: "Experience, the mother of all certanties"; in his time the illusion of certainy was still possible, while nowadays everyone who has some artistic experience, some knowledge of the creators of culture and is in the abit of meditating upon the things he has done, studied, thought or written knows that arts and sciences may advance only in the conscience of their own uncertainty. The great philosophies of our time (Existentialism up to Heidegger, Oxford analytical school, Frankfurt school) the structural, linguistic, communicative, psychological, political, anthropological analyses are stammering. In the field of science every year a new theoretical hypothesis refures the wonders of the previous formulations. The first uncertain, uneasy steps of the astronaut - impressed on our visual memory-become the symbolic image of our self, of man, at the beginning of the new era we are going to live in: this is the moment when the new world becomes enchantedly wonderful because it is to discover.
Vincenzo Balsamo's artistic activity is perfectly inserted in this phase of thought, because it finds its reasons in the theoretical conscience of the past and in the observation of the uncertainty of the future, to eventually explode in a painting of action which is exalted in the discovery of a new, always changing reality. The barriers Pavese loved to place between the known land and the one to be discovered have collapsed, our assuptions are more and more uncertain. Only one thing is absolutely real, perenially young, always in the avant-grade: art. A prehistoric graffito, a protogeomatrical vase, an egyptian fresco, a window in Chartres, the works of Giotto, Masaccio, Piero Della Francesca, Giovanni Ballini, Raffaello, Tiziano, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, De Chirico, Pollock, Warhol, Festa, I am leaving the living ones out, have one thing in common, they are absolutely real, they are obsolutely beautiful, in the sense that nothing in them is improvable, notjing in them is not valid anymore, while the sciences which were assumed to be based on reality, on logic, on verifiability, are continually refuted. This introduction about the eternal youth of art and the progressive decline of scientific notions, if one believes them to be unchangeable, was necessary before talking about the objectives, the working methods and the results obtained by an artist like Balsamo who is the point of arrival of what I have been saying, if we interpret him historically and the starting point in the declaration of the creative doubt; I also want to talk about the very close relationship between aesthetics and poetics in him.
Aesthetics in the discipline which deals with beauty and art as seen from outside, poetics is the discepline which deals with them as seen from 'inside'; the first is the domain of philosophers and critics, the second of the artists; the first is an instrument of knowledge, the second of work. In Italian culture aesthetics normally tends to establish the relationship of art with the structure of communication, either including or excluding it or, which happens more often, putting it aside. All these are vague, strange theories if compared with the scientific ones, Actually, a technical product is always the exact result of some scientific theories while a work of art anly partially respects the poetic theory which forms it. If it reflected the theory faithfully it would be reduced to an illustration of that teory and so would lose all its validity as a work of art.
Balsamo is perfectly aware of all this and, quoting Gide he correctly maintains that is, the theory of an artist, his poetics, is born as a meditation on the new work which has just been done and partially as a project for the one to be done. If an artist, when he begins his new work 'uses' a theory, be it 'his' or anybody else's, he surely is a mediocre painter, maybe an academician, certainly nothing more than an illustrator; of course he must take theories into account, but only partially, aware of the fact that the essential elements will come from inside, from his constant creative ability which distinguishes him from any other living being. That is the reason why Balsamo paints, the need to do, the need to express himself through sign, perfectly aware that all theories are temporary, non-dogmatic, something to believe and not to believe in at the same time.
There is a question now which Balsamo ask, and we with him: how can art remain valid while the poetics which were behind it have partially declined? Almost nothing of Piero or Leonardo's theories survives, except from a historical point of view, and we can't use much of Kandinskji, Malevic, Mondrian or Seurat's theories, today, and despite his vast, intelligent work as a teacher, not a single great artist was formed at Klee's school. This is yet another demonstration that from theorical knowledge only a mannered painter can be born, in the best case a very talented one like Tintoretto who wanted to combine Michelangelo's technique of drawing and Tiziano's technique of colour. Actually art infinitly exceeds any form of theory and lives in the practice, in the creation of every artist who paints with authentic inspiration and is able to show his autonomous 'self' through his complete control over technical instruments. Balsamo is perfectly aware that the only real improvements an artist can obtain, after the phase of ispiration, lie in his mastering of technique acquired through work, study and above all active experience. Only in this phase tha artist has the greatest liberty and he can tell advance from easy tricks, the ones done only to try something new. It is easy to mistake 'style' for 'originality'. Style is a difficult conquest, it doesn't eliminate the past, it goes beyond it, originality can he mistaken for fashion, it does not advance, it only varies, and often it is result more of a theoretical project than of intuiton and this is probably why our world based on mass consumption likes it so much. Balsamo is a painter and a man of our time and he has lived these problems in first person, and he has interiorized them until he has been able to show an autonomous conscience. When we write about painting and specifically about this kind of problems and questions, which are the essence of Balsamo as a painter, the things we say can be different and all justifiable, the only thing which it would be impossible to say is that his art doesn't provoke 'debate'; it does, because it proposes fundamental elements in the artistic debate. It is certain that his painting can be considered absolutely 'different' from the painting which is now celebrated in fashionable salons and at the same time, his expression, so intense and lively, extraordinarily full of substance, ideas, intelligent links between the past and the present, is totally inseparable from the conscience of our sensibility. Painting then which is sincerely rooted in the 'feeling' for the past, even if it derives, through the filtre of a sharp, expert sensibility, from the present circumstances of existence, which are maybe eternal. Maybe this is the reason why his images, his statement which is at the same time spontaneous and meditative, his way to conceive painting, fresh and thoughtful, provoke 'debate' and appear totally 'different', maybe 'out of place' in comparison with the great majority of present yime painting. The reason for this is that Balsamo doesn't paint because he likes to be liked, and even less he wants success fot its own sake; his anxiety to communicate and also the circumstances of his career, the public destiny of his work and his research, are entrusted to a different rigour, more intimate jealous and secret, as it has always happened and still happens with every true, authentic artist, in every age and culture.
They are entrusted, that is, to the solid poetic substance of the image, that wonderful, yearning balance between deftness and intuition, creativity and fullness of feeling which distinguishes the work of a real artist. And they also feed on a deep pictorial culture, on the loving, careful glance towards some great masters of our recent past whom Balsamo, a precocious artist, has always admired, in a relationship with their works which has never been bookish or notional. A relationship (very far away from the deliberate use of 'quotations' typical of some of the present vacuous discoverers of painting) which has been deeply present in his images and in their crackling tactility, giving their contribution to the definition of the peculiar, unrepeatable flavour of their charm, of their penetrating ability to create suggestion. The miracle consists in creating such subtle, new balance, but not letting this act become abuse, a mere operation of language, that is the result of a programmatic stylistic project, and as such emphasized. On the contrary, the interwining of colours and space, the luminous impressions and their connections, the rhythms of composition, the solid pigments, flow and are defined from the author's imagination to the surface of the painting, always with extraordinary naturalness, in the fullness of a voice which is now mature. We can say, in a certain sense that Balsamo's secret fascination is exactly here, in the ancient heart of his chromatic enunciation, in his roots of poetics and sensibilities, rediscovered and given new life on the basis of the colouristic and intellectual experiences of our century. Art is never for its own sake in Balsamo, it is not consumed in mere aestheticism; it becomes the pulsating fruit of throught and action, translated by the artist into a sign as the synthetis of a poetic relationship between things and our existence.
Art doesn't have fixed times or places, it lives in its interior 'duration', it has a basic form of morality which constantly appears on the surface and is reformed in all circumstances of human reality. That's why Balsamo's operating terms live together, new and amcient at the same time, deeply autonomous but also integral part of a sedimentation of the continuity of an itinerary which started a long way off. Yet, the present time strongly lives in its 'connections' - in fact, it is their barycentre, the permanent reference of insipiration, a reality which is not only objective but is rather the synthesis of our interior life. It's the present time living in the mind, made of domestic, daily things; the ability to write in a diary the effects and emotions of a single day, as the small events which punctuate the author's life in his contact with the world we live in and which we can find in the fears and anxieties we feel as men of this century. Above all, this present time, this topicality is able, thanks to an intimate poetic virtue, to accept large mataphors, complex echoes, general feelings. So the rooms and the objects, the family, the moments of the day, the usual places of existence become a pretext to reflect and revisit autobiographically one's life and, at the same time, they develop into traces of a practice and expression of an existence emotionally aware of universal complexity.
So, effections and worrie, memories, warnings, dreams and abandons quietly circulating among these signs and colours in their tender conscious lyrical solidity, always speak for those who can lend an ear to an intense, vibrant, suggestive language of life and poetry.

                                                                                                                  Fiuggi, 2 settembre 1992, FRANCESCO BONI


Gigi Montini


"By suprematism I mean the supremacy of pure sensibility in figurative arts.
... It seems to me that for public and critics alike, Raffaello, Rubens, Rembrandt and others' art is only the concrete expression of innumerable 'things' wich have made the real value held in inspirational sensibility invisible. Only the admiration for the virtuosity of the objective representation has been left alive"...
These words come from Kazimir Malevic's theoretical work 'Suprematism as the model of non representation' published in 1920.
The question we must ask after such a statement is clear enough: in painting, what is the most important thing, representation or implication? Which one is more beautiful, the technically perfect work or the one where we can read hints and contents? This sounds like an unsolvable dilemma, also because differences in taste, culture and sensibility in each one of us make things even more complex.
Let's then formulate our problem in a different way but keeping in mind that our purpose is to find a new way to paint but without absolutist positions. Drawing and colour are among the fundamental elements of a painting, but they have very different functions. The first is determinative if you are representing something, the second if you are creating. With the first you can attain apoint of perfection which limits evolution, with th second you have the chance to work in an endless range of possibilities, without the need to represent anything.
This has been the choice, a mature one, made by Balsamo. He had the talent which allowed him to paint traditionally up to a faultless realism, but he has set his free from graphic details and has begun to build volumes with a tonal definition; as a great lover of painting, he understood that its evolution had to be towards colour; with it and his exceptional sensibility he was able to perform the great innovations he had in mind.
Wide brushstrokes in courageous combinations, first, gradual softening, thick networks then bring Vincenzo Balsamo to that painting which is typically his and which, maybe unconsciously, becomes the most beautiful, complex and articulate application of what Fillia - the great painter and historian of Futurism - defines as orphism, that is: "the colour as subject, plastic dynamism, musicality in the picture". Colour is the only actor of Balsamo's work, and even more markedly and pleasantly so because it is everywhere evoked with a sort of superimposed 'pointinisme'. Dynamism is obtained with the free, airy interlacing of a thread which is as a trace left on canvas by the incostant, soft flight of a butterfly: this plot determines innumerable modules where there are endless tonal variations.
The musicality which derives from it is always harmonic: sometimes with silvery rings, sometimes with sonorous timbre, or again with solemn largos.
I think that a definition of Vincenzo Balsamo as a painter who is able to paint in a unique and inimitable way is not too bold. I also think ha has solved Malevic's problems and explained Fillia's concepts in the simplest and clearest way: being a painter. He has matured and refined his natural talent, he has experimented and looked for techniques, has made real what his curiosity, sensibility and imagination have suggested him.
Who knows what we actually see, we who think of blue, red and yellow as pure, simple colours? Who knows, because the variations in colour are endless, and Vincenzo Balsamo's passion and imagination are endless: a painter and an artist who in colour and with colour has found an unusual language, estraordinarily explicit and suggestive.

                                                                                                     Madonna di Campiglio, 10 August 1992, GIGI MONTINI


This is the critical text, by Conthardi-Rodio, of presentation for the exhibition at the "Il Camino" Gallery of Rome in 1961.

At the age of twenty-six this sincere, fervent artist has proved to be in possession of that maturity which others can reach only much later and with greater difficulty.
Vincenzo Balsamo was born in the province of Brindisi and came to Rome when he was a boy; he studied at the Art School of Via S. Giacomo, where his temperament needed more restraint than guidance. This young artist belongs to the group of born artist, where the inclination towards Art is congenital and who are irresistibly 'possessed' by Art, who must live for Art, even if this costs them sacrifices and suffering
The radiant paintings that Vincenzo Balsamo presents in this, his first personal Roman exhibition are the most genuine testimony of the value of his art and they are also the demonstration of what the possibilities are of a creative mind supported by will and seriousness. From each of these beautiful paintings a sonorous, harmonious chromatic concert is released, a song of freshness, serenity, panic joy, based on the triumphal appearance of Nature, rich and beauteous: the young artist, this is clearly visible, loves and has a predilection for her and he is never tired of reproducing her beauty, which is always new. Landscapes are of course the most important nucleus of this rich exhibition; it is in these landscapes that Vincenzo Balsamo gives us a clear idea of his talent and of the artistic level he has reached. The wonderful colour harmonies, the preciousness of certain tones and passages, the difficult interpretation of the greens, above all, the vibrant atmosphere, the light coming from a precise point and illuminating with the same precision the areas it revives or leaves in the shade, without discordance or the trivial approximations which is typical of many modern painters, who can't respect the arduos play of lights, just as they can't respect any other aesthetic canon or the rigour of logic.
After his impressionist experience, Vincenzo Balsamo has attained a style of his own, which is probably not the ultimate one, in his intentions, but which is substantial and honest, the result of researches, studies, youthful eagerness. His brushstroke is almost always wide and the matter plentiful but not excessive; its chromatism is rich and harmoniously tuned with reality and with the inevitable poetic transformation which every real artist unconsciously makes on it: each work is skilfully balanced and the eye and the soul of the watcher find pleasure in it: it is an exhibition of pure, serene beauty; the connoisseur will admire the singular harmonies and the undoubtable skill of an artist working on very solid foundations. The daring violet tones of the large painting called "The Lover'" are not the result of chance meetings; and the emerald greens of the country landscapes, the seccessful hues, the passages from warm to cold tones without discordance or unlikelihood (for example the delightful landscapes of the Roman countryside, of the Alban hills, of Campania) are all explanatory elements of an art which, even if it is as fresh as spring water,is the result of serious and intense work and, as such, deserves sincere admiration and no less sincere praise

                                                                                                                               (1961) ENRICO CONTARDI-RHODIO


This is the critical text, by Giovanni Omiccioli, of presentation for the exhibition at the "I Volsci" Gallery of Rome in 1966.


If we take away from an artist's Painting the controversy which so many indulge in, just to have something to say, building nothing, destrying everything; if we take the gossip and the frills away; if we isolate it from the hysterical megalomania of the people who can only think of their own projects; if, finally, this Painting can be separated from some manifesto or politics of art whatsoever - and I believe these to be great objectives for an artist - what remains then of the Painting? What should remain is only Painting itself, with its own strength, with the things it wants to tell us, directly, without any go-betweens.
Otherwise, it remains soliloquy. Painting doesn't only mean buying colours, brushes and using them. Painting is such only when it lives inside the artist.
This, some people say, is an an era of confusion; others add it is higly dramatic, an age of anxiety. And this should justify everything which is made without the minimum amount of order. Of course, order does not mean painting with the help of compasses and rulers; it means the order directed towards construction not towards destruction, those decadent manifestations which have nothing to do with what we can recognise at first sight, without a philosophical explanation, or through a difficult, incomprehensible language. Now we can understand the reasons why inadequacy takes the place of the brush and slovenliness the place of colours. There is no other way out, but this is enough! All this seems very little.
Painting is never an adventure just like any other. Undeniably, Balsamo has some personal ralationship, with it and in a great dimension!
In this Painting by Balsamo which I see for the first time, there is the desire of measure of normal investigations, this attention to feelings, which are, despite everything, in the soul of man, there is the care of one who looks at things as they really are, not like those who imagine them without even noticing them; some call this attitude devotion to art, but I'd rather call it hate contempt towards it.
Now I should say something about the paintings in the exhibition: I will talk about the one which impressed me most. Is not a single picture, if it is good, enough to recognise if an Artist knows the meaning of Painting? My answer is: yes, it is. I am referring to the picture called 'The storm' ot the other "A tribute to Mafai".
This remainds us, apart from the death of a dear friend, of that care towards Painting which has not vanished in the course of Time. Becoming aware of this is always a good sign, the sign of consent to good art and the refusal of the bad one which goes nowadays undisturbed insulting all those who have the misfortune to meet it.

                                                                                                                                      (1963) GIOVANNI OMICCIOLI


This is the critical text, by Angelo Zizzari, of presentation for the exhibition at the "Zizzari" Gallery of Rome in 1963.


The predominat theme of his painting is the Tuscan landscape, which ha has been able, maybe unwillingly, to charge with strong colours, through which it is possible to identify the natural, instinctive exploration deriving from his origins.
we believe, therefore, that beyond any notion of shyness or reality Balsamo has espressed himself in a thoroughly emotional way, very distant from the contact with schools and masters: so he was able to blend the soft, deep white of his native land, giving a bright interior light to the cold landscape of Tuscany. For example, the small painting 'Hills of Fiesole', full of green and blue, as if the sunrise should never come.
His sky figure and the singularity which both define his personality, explain the reasons why the young artist Balsamo presents his works without the usual accompaniment of favourable criticism; actually ha doesn't want this kind of support; he knows that, being a self taught man, recognition can only come from the attention that the critics and the public will give him: they are the precious judges to whom Balsamo entrusts the objective contemplation of his work.

                                                                                                                                      (1963) ANGELO ZIZZARI



Signs, light and colour are the elements Vincenzo Balsamo uses to play his expressive game. It is an operation the artist performs under the sign of grace and lightness, letting the images come out as if from a dream, 'the place where the lines of geometry and imagination live together'.
The sign outlines the forms, the colour connotes the emotional field, while the light dematerializes the vision which only apparently appears unobjective.
In reality, faces, microorganisms and kites get solidity and form on canvas in a process which hasn't any descriptive or narrative concern. It is so that Vincenzo Balsamo's painting receives the connotation of a painting poetic song.

                                                                                                                                            (1990) ENZO DI MARTINO



Vincenzo Balsamo is an accomplihed poetic architect; his sensitive touch is the legacy of the Impressionists and he is a great interpreter of the historical avant- garde. We like this artist for his professional determination, for his ability to be in front of the image, with the filter of divisionist abstraction, but not accepting, unless it is considered only as multipurpose suggestion, the contribution of nature.

                                                                                                                               (1991) MARCELLO VENTUROLI




Vincenzo Balsamo is a painter who has performed a long artistic itinerary: he began with thick, solid figurativism, still in contact with the last phases of the 'roman school' and has now reached, via abstract and informal art, his present formal manner.
His present style is very complex as it comprehends different experiences; it proceeds through juxtaposed degrees, pushing sign and colour which get slowly near and finally melt in a homogenous whole.
In Balsamo light becomes sign and sign becomes light, interpenetrating in an expressive osmosis which plays its game on the fantastic field of surreal entities. He scratches and carves matter, unravelling a labyrinthine Ariadne's thread which, caught in the vortex of signs, changes its aspect: it is full of light, the light becomes colour, pure colour which returns to its origin as a sign.
Balsamo is an isolated artist, he doesn't belong to any movement; he continues his personal research where form amd colour interpenetrate; the memory of the past masters (from Klee to Rothko) cohabits with a fervid intellectual imagination.

                                                                                                                                            (1989) SERGIO ROSSI



Surely Vincenzo Balsamo has walked a long way, and nor always easily, since when, in the distant 1960s the Edizioni del Poliedro (that is myself and Ugo Mannoni) published the first important
monography about him.
The world has changed. We have changed. And certain artistic ideas have changed.
Coming from the deep South Balsamo was attracted by naturalism, both in landscapes and still lives and in figures.
Then, he went to France. I remember his youthful interest when ha followed me in my itineraries, from one Museum to the other, from one Artist to the other. The Grand Palais in Paris, the Picasso Museum in Antibes, the Fondation Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence, the Fondation Léger on the Côte-d' Azur. And then the people we met: Hartung, Peverelli, Max Ernst, Magnelli, Campigli, Verdet, Arman, Tozzi, to mention only the ones who come to my mind.
Abstraction, informal painting. The absolute, pitiless taste for colour, Klee, Kandinskji? What does it matter?
The colours, however, are always and only the colours of Rome. We also have, of course the pozzolana red; now unusual and betrayed by modern remakers (or are they restorers)
Balsamo keeps in his heart, as if they were a precious safe-conduct, the colours of his Apulia (his and mine, of course) but he never abandons the colours of Rome. He can't absolutely forget his love for Mafai, Omiccioli.
The 'Roman School' left indelible traces in his work, in his painting even if today it is flyng towards different skies.

                                                                                                                                        (1991) MICHELE CALABRESE


[close this window]