Monography, in Italian and English language, essay by F. De Santi, of the anthological exhibition at "Spanish Fort" in Aquila, "Mastroianni Foundation" in Arpino, "Egypt Academy" in Roma, "Polyvalent Center" in Bagnocavallo and at "Ducal Palace" in Mantova, years 1996-1997, ed. Mastroianni Foundation.

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Monography essay

"Color's Song of VINCENZO BALSAMO"

         J.P. Satre used to say, regarding A. Giacometti, that the artist is always talking about himself, and he ignores the listeners by devouring them; the same could be said about Vincenzo Balsamo.
         While V. Balsamo is describing jis life he demands of his interlocutors that they be open to a mutual, freudian "sympathy". V. Balsamo is always looking for companions. The development of his "Diary of Images" could not have been understandable without the awareness of his deep to communicate, his need for a continuous dialogue.
         For a very long time, like an anxious and patient spider (we shouldn't forget his expressive proustian style), V. Balsamo has been spinning his own gold and delicate web made out of signs, traits, colors and images. The Pugliese-Roman painter, has been researching the borders of iconography and distilling pages from his gently and softly obsessive note-book. It is necessary, in order to truly understand the spirit of his creative venture, to submerge into his labyrintine reverie and experience the intensity of his work.
         The Color's Song of V. Balsamo is the interrupted poetry of an endless secret, an intermittent light, a flash of lightning which help us to see more than the light of the day. A daily light which is always disturbed by the part of the night that it is already contained in it. The flash isolates the night, but the lightning's law contains within its immediate repetition the seeds of a continuous dialogue.
         The artist can see in a deeper way because of his ability to connect various image's sequences with his insight: his images are intensified by the simultaneously existence of the istantaneous and the repetition sequences. The artist vision allows the mind's images to occur in their natural contruction. The mind hints at the vision like the sky hints at the lightning which has just run through it.
         Balsamo's memories always come from far away. They are final memories, final and inspired: they touch the limit without being there. The limit does not really exist, it is just the revelation of a stage of crisis. It is the breakdown of an action undergoing the transformation of its own meaning. V. Balsamo is experiencing the development of the opposition within his own nature through his memories. During the revelational aspect of his work, V. Balsamo while is able to generate an axclusive mirror of his own experience through his memory, at the same time, he is projected towards the other of himself. Through his memories V. Balsamo not only penetrates his inner self but also the approach of his other self which is more and more urgent, impatient and compact. The other-self is beginning to get closer and closer with a sort of liquid intimacy. Within this liquid intimacy the other-self is deeper than the self. To assume a form means to be other from the true-self, it requires living close to the existence like a branch that transforms itself toward its leaves, and then through its fruits it reaches its full maturity in an uplifting movement.

         The pictorial "Koinè" of V. Balsamo, comprised of all variations, influences, and the avenues which have taken place over a period of 40 years it begins in the general space of Post- Impressionism. It is not easy to delfine this area. "Post-Impressionism's" creates a lot of misunderstandings, foremost among those is the idea that it is a result, and sometimes a late renaissance of the Impressionism. Quite the opposite, Post-Impressionism is comprised of those artists that were either reacting to or in conflict with it. Their opposition wasn't simply trying to go beyond it by maintaining a basic impressionistic approach to their work. These artists were striving to reach a new palet without forgetting the great lesson of freedom given by Impressionism.
         There are many other elements that characterize Post_Impressionism beside their attempt to add emphasis to the en plain air of Monet or Renoir. These elements change depending on different countries, years or artists and doesn't seem relevant to this essay to notice all of them but one. "Intimismo" is the revelant one to the present effort to outline the cultural area within which the work of V. Balsamo developed.
Intimate is the word used to define that particular sensibility, atmosphere and subject matter that catch and reproduce reality in a way which became typical of post-impressionism artists. The word intimate could be misleading if it means that kind of twilight sensibility of those artists whom, with a sort of slow blood rhytm, self-indulge themselves too much. In the work of V. Balsamo intimate means something else.
Intimate for V. Balsamo means to paint the interior decor with a sort of gloomy light, the boredom of long afternoons, or a certain melanchonic longing of the landscape between the splendour of the gardens, and the monotony of the worked fiels. It depicts a sort of spacing of time rather than the representation of his flowing.
         The gap is no longer among natural dimensions but among different psychological levels. The representation of all these emotions is the Post-Impressionistic intimate nature of V. Balsamo. That it is why V. Balsamo is associated with the proustian spirit of Bonnard, the positivistic sadness of Vallotton as well as with the intense trembling of Vuillard and the incredible polichrome texture of Marquis.
         Beside the intimism element and sometimes stronger than that, there is in V. Balsamo a northern Stimmung which represents an unusual element for a mediterranean artist. In the poetic nature of this artist there is something that is not always joyful and not always pleasurable, it is something that seems hold in melancholy, it is sad, it resembles a mystery, a shadow, a shiver. It is like an extra reverie. At first, this northern influence could be drawn from the travels of V. Balsamo in Switzerland and in Germany, but also it is possible to notice similar traits in the work of both the expressionists Munch and Ensor. Even so, if it is not correct to call V. Balsamo Impressionist ir wouldn't be proper to classify him as an Expressionist.
It is important to identify the work of V. Balsamo for what it is, avoiding the common tendency of using labels.

         After the roman period at the Art School at San Giacomo Street and the acquaintance with artists such as Mario Mafai, Giovanni Omiccioli, Carlo Levi, Sante Monachesi, Ugo Moretti and Pier Paolo Pasolini V. Balsamo painted the Self-Portrait. The Self-Portrait (1959), done when V. Balsamo was 24 years old, already reveals, his introspective tendency, his structural confidence, his ability to catch, trough those gentle light-blue eyes, the right tone of a melanchonic light. Beginning with this painting the pictorial production of V. Balsamo bloomed and charged with an uniquely modern sensitivity. At that time it was not easy to establish who could have been able to stand next to that young spirit, at the same time very well-educated and thoughtless. He used to face the canvas with fine sensitivity and a powerful touch, at the same time insolent and a delcate witness of the truth, just like an impetuous and sweet poet of daily life.
         Painting such as Paesaggio Laziale, 1959 (Roman Landscape), or Fiori, 1959 (Flowers), or Ritratto di Ragazza, 1969 (Portrait of a girl), are at the same time very fresh and direct as well as well though out and constructed. In those paintings the color is highly vibrant. The color is always soaked with light. However it is used, pure or mixed, it is the color that constructs the volumes, levels and shapes: as if it has its own constructive power.
         During the decade 1960-1970 the brushstroke of V. Balsamo became the pivot of his style. It is an element of character and tenderness at the same time, It is not the brushstrole of the Impressionists: it is not escaping, notmurmuring or inconsistent, not hunid or aware of complementarity such as that of Pissarro, Sisley or Manet.
The brushstroke of V. Balsamo is intense, dense with amazing thickness. Since the color is not mixed it brings to the painting sucg light that the entire work become full of it, not through the strong contrast of chiaroscuro but through the between a more violent and a more delicate light, and through a dark shadow and a clear one.
Paesaggio Toscano, 1963 (Tuscan Landscape), is a low chorus of green tones, or better yet it is a refreshement of green tones which the trees reflect on the soil, on the walls of the farms, and on the nuances of the hills and sky. It is a fragrant warm spring light that embraces the morning and looses itself on the farther clouds. In the canvas Cortina, 1966/67 (Cortina), and in Autunno ai Castelli Romani, 1970 (Fall at the Roman Castles), the brushstrokes are like wounds of light that nervously build the image. They become so free as to remind one of a fauve abstractism: pure color, almost abandoned but, at the same time, constructive. A wise skill leads the color on the edge between a descriptive phenomenology and the sensuality of the abstract magma almost informal. At the same times, the brushstrokes enter in the core of V. Balsamo's poetic. In paintings such as Il Fiore Rosso, 1970 (The Red Flower), and La Bottiglia Bianca, 1971 (The White Bottle), different layers of color overlap each other in such a way that they produce a sort of emotional material. It is a chromatic mixture in which light and spirit are melted together. The usual impression delivered by this painting is between that of impression and expression, instinct and logic, fast amd slow gesture.
         The seventies are for V. Balsamo very productive years. They are rich with important works made with an original and unique technique. A greater awareness towards details results in a uniquely defined and constructed images. In Natura Morta, 1974 (Still Life), the image is almost fixed on geometrical scheme, while Bel Vasetto, 1975 (The Beautiful Little Vase), shows very clean cutted lines. The line creates the volumes in a solid and firm way, the space is no longer suggested but defined and realized witin the image. It is like the silence that dwells in an interior or the distance that soars from a stream, courtyard or a field.

         The retrospective of Arshile Gorky at the XXXI Biennal of Venice influenced V. Balsamo a great deal although it did not cause any kind of imitation or brusque changing of his style. Like a heavy bunch of autumn leaves carried by the wind, what he learned from tha Armeno-Russian painter was a disassociative principle. What is being absorbed from Gorky to Balsamo is not a surrealist element but something much more substantial: the compact elements of Balsamo's paintings are almost thrown down, almost ventilate, so that during this windy vortex, they loose their dark color. V. Balsamo discovered within this sudden revolution of iconoghraphic elements a new formal principle which is not the palet of clear colors tout court.
         In such paintings as Inizio di Scomposizione, 1974, (Decomposition's Beginning), Paesaggio, 1975 (Landscape), and Verso l' Astrazione, 1976 (Towards the Abstraction), V. Balsamo turns upside down the usual function of the canvas: from background to a screen. The light becomes the expressive means of his research, not only in representational terms but mainly as the active and operational germ. It is the same light that on trasparence makes pale red and blue. That light that hangs mid way between the black outlines of the geometric figures and allows different tones to overlap each other as if they were thin veils. It is the same light that activates the dynamism of the precise and decorative manner, so that empty spaces have the same formal value of those that are filled up. It is the Same light guaranting the revelation of the spontaneous movements of the brush. Movements that, just like a Zen painting, are impossible to conceal or to repeat.
         At the same time, in the polymateric works, the graphic grid is almost gone.
The colors are placed in an unpredictable manner thus they seem to follow the rhythm of an emotional flux. The texture is rich and granulous so that the pictorial material reflects the light with vibrant shivers.
         In this way starts the "Informale" season of Balsamo which is marked by the "Decomposition" series. In this series the thickness of the color used in contrast with the roughness of the plain canvas creates a new materiality. The material evidence of the color establishes a continuous dialetic because of its discordant positioning of one color against the others. The dialectic is always there as either a barbarian material evidence or a scream of the soul that is trying to materialize itself. In the same way the poetic of the art autre brings to its extreme results the principle of existentialism and, therefore, it reduces to a great exent the function of both time and space. In the cycle of Le Evocazioni, 1978-79 (The Evocations), painted with the support of the air-brush, the perception of time is felt as a slow motion current that brings up its flotsam. By now the artistic work of V. Balsamo acquire a certain kind of immeasurable depth, that rises towards the observer as if it is coming from ones own memory, without any kind of threedimensional research but also without fixing itself to the surface. Between the background of the canvas and the tangled web of signes there is no realtion, on the contrary, the background is itself a chromatic element. The light, as razor-blades, goes between the background and the web of signs like dense fog. Humid erratic shadows soon after rain with the sun beams through them.

         The impression given by the paintings of the last two decades of V. Balsamo are like the feeling of entering into an archipelago, the feeling of witness to the continuous interwining of the sea with the earth and the sky. The wavy motion of the colors usually located on the border of the painting, are not meant to create a blot effect, but to suggest a dissolution, a prespective expansion, a fluency in which it is not possible to distinguish the background from the value of its light. The stream of color is like a light trail that clearly stands within a space. The infinite and ductile structure of the paintings are intuited through minimum and un-decorated elements.
         In the rhomboid shapes of the 1991 paintings the color is lit up, naked and vegetative. The color is the witness of a lyrical tension while at the same yime it is possible to perceive a Mondrian influence: It is an almost mystical Erfahrung, even if the mysticism is of that kind that evolves into a meta-scientific hypothesis. It somewhat resembles Rothko, even if the interest that Balsamo finds Rothko, and those big dimensions that are so good to seduce the observer. If Mondrian is being noticed for the intuition that V. Balsamo receives regarding the natural law of balance and order, this should not be a misleading note. This balance, which in Mondrian is such a strong logical platform, for Balsamo becomes an intuition with no logic mathematical expressions. It is not classic intuition as it is in Mondrian. To Balsamo it is a diffuse feeling spread within the framework of organic abstraction. Therefore as for the organic abstraction, Kandinsky or Klee are the strongest influences.
         The seal of the silent and reflective paintings of Balsamo it is like a wet dripping web lying in the sun, web that is rising from the depth of the unconscious. Web that allows to distinguish between the borders of human perception and phisical Nature. Thus the artist perceives the limits of its own animality and like a sleith he is following tracks and smells. By doing so he loses himself in a sort of Heideggerian's endless trails.
         The measured repetition of the gesture is what really seduces V. Balsamo rather than any kind of lyric abstraction. This repetition of the gesture is like a calligraphy. Signs, lines and points of a calligraphy comprise the utmost limit of its beauty, so that any moment of contact between the canvas and calligraphy simultaneuosly it is bothering and calming. Again it is the mystery of the unreacheable substance of reality.
         Concerning the most recent works of V. Balsamo the most valueable conlusions are those quoted by G. Deleuze in his Difference et Repetition: "The only moment in which it is possible to say that the whole is the same and that whole comes back it is when the greatest point of difference is reached. Only then it is possible for an unique voice to express the infinite avenues, for an unique ocean to contain all the drops, for one being to reach all beings. It is necessary that every being, every drop and every avenue had reached the extreme stage; that stage where they are revolved by the difference".

                                                                                                                            Floriano De Santi

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