Andrea Paganini revisits the medieval tradition of bestiaries, in which human nature is inquired by one of its supposed opposites. Alien beings, and yet homologous to man in transversal ways and unmentionable manners, animals are one of the favourite themes of Art History, since the dawn of Palaeolithic. The informal technique of Paganini synthesizes the subjects in very quick strokes, inscribing them to the matter, to the telluric force of nature. Because wild animals are swift, and they live in hidden places. When they show themselves to humans, they do it only for a little while, and they quickly disappear. The impulsive execution renders the rapidity of these epiphanies. The hedgehog -ambivalent animal, on one side a tender teddy-bear, on the other an armoured shield- becomes the emblem of passive resistance.All the mythologies involved with the dog represent it as an emissary of the netherworld, which comes along with its human companion across the afterlife realm. The hare is another chthonic animal, linked to the invisible world, to the moon, and to the constant renewal of nature. A log painted in white transforms into a dragon, sublimated representation of the greatest fear of everyone.
A jellyfish, beautiful and poisonous, is depicted by squirts of sticky, light-orange colour, which compose the rose of its urticanting tentacles. A rhino in danger never runs away, despite its quickness, but it attacks frontally the enemy. In the art of the Far East, the monkey is the symbol of an ironic aloofness, of someone who contemplates the pseudo-wisdom of men. This is the tradition in which Paganini seems to fit in, through a close up on the eyes of this animal, which looks straight to the viewer.
The elephant is the emblem of regal power, stability, divine knowledge. The Indian god Ganesh, champion of the capability to conciliate tenderness with strength, and to distinguish what is real and what is not, has an elephantine head.
Critical review written for the exhibition “Walden”, opening April the 9th, 2011, at Magazzini Criminali
THE UNSPEAKABLE_ The poetics of Andrea Paganini
In the contemporary universe there exist very closed forms of art. This unavailability to comprehension often doesn’t hide anything, apart from a mannerist void. Fortunately, the syndrome of vacuity is recognizable by instinct, thanks to the bad feelings which leaves. Irritation first of all. But sometimes, the difficulty of decryption of a work of art’s code hides something mysterious.
And in that case it attracts us, it speaks in an unknown language, it circulates around us like an electric fluid. It defies and captivate us, and we must to understand. That’s the same mechanism which creates for an object of love, or during a treasure hunt in riddles. Because objects of love are contradictory, and puzzles proceed by paradoxes.
The first paradox of Andrea Paganini is style: one would expect a clean, linear, figurative art from a professional graphic designer. But for Paganini this is the exception, the way in which he portrays only his son Dario, in a delicate three-quarter.
His rule is rather the chaos, the mucking-up, the absence of structure. The shapelessness. Paganini uses bitumen, ash, linen-oil, kaolin, rust, fire. The matter at its primary state, superimposed, scratched, mixed in a range of half organic half aleatory colours and impressions.
A tyre becomes the halo of a Madonna which seems a votive bust of 10.000 years ago, or maybe the False Maria, the she-robot created by the mad doctor of Metropolis. A dairy cloth transforms in a net which separates us from a red embossed circle. It could be the sun, the nucleus of a cell, or the abstract idea of god.
Paganini’s last series is characterized by the use of white. Often juxtaposed to or mingled with black, in thick and grained strokes. Curdled by pokes in the shape of a skull. Or in big bitten canvases, literally made up from under the artist’s feet, from the tarpaulin used to keep the floor clean. This work in particular1 seems to come out from the outside, it could be a panel which has been exposed to bad weather for years.The works of Paganini often give this impression, to be not produced by the hand of a man, but by the intervention of chance and by the course of events. They are emblem of time, which spoils, makes forget, covers with sand. Time changes everything, and memory is the only shield against this devastating action. The one which fixes recollections of an African summer, and of a boat which becomes a big insect-shaped animal in a wood made of black flows, surrounded by the white splendour of heat.
Or funny memories of black cats, so much recidivous in the kleptomania of someone else’s food to deserve a painting.The memory of La Bête by Borowczyk, a traumatic vision at the thresholds of adolescence, to be exorcised by employing the VHS tape as support, painted with the black of disappointment, crowned with a white squirting. Paganini ciphers his memories with an economy of expressive elements which becomes an armoured cryptogram, impregnable without his intervention. He communicates with a primitive, bare, obscure sign. Recurring symbols appear in the amorphous matter. The vertical stroke, often brown, as a gore, as dry blood. A laceration, often with suture stitches. A sore which becomes a door to go to another side.Then a shape with rounded lines, curled up, biologic. A bean, or maybe a foetus. Or also a stylized head. Sometimes featureless, sometimes in the act of screaming. More or less sharp. The sharpest of all is the one in 4717. The visitation of a dead of the same blood, a ghost inside a dream. Who returns, speaks, and makes little presents.And then turns into the picture of a frogman. Someone who goes deep below the surface, in a silent, dark world, in the search of something which few people would be able to search. Something beyond appearances, beyond passing-by forms, beyond clear-cut divisions. Something unspeakable.