CIOFFI, THE EMOTIONAL SPACE OF PAINTING
Long before being an artistic practice, Raffaele Cioffi deeply conceived and lived painting like a decisive event of his own life.
I’ve been a precocious witness of his passion as he was one of my students in the course of the History of Contemporary Art at Brera. I can perfectly remember his predilection for Rothko and Newman, whose art would leave an evident trace in his younger works. Almost all his paintings till the beginning of 2000 are based on the conviction of going ahead not only with painting but also with its reasons, by showing somehow its sense, its reflections and its reprocessing.
In those years, more than 10, Cioffi confronts themes, consciously or not, but I would say with awareness, corresponding to his series of paintings bearing the title of Video, Prospettiva, Prospettiva interiore (Videos, Perpectives, Inner Perspectives) and in these works, as I said before, he shows the sense of the problem faced. I don’t consider, in fact, this painting as abstract but rather oriented to the description of the events which are partially related to physical phenomena and partially metaphysical, exactly because this painting declares topics visually developed. The survey seems to be completed along the border line that distinguishes the two phenomena, by succeeding, however, in converging and transforming this experience into allusive images that mark out this period. Obviously these are not banal representative images but intentional ones and, in this case, ideal executions producing images. Mental images plunged in a phenomenal vision and, therefore, made discernable to a wider sensory range. The works entitled Prospettiva and Prospettiva Interiore (Perspectives and Inner Perspectives) are clear examples of this situation; in these works a form in perspective actually appears in the pictorial space made of light and colour.
This form and its different expressions, that occupy many of Cioffi’s works, are the pictures of an idea not only abstractly ideal but concretely plunged into a processing of pictorial actions.
What’s left from those series called Prospettiva (Perspective), even after and untill his most recent 150 works, is the actual sense of the survey which Cioffi is interested in, the research of an internal dimension of the painting, the penetration beyond the veil of the surface in order to reveal the spatiality and lights that metaphorically reflect the digging work in the artist’s soul. The perspective is actually to go farther into a place reachable through appropriate means to a two-dimensional representation. To this end, there is an explicit reference to Fontana , especially in some works from 2003 where the cut was however reabsorbed by painting. The laceration and the willing to go beyond the limits of the canvas, which was essential for the author of Concetto Spaziale (Spatial Concept), are processed like pictorial signs and brought to a break-through that doesn’t come out of the painting but goes ahead within it. This reference doesn’t intend to start a controversy but is used to further assert the territory of this experience and its dimension, that is completely inside the pictorial act.
It must be clear that Cioffi’s strong ideal tension is not dissociated from the painting practice. He finds the reasons of his engagement exactly from painting. If somehow transcendental indications come out in this practice and in the reflection following it, this is an opening that can be freely interpreted. It is always possible to trace signals from art, going beyond pure technical and historical information and esthetical theories and plunging into the emotional field that includes the intellectual emotion and the spiritual implications, which are the subject both of the interpretative proceeding and of the meanings given more or less by the artist to his works. If in my critical vision I try to avoid to cross the literal and hypothetical borders, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the possibility of this conjecture.
Untill 2003, Cioffi felt the need to affirm and to confirm to himself that inner pulse that had become a meditated belief during the years in the unspent and maybe inexhaustible depth of painting. The works painted in the following years don’t present that affirmative urgency and they can go through colour without any condition. Chromatic and bright variations flowing just under the surface, without drowning or the impulse toward the inner, as repeatedly done in the previous paintings as seen in the Prospettiva the image of an inner pulse.
After two years, starting from 2006, in particular in the smaller works, Cioffi started to introduce a different and somehow unexpected subject. In the usual uniform spreading of colour, some presences of matter begin to surface. An unexpected materiality, if we think about the dematerializing aspects and the spiritual component of Cioffi’s works, but less unexpected, on the other hand, if we consider his attention to the physical events, which I personally highlighted at the beginning. Somehow the bipolar situation of the 90’s has now been suggested again, between the surface and the depth of the plan, but if in those canvases inner perspectives and planning seemed to dialog with a substantial pictorial attuning, in this new circumstance the contrast explodes in a much more evident way.
The colour is again the absolute star and here it reveals one of its different natures, by appearing here, in fact, in its condition of matter. The real substance of painting emerges near a set up that keeps the flat features in which lights and shadows alternate. Not the created or illusory images but the image of himself in the original state. The chromatic blend, compressed on the canvas, opens and reveals itself through the movement that leads it. An action without any uncertainty but even any uncontrolled gestural expressiveness, each time the colour reveals in the major or minor variety of the elements that it contains. The artist often compares in the same canvas the presence of matter, and he sometimes prearranges the surface in two separate fields in order to have different events under the same glance.
This new phase in Cioffi’s work, which is still going on, explores the painting from inside, through an opposite procedure to the initial one of the 90’s. He left the path to the enclosed depths of the surface and he now takes from inside of the colour the matter that generates it. What is shown in recent paintings is the surfacing and the revealing of a reality already present but concealed by a different use of the techniques and, practically, made invisible. A decisive substance, now put in the foreground, goes beyond the material presence of the chromatic blend in order to get, once again, those suggestive hints of a further sense beyond the pure mechanics of the happening. A recall, even in the most recent paintings, that asserts itself with strength, in this case by occupying the entire scene. This a further revealing phase than confirms Cioffi’s willness towards painting. Kant said that “… the space, the intention of the external sense, is an inner way of representation” and this seems to belong to those aspects of the knowledge this artist is interested in.
I think that, in this sense, we need to look for the original value of the paintings we are talking about in the emotion and in its importance in building a method of representationThe emotion doesn’t come from theories and cannot be learnt through an external teaching but it has to be internally lived.
It is a painting, then, that looks at the world but extends it and represents it in its own deepest emotional space.