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EPIPHANIES BY ALESSANDRO BELTRAME

translalated by Fabia Brunori


   When modern art first began to take shape, vast expanses of sky would erupt on the canvases both moving and violent. The sky, which had almost been totally ignored by the byzantines and was a distant plane on the canvas, was brought to the forefront by Giotto's discoveries. In the seventeenth century it is already overflowing and the figures depicted, mythological, Greek or Christian are now distant from the earth as they celebrate their victories or cause catastrophes, in a new dimension. A dimension, which is, still that of the epiphany because it is that of the gods who appear from the sky to bring their news and dictates to mankind. Certain landscape painters and seascape painters have depicted the sky as it darkens into thunderstorms or as it becomes a radiant dawn. As it is depicted tossed by the waves or slowed by a sea suddenly dead calm, the ship becomes a secondary figure. The ship, with its billowing sails and clouds, becomes a celestial or divine apparition, while its voyage becomes a cosmic one. These naval events bring one to expect a certain pre-realism.
This is the first impression one has when approaching Alessandro Beltrame's canvases. He is a new artist and almost certainly, at least subconsciously, he has meditated on these atmospheric battles, from which he has derived some part, as his counterparts have also done. It is a genre which uses quotations, anachronisms or neo-mannerisms to illustrate in some way, that which has been happening in the last ten years, when the more recent and riskier "isms" had seen their day and painting had to return, one way or another, to its specific. So Beltrame's "background" makes its claim: certainly of a cyclonic and cloudy nature but also at times "desert" areas or earthy spaces or rocky remains. It seems that the idea that a cinema screen, which has by now together with that of the television screen, enveloped the earth and is the means, for good or bad, of telling a story, is the base for the pagination of this painting. The painting hints to the sky as if the artist seems to want to purposely avoid, those colours, which would be most apt to the celestial vault. Instead his skies are somewhat polarised like certain photographs, even though this intense solar light (famous in a certain English seascape painter) is immediately dampened by darker tones, much under discussion by the scandalistic tones of the news and by daily dissent. This could be a strange way of reinterpreting the environment of zodiac signs (which have now taken hold in a certain anti-cultural milieu) if it were not precisely for the fact that instead he alludes to a magma, to chaos, to an indistinct present period. The new philosophers meditate upon this as being solely negative and therefore leading to a total aphasia but it would not be so evidently decipherable. Beltrame's painting technique is so visible and rich and can appear, other than epiphanic, aphasic because of the poverty of defined strokes, of any recognition, of presences, of a story and of a metamorphosis. It is only when one has seen the exhibition as a whole that the question becomes clearer. By connecting the very few fragments within each canvas one can obtain a more organised overall view but one which is also incoherent, orgasmic and chaotic, and therefore contemporary.
In these earthy skies figures appear, although they often seem to be disappearing. The figures hint at anthropomorphic beings, stylised, disguised as mummies, wrapped in their sacred bandages they become angels. These "angels" announce the image and the word: a word, which seems improbable that one will hear, as the mouths seem almost sewn, closed, inexistent and one in the end finds it hard to believe that these "shadows" are capable of communicating. Nevertheless their simple presence speaks for itself, the fact that they are there among rolling stones, fragments of vegetation, lacerations, cuts and existential remnants. They are always there to testify that without man it is not possible, if nothing else, to define either an illusion or a simulation of any form of reality. It seems as if these cosmogonies seem to have been contorted by an atomic wind, by the anxiety of huge storms, by the tornado effect of any catastrophe. Beltrame's universe is certainly not a rational scientific one, ruled by physics or mathematics. It seems that chaos lays down it's own laws and one still has the impression that it is a world on the road to extinction far more than giving the impression of an epiphany, a triumphant universal salvation.
While anachronists and neo-mythologists rush to place semi-nude bodies of past divinities lacking significance and to which no one turns to, other than as cultured quotations, Beltrame seems to have another meaning, another direction. He seems to refer to a certain form of surrealism, something of abstract expressionism, digging into the tension created by a void; the dynamism of defeat one can find in certain verses by Blake.
Beltrame's world is truly Eliot's waste land, a permanently post-war world, a "a great river with two hearts" as Hemingway's Nick Adam says, upon his return from war, finding the landscape devastated by fire, where only some scraggy grasshoppers can find food amid the surrounding disaster.
But as painting is always an image and not a blank sheet, as one of Hoffmannsthal's characters tried not to write Beltrame also has to come to terms with his art as he depicts his figures and describes his non-landscape. He has to give the medium some form of subject and leave a trace, choose a colour that which will give a bright visual order whereby - almost dialectically- what he says maintains and proposes some captivating signal, as if on his desert borders, flags of flashing light, signal between them the presence of a possible although unlikely rescue which appear all together false or illusory.
Art is redeemed and the vision regains its harmony, comforting us with the irreducible residues of Reason that come to light. Reason which is all the more urgent, as the word was amorphous, meagre and apparently sterile. The paradox of the art is precisely that of being and in the end that of making a statement (if only in the technique used, of the work done and the time passed) even in the more negative of appearances. Every artistic adventure contains its courageous reason, its unavoidable motivation, and the anxiety of a message transmitted by whatever "red curtain". It will then fall upon us to be able to (or not) comprehend it and direct it towards a backward glance and therefore to nostalgia.

Luigi Serravalli