A journey around
Diletta Borromeo, 1999
To define Intorno [Around] as a work or a moment within Paolo Parisi’s work is a logical fact like drawing a closed circle. Around the geographical coordinates, around the scaled reliefs of places, around the stratification of a repeated gesture, around the environmental conditions of space and light, around the construction of the work it manifests its real presence.
Intorno is the perceivable aura of a being, an emanation of energy. It is the form of forms, akin to that of space which “becomes jagged around every cherry tree and every leaf of every branch that moves in the wind, and every cut at the edge of every leaf, and again it is modelled on every vein in a leaf, on the network of veins inside the leaf and on the lancing with which the arrows of light constantly slice through the leaves … “
Thus it is possible to circumnavigate, to sail around the work and to follow its courses plotted over recent years. The Rilievi [Reliefs] with their vision as plan are sensitive to the natural landscape of which man is part; they represent the need to read and to look at the universe through a codified language, a communicative and educational means to observe, compare oneself against one’s own mental courses and with the unconscious. The feeling is entirely personal, open to experience as a transit station for knowledge and extended towards an introspective analysis. The 1994 installation at Cortona, Come raggiungere il cielo dalla terra (navigare solo) [How to reach the sky from the earth (sail single handed)], leads one to imagine a fully aware odyssey, a journey that takes place around the self and facing the unknown.
Often one wonders about the new forms of conceptual art and future expressive developments. The pressure of a constantly accelerating reality makes itself felt. Reproducibility remains the catalyst of the quest, as long as it passes through the individual’s experience in relation to the world. To this era belong: the use of technology for real time communication; knowledge-based investigation of the self to limits that transcend the body (thus defined “postorganic”); the attempt to garner emotions that are dispersed at the very moment in which they are produced.
Paolo Parisi spreads these emotions in a direct hold on reality. In a video installation conceived in 1995 the work is constructed from the interior (a dark space and the audio recording of a pencil that repeatedly draws a circle) towards the exterior, suggested by shots of two windows in the artist’s studio facing Sud Ovest [Southwest] and Nord Est [Northeast]. The place of action is qualified through mobile and light signs, traces of inhabitability. Traces (for example the reiterated gesture) that accentuate the central position of self and amplify its perception, representing its interior image around the coordinates of spatial and geographical reference.
The suspension of space, time and action comes about when the subject understands these elements simultaneously and identifies himself in it, finding himself in a transitory condition that mutates gradually around the work. The conformation of the works themselves mutates, because it has its own life and therefore a soul. The theory of “pure visibility” affirmed that the sense of artistic activity consists, beyond any dualism, of a co-belonging of being and world, where there is an evidently close coincidence between art and reality and where art is “a necessary development of the same image of the world “. The awakening of clairvoyant knowledge or the birth of a concept mark the end of the vision. Indeed, in Fiedler’s view form is the unique and immediate expression of artistic consciousness. Thus the form around the work is created in the identity between reality and individual, which finds direct correspondence in concrete experience in the very moment in which the conscious perception extinguishes the vision.
Several materials used industrially and of natural origin respond to the sense of this project built on the places of being: clay and resin, cardboard, chalk, ceramics and colour, but also space and light worked in as supplementary elements.
A window and a PAR light bulb are the light sources in the recent Actes sans paroles. Here the perception of self is also amplified by the balance of the natural and artificial elements in which experience finds itself doubly reinforced.
The gestures, the environment, the past or imminent crossings of the I, perceived of as shortcomings or light absences, render the work inhabited (rather than inhabitable) by the mental space of which it wants to restore the image. As the artist has declared, in his work there is, above all, “vision — sans paroles — and more particularly gestures — actes — and the attempt to spatialize them “.
“Intorno” also exists in the work that is arranged frontally: the same phenomenon comes about with the projections onto fabrics treated with clay and resin, which carry the testimony of a movement spread out over the surface. The geographical charts penetrate the canvas like light and then take material form in the physicalness of the gesture. The superimposition of one layer of resin does not produce a cooling effect, but rather a halo of shining semi-transparency that interacts once again with the exterior. The surface — smooth in the ceramics, absorbent in the cardboard, opaque in the chalk — thanks to its variable qualities establishes sensitive relationships with space, where it is defined by means of counterpoint. The surface makes no distinction, any form restores its own physicalness to space and attracts it to itself, like the leaf that cannot but leave a trace in the wind and the light.
In the interstices of the layers, in the transparency of the resins, in the residues of the prints of clay, the fragments of a reflection similar to that of the work of the cartographer and the geologist are generated: a study and an exploration on the surface and in depth.
The cardboard reliefs of the rooms are made to scale and sometimes they reproduce with other profiles the entire empty interior, which is hidden from view but which is an essential and complementary part of the representation of a space. This modus operandi perhaps recalls the rigorous procedures of conceptual art where the integration of spatial conditions was obtained by means of the variation in scale of the structures, often built on relationships between full and empty. In particular Carl Andre reaches an awareness of the “ … negative of a first exhibition with bricks in which the empty space was the substance of the forms (Tibor de Nagy, New York, 1966) and the empty space of the first exhibition filled with scattered square bricks (Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, 1967) in ceramics. ”
Certainly it is necessary to consider the historical (thirty years of evolution in thought) and the cultural distances. Parisi’s work in some regards has nothing at all to do with the conceptual, features that are closely linked among themselves and whose precedents can be traced back instead to Italian art of the Sixties (Lo Savio and the early Arte Povera experiences): the vital impulse, the concept of space as a sensitive field and finally the adaptability of the work, which in Parisi does not involve so much the social element as the visibility of an aura that does not belong to evidence, as long as it does not manifest itself as a product of the human essence.
An “Around” that is not otherwise representable.
© 1999, Diletta Borromeo, in “Paolo Parisi. 1999”, published by Collica Gallery, Catania | Base/Progetti per l’arte, Florence.
 Italo Calvino, La forma dello spazio, in “Le Cosmicomiche”, A. Mondadori, Milan, 1993, p. 125.
 Konrad Fiedler, Realtà e arte, in “I percorsi delle forme”, B. Mondadori, Milan, 1997, p. 79
 In “Opening”, n. 35-36, Rome, Fall/Winter 1998, in reference to the theatrical pièce by Samuel Beckett Acte sans paroles I, 1957
 John Chandler, Lucy R. Lippard, The Dematerialisation of Art, in “Art International”, Lugano, February 1968