In the solo show at Lenbachhaus (2006), an exhibition entitled “Observatorium – Gegen den Strom (Observatory – against the Stream)“ Paolo Parisi reflects on the basic and formative impressions of his home near the Etna – the powerful “breathing” mountain whose lava eruptions have led to a prevailing awareness of the earth verging on disaster. The vulcano and the profound depth of the sea hidden under its reflecting blue surface constitute the reference points for the development of his works; always attentively observing nature, which transforms, breaks open and closes again. His painting deals with this reality under the surface of appearances. For this exhibition Paolo Parisi has developed a presentation especially for the rooms of the Lenbachhaus encompassing the various aspects of his work created up ‘till now.

The exhibition starts with “Come raggiungere la vetta (giardino)“ (How to reach the peak – garden), 2006, a new edition of a work of 2000, which he painted in oil directly on the wall practically mapping the inside of the volcano. The visitor finds himself within a space whose reality is heightened by the changes caused by the colored light. Thus Parisi elucidates his stance towards painting right at the beginning. With the medium of paint a real landscape is transformed into a conceptual one. The earthy materiality is replaced by a reflecting paint (containing silver and aluminum pigments) shimmering in the red light.

Communication in the language of art is the theme of the succeeding room. Two large-scale oil paintings entitled “U.s.a.e u.a.a.a.“ (Uno sull’altro e uno accanto all’altro, 2004 and 2006) show a mass of people in a black raster screen, viewed from above and from behind respectively. With the paintings corresponds a wall pierced with round holes of different diameters. Their spatial arrangement corresponds to details of certain celestial constellations. The work is named after one of these constellations, the “Triangulum Australe” situated on the right. Sounds are heard through some of those holes – sounds from inside the Etna. Not until you enter the space behind this room will you realize what kind of interconnection Parisi is building here. From the inside of a cardboard-sculpture tubes grow establishing communication within the room and with the adjoining rooms. You can enter the “Observatory” and use it as a lookout or you can communicate with an unknown vis-à-vis in the other room.

In the third room Parisi presents two large-format paintings entitled “Coast to Coast“. A bench made of layers of cardboard invites the visitor to sit and linger. The concept for this room was inspired by the “camera chiara”, once used by Veduta painters as a means to reproduce exact views of landscapes and towns. Before a neutral background the grey painting bears on the architecture while the green painting relates to nature beyond the windows facing it. Painting becomes a monochrome reverberation of surrounding “landscapes”. It is the painting technique which introduces an uncontrolled moment into this extremely controlled ambience. Through layers of oil and acrylic paint the underlying oil seeps through creating “grease spots” which spread uncontrolably. A different type of landscape seems to “invade” the painting.

In the succeeding room we see the aforementioned sculpture the “Observatorium” whose “communicating tubes” visualize the theme of interconnection and integration.

The “Islands”, white spots on a black wall dominate the last room. The shape of the spots imitates that of watercolor on paper,. they show the natural expansion of color streched to the limit. In some ways they also represent mountains with the color marking the highest peaks fading towards the edges following their own natural, uncontrollable laws. In this black space the white spots compare to the lookouts in the cardboard sculpture “Observatorium”.