Transparency and Opacity | contrattempo
One day, a man wanted to visit the house of his birth.
He went to the place where it once stood but he couldn’t see a thing.
The house had vanished and there was a green meadow in its stead.
Disconsolate, he stood on the edge of the meadow. Just then, a countryman came by
and asked what he was looking for. My home, the man replied.
The countryman stopped to think then beckoned to the man to follow him. There were
patches of softer grass of a lighter green towards the middle of
the meadow. The house seemed to reappear with its walls and rooms
amidst of the green. The man was happy. He thanked the countryman and often
returned to stroll through the rooms of his house, designed by
mere lines of a lighter green.
Depth should be hidden. Where? On the surface.
Hugo Von Hofmannsthal
Since its outset, Paolo Parisi’s research has been based on a two-fold perspective – frontal and transversal – which, like the visions evoked in the opening references, seems able to bring out in the surface of the work, à rebours, traces of its very conception. There was, for example, the resin used in the Mappe del Peloponneso, which made the canvas translucent, highlighting the framework of the painting by means of a transparency which, as one of the effects of the finished work, marked an approach contrary to concealing materiality while at the same time transforming the vertical and horizontal canvas supports into meridians and parallels and substituting those absent from the maps that the artist’s fingers outline on the canvas in clay. This process is not unlike that of the Inversi series in which the monochrome effect enables us to see very small, almost imperceptible traces of different colors very near the edges which, together with the masses of material just below the unitary surface, are a sign of the complex conception of the work and its temporality . Lastly, the purpose and effect of the resins is mirrored by the rings and the run marks of oils in the Inversi and then in the Coast to Coast series which, like the stubborn traces of a coating applied too soon, later seep on to the monochrome surface of the works treated with acrylics or tempera. These are exaggerations with no intrinsic qualities and which, by difference and resistance, are called rings and traces and become part of the work but which by their deliberate defectiveness express “stains” in the “representation”.
Declining what could at first sight seem technical carelessness as a means of expression, Parisi explicitly raises the issue of the survival of the before and after or of the above and below as an worthwhile metaphor of the infinite emerging within the painting and in the never-ending work of the painter.
Spurred by such ideas, the eye of the spectator crosses the minimal thickness monochrome surface transforming its opacity into a sort of conceptual transparency that enables him to analyse and recompose the two-fold nature of the painting deconstructing the process that created it.
A painting illustrates a subject: painting at work
Always off-balance with itself, the work of Paolo Parisi retreats within itself to confirm its actual existence. Its approach to the beforehand is not a feint for an ‘archaeological’ orientation in order to restore what has definitively been but is rather a sign of attention about what is about to towards the inevitable obsession of already-and-not-yet, the rest and remainder of everything that has been completed. The pre that comes out of the artist’s work is not therefore a fullness to be brought to light but a sort of insurgency declinable in the future. What never gets concluded and which, strictly speaking, has never been, is thus incorporated into the very fabric of the work making it a place where the non-appropriable, inaccessible and non-presentable can survive.
By concealing pre-existing polychrome traces underneath a single monochrome coat, Paolo Parisi inverts (as the title of the series suggests) the basics of the usual way of constructing a painting and by a loss of evidence to be taken as a gain points out us that the beforehand (or underneath) – that which is irrevocably part of the not yet of the work – can be shown by denying it eloquence.
Indeed, reverting back to within itself and retreating towards its beforehand, the painting process incorporates a spaciousness which, echoing in the result illustrates what lies below and as though in filigree, a space-to-be of time and a time-to-be of space.
By means of an apparently paradoxical trick that makes the work look impossible just as it gives us back its potential according to a different yardstick, the artist questions the “language” of the painting not in the direction of its postponement to… but in that of what it has to do. So, what has become of the maps that originally underpinned this operation?
The simplest form of a map is not how we see it today as
the most natural, showing the surface of the land
as an extraterrestrial would see it. The first things we need
to fix on the map are the places we are travelling to: the
reminder of the successive stages in an itinerary.
In Geografia Franco Farinelli reminds us that “Anassimandro, the first person who attempted to draw the outline of the known world, producing the first geographical image… was accused of impiety by his contemporaries” not only because “he had taken it upon himself to show the land and sea from above as normally is the exclusive right of the gods” as we had been taught, but also and above all because “by his drawing…he had paralysed … something (physis, nature) which instead is in continual growth and movement, ‘the genesis of things that grow’… a dynamic process, not its inert outcome”. In Anassimandro’s language, making a map of something involves “firstly reducing a thing to the thing-that-is, hence its transformation into an entity which by definition already has all the necessary cartographic characteristics and which has been reduced to a plate”.
The implicit violence of mapping consists in this very reduction. The map, the significance of which is given once and for all to everyone, Farinelli notes, and is good in every situation, “not only kills the Earth but mortifies language too because it stiffens not only the object but also the way to relate to it, which, therefore also paralyses the subject ”.
Parisi’s heterodox maps don’t have this problem; they don’t presume anything around specific territories, but – as we have noted – far from hypostatising painting into preconceived ideas, his pictorial carto-graphs around themselves and their reality seek to bring painting back to its carto-graphic origins. These, instead do not lock the spectator into a preset role but invite him to physical and conceptual movement. Their “transparency” is not given but something to be achieved.
Furthermore, art is the place in which it is impossible to draw borders and, as Foucault pointed out, it is “that which compensates (not that which confirms) the significant functioning of language”.
In Parisi’s research, it is the way the actual painting is that suggests the pathways and the approach the eye should adopt: faced with the too full of monochromatic saturation, the spectator seeks a point of access shifting his attention to the edges of the painting. This implicitly disturbs the generally frontal and static-contemplative view we normally adopt for a picture and which is weakened by encountering works the frequently large size of which calls for a mobile viewing, an oblique, acute viewpoint which serves more to note the clumps and thicknesses of lines and backgrounds that pucker the monochrome coat normally applied by spray or roller.
… The aim of an exhibition, needless to say, is to show
objects and offer us images. An exhibition, though, is also
an image in itself. A frame of time and place
that contains the area which we find ourselves observing….
Dialectics in a state of rest between above and below, before and after which in an interrupted process of cross-related dissolution typical of the artist’s pictorial cycles, are spatially declined in the Casa dell’arte (verde cadmio e magenta) installation. While colour stratification and overlapping have a major role in painting on canvas, played on the weakening of the single colour, what counts more in this major work on glass mounted on two external walls adjacent to high-profile architecture, is the relationship created between inside-outside and transparency-reflection-opacity which in a way is a forerunner of the present brilliant installation in the Pecci museum.
Instead of developing over three different areas, the latter should be exhibited as a single unit. For reasons of space we shall only deal with the Come raggiungere la costa (Museum), the coloured light of which flows into the sinuousness of the Lounge giving a sense of unity to the whole operation despite there being no direct reverberation.
Paolo Parisi paints space and light from the big windows is wholly filters through sheets of red fluo Plexiglas “that allow the outside landscape to seep through and with it the changes in the weather and the varying degrees of light throughout the day . Intangible colour so intensely floods the area that houses a large cartographic Wall Painting that one’s perception of the place itself changes. While awash with colour, we stroll within the work, we gradually begin to become aware of how much our subjective perception, which is woven into an aesthetic experience inseparable from the everyday varies. Indeed, depending on the amount of light, the silver-outlined wall-mounted cartographs change dominating colour, shifting from silver through light blue to purple. Every perception is witness to its own relativity and impermanence; from a distance, Wall Painting itself seems detached from the wall and separate from the support that holds it. From the outside the large sheets of Plexiglas are no longer transparent and become a sort of sinuous, translucent wall of colour with reflecting properties. Here, with an even brighter show of light, each sheet highlights its frame emphasising the work of the artist on the paintings’ edges.
The three-fold entity of observer-space-work thus finally becomes an indivisible entity.
The stroll through the colour contributes to providing the observer with different and always new points of view “which are not partial or limited perspectives compared to an ideal point that would totalise them all, incorporating the ‘authenticity’ of the vision but original and unflawed approaches to the vision itself” 
© 2008, Saretto Cincinelli, in “Observatorium (Museum)”, Ex. Catalogue, published by Contemporary Art Center Luigi Pecci, Prato.
 For a more detailed analysis of this cycle see: Saretto Cincinelli, Monocromie provvisorie, 2002 in: Paolo Parisi, Galleria Comunale d’arte contemporanea Castel San Pietro Terme – Galleria Neon, Bologna, Bologna , 2002
 Franco Farinelli, Geografia, un’introduzione ai modelli del mondo, Einaudi, Turin, 2003.
 For a specific analysis of this work: Saretto Cincinelli, Moto a luogo, catalogue of the exhibition of the same name, Gli Ori, Prato, 2004
 Stefano Pezzato, in the same catalogue
 Cf. Massimo Carboni, Non vedi niente lì?, Castelvecchi, Rome, 2005