EMANUELE BELUFFI INTERVIEWS MAURIZIO L’ALTRELLA (and then he reveals him)
Backgrounds cleared but full of accents, concretions, streaks, lumps, signs, spatolature: tell us about this nothing where everything is
I would say that you have already expressed, with a perfect synthesis, my idea of space. An extension of pure thought, pure living, pure breathing; a dimension that is creature and creative at the same time. Exactly: a nothingness where everything is. I try to create a dialogue as lively as possible between background and subject, so that one depends absolutely on the other; so that they create and recreate each other. Even when a subject appears steady, its immutability is only apparent. Everything moves and changes every time.
The subjects of your paintings represent creatures nearing apparition, sometimes they are only animals, other times they are halfway between man and animal; often in quasi-hieratic positions: Can you tell us about the meaning of this “being” and these metamorphoses?
I’m interested in relating the spiritual, intimate, forgotten nature that the human creature had with his fellow men and all other living beings in this or parallel dimensions; no matter their resemblance, the one they have, should have or could take. My work is essentially based on these pulses, which I translate through the images that I present. The metamorphosis is simply a metaphor of change, but it is so deep that even the appearance is influenced. Change is absolutely necessary to go beyond what you know. Regarding the posture of the subjects, I can only say that I am conditioned, almost obsessively, by the images of the paintings of the period ranging from the post Reformation to the end of the seventeenth century. I have an unconscious need which drives my research (before even start painting) towards all of those subjects which are ostentatiously portrayed as sacred, just as it was used in certain historical periods. In some of my recent paintings, the use of gold as a color is a reference to the sacred painting; this represents a necessary citation for me. These strong references give physical expression to the attitude of my subjects: animals, humans, or anything they are.
What has changed in your work from your participation in the group exhibition “Nero” (November 2013) by Biancamaria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter
Everything. Even if the inner drive is the same. Simply by looking at my work this can be understood.
What does it mean for you to paint?
Exactly what I do best. honestly and joyfully, for as much as possible. I try not to take myself too seriously but I do work seriously and always believe in what I do. I have no faith in self-flagellation.
Have you any idols? Who are your masters? Not allowed names of painters.
My mother and my father have been my first teachers; then gradually, all other beings I have met in my life. In the end, I’m not what I read or what I have seen or heard, nor what I do, but there is in me a part of everything I have lived and I am still living; a part of me is in everything too (this is not rhetoric). Having said that, I love Jim Jarmusch, Peter Greenaway, Tim Burton, Kim Ki Duk, Jung, Goethe, J. Milton, to mention some and Dante Alighieri, obviously. There are so many good musicians, but I do not like any kind of music, especially the one that is too commercial, the so-called “light”. Music is a very important element in my creative action. I don’t want to do wrong to someone so I won’t mention anybody, but I certainly prefer more experimentation, energy, surprise, invention and genius than the virtuosity for the sake of it. I like classic music as well as rock (and most of its branches and genres) and contemporary music. I have no idols or religion.
AB OVO AND BEYOND
Let’s start from the title: As in Heaven so on Earth is a prognostication. As every verbal expression denoting in an essential manner the content of a particular lexical universe -in this case, Maurizio L’Altrella’s exhibition-, it shows a suggestive way to frame “the thing”, that is to say these objectifications of symbolic forms which we call paintings.
It is not mandatory to try the literary arena to give a worthy title to his exhibition: the great Jerry Saltz, who apparently lacked imagination that day, had called “his” group exhibition Black and White. This way, dry, Black and White.
As in heaven so on earth, however, is a title which is a bit more affable as it is not just a “label” of a specific time of L’Altrella’s creative phase, but it announces its next step too (which will, when it will be).
To understand the future we must look at the present, which on the other hand is not understood except through the past: then, the sense of the current series of paintings (and the title of the show) by Maurizio L’Altrella explains (reveals itself) what his work was, is and will be. This is paradoxical as L’Altrella has always given this consistent idea of being out of time (not himself, but his paintings. On the other hand: art and life, as les decadents used to say).
If his previous production (biennium 2013/2014) was focused on the mystic “transfiguration” of animals almost subsisting in a magic and ancestral aura, now antropomorphic elements nearing appearance dominate the scene; body parts of subject that are not visible in their physical integrity and human reminiscence.
Well, almost-human: in the transition from the not-human to the almost-human they denote the legendary figures of the “giants” from the Old Testament, Greek and Germanic (being Francisco Goya’s The Colossus perhaps the most famous referent in the history of Western art), “colossal reminiscences” that, in the new paintings of Maurizio L’Altrella, perform the highly symbolic “bridge” between earth and heaven.
A “transit” from one dimension to another which is, in fact, only symbolic, because we are not talking about a real passage, but interpenetration, isomorphic fusion, such as the Tao symbol or the “three-times-great” apophthegm of Ermete Trismegisto, so above as below.
If we were to steal fire from the Gods, or the jargon to philosophers, we could say that As in Heaven so on Earth denotes a monistic/spiritual world vision, so that the being, the what it is there, is a substantial unity, without dichotomies, without oppositions (good / evil, spirit / matter, mind / body).
Hence, an aspiration, a projection, a prognostication of what will be (realized at least at pictorial level, in a subsequent phase to the one characterized by the giants, which are a way to elsewhere).
We could call this “what it will be” as the man truly human that (the legs of the giants, in the painting, are skinned and based on a blood-red ground) is now ascended to the “clarity” of the sky from the “filth” of the earth (for this reason the “giants” are never shown in their entirety, as to suggest the “top” of a spiritual human renewal that we cannot see or reach for the moment); completion of an evolution that begins from the not-human ( the mystics animals from the previous production) and is now represented by the half-human ( the giants in fact), according to the history of a progressive acquisition of the wisdom fictionalized in visual form.
Wisdom already incarnated in the ancestral creatures painted by L’Altrella, mystics animals that expressed purity exceeding the “orthopedic” dualism Good/Evil, Spirit/Matter, Mind/Body, which is opposed to the human logic, and it is now represented, in a new step of this spiritual evolution, by the creatures not yet human, prognostication and symbol of a creature that will be truly human, if it will ever be.