Enrico Castellani (1930, Castelmassa) is regarded one of Italy’s most important living artists. He studied art and architecture in Belgium, at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts and École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He started challenging the confines of painting, sculpture and architecture in the early 1950s in search of a new paradigm.
He dedicated himself to the space of the canvas in a multidimensional way. By use of an unconventional and ingenious technique he stretches the canvas like a membrane on an underlying nail structure. These are called ‘Superficies’ pieces, on a monochrome canvas, mostly white. To make them he uses a nail gun to produce a relief-like surface that induces light and shade effects through alternating depressions and raised areas. They reveal a geometrical pattern, a rhythm of positive and negative space, of light and shadow.
The idea behind this was to radically redefine the notion of painting. Together with Piero Manzoni he was a catalytic figure in the post-war avant garde in Europe and Italy. They started the Azimut gallery together, organised international exhibitions and published essays that opposed dominant art movements at the time. The central idea was to arrive at an art that offered a fresh view on techniques and materials in stead of imitate an existing form. With this ambition in mind he showed his “Suferficie nera” pieces for the first time in 1959 and has been working with this technique throughout his career.
The installation on the first floor of the gallery of work by both artists is reminiscent of architectural and spatial installations, they invite the viewer to walk through the (pictorial) space.