ELOGIO DEI FIORI FINTI
EULOGY TO FAKE FLOWERS
The extent to which Morandi’s work is inherently up-to-date and studied by artists is now well known, with the latter interpreting it and making it their own via the most diverse and varied languages. The 2017 presentation in this very museum of an exhibition entitled Morandi’s modernity - was designed to underline this now established truth. The lessons of this great painter have now been absorbed and reworked in their own way by the Bertozzi & Casoni duo via the medium they are masters of - ceramics. Their attention has turned to certain famous paintings depicting flower vases and, paradoxically, it would seem almost that Morandi’s painting work was, for these potters, the key to getting into harmony with the things which were its model. No bottle, no bowl or carafe, but those flower vases which we can still, today, admire in Morandi’s home-museum.
We know that the model preferred by Morandi was not fresh flowers, which are so fleeting and change day by day (thus creating variants independent of his will), but silk or dried flowers which remain the same and, like other objects, gather dust creating colour effects which were by no means disliked by Morandi and perhaps for this reason sought by him. It is thus an enquiry which begins with the absence of life which he recreated on his canvases via soft and delicate face powder tones and precious green hues.
Bertozzi & Casoni have always been interested in the flower theme and seem to be trying to breathe new life into those deliberately long stemmed cut roses (Morandi as Cesare Brandi recalled, “cut his roses below the bud and laid them on the edge of a vase as dense as a bride’s bouquet”) with brightly coloured insects on their leaves. This is a careful and personal reworking, then, from which full-blown ‘d’aprés Morandi’ emerges, following on from the famous Gio Ponti work which offered up punctured, bejewelled, masked and even buttoned bottles over seventy years ago.
But what might Morandi have thought or muttered under his breath to himself if he could have seen the creations of Giampaolo Bertozzi and Stefano Dal Monte Casoni inspired by some of his flower paintings? Who knows. Perhaps he might have chosen them as subjects for his next painting.
FAKE FLOWERS, STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL
We all know that Giorgio Morandi frequently painted small bunches of flowers which he placed in little ceramic vases. In the small room he used as a studio, however, there were no flowers. There was, certainly, a vase with bouquet painted by Chardin, namely a postcard sent from Edinburgh, in whose museum this small, splendid painting is located, in which this 18th century painter seemed to prod Morandi, urging him on to take a few steps along his same path. I never saw flowers - real flowers. Morandi painted only fake flowers, either dried or silk. Real flowers wilt, lose their petals, change the composition the painter had carefully studied for his painting a little. Fake flowers are immobile and last much longer than a bunch of real flowers.
So it happened, a while ago, that a friend (and sometimes a precious work colleague) placed an attractive catalogue in my hands, packed with large colour illustrations. Admirable works of art made by hand by a pair of Imola potters. I was amazed, stupefied by their workmanship, by the undoubted manual skill of these artists whose name, I am ashamed to say, I did not even know. But they had held exhibitions both in Italy and across the Alps and sometimes even across the oceans, complete with printed catalogues, obviously, and excellent introductory texts.
With this publication still before my eyes, I immediately, right there and then, set to work writing them a card full of praise which was all less than they deserved. I am well aware, I confess, that my artistic tastes are not much more up-to-date than those in fashion at the times of the white wall figures in the Lascaux grotto. And I also know that handiwork and eye work are things we expect of surgeons, dentists, tailors even barbers but less frequently of artists who often state, with a smile, that they are not skilled in drawing. These two potters, then, amazed me. Someone should try modelling the petals of a rose in clay using their fingers alone and then put each petal in its place to make a budding rose and then choose the right colour and dust it without smudging and so on. As far as I’m concerned, I learnt a little drawing as a boy, clumsily. But it is something that no school does today with any system. And certainly, like each of you, I would not know where to start with a piece of clay in my hands.
Some time ago my friend took me to Imola. I saw nothing of the attractive town. We wandered around the anonymous warehouses of the industrial zone without place names and perhaps even street numbers. Lastly we met one of the two potters who we had arranged to see who seemed, I think, amazed by my admiration.
We wandered around these vast spaces and saw finished work and some which had just begun. In amongst these I saw a large humanoid head inspired by one of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s from Prague to Milan, at the end of the century and of his life. He painted primarily for the Hapsburg court, putting together (as everyone knows) vegetables, various fruits or peaches and crustaceans and so on for the curiosity of courtiers and their amusement. Finding, obviously, great resonance in the Surrealist era.
Of the things which were more or less finished we found a great surprise. They had used a beautiful Morandi painting as a model of certain rose buds sticking out of a tall vase, a hand high, made of pale pottery or porcelain with just a touch of subtle blue lines. And they were working on it. The vase was finished now and the roses, each single one with its stem, with no thorns but fresh leaves in a bright green, were there on the work top now ready to be put in place in the vase. It was obviously a tribute to a painter whom the two potters loved and admired. But this work was theirs alone and it wasn’t even a copy although it had a little of a copy about it. I looked at both the vase and the flowers and leaves from close to. I invite you to do the same and find out what Morandi would never have imagined. In that masterpiece of stripy pottery, half hidden, was life itself. Fake, yes, but seeming true.
25 April 2019
P.S: It seems that they had taken to it, those two extraordinary potters from Imola. Their tribute to Morandi, with that incredible bouquet of roses, was not enough and they created a further two vases with flowers in a close bunch and they’re roses again. So they paid twofold tribute to Morandi and it’s a twofold pleasure for our eyes.
4 September 2019