Alessandro Vignali

was born in Rome in 1965; the artist in him started to reveal himself about seventeen years after, when, after leaving the high school studies in the fourth year, he began to be interested in full-time art. In that period he kept meeting and frequenting a group of Roman artists for a couple of years, confronting them on art and world vision. Even if in fact his disposition for painting dates back to his childhood, when he was attending his first class at the primary school: the artist tells that his mother drew a horse for him because he wasn’able to do it by himself and hence a special attachment to her was born along with a strong and ever-increasing wish to draw. When Alessandro was twenty he was already painting with the same characteristics that have been going with him all his career: large canvases, strong colours, wide use of blue and red paints. Aged between twenty and twenty six, he traveled a lot, mainly to the North European capitals: London, Amsterdam, Scotland and France. A period, the travels one, wich will mark his imagination and his work for ever. Hence the leitmotifs of castles and fortresses but also the battles that summon up those of the North armies. He even now says his greatest desire would have been always to live and work in England. After the travel period, at about twenty five, he moved with his family from Rome to Umbria, to Alviano (TR) where he still lives today. It’s here where he started most of his huge production: in his home studio he worked in his first period painting large-size canvases, mostly almost lying down on the ground; up to 2004 his work is scanned by the Led Zeppelin visionary music, a constant soundtrack wich accompanies an intense work and a really indefatigable production. Notwithstanding a ten-year work, a huge amount of paintings and a stylistic feature by then consolidated, he held his first exhibition only in mid 90s in his new town, Alviano; this was followed by two other exhibitions in Umbria: in Giove (TR) in 1998 and in Spoleto (PG) in 2000. From there he began to exhibit in many galleries in Italy and abroad, up to London and New York, where Vignali’s leitmotivs themes and subjects were highly appreciated: the flying machines (“the omen of a better future” as the artist says), the soldiers wearing uniforms – often red or blue – positioned in an eternal clash and hanging in the balance between the battle and the exchange of energy, the faces which although similar, are declined in a multitude of different subjects. Painting is and always has been his only activity.


Alessandro Vignali’s “played” war

It’s not unusual to hear somebody saying, about a contemporary artist, that he/she voices his/her personal world through his/her works. The artist, says Marcel Proust, voices an interior country, whence he/she comes and to which he/she goes back through the creative act. This kind of consideration, conventional by now, seems to be ineludible, when we find ourselves tackling with Alessandro Vignali’s painting, whose aim seems to be the actual refoundation of the known world, whose memories we see reflected in a sort of trick mirror, in a parallel universe with an indistinctly oneiric feature. There is a recurring word in the few notes written by the painter to accompany his exhibitions, a word conceptually and functionally significant: “child”. It should be anyway belittling, for what we are concerned, to associate to the child world only the idea of ingenuousness or fragility. The act, in itself powerful and in a great degree narcissistic, of the reinvention of the world around us, appertains actually to the children’s inventive capacity, along with the annulment of the historic time and its categories of past, present and future. These are features we find as part of the Vignali’s visual search, when Prussian soldiers and Viking ships share the scene along with extraordinary flying machines, invented in spite of technique and history logic. Other “barriers” anyway are doomed to fall in his pictures. If his ectoplasm-like soldiers which exist only by virtue of painting, seem to be restored to life, rescued from the death limbo and the history books pages, even the inert matter seems to come to life. Its architectures are disquietingly alive, creatures of a Nordic, Gothic and vaguely barbaric world, which being irreducible to the classical measure world in which the Mediterranean way of building is used to indulge, has found its synthesis in soaring towers, tall pinnacles and castle battlements. Are also alive the statues appearing in some urban views realized in the 90s, directly linked to Vignali’smemories when he was a passionate traveller around Central and Northern Europe. As far as the substance of the spaces created by his irregular, ungrammatical brush stroke and that of the figures themselves, it seems to undergo some real passages-states, keeping as unique certainty the identification with the nature of the colour:the trees and the armies can take the form and the shades of the flame and the steel, and act their destiny floating in a dimension which at the same time appears earthly, airy and liquid, shaken in a meaningless collision in an atmosphere of eternal shipwreck. At the centre of Vignali’s visual world is in fact the idea of conflict, whose representative modes are to be led in some measure to a child dimension. What the artist seems keen to put on is a great game of tin soldiers, a scenic machine which as in some paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, renounces to have a unique focal centre, probably to be spotted outside the representation, in the artist himself. His war theatres, where, also for the absence of blood, more and more war becomes theatre, have recently undergone an interesting evolution. The scattering of men and means of the 90s works, where you could occasionally separate the goodies from the villains or the offender from the besieged defender, is now replaced by ranks closing up: armies collide in a serried way in open field, some specular to others, identical or made enemy by a different uniform which, anyway, apart from cancelling any possible individuality, reveals its nature of mask, disguise, stage costume. The battles “played” by Vignali are traced on those of the past, led one versus one, bayonet versus bayonet, where every man, thrown versus a possible death by orders from above, sometimes inscrutable, he looks fatefully in the eye his enemy, his own double. The battles are, probably, the manifestation of our interior conflicts, containable, provided you stage them:the enemy, they seem to tell us, is but an alter egowho lives and contends our own ego. These surfaces, saturated with colours and forms as for appeasing a sort of horror vacui, show different analogies with some twentieth century pictorial researches with a generically expressionist matrix. The sky scraps, occasionally furrowed by flights of witch-like presences, could remind of the chromatically unreal flows of some landscape views by Edward Munch or Emil Nolde, accounts of a screaming and torn nature. The form regression, the acid clash of some shades, spread in impastos showing their material roughness and the research by the protagonists of the CoBra group, such as Karel Appel or Asgern Jorn. The transversal, apparent quotation of similar avant-gards or neo-avant-gards, along with the free reference to either the figure or the abstraction – see for instance some cubic shapes on the edgeof a liquefaction which turns them into geometric parodies. This is the expressive approach of the Italian “Transavanguardia”. Finally, should one look at the premises and consequences of the thematic nucleus of his painting, it could remind him/her of the literary works by Günter Grass, such as “The Tin Drum” or “Cat and Mouse”. It’s singular, but it’s referable to the artists’particular sensibility, capable of knowing something even when they have never learnt it. And we do know that Vignali reaches his own sensibility by means of the most absolute spontaneity of expression convinced as he is of a painting ranked in opposition to “the Senior High School, the Academy, the University”. This painting, appearing as an intimate necessity, transfers into images an interior diary made of memories and visions, to be flipped through “pages” following and contaminating one another. Vignali is used to pile up his canvases when the oil colours covering them is not yet dried. Whosoever looks at their backs, is able to trace the tracks of the previous adventure.

Nicola Galvan