TURI SIMETI

ALCAMO

TURI SIMETI
18.09.2015 14.11.2015
DIEHL
Berlin
ALCAMO
From the light of Sicily On the group of works Alcamo I – X by Turi Simeti In the summer of this year, the major survey exhibition “ZERO – The international art movements of the 1950s and 1960s” was held in the Martin–Gropius–Bau in Berlin, and the curators can be attributed with raising awareness of Zero as an international movement in Europe with its different forms of expression. Whereas the focus of this movement was once located in the Rhineland, in retrospect “Zero” is perceived as an avant garde that reached well beyond this region, which examined similar subjects in different locations in Europe. “Zero” has come to epitomise an abstraction which, following the innovations of the “non-objective world” of a Kazimir Malevich at the beginning of the 1920s or the breakthrough of the Constructivists and Concretism, expanded precisely those accomplishments of surfaces, geometry and monochromy by the component of light, thus enriching abstraction with this categorical determination, which at the same time represented a new beginning “from zero”. For light as a topic of abstraction depends both on the location of its creation and the site of its presentation. Light affects the movement of the viewer and always involves his position in the space, indeed for this very reason kinetics became a part of many artists’ work. From the archetype of the light-room modulator in the years 1922-1930, which Lászlo Moholy-Nagy could never execute himself, movement and light would become a central motif for Zero. For the advocates of geometric abstraction to the “Interaction of Color” by Josef Albers, space was always a mental space in the sense of a more or less spiritual cosmos behind the picture. With Zero, space becomes a spiritual space in front of the picture, sharing it with the viewer by means of the fall of light upon the work. Without any doubt, everyday daylight in southern Mediterranean regions is different to that which appears in the northern areas of Europe. For example, dramatic weather events and the resulting light phenomena have influenced the landscape painting of the north, often suggesting moods that we interpret as being overwhelmingly cinematic, whereas the light in the south is more constant, shaped less by the contradictions of the weather, and guarantees more permanently the monochromy of a “blue sky”. Landscape and vegetation are also coloured differently in the southern light. Things are exposed to the sun, and derive a different colouring from this illumination, which is expressed above all in colour tones and shades. Colours appear to be dried out, like sand, earthier, blunt, but also warmer. Therefore it is hardly surprising that Turi Simeti, an artist born in 1929 in Alcamo, Sicily, has been associated with the stylistic characteristics of the ZERO movement from the very beginning of his artistic career. From Alcamo he created paintings that expressed this mood of aspects influenced by light. The name of the current works series from 2015 is like an homage to this place: Alcamo I – X. There are ten canvases of the same quadratic format, measuring 100 x 100 cm. They differ in colouring and, in order to highlight the individuality of each work, in relief-like refractions of the surface, created by oval shapes placed behind the canvas. The monochromy is preserved, however the surface monochromy of the canvas is manipulated, in an attempt to evoke structures, movement and thus a play of light and shadow. One could interpret the oval motifs as a mischievous reference to the “O” in Zero; as a repeated sequence of raised or elongated forms they form a regular composition within the monochromy, which is visible only as a result of the different refractions of light at these places. Paint is applied equally at all points. It was applied to the canvas with technical perfection, thus avoiding any trademark of the artist: no gestures, no expressive play with the texture of the paint as material. The application of paint disappears and even seems to become one with the canvas, as if it were a dyed piece of fabric. All of this prompts us as viewers to concentrate on the movements within the painting, which make the light visible like islands on the shaping of the surface, providing a resistance to the symmetry in the balance between the quadratic formats. Our attention is captured by the protrusions: Alcamo I has a circular shape, Alcamo X cites the format of the exterior in its interior, Alcamo III extends a linear continuation of this oval, like traces in the sand, Alcamo IV, now captured in a light blue, looks like a cloud formation, Alcamo V appears once again in pure white with vertical lines. Alcamo VI emerges as the greatest contrast to the previous versions, dark blue like the night, containing three large ovals, as if one were breathing more slowly and deeply. Alcamo VII is again light, in the sense of not heavy. Alcamo VIII demonstrates three intervals, which in Alcamo IX vanish into a diagonal, barely visible track, before eventually becoming condensed into a miniature in Alcamo II, appearing like a picture within a picture. This publication is laid out in such a manner that Turi Simeti follows each reproduction of the individual painting with a selection of apparently normal and arbitrary photographs – snapshots that illustrate a panorama of his Sicilian world. If you look closely you will soon discover that these pictures conceal or suggest the conceptual origins that led to the different compositions of the ovals and the colouring of the canvases of this group of works. It is these motifs of the everyday culture of Sicily that lead Simeti to create his abstract paintings. The apparent non-objectivity of his paintings prove to be rooted in concrete ideas, whose common and uniting experience can be found in the experience with light. Art is always also translation. Just as one can translate words and terms from one language into another, whereby each language, however, follows its own intrinsic grammatical structure, it is not always possible to express the mood or melody of a language 1:1. Every translation is a process of abstraction. Thus this visual encyclopaedia by Turi Simeti should be interpreted as a translation, where individual words can be named for his imagery, but where the syntax of the whole remains untranslated, as it follows its own visual language, shaped by light.

Friedrich Meschede