Marco di Capua, Le notti bianche (due), in Aria di vetro, exhibition catalogue, Milan
Actually there are three of them. At least three White Nights. Because as well as the ones you’re looking at now and Dostoevsky’s memories of a dreamer, there is Luchino Visconti’s movie; there are Mastroianni and Maria Schell wandering around and seeking one another in a sort of poignant Livorno made of lunar gauze; there is cinema made in a studio, where the set is everything and reality is forgotten and re-created. In short: make-believe, sentimentality, visions of disorienting scenery. That kind of stuff. With Visconti simultaneously realistic and abstract. Like Lombardi. For the record: Enrico Lombardi, a fine Viscontian name, if you think about it. I’m going by what Enrico tells me: he thinks, or rather feels that the world is always in flight. He is right, and this torments him, so he rescues pieces of it, saves them, fixes them forever: memories, persistences, resistances, the determination not to let oneself be extinguished… All this work is covered by the veil of leave-taking and, at the same time, of meeting again. Pieces of world that come and go. A good clue to understanding what you have here: a color, a bit of wall and—zing!—everything returns, whole rows of houses rush past like links in an endless chain, a rattled-off rosari of lost cities and realities. On the other hand Proust’s brain made do with even less, a cookie: talk about mnemonics! And he injected an overdose of time into his veins, with so great a multisensory dilatation as to leave us dumbfounded for generations. And then another lead worth following springs to mind, one that might seem the opposite of the first and yet, deep down, is perhaps the same. In any case: there are a lot of ways of contemplatine the void, and this is one of those ways. Never mind that here you always see something: houses, trees, overhead walkways, walled gardens, chimneys, old factories, skies… Never mind, because it’s not true: you are seeing the void. Ideally you are standing next to Honda, the hero of Yukio Mishima’s tetralogy The Sea of Fertility, who at the end of it all is led by an abbess into the inner courtyard of a monastery, between walls that frame a perfectly empty sky. Four very long books that finish right there: in front of an empty courtyard and an empty sky. Extraordinary. In Mishima’s novel there was a lot of sun. Dazzling sun. Here it is night, shot through with unnatural flashes, coming from spotlights of mysterious origin, from rays that fall at an angle, like rain on the earth. There is no sun, no blue, but you are on Mishima’s territory, I swear, you are in the area of the void. If you understand this, everything becomes a little clearer. These are pictures of echoes, and what you are looking at is the echo of an image, a world that is stripped bare, reduced to skin and bone, that leans out and is reflected in the water left at the bottom of a bronze bowl, refracted copy of an original that you don’t see. That perhaps doesn’t even exist. You spend your life listening to and looking at things, but then how many of them are left in your hands? A handful. Which has given you very little nourishment. I believe that Enrico sticks to the essential, to his canon, that he aims to get to the heart of the matter. Like everyone: he has wandered around in his head looking for some kind of home, and when he has found it, what an abundance! For are we not always exiles? We yearn for the return to or of something without really knowing what it is… So: what are my Gods? “I want to be like an ancient painter of icons,” he says. There is a great deal of the spirit of devotion in this anarchic monk, in this libertarian mystic who seeks and finds his own freedom in a marvelous, gentle and very intimate voluntary incarceration, in a well-constructed, implacable imprisonment, amongst guard towers and fortifications, in a place where nothing of the obscene penetrates: nothing corrupt, not the horror of the everyday nor the noise of the world, no gossip, no communication. And so there is real freedom there, damn it: high windows, like slits, very small, and open them as little as possible please. Look: no one appears there… Enrico likes to repeat his own actions, to retrace his steps. He moves in cycles. He expands in series. He feels the irresistible appeal of monotony. He is seduced by renunciation. In serial artists, in those who repeat themselves, the single and harrowing action is excluded, banished. Repetition acts as an intellectual agent provocateur, and weakens and in the end thwarts any tragic condition. In this way, artists purify you. The multiplication and the variation on the theme of their world lighten you. And so the inaccessible, the refuge from any storm. Pictures that make you think: I would like to be there. At least for a while. If I were there I’d be safe, I tell myself. Because you can imagine the lack of hurry. You can also hope for the end of all impatience. You already feel better, don’t you? Mysterious cenobites in seclusion, you can see them. Perhaps they are our own thoughts and desires. Well looked after and purified as far as possible. Protected behind sturdy walls: only a swish of sandals on the stones and a gurgle of well water, back there, up there. Fools think that staying behind closed doors and doing nothing except praying and meditating is useless. Simply: it is. Leaves that fall, they are superfluous too, but perfect. I have news for you, perfection is not useful. It is not useful, it produces nothing: it’s just feeble perfection. A wonder. You will have noticed: Enrico constructs a great deal, he is a meticulous architect, but he doesn’t build on the ground. For him there is no ground. His pictures emerge, surface, stand on nothing, on a ground that does not exist, like tough stoppers placed there to face the attack of light and wind. Very solid they look, the birth, the vision of low mists, but so low they are left out of frame. No origin nor end. A sort of upward flow is the only movement that these pictures hint at: being born by rising. Solidity doing without its very roots? I don’t know, but I see all this stretching and bending of spaces without a real support. Driven into nothing. Air of high altitudes. Indeed air of other planets. But will there be enough oxygen there? All these lights and this non-colored color, reddish— greenish—who knows, they give you the sensation of having arrived in some other part of the solar system. Forget about flying trees. Here everything has gone somewhere else, believe me. The remotest Italy has become cosmic. Giotto and Piero della Francesca have been launched into orbit. They tune you in with what you’re not familiar with yet, what you don’t know. They have colonized other worlds. “I make the image creak” is an expression of Enrico’s, and I like it. It works. You think of a small earth tremor, one of those where you don’t know whether to go out into the street or take shelter under the main beam of the roof or stay where you are and wait, and you choose the third option. You hear the creaking but everything remains as it was, but with the memory of a danger… In Lombardi’s paintings I sense the order that conceals the chaos. This really is a world encamped on the edges of vertigo, and chaos and vertigo press and blow against these walls, in vain. It means that these pictures are complex. Not complicated: complex. Now: that’s how it should be. Not everything has to be easy. It can be simple, what is difficult to do, but not easy. Do you get my drift? Art ought to make us use our brains, to grate against our gaze. Real art, I mean. Otherwise my friend, you deserve Jeff Koons. You deserve all of it. For example: take here just one apparently secondary thing like the backgrounds. That is after noting that the scene has a high three-dimensional impact, to the point that the image almost aspires to be an object, take a look at the background. The supporting surfaces to be exact. Screens. They make you think not of the grounds of traditional painting but of screens. Of the color of a computer when it’s turned off. And even the image looks as if it has been digitally processed. It’s the spirit of the times, honey! Sassetta resuscitated in the virtual age. Figurative you say? Well… Lombardi is a geometric and abstract artist, no less than Barnett Newman or Ad Reinhardt. By the way, going back to those fascinatine grounds on which Enrico works at length, adding veil after veil of glaze, those agglutinations of gas, don’t they remind you of Rothko’s anonymous and silent depths? Figurative you say. But the void is not empty at all. Put like that it may not sound right, but you really do perceive the energy that is there bifore things become visible, the so-called nascent state. And you also feel the force that can swallow up everything. If the world is just a passage and at each second everything is already lost, we may experience nostalgia and sadness, we may try to save a few bits, but we also learn detachment. And detachment, that sort of indifference, is style. Illusion again, for everything is illusion and a serious game, that the façade of the palace from which we are looking out (palace? us?) is projected onto the picture. Luminous windows struck by the flashes of a sun (the sun?) out of frame. Ok: let me introduce you to the mind that looks at itself. The city is invisible.