“I do not paint to express myself or find my meaning.
I paint to forget myself, to un-inhabit myself, to let myself go.” Enrico Lombardi
Houses, bushes, cypresses, pine-trees.
Boulevards onto which shadows spill, spiky roofs.
pillars, domes which look like tree-tops.
Is there anything else?
There’s nothing else.
Are there people?
What kind of light?
A night light sometimes: cobalt-blue,
other times a morning light: icy-yellow.
Some other times an evening light: marble with red veins.
Is it sunny?
Maybe, but with rain frozen in iron-grey drops.
Is everything behind a glass?
It looks like.
are there mirrors?
Maybe, but just to feign the water of a stream or a lake, like in a Christ’s nativity.
Yes, straight as spindles or broken in lightnings, but no smoke. White fires, tightened by gushes of ash.
Are they cities?
Pieces of cities, the most hidden parts: courtyards, corners, enclosed gardens. “Hortus conclusus”, flowerless gardens.
And the sky?
There are no birds, no clouds.
The sky is full of earth like in Masaccio.
Are we in the desert?
We are in a desert of buildings, cypresses, pine-trees, bushes or in tebaides burnt out by fires going straight up into the sky.
we are in a place with no smell.
Storms, wind? Like in Turner?
No. The air is frozen.
Do you think of names? Magritte? De Chirico? Klee and Macke in Tunisia?
Yes, but also Cezanne in front of the Sainte Victoire trying to give depth to duration or in earlier times Beato Angelico exactly when he painted the Tebaide, but here with no monks.
Is it silent?
A powerful silence. Like the swelling of the sea. It swallows the paintings.
In the catalogue for the show “Le ultime lacrime di Bisanzio” (Byzantium’s last tears) back in 2003 the philosopher Rocco Ronchi used these adjectives to describe Enrico Lombardi’s painting: “unclassifiable, paradoxical, perverse”. These adjectives were used to talk about a work only apparently simple, only apparently familiar, only apparently referable, with no effort, to something or someone already known. Paradoxically, instead, that painting so linear was perverse. Exactly in what this word stands for, Lombardi inverts the order of things, he disarranges it. All of this happens subtly, subtly enough to make us think we are mistaken. Enough to hold us still in front of those images. Who looks at them, wonders if what he saw was correct, so he looks back, trying to understand its uneasiness and wonder how it is possible that such an exact painting could raise so much dismay, how it is possible that it confuses. Then you realise that in fact doors open backwards, that the doorpost of a window is totally meaningless, that a certain shadow is absolutely improbable. If it’s night-time, as the sky seems to suggest, such a reflection cannot exist. If it’s day-time, that darkness is a catastrophe, that tone the foretell of an apocalypse.
Lombardi’s reverses are not casual but fully thought out, willingly sliding within an impeccable structure, alarming through the exercise of stillness, deviant in the rigor. They make waiting more powerful and anxiety grow in who is looking at them, they make you hold your breath and gaze.
Perversion is what saves this work from any classifications.
We had all sorts of names, labels, categories ready, they are useless.
We wanted to know the time, understand it but we can’t unless we get lost and don’t know where we are, like when we suddenly wake up somewehre unknown.
We wanted to say: i know what i’m looking at. instead it is exactly the normality that dilates the impotence.
lombardi writes that he is fascinated by thresholds, places of reunion and separation, places that can protect or expel. On thresholds (with all the literary and philosophical echo and charge that this word contains) greetings are ambigous, they can state the entrance into a house or a farewell. On the thershold time is as thin as the strip of space where the gesture of welcome or refusal or abandonment takes place.
It is true, these walls are soaked in silence. They are turned into icons which in silence seal the i-you of the gaze. like anyone else who loves icons, and lombardi is undoubtedly one of them, he perfectly knows – and I think of his amazing canvas La seconda iconostasi (The second iconostasis) from 1995 – that it’s all a question of light, repetition and faith.
To repeat a form means to have faith in the concentration of a gesture, in its light. The painter of icons knows well that he has to forget himself in the face he’s painting, to let everything else go, to have no other house than the tiny space of a cell, to have no perspective. I still think of Lombardi’s words contained in the epigraph: “… paint to forget myself, to un-inhabit myself, to let myself go.” I let the images of his paintings scroll in front of me on the monitor: they are all similar and all different, modulated by the titles. It’s not the details that change but the exposure, the crack. We are obliged to look back, to back track our steps, to use the most melancholic verbal tense in the Italian language: the past tense:
This was the house
These the bushes
These the pine-trees and the cypresses
These the pillars,
the mountains and the fires
the domes like pine-trees
turned to the violet of the jellyfish.
I travel through paintings like Abbandono (Abandonment), I look once more at Transito (Transit), and again and again at Nella parte abbandonata (In the abandoned part), Nel giardino deserto (In the deserted garden). Dispersi(Lost), Melozzo delle ombre (Melozzo of the shadows). I see flows of mountains, ghosts of arcades, phantoms of herbs, a snow of a could which thickens into a cypress, a halo which serves as mirror to tree-trunks. It is difficult to imagine who painted all of this, impossible to perceive his fatigue. The painter wants, as he says using another of this titles: be unnoticed. The images seem to have always been there. They are the “posthumous places” to which Lombardi has dedicated a series of wonderful paintings, of those who - as Rocco Ronchi writes – “arrive always too late”. They are the space of a sentiment, what the Russians call “taskà”: the nostalgia for the future, the yearning for what has not been and the knowledge that it never will.
Lombardi incessantly narrates this moment, when nobody and nothing but the essential is left, the solitude.
Is it time to go?
Antonella Anedda (Translation by Angela Lombardi)