The self-consciousness of painting
Enrico Lombardi's newest production moves under the sign of a most unrelenting repetition. His last paintings are, just as many, remakes of paintings already made in the past. His new canvases, spasmodically, repeat an already painted scene, a hill already cut with the same perspective, a body of water already arranged, in the same exact way, years earlier. In this will to repeat, an almost ascetic discipline comes into play, owing it to the fact that it is a will to repeat without changes, a will for a literal repetition. What changes, when it does, is the background of these scenes, which is now golden. The letter is back, but now it is a golden letter. This is why, in order to repeat without changes, to repeat in gold, you need a tireless discipline. Changing would be far too easy. Repetition is instead essentially variation, repetition is inevitably differentiation. It is against this truth that a repetition, intended as literal; as faithful; as repetition of a golden letter, fights with all its might.Who live, repeat. Living means repeating, getting up every day and looking out of the window, filling up a cup of coffee, knotting one's tie and, with a caress, say goodbye to one's companion. The real is also repetition, a Babel of rhythms that repeat themselves and entangle with other rhythms, sometimes catching others in their orbits, or else, letting themselves be caught in the orbits of others, which in turn will be caught by some other ones... And this is exactly what it is, who live repeat the event of living; who live repeat the hunger and thirst that are, every time, evoked by the gestures of preparing coffee; who live repeat the love which prompts them, every single time, to say goodbye to their companions with a caress. Who live repeat the living as an event, as an operation, or rather: the living, as event or operation, repeats itself in those who live. No one, or almost no one (or maybe almost everyone - but neither because they live, nor when they live), repeats the scene of a life or life as a scene, and much less the event or operation of living repeats itself in us as if it were a scene. This is the reason why the repetition of the living is imprecise, it is an unfaithful repetition. Even such terms as "imprecise" and "unfaithful" are incorrect, since they presuppose a scene, which we should be loyal to, and from which instead, they record or even report the fact that we, more or less successfully, or else, more or less agonizingly, distance ourselves. Only if a scene is placed at the origin, we can say then that the repetition may, unfaithfully or imprecisely, propose it again. The living or the real, for their part, are events, operations and not scenes or letters. And the repeating of itself, if it is indeed the repeating of nothing, if it is indeed the repeating of no scenes and no letters, it is then a themeless variation and a meaningless invention. In order to repeat literally, one must look from outside; one must be beyond the living; one must build a flyover point onto the real, and thus, that unbroken variation, that is the living, that Babel of rhythms of other rhythms we call the real, all of this becomes scene, becomes letter; the scene or the letter, which is by definition what is produced when a movement is observed from outside, when one performs a variation without belonging to its procedure, when one carves in the continuity the wound of a stalling point. Hence, the living and the real establish themselves as a scene or a letter, and the repetition may, or perhaps, must become, at that point, a scenic repetition, a perfectly literal repetition. Letter or scene, indifferently, because the price of this being either scenic or literal is identical, it is the passage through the threshold of a more or less symbolic death. In order to see the living as the repetition of a scene, and the real as a scenic archive, one must die. In order to see one's own path as an archive of scenes or works, offering themselves to the possibility of repetition, one must watch from the viewpoint of the end. In order to practice painting as if it were an archive, as if in a perfect and merciless remaking, one must think of it as dead; one must think that painting has already been done it all and once and for all. Only those who place themselves onto this vertex, the life and the archive, or the real and the archive are exactly the same. They become such only for those who die. Maybe, it is to this passage that the only variation Lombardi allows himself, in his remaking the already made, seems to refer to; that of the almost Byzantine gold of his backgrounds, or at least the soft layering of a golden cast on rosy backgrounds, which in turn become violet and opalescent. The life and the archive, or the real and the archive, are indeed the same, but they are the same as exactly the same are the two sides of an hourglass, which communicate and flow into one another through a tiny little hole. The living then coincides with the archive of life itself, only by passing through that tiny little hole, which is the intangible threshold of death. The real then coincides with the archive of the real itself, only by passing through that tiny little hole, which is the end of all things. Hence, it is death that flyover point we were speaking about, the operator of that miraculous conversion, and the commutator able to enshrine that perfect coincidence between those two sides, otherwise foreign to one another. When Hegel, in his well known pages, while meditating on the destiny of the art produced at his time, stated his famous diagnosis on " the death of art", he was not referring to the fact that no art would thereafter be produced, but to the contrary, to state that, for us, art represents a past and, that art as lively power, as operation and not as work, as ritual and almost religious power has become impossible. It is therefore no longer an artistic event, but meditation on the artistic event, thus, art settles itself in the philosophy of art, in the meditation of itself; art becomes entirely the critic of itself and it survives only as conceptual art. In short: the art, which is possible at the time of its death, is that of repetition, literary repetition, repetition of a golden letter, and not that of an unfaithful repetition, not that of variation. And the more this genre attempts to draw near the artistic event, the more it experiments its essential distance, and at that point, it retraces that distance, and every time it does so, it neither crosses it over nor crosses it out, but instead, it just digs in it and makes it deeper. Art as past is the art transformed by its death into the huge archive of itself. It offers itself, not to who "dances" it, which is impossible for those who watch from the viewpoint of the end of all things, but to those who see it, in the crystal eye of the archivist. It no longer has the shape of operation, but that of work, and for as much as the operation had been imprecise, unfaithful and immoral, the works now lie on the field beautifully faithful to themselves, delivered to a golden coincidence with themselves, in the merciless morality of this ceaseless liturgical revisiting. They are, more than ever works and they are so, in as much as the operation is, more than ever, accomplished, finished and exhausted. And even for Lombardi, the will to repeat a painting represents the will to produce a work, which is one hundred percent work, a work which is completely what it was supposed to be and that, from now, and only from now on, it will have been in the eye of the archivist of itself, in the eye of this future perfect which is always already past. The event or operation, which has become impossible, cannot be settled other than in the undefined doubling of the same event into mirror figures and, ultimately, coincident of the archive with itself and of the archivist with itself. In this regard, even though, produced with brushes and colors, Lombardi's painting is no longer just painting, but purest self-consciousness of painting.
Translation Angela Lombardi