2018 - Tommaso Evangelista

Tommaso Evangelista - "The immobility of shadow and rhythm. A few notes on Enrico Lombardi’s poetics." - exhibition Catalogue "Acheropita" - Bagnacavallo (Ra) 2018

Lombardi’s painting is immeasurable, not just because his subjects are, more inclined to the silence of the forms than the power of the volumes, but rather because in the depth of the space, created by the shadows and the chiaroscuro, every single atmosphere acquires a monumental and statuary dimension, frozen in the stillness of time/rhythm. In his canvases one breathes a respite; a prismatic fragment of matter, purified from the incidence of decoration and presented crystalline, as a perfect geometrical three-dimensional figure. The unending and ever so slight variation of the light creates periodicity and dismay, certainly the result of a study on the form which, in turn, becomes investigation on the temporality of the landscape. Sound is undoubtedly present as well. The ancestral Music of the spheres becomes, in these stories, an aquatic and scattered dimension or pastel-like smoke and fog that suffocates the corners of the objects which seem, in their mineral light, to collapse. In such a lack of air one can feel, as an engram, Morandi’s finest abstraction, who used to study the pure forms of the objects in order to transcend their essence and show a harmonic idea rather than a concluded form. Each work or series of works (Hortus conclusus; Rooms; Time Sentinels; Spiritual Exercises; Low Tide) aim at a clarity of both structure and light; at an architecture of viewpoints and timepoints, all structured around a gaze that becomes cyclic, geometrical, mathematical. There is no end in the view reflected into minimal landscape tensions which remind us of the Italian Primitives. But in the case of Lombardi the past does not stand for a static idea of the form, but rather a dynamic maze which shakes the architectures and hang them over mountains and shadows; rewriting them in a magical, post-metaphysical and asymmetrical fashion. A border land emphasized by the slow decadence of beauty; by the loss of a common tradition and an Autumn melancholy that creates unknown passages, memories of shadows and attempts of incongruous monuments. The leannes of the drawing, the linearity of the structures and the middleness of the hues dictate still directions to the works. It is a fine conflict indeed, inherent to the endless pauses of the forms built, with a fully utopic vision, in the attempt to condensate the Renaissance limpid space and the restless transcendent dimension: De Chirico himself, back in 1911, explained in his essay Sull’arte Metafisica, the double standard of the real: «the familiar one, that is, the real we see almost all the time; the real that people in general see, and then, the other one; the ghost-like or metaphysical one that only special individuals can see in moments of clairvoyance or metaphysical abstraction». What was the moment for De Chirico, so unknowable and imperturbable, almost cruel and unsettling; for Lombardi is evocation, not enigma as yet but idyll, that is the Lauda of an architecture created around an idea of divine, which is seeking a path of light, and certainly not one of obscurity or nihilism. But it is mainly through the shadows that the artist succeeds in creating a meditative dimension, an air of glass, a golden background that creates silence and an unusual and slow waiting; as slow as his chiaroscuro which cuts, with sharp edges, forms and trees. The cypresses are particularly striking, not funerary as in the tragic antiquity, but rather revealing a hidden space which welcomes the viewer through the materic essence of the shadow. The Madonna of the Shadows by Beato Angelico was so called because the artist, after having considered the natural light in the corridor of the monastery of San Marco, had wanted to reproduce the same shadows which were projected by the capitals onto the marble dossal. It is a thin and sharp shadow which matches the ultramarine blue of the background and the refinement of the gold in the apse, modulating in the top half of the fresco an abstract poetics, made of slits, cooling lines and whiffs of color; maybe waits of sacred conversations. If we were to play, as in a game, and place the long shadows of the capitals vertically, we would witness the apparition of a minimal and reduced, closed-in landscape, as if it were a garden of the spirit and thus similar to the memory that Lombardi has of balance.  The cypresses, in the artist’s landscapes, are smoke stems entrusting their outlines to the houses plasters which, in turn, are as much walls/filters as they are skies; memories of dossals; thrones of Madonnas and concluded skies. Because, after all, according to what the painter wrote, there are no definite and final forms of things, but the work, as a fractal, keeps changing and creates new spaces and rhythms in the relationship it establishes with the world.

And it is in fact rhythm that rules the last series, dedicated to jazz, with homages to several of the musicians the artist is especially fond of (Coltrane, Davis, Potter, Frisell, Taborn). One can feel the painting being sensitive as much to sound as it is to light; a light which is able to accomplish what in jazz is pure expression of the moment: Lombardi, through a slow process of sedimentation of the forms, almost as a sort of exercise of meditation and metany, is capable of creating order in the just apparent chaos of the harmonic structures. His attempt to shelter a theme; to stretch it in all its variations and variables of light and shadow, in order to create condensed constructions built on prospective and organic paradoxes, is absolutely impressive. Such a spatial organization of the view has definitely something feminine about it, because female energy only has an expanded; dilated; open; peripheral; high; vertical; anterior; complex; multiple; light and blue structure.  The difference or the different repetition, so typical in jazz, implies a deconstructed even though firmly narrative staging. The outcome in the making of a dynamic subjectivity, organized on a fluid story and a foreign temporality, allows the possibility of an opening which finds in the (mental) landscape the dynamic essence of painting: space becomes phenomenon; it slows down and acquires unexpected melodies; it congeals different rhythms in a series of balances, seeking a monodical dimension; one that is unifying, centripetal, decelerated. The rhythm regulates the emotional and chromatic changeable matter; it organizes synaesthetically the plane structure according to precise architectonic rules, and defines the entrance of temporality in the work through a schematizing abstraction that purifies perception.  Thus it is from rhythm that a feeling of grace comes, because  grace and measure have synthesis and the balance of contrasting aspects in common. They are works on the unstable border of the changeable; they sway between the same/stillness and the movement/antithesis, finely played on the attempt of a tuning; on the chances to mend an internal game, capable of making both the border lines and the sfumato simultaneously reverberate and deeply vibrate. One can almost perceive the ternary (asynchronous) and binary (static) rhythms; the accents; the strong and soft pauses; the syncopation and tones experimentation. The density of the pictorial matter is seeking a break-up of the forces, which are set on attracting poles weaker than in his previous works, where the melody stumbles upon and find unexpected and uncertain pauses whereas in the intervals a mysterious, complex and almost ornamental evolution is performed, which lingers in perspective fugues, architectural dualism, and contrasts static movements and progressions of the drawing tension. An aesthetics of lightness, capable of evoking simultaneous dimensions, in an order of rhythmical returns, stressed by the grace of the creative narration.  The vanishing of the local color in favor of endless chromatic modifications and of the chiaroscuro; the reduction in timbral values in order to modulate the sfumato; the hues harmonization and the reciprocity of the cadences, capable of finding a middle ground between time and structure, determine the irruption of duration and accident.

The ability is then to be found in controlling the repetition; in bending the canvas towards a poetical dimension, not pursuing the experience of the void, meant as a petrified horizon of things, but rather attempting to communicate a presence “in the absence”; a contraction of time and waits; a hidden place which demands mental space, homothetic stages and perspective fractures between the Real and the Oneiric. In the clarity and sensibility of this type of painting, which pursues order in the ever so slight variation of space and light, we find an all personal memory of the journey and of meditation; a concreteness made of staging and swinging, and imagination thresholds which become, synaesthetically, counterpoint music: John Coltrane once said «There is never any end, there are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror.» This falling into a dimension of collective internalization, pursuing a fine catharsis in the shadow and in the rhythm of the ideas; this constant cleaning the mirror of the vision, in order to donate a pure image to the viewer, is undoubtedly the highest merit of Lombardi’s painting and his unbroken quest for immobility.

Tommaso Evangelista

Translated by Angela Lombardi