NEON IN DAYLIGHT IS A GREAT PLEASURE 1
It may be that poetry makes life’s nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail; or conversely, that poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete and circumstantial. Or each on specific occasions, or both all the time. 2
I write from Vedano al Lambro in northern Italy, in a closed apartment, in front of the windows of other apartments where neighbours do not live, or if they do, they do not show themselves. I move all day between my thoughts and watching the changing light. This will be my first European winter and I already know that I will miss the brightness of the studio in Palaia.
Between scattered notes in my notebook and cell phone voice-recordings , I revisit some images of my time at Villa Lena and yet everything seems diffused, except my movements. I concentrate a little more and restart this text.
I’m here to write about my studio process developed during my stay at Villa Lena in October, that resulted in Southern Poet – a disorderly, intuitive and religious installation of charting my experience with the poetry of Frank O’Hara (1926-1966) in the light of Palaia.
In the Southern Poet I installed small paintings on canvas, a shirt, linen and objects in a chaotic process guided by moments of invocations to the memory and presence of the poet. His Lunch Poems enraptured me like neon in daylight, and I conducted all the experience of those weeks in the studio in order to allow this rapture to leave pictorial traces, sculptures as artefacts, a shirt, which is a cloak, and a feeling of light and calm.
After Villa Lena, I travelled to Florence to produce a print at Il Bisonte, a traditional lithography school, with whom the Villa Lena Foundation has a history of collaboration. Here, I came across challenges opposite to my chaotic and intuitive studio practice; the production of lithography required unexpected attention and control, waiting for chemistry times, redoing, waiting for drying, adjusting the press, and the revealing of the image! I was sure, however, that lithography could be the summary of Southern Poet in a direct and simple way, so I recreated the cover of O’Hara’s Lunch Poems in a quick drawing, marked by deep scratches and light carvings of crooked letters, but perfectly framed in an orange-red that is the neon of great pleasure, the title verse of this text; a miracle. The lithograph will be a kind of portal, the announcement of a redemptive and potentially wonderful experience (which is Frank’s poetry).
Immediately, the similarities between the lithographic process and the old Gutenberg press came to mind. Both printing processes are done by force and require extreme precision. In this sense, I like to think that my print would be the mimesis of the result of an old press, in a process of creating a book that is not there, only its trace.
It is in this confusion of materialities and narratives that I build my artistic thought, as in a mise en abyme, whose vertigo leads us to the dissolution of single meaning and expands the potential of the experiences. So is every work of art (and poetry), a continuous fall into a precipice with no possibility of reparation.
Matheus Chiaratti was an artist in residence at Villa Lena in October 2020. The limited edition print he worked on with Il Bisonte will be available in early 2021
Chiaratti’s production is informed by literature, art history and autobiography mixed with self-fiction. His production can take place in different supports such as painting, writing, sculpture, audio, intervention in the city, among others. Recent exhibitions include “Transatlantico” a group show at Mana Contemporary in USA, 2020, and “rivolvita” at Galerie21, Livorno, Italy, in 2019.
1. O’Hara. F (1964). Lunch Poems. City Lights Books.
From his poem “A Step Away from Them”,
available in this link https://www.frankohara.org/writing/
2. O’Hara, Frank. (2008, September 13). Creative Writing. North Dakota State University. https://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/~cinichol/CreativeWriting/423/OHara.htm
Photos by Marco Farmalli