From the deep south of Sicily, where he was born, Piero Guccione felt the pulsating feeling of light, a light suspended between land, sea and sky, among lines merging into perspective. Sea and sky seem to disappear and the earth seems their compact material support.
Piero started painting continuously when the disputes between realists and abstract painters were heading for a wearisome recrudescence. It was the end of the Fifties and Pop Art was already making felt its need to emblemize the everyday. In Guccione the needs, already precise, were different: the scenario of what existed appeared to him in its harsh, ambiguous substance, in its contradictory smarting. If anything, not so much the victory of the <<le magnifiche sorti e progressive>> came to the fore in him, as a line of expressionistic retaliation. Pop Art was optimistic in its intimate depths. The impact with the urban universe – Piero’s journey from Scicli to Rome – instead took on the aspect of dramatic intensity. In his first canvases, one immediately notices that the advance of novelty is an invincible but also a desolating event. The truth, in those first pictures which seem to be experienced with a Soutine – like eye, a is a truth of lacerated farewells. Or, it is the truth of an almost irrecuperable setback.
The brutality of the fact, a violence that insults the gaze and things, is what becomes increasingly evident in Guccione’s painting; and the image is crushed – but first it is coagulated in a dense, strong brush stroke, pregnant with quivering evidence; it is agglutinated or spreads in blades that seem to slip into space itself to cause its optical divination. I am thinking of an oil painting, 40 x 40, <<Rondini>> (1962), the first highly personal oils of an artist already formed and recognizable: – that painting brings out clearly the singular tension, the figural force of Guccione, a form that draws vigor from initialing the particular, even the negligible detail, swallows in flight, and catching therein a manifold, rich, untransmittable sense.
Against the light blue sky, a deep, dense azure, the line of the black wings and the confused clot of an ivory of light, make as perceive the shadow of some tragedy, but at the same time an impetus of freedom – the tragic essence of existence and its feeling of expressive responsibility, that absolute commitment to the image that is part and parcel of every true artist.
In short, Guccione becomes o painter of that profound melancholy that invests anyone who lives life with passionate involvement, – but life answers him as something extraneous sealed in a disappointing rituality. Against that rituality, we see the emergence of a purity of eye, a setting aside of the clauses of fashion, remaining faithful to the historical acquisitions of painting – and painting becomes an incontestable instrument of a vision that becomes thought.
Painting as a reliable testimony of the times: – the arguments were thrusting toward such projects their fire promoted such commitments. To Guccione all this becomes a quiet acquisition, or the search for human imprints in the bunch of physical sensations. Interiors with objects, interiors with figures, portrait studies in which the obsence of the figure is defined incontestably: Piero Guccione seeks to make the residues man leaves behind him appreciable, isolating them, echoes of a presence denoting suffering.
There is disgust, a disgust not shown with disdain, toward the conventional subject of the ego. In this way, painting becomes thought without obliterating its quality or the evidence of its tactile, figural qualities. Then, on the fabric of pictorial materials that absence leaves the mark of a hurtful scar – the black line of the wings in his <<Rondini>> – and the scar becomes an opening, the fissure for the image to be formulated and offer its face to the light. But this image, in making itself within the material, fixes its objective being, its objective resistance to impression or sensation, and in that way it takes on the importance of thought, just as painting is thought in Cézanne, in Morandi, or in several aspects in Hopper.
Thinking, seeing: – pertinaciously linked to these two dialectic poles; Guccione lets figural plots emerge in his style, taken from pictorial tradition, from Bacon or from Luca Signorelli, from Bonnard or from Vermeer. This constellation of references clarifies the weft that runs through that seeing and that thinking, as though between them there were not any overwhelming by the one pole of the other, but rather as they find themselves always on the edge of a balance constantly reconfirmed, never established once and for all. It is precisely seeing that confirms thinking, or brings it back to its original meaning, that which is expressed by the verb <<to reflect>> – the mirror of that which the eyes reveal, and which the mind puts in perspective.
One could say, at this point, that the use, in the image, of mirroring surfaces becomes in Guccione, in the mid-Sixties, a point of arrival of high metaphoric quality. The transparency and truth of the mirror – see the fifth of his five <<Interno con figura>> of ’65 – represent for the artist a moment of constant verification, of continuous retrying: thus, the surfaces of the unmoving cars, of the cars-landscape of ’66 and ’67.
But, suddenly, all purpose and intentionality vanish from Guccione’s pictorial subjects. A small oil of ’68, <<L’aereo passa sulla spiaggia>>, sees the reflecting surface transformed into the mobile drop of light and shade, and the being of things recover its unrestrainable naturalness. Thought is circumscribed or contained in the very seeing, it no longer proposes its differentiating otherness. Guccione’s gesture becomes more sweetly harmonious: its target flashes. In critical opposition with the dawning hyper-realism, Guccione flees from the optical demonstrability of things to recuperate (always in line with the constellation of masters under whom he has naturally come to place himself ) the depth, the intrinsic memory of every being.
This irruption or eruption of hyper-realism was a technical type vindication in which the painting showed it longed to be wedded to photography. The use of acrylics ruled out any thickness, any temptation of Cézannian <<profondeur>>. From the smoothness of certain oils, those of the <<Attesa di partire>> of 1969, Guccione went over the following year to his sea studies again making sensitive a dense fabric of brush strokes, according to a system of overlappings and transparencies in which the theme of light and its impalpability become extremely relaxed, rich.
There are the years of the departures from Rome and of the increasing fixed returns to Scicli. The presence of the landscape, with that element of porosity or veiledness as far as the tremulous tulle of the haze, with an excess of glaring luminosity also, which belongs to the landscape of that extreme edge of Sicily, becomes in Guccione a thematic obsession. And the confirmation of this obsession comes in a precise choice of material: pastel powder.
The marines of Punta Corvo, traversed – again as by scars – by the telegraph wires, seem to look at themselves in so many replicated pastel copies, then to sink down into a number of big oils. But pastel seems to demand more, ever more of Guccione, because in that landscape there is a motionless burnt truth that only the powder of color selected by the patient hand succeeds in making into vision.
Hibiscuses, the roads of Cava d’Aliga enveloped in the blinding midday light – those powders become the strange, magical cosmetics of an existence that gazes at itself with stupefied, melancholy ardor.
So much ardor is transformed, with deep wounds of melancholy, in the thought of this painting. Guccione once proudly cited the opening words of a sonnet by Michelangelo: <<The excellent artist has no concept… >>. The conquest of Guccione’s painting is in this selective process of visual regeneration, – or it is a conquest of existential testimony. The hibiscus that lives one day, spreading its madder-purple in the air, becomes the pledge or the symbol of what life can entrust to painting, – and lo, another powder, on paper, bears witness to that frail life and seals it in the imponderable perishability of destiny.
A painting of deeply-felt telling, Guccione ‘s more and more takes on the tone of o bold, deeply-felt questioning.
The use of oils and pastels in his canvases dedicated to the <<lines of the earth>> (this is the landscape of the Ragusan erosion furrows), or in his stupefying <<Riflesso sul mare>>, dated 1979/82 (not at all impressionistic, this work of Guccione’s, but proceeding by <<slow acquisition, by successive, slow deepening>>) – I repeat, the insistent use of pastels and oils together, to obtain an unencrusted intensity, an undull opacity, makes us realize how much the artist’s aspiration draws upon a strenuous need of expression and of meaning. That opalescent surface, that very special thickness obtained by punctualizing the quality of a landscape, the way in which the light skims a surface and brings it to life, but also the feelings, the passions, that the artist can spread on that surface. <<Riflesso sul mare>>, in that mauve that merges into pink as a vibratile azure that the sun’s luminosity absorbs and tends to set at naught, expresses the silence with which destiny seals its doings, but also the way in which life dawns even under seige by a sea of bewitching, mournful calls.
Life that resists, that does not let itself be overcome by a magmatic infinity, mysterious promised land that realizes it self in long-lasting at the easel – does steps to and fro that enact a long journey never coming to an end -, this life not corroded by any gratuitous defeatism, observed for what it is, wounded and in pain, violation and resurrection, but also bare and dead, this life caught at the point of an ineffable return – is then the constant theme, reached at a moment of absolute purity, of Piero’s painting.
The miraculous studies of Michelangelo <<Pietà>>, certain Friedrich – like <<d’après>> – that transfusion of the vision as beyond dreams, grasping its possible memory, this is life at its prime: the tremor must never be lost, and of it Guccione makes – with strange, with held audacity – matter of poetry.
The carobs in agony, tormented, the melancholy <<of the stones at dusk>>, or the glory of the fields of wheat: – the replica of the scar of the existing, his relentless search conducted with religious devotion and with unsurpassable modesty, becomes in Piero painting a purified theme, taken back to the nascent state of the movement, almost a sorrowful melody.
The contradictions and ambiguities of the real, the subject of Guccione’s beginnings, are not obliterated but are taken back to their origins or to their moment of escape. Guccione makes no mysticism of this, he does not make it a question of asceticism. That resistance of life in itself, which is sensed as a privilege resistance of a real element, in some way invested with light, – to be expressed on the canvas, must soak itself with temporality: it appears always at the moment of <<becoming>>, as an aperture, not only as being there, static and mortuary.
Poetry of time or of the truth in time. Observing <<Mare di luglio>>, an oil of 1985/87, the scant foam spilling onto the dark line of the sea, and advancing toward the tidemark, where a deeper dark line is about to appear on the sand in the foreground, close up, marks the moment when the eye perceives the possibility of development: – that development is in fact time, time that gathers into itself the entire sense of the image. And life is the emergence of that foam, white opening up in the inexhaustible, magical, early morning paleness of the light.
If there is a life we can still express that to which we may aspire as to some victory, a victory that we feel inundating hearth as a sort of suffering, not a negative one, then Guccione is the painter of this life, the nocturnal abysses of his pastels, the azure or green horizons of his canvases are charged with this life, a life that is rediscovered as sensuality not in the slightest ephemeral by the hand that pains and by the mind that hopes never to be cancelled out in its own credo. (



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