Giorgio Griffa: A Continuous Becoming at Camden Arts Centre
“The unfinished work, the object not completed, also means underlying its nature as subject… It is a continuous becoming, from one canvas to the next.” Giorgio Griffa
In the quotation from which the title of the new exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre is taken, Giorgio Griffa explores how each of his works is part of a wider practice, a fragment of a never-finished whole. The artist’s paintings develop from each other, borrowing motifs, techniques and theories in a process that is not quite linear but repeatedly self-referential.
This state of “continuous becoming” is beautifully teased out by the Camden Arts Centre’s retrospective, where three sympathetically hung galleries allow the viewer to draw out visual narratives within Griffa’s oeuvre.
Gallery 1 features pieces from the 1960s through to the 1980s, when Griffa was part of Italy’s arte povera movement, a generation of artists who sought to radically redefine painting. Canvases are nailed directly to the wall, their rough edges moving slightly when visitors approach, breaking down the viewer’s understanding of a painting as an art object with clearly defined parameters. Simple geometric shapes are painted directly onto the untreated substrate, often determined by the physical limitations of the artist’s tools: brush, sponge or palette knife.
These minimalistic and repetitive gestures are powerful reminders of the pieces’ making. Griffa worked on these unstretched canvases directly on the studio floor, allowing paint to seep into – and become an intrinsic part of – the fabric. In some ways, this is painting for painting’s sake, concerned first and foremost with the tools and materials of the artist’s craft.
The next gallery features some of Griffa’s more recent works from an ongoing project, Canone aureo. The work refers to the mathematical concept of the Golden Ratio (something that has fascinated artists, architects and philosophers for centuries). As well as being visually intriguing, the project serves to remind the viewer of the artist’s debt to the art historical tradition.
A UK institutional show on this scale has been long overdue for Giorgio Griffa, and the Camden Arts Centre makes the most of its versatile space to explore the artist’s importance and to establish his legacy going forwards.
Photo: Hydar Dewachi
Giorgio Griffa: A Continuous Becoming is at the Camden Arts Centre from 26th January until 8th April 2018. For further information visit the art centre’s website here.