Salvatore Emblema
28/11/2015 > 04/02/2016

Opening on 27/11/2015, from 7 pm to 9 pm

Entitled Trasparenza, the first exhibition of work by SALVATORE EMBLEMA (b. 1929, Terzigno, Italy;
d. 2006, Terzigno, Italy) at Galerie BUGADA & CARGNEL shows the richness of the work of this Italian artist, whose practice was developed at the frontiers of Arte Povera and Land Art, and was inspired by abstract expressionism. His canvases, whose weave he opened up, or his outdoor sculptures and installations exposed to the sun and wind, testify to his desire to capture transparency.

SALVATORE EMBLEMA’s work was strongly influenced by his environment. Born on the flanks of Mount Vesuvius, in the city of Terzingo where he spent most of his life, he took samples of organic matter – such as leaves, volcanic soil, petrified lava and oxidised metals – to create his own colours and textures. Throughout his career, he only used colours he made himself to paint his gathered jute or his burlap bags.

EMBLEMA’s career was very much influenced by his native Mount Vesuvius. It was also inspired by the work of his American contemporaries, whom he mixed with from 1956 to 1958, after David Rockefeller, one of the biggest collectors, invited him to visit the United States. There he developed an appreciation of the work of Mark ROTHKO, who became a close friend and whose work was an undeniable source of inspiration. These early meetings shaped the artist’s entire career. Ignoring art trends, he spent his whole life attempting to capture transparency in painting. In this sense, he played an important role in the post-war Italian avant-garde, and his work was selected for the Venice Biennale in 1980 (Arsenale Pavilion) and 1982 (Italian Pavilion).

In the pictorial field, beginning in 1950s, EMBLEMA applied natural materials directly to the work, such as the 1956 painting scattered with volcanic rock, or the 1959 painting tinted with volcanic ash. His works from the 1960s show a gradually reduced gesture: in paintings from 1965 and 1968, EMBLEMA scratched the pictorial material. Beginning in 1969 and throughout the 1970s, his paintings are even frayed, enabling the eye to perceive the light on both sides of the work. The pictorial journey offered in this exhibition emphasises this attempt to get as close as possible to transparency by subtly playing with the material’s shadow: a plastic approach as an oxymoron.

In his Land Art work, EMBLEMA achieved transparency through pictorial interventions on the landscape itself: in 1967, the artist started applying paint created from organic matter directly to the surface of trees. He gradually developed more evanescent installations, such as a stretched jute canvas in the early 1970s, whose transparency let the landscape draw itself, or his perforated metallic structures, or the central sculpture of the exhibition Trasparenza, produced in 1978. This arch, usually presented outdoors, was painted with a blue, a red and a white that EMBLEMA prepared himself in order to achieve a painting that absorbs light.

Through transparency, the artist’s installations and paintings interact with existing light and space. He attempted to depart from the conventional plane by making the flat surface transparent. Abandoning shadows to focus solely on clarity, he invited ambient light to enter his paintings and installations without artifice. If chiaroscuro is the use of subtle gradations of light and shade to create depth and drama in painting, it could be said that EMBLEMA revisited this concept in the abstract.