The dream of painting

(Valerio Dehò)

Certainly the contemporary world of art is continuosly searching for its origin, that is a moment or a choice from which there derived the possibility of man to express himself, to know each other through his creative relationship with reality. After the World War II an impressive reset took place in which the figuration, the representation of reality in mimetic terms were replaced by the non-figurative or abstraction. But even though materials have become increasingly different and anomalous, just think of plastics or Burri’s sacks, the dream of painting has remained alive. Painting with no brushes or painting as a mental paradigm: this is the goal that has been reached.

Working on matter so that a minimal nucleus of the pictorial idea can always remain bridled in it. And along this path there comes Ugo Salerno, just because his manipulation of materials and first of all of paper becomes the basis for a monochromatic intervention. White and black favour the affirmation of a pure shape, of a rippled or folded surface in search of a matter spirituality. On the one hand this process has an immediate simplicity, on the other hand it derives also from a way of “tormenting” paper to make it “speak” somehow. This implies that Salerno follows a working method in which his designing capability is inside his creative procedure. There are no intermediate steps because his poetics is absolutely clear and decisive. Therefore painting is making. But more important is the choice not to use colours that are unavoidably straying because of their emotional charge and to use only white and black instead. These two colours enable also a strict relationship with light, their reactivity to the ray incidence is extremely marked and shapes and volumes depend directly from light conditions. The game between texture, matter and shade becomes shape. In particular white becomes in this way a receptor of the light waves. It is essential to give birth to a conceptual colour, something terribly human, something that cannot affirm but through its opposition, black. It is white in its most alternative and different aspects that becomes the box of what it should not be able to express.

With all his work Ugo Salerno affirms that everything can be done with these non-colours even though his liking for absolute white brings him near not only to his famous countryman Angelo Savelli, but also to writers and artists like Henry Michaux when he wrote: «Here comes “white”. Absolute white. White beyond every whiteness. White of impending white… Horrible electric white, relentless, murderous».

The simplicity of his works, their candor, the shapes articulated in constant rhythms, the recall to textures coming from the chaos of matter, from the research of informal expression are the signs of a work in progress that wants to create starting from the simple and from elementary.

Salerno’s synthesis is willing to search for a purity without renouncing to sensuality, to the softness, to the endless variations of non-colours. The scanning of shades exactly draws reality, a hypothetical and mental reality. Besides shade is also an important space relationship, it puts the works of the artist into an intersubjective dynamics, it places them in the space. This variability to light, to the distance from the light source becomes even more sensitive because paper is vibrant matter, it receives the light variations, it makes them its own, it absorbs them. Hence the idea to use mainly paper, that is such an ancient material inherently tied to the biology of vegetable fibers, makes us read Ugo Salerno’s work as a rapprochement of painting to Nature and makes this series of works a mental construction, a path of sensitivity and knowledge, a return to the essentiality of painting.

All of a sudden  Ugo Salerno’s works appear to us and they leave us with a feeling of  estrangement and  amazement too . You can feel the long interior work of a man, a worker, a thinker who at last gives birth to an art work with complex and deep borders. The conceptual elaboration goes together with a very articulated and even sophisticated technique that reveals an extremely complicated  journey which only little by little uncovers all the work, its long psychological preparation  and then its transformation into matter. The protagonist is matter, that is “paper”, and white colour with its absolute antagonist, black, the two poles ambiguously used in the negation and in summarizing all colour present in the world …

(Milena Naldi, 2012)