Alberto Sughi BLOGS 2005/06


28 September 2006, A new white canvas.

I’ve just removed the painting I’ve been working on from the easel: a girl with one hand on her chest holding a white sheet that partly covers her body is peering through a half-open doorway. We don’t know what she is looking at: our only hint being her astonished and frightened expression. It may seem odd, but often the painter doesn’t know much more about what is going on in a painting than the spectator. This means that everyone can come to their own conclusions and, in some senses, complete the artist’s work, which is why I often say that the act of painting does not ‘recount’, but rather ‘represents’; it represents something around which the viewer constructs his/her own story.

However, I didn’t sit down here at my desk to describe my painting, but rather to return to the subject of my previous Blogs: the case of a Japanese artist who has copied my work, and to whom the Japanese Minister of Education first assigned and then, after the plagiarism was discovered, withdrew a prestigious art prize.

(Those who wish to read more can go to the heading ‘Controversies’, which gives a complete account, on: ughi)


Last month I read your comments with great interest and pleasure. Some of you expressed contrasting points of view: some suggested that I should immediately put on a show in Japan to take advantage of the considerable publicity that this situation has generated, others felt, and this is also my own feeling about it all, that I should wait until the Wada affair has died down before thinking about any eventual exhibition in Japan, but there are convincing arguments support both points of view. I also thought that the question, as it had been formulated in my previous blog, had been phrased in a rather misleading way. A painter paints because that is his job. He certainly wishes, and perhaps feels he has the right, to see his paintings exhibited in the best context for his finished work. But it is not up to the painter to organise exhibitions. It is not part of his job, and he may not even be capable of doing it. It is the public, or rather the appropriate bodies (museums, galleries etc.) who propose and set up large-scale exhibitions.

At the moment no offer, among those that I have received for an exhibition in Japan, has particularly interested me: they seemed too concerned with the commercial aspect, rather than deriving from a genuine cultural interest in my work. If, one day, I am offered a project that interests me, I will be very happy to present my work in Japan in a different context.

Now that I have taken my painting off the easel and it is leaning against the wall, I glance at it again, and it looks to me like a good painting. Tomorrow I will put a new white canvas on the easel and start to work on something else. That is my job.

Alberto Sughi , Rome



5 July 2006, Somewhere behind.

The fact that there would be someone, somewhere else in the world, who copies your paintings and signs them as theirs, to then become a famous painter in their country and reach such recognition that the Ministry of Culture of their well-reputed nation, advised by a commission of “experts”, should award him an important state Prize, is incredible, to say the least. It would seem that the world information net has holes large enough to let through impossible stories that would be too farfetched even for April Fool’s Day.

As fortune would have it, some April fools decided to delve a little deeper into the net, only to discover that the paintings by the award-winning painter had been copied from an artist living on the other side of the world. This puzzling discovery led them to inform the Ministry of Culture, providing photocopies of the works for comparison. And that is how one of the most unfathomable scandals of modern painting - or the least a case of plagiarism without precedent – has come to light.

At this point, I think it is fitting to inform the reader that the country where this scandal has broken out is Japan; that the artist who has copied the paintings is called Wada; that the Japanese ministry of culture has recognised that, indeed, it is a case of plagiarism, and has revoked the award granted to him; and, lastly, that the painter who has been plagiarised is an Italian painter called Alberto Sughi, who is none other than myself.

Since that day, I have been barraged by Japanese televisions and journalists wanting to know when, how and why.

“Did you know Wada? Are they copies or reworkings? Have you decided to sue him?”
“Yes, I have met him, as I have met so many other people who have not, however, plagiarised my paintings; these are cases of real, clear plagiarism, which can be proved by comparing these photographs; the harshest penalty and charges have been applied by the Japanese Ministry of Culture, which, for the first time in the history of the award, has revoked the coveted prize from him, to his great dishonour.

My internet site has been contacted by tens of thousands of Japanese people, and I have received many emails apologising for the disgrace.

At the same time, I have learned that Wada has received other prizes from private museums, and that already in 2004 there had been mention of the possibility of plagiarism.

These past days I have had the chance to examine many photographs of paintings by Wada that are copies of my works.

Recently I have had proposals to take part in major exhibitions in Japan – I, however, would prefer to exhibit my work when this scandal has died down. My painting, I hope, deserves cultural attention, and not merely curiosity spawned by a scandal of this magnitude.

Major Culture Foundations would like to rush me, taking advantage of the popularity of my name in Japan as a result of all this.

What do you make of this? What advice do readers of Absolutearts blogs have for me?

Alberto Sughi , Rome



5 May 2006, The Art of Recollection.

In 1980 I began work on an important narrative cycle Imagination and memory of the family, which was exhibited for the first time at the La Gradiva Gallery, in Rome, the following year.

The real innovation of this work, compared to my previous paintings, consisted in its requiring the aid of my memory, which I had never demanded with such persistence, to recapture all that we had left in our old house; to understand what it was right to leave there, and what we should have brought with us. In this reconstruction it seemed essential, above all else, to capture the sense of dignity that neither discomfort, nor suffering, nor pain, could destroy.

If this dignity is the existential sign of a proletarian society, a comparison with the neurosis that characterises man in a consumer society seems inevitable. This is not nostalgia. There is no desire to go back to a past life, to revive reassuring places and times. Memory, when linked to nostalgia, is not secular memory, but only generates illusions. I would like to use memory to bring something to the present, so that modern man will know what he has lost without even realizing it, and what price he has been forced to pay to emerge from poverty. I don't know how, but modern man needs to retrieve his integrity, dignity, and humanity, without losing what he has gained. If it is true that the values of Christian ideology found their most natural habitat in peasant life, it was unthinkable that this would not also emerge in my cycle of paintings about the family...

For this reason, it is still difficult for me today to imagine that this pictorial cycle took on the significance of a thematic choice (as some have claimed) that, in some ways, would break with, or even counteract, my previous work.

I have always tried to conduct a tireless investigation into man’s condition; his existential discomfort, which is evident in apparently reassuring situations. For instance, in 1967, when I painted a man's portrait, entrenched behind lines of televisions, refrigerators, heaters and telephones, I wanted to represent the danger that man would run, if he did not understand in time that he should not glorify a well-being that was entrapping him. Well-being should be used to live better. You shouldn’t sell your life in order to obtain it. So, in 1976, when I painted the Supper cycle, I made that man's portrait again, amazed that he had not understood in time that he was even losing the recollection of his ancient dignity. His loss of 'memory' became the most alarming sign. And in the cycle entitled Imagination and memory of the family I have tried to represent this lost memory. I have not portrayed a peasant family, but have tried to recover our recollections.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


8 March 2006, What I love most of all about painting.

Let us take some examples here and there. I believe that the whole of American informal painting has had a great influence on Italian figurative art. I have loved painters like Rothko and Rauschenberg; At the Biennale exhibitions I skipped all the other paintings and only studied one or two to understand them well, and to understand the innovations they contained. It is difficult to select by artistic movement in a society such as this, where everything is mixed up. The art critic Crispolti, when he wrote an article about me, spoke of my “Informal derivation”, because I don't remove all my sketched lines, in contradiction with the details of the more finished paintings, making no sense if not inserted into a fabric that involves them, into a framework that either overpowers them, or makes them come to life. To understand this, you need to understand when a painter decides that a painting is finished. Some of my paintings could appear to be unfinished works, like something that I have not managed to complete. Some parts of paintings are very well-defined, others hazy, others left vague and full of sketched lines. It may also be that I have not managed to resolve the incongruities, since I am not able to resolve them in my mind, and I leave the contrasts between them, like many things in my life that I have not been able to reconcile. I leave a few spurious lines, dirt marks. At times, when I’m explaining how I paint, I say that I should start from the dust left by the charcoal, the fusaggine , the dirty rags of color, the messy hands, a confusion that I try to dominate and that, while I am painting, becomes increasingly evident around me, even the piles of brushes that I no longer clean. I realize that, in one of my so-called creative moments, the dirty brushes multiply from 3 to 7, 10, or more, and I stop when I can no longer think of anything else to add. The painting is finished when the path has no further turnings to explore. What does this mean? That the painting is finished when your journey inside the painting is over. The painter has finished at his journey’s end. The meaning is part of a fantastic adventure. You think you are arriving who knows where, even if you know that, if everything is as it should be, you will actually get to the places you know best.

I loved Ben Shahn when I was a boy, then I discovered other American painters. I was not so keen on Hyper-realism, and I don't consider it Realist. There is Realism in so much American Pop Art, in Rothko, for instance: his idea of space, his extraordinary relationship with a wall that finally finishes in a dark line; Segal, for me, has concentrated too much on mechanical things, and has taken both the Hyper-realist movement and metaphysics to exasperation. The mould, that gesture, that object removed from its normal and well-formed context in a way that increasingly resembles something by Duchamp, even if Segal is considered completely different from him, he is, nevertheless, linked to the avant-garde. I see him as a man unto himself, halfway between the historical avant-garde and Metaphysics, who has had so many mediocre imitators all over the world. Everything that painting doesn't need, in one way or another, I don't know why, ends up being painted. Hamilton is a painter who has transparency, distant horizons. I see in the cinema amazing possibilities. Some English and Irish directors have done incredible things, have almost gone into competition with Impressionist painting, with light, time, the endless expanse of space, without usurping the world of painting. Impressionist paintings are not beautiful because of their ability to gather colors and light. In fact, they have always had hazy textures, with the consistency of the surface of paint. Instead of always talking about the discovery of light, to love the Impressionists we should remember much more about their relationship with Velazquez, for instance, and the landscape of Saragozza. Manet is more clearly referable to Velazquez, but they all show his influence. If only painting could think about retracing this road, to realize that painting is painting. I get excited when I start to speculate about how Velazquez painted; I wonder how he held his brush, how he worked. If painting doesn't have the lightness that comes from the hands, not from the head, and here I return to the great seduction of craftsmanship, if we don't bear this in mind, then we are just using painting for other purposes, in different areas, using it as provocation. If you look carefully at Caravaggio you realize that it is painted with nothing. If you see it in a photograph and then you see it close up, you realize that the movements that he had to make in order to paint were certainly much simpler, more obvious and natural than they appear in the painting as a whole. Painting is a strange thing. If you let it become too intellectual it loses its identity. Painting is not expressed by what it represents: it is a thing that is made. I have always loved Caravaggio very much, not to imitate him, but to understand the movements of his way of painting.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


11 January 2006, Art and Reality

I would like to start with greetings and best wishes to all those who take part in our discussions. I gain a great deal of pleasure from reading your opinions and comments, and in trying to answer them, in my own way, by incorporating your ideas into new and later discussions.

Today I will touch on a subject that has always been very dear to me: the relationship between art and reality. In the early 1900s, great interest in the themes of work and social justice had already been expressed by many artists. This could be interpreted as the natural conclusion of the process of emancipation that had occurred at the end of the preceding century. In Italy, this interest in social themes was expressed and obtained important results in the works of the early Futurists. More precisely, we can recall that the " Expanding City" (by Boccioni) was originally entitled "Work". In the same year, 1911, Carrà painted his famous work "The funeral of Galli the anarchist". This is evidence of the relationship between the Futurists and the Anarchists, and between the Futurists and the Trade Union movement. This centrality of the theme of work did not decrease, but was rather more present than ever in a great artist of the Fascist era, and who considered himself a Fascist: Mario Sironi. It was to continue, then, up to the beginning of the 1940s, in the works of many artists. It is important to state immediately that this was not only happening in Italy, nor even mainly in Italy: the world of the disinherited, the poor, the workers, as well as the desire to fight against social injustice, has been an important source of inspiration for many twentieth century artists from Picasso to Leger, from Orozco to Permeke and Bensahan. We must certainly also consider literature and the cinema, above all, American cinema, which represented the world of work and the struggle for emancipation with the same, if not even more intense, enthusiasm. This is essential when examining a large part of artistic expression at that time. The period did not last long: social themes that seemed to have found a place among the main sources of inspiration for artists, directors and writers were gradually abandoned. Artists, not only in Italy, started to concern themselves with other matters. The world was changing. After the victorious war against Fascism, at the end of the fifties, we entered, more or less consciously, a period that took us centuries away from our more recent past, and weakened our certainties in the modern world. Still waiting to enjoy the benefits of this technological and cultural revolution, people today are still paying a high human cost. This is what Saul Bellow wrote on the subject:

" In private life, disorder or near-panic. In families - for husbands, wives, parents, children - confusion; in civic behavior, in personal loyalities, in sexual practices (I will not recite the whole list; we are tired of hearing it) - further confusion. And with this private disorder goes public bewilderment… It is with these facts that knock us to the ground that we try to live…The decline and fall of everything is our daily dread, we are agitated in private life and tormented by public questions… And art and literature - what of them? Well, there is a violent uproar but we are not absolutely dominated by it. We are still able to think, to discriminate, and to feel. The purer, subtler, higher activities have not succumbed to fury or to nonsense.” (from: Saul Bellow – Nobel Lecture December 12, 1976

Bellow believes that artists, true artists, are still able "to think, to discriminate, and to feel". Is it wrong to place this trust in the artist's determination not to fear his own loneliness? We need, above all, to listen to those voices that do not sing along with the masses. Owen Barfield has commented that we cannot stand the eternal mechanism that replaces what really counts with a stage of chatterers about what really counts. In the sixties, artists' interest in social themes started to decline, while the fortunes of movements that proclaimed themselves "neo-avant-gardists" and heirs of the Historical Avant-garde were growing. Given their experimental nature, they were able to find a consonance with the great transformations of the day. They were also able to vindicate a natural connection with those theories that point only to technological development as the ultimate aim of progress. In this way, mankind, the soul, destiny are no longer central to artistic reflection. Artists are improvised wizards and alchemists, producing works with hidden meaning. Arnold Hauser states that the public has to realise that in works of art we are confronted with a set of rules that we have no knowledge of. This separation between art and public taste will then be repaired, using almost medianic techniques, by singular critics and art historians, who speaking as if they were priests or witch doctors, hypnotise the public to feed its market. It is enough here to quote some words by Achille Bonito Oliva "Since the style does not reflect the world, it belongs to its own mystic nature, and therefore specifically to the imagination, which elaborates for mankind the hope of immortality". If, then, there are those who, despite everything, cannot manage to suspend their natural distrust, they can always be attracted by the value of a painting in dollars, and since "commerce is concerned neither with the soul, nor with noble aspirations" interest in the essence of art is replaced by interest in the commercial value of the work. There are certainly other scenarios that could be investigated, if one wanted to understand the complexity of problems that originate in the increasingly difficult relationship between art and reality. The whole universe of the visual arts and representation finds, in television, an instrument that, while absorbing the most modest perceptive possibilities (being directed at a huge public) also contributes to form, address and finally pollute the "imaginary", of which it presents the most banal and indulgent "image".

"To live better in the eyes of the people". This aphorism, by Cicero himself, captures the aptitude to assign representation to its more natural consumption: and who can say that art is not to be included in it, perhaps by one of those homologating processes that are in the very nature of mass communication? And who can say whether the great escape from reality corresponds to the repossession that art operates on itself, and for itself, in an attempt to emerge unscathed by contamination? The popularity of photographic images had already provoked, in its time, something similar. The advent of TV has been even more upsetting. It has not only taken on the task of representing the visible, but also aims to decipher its meanings, to become a tool that changes, modifies and, in some cases, transforms the very reality that it represents. The ground under our feet is very uneven, but it is our ground, on which we can plan and build something positive. We have to find the strength "to think, to discriminate, to feel", the strength to speak out. "God save us from a guilty silence, my dear friend, because an evil silence exists, strangling every activity of the Spirit and it is the source of no emotion whatsoever." (Giorgio De Chirico) And the advice I always keep for myself and my friends is to try to become a voice to counter the "guilty silence". The aim of art is certainly not to publicise ideas or to send messages, but it cannot avoid being a free and creative comparison with reality. The word “Moral” is to be used with caution, like medicines. However, nobody can do any artistic research - difficult, problematic, and interminable - if they are not sustained by profound moral convictions. It is this tension that allows us to proceed along our path at the cost of losing so many things on the way that we thought we could never do without.

Alberto Sughi , Rome



23 November 2005, The gesture of the painter

(Observations on painting - Part Two)

In the first part of this Blog I touched the thoughts and problems of this man who is a painter, now we can follow the artist’s work and better understand his choices and uncertainties, desires, and the restlessness that accompanies him. Now I believe we can follow the artist with greater clarity. As I am talking about my own experience as a painter, I will return to a more personal account. I have always felt a particular excitement in front of a large canvas; as if the wide space offers all those possibilities for my imagination that have been denied in smaller formats. For this reason, I prepare a large canvas.

I could paint more figures: the table prepared with people standing eating. The most unexpected things could happen. Some dogs could come in to frighten the guests; they could drink so much that they get drunk; a lonely, hysterical woman could be taking off her clothes, causing interest or indifference in the others; people could stand close together, drawn together by enjoyment, or fear. Everything was possible. That great, white space could be the scene in which I became aware of my life, or rather of the moods and curiosities of the life I have known, or observed. I started to sketch figures, movements and actions in charcoal: the act of eating, a man taking off a woman’s fur coat, an inquisitive dog in the middle of the guests, two people standing close together and looking at each other, a woman with bear shoulders, a close-up of a detached man.

The sketch was full of atmosphere; full of provocation; of possible solutions going in opposite directions. When you draw with charcoal there are no problems, of size, light, or space. It was like an inventory of images, on which I would have to reflect, to understand and select. I told myself: “Who knows what will happen during this supper? Who knows how this social gathering, waiting for something to happen, will end? Anything can happen, or nothing could happen at all. The characters could act or end up static, immobile, like statues”. I talked to a dear friend of mine about it; he seemed amazed about my reasoning on the subject:

“ Alberto, - he told me, - you talk about your painting as if you weren’t the painter, but only a spectator. But only what you want to happen will actually happen; only what you know about life could happen”. I tried to say that this wasn’t true, that I was ready to follow those characters, that as soon as I had more specifically defined a physiognomy, that I had fully understood the subject, I would have set in motion a process that was not only mine. I only wanted to interpret, to watch, to register. I was ready to depersonalise myself in order to create a painting. To depersonalise means, above all, for a painter, to willingly decide to live without all those characteristics, those personal traits that seem to create themselves in his hands. To remove, from the work, all those automatisms of execution that have come from familiarity with a way of painting; all those "hallmarks" that seem to be an integral part of what is called the "personality" of an artist, and which, in fact, are nothing more than a deposit, the ashes of the work that, out of idleness, have never been allowed to settle.

In all the studies that had made me decide to begin this large canvas, all my usual ways of proceeding in my work were, in effect, still present. There were quick sketches, moments of careful analysis, contrasting with others that were hastier and more vague. In other words, those characteristics that have always been an indication of my artistic education were still present: in a combination of post-impressionism and expressionism tending towards realism. This time I had to choose another way of proceeding. I didn't want to enter into my picture; to force it to contain a pictorial background that I did not think would be able to portray the new spirit that had captured my soul and my mind. I had to “depersonalise myself” and therefore to decide, as a first step, to remove my hallmarks. Despite my determination, it was not so easy. It’s like suddenly feeling tired of your own voice and your own vocabulary; or realising that your own voice and words can no longer express your thoughts.

“Depersonalising myself” in the way I intended, to answer my dear friend, could not, on the other hand, mean only this. It must mean something more. Perhaps it was a self-appraisal that I wanted to carry out; to understand better who, and with whom, I was; not to remain locked inside conventions in trying to interpret my life, and I was searching, in an artistic way, for a back door to get out. Other painters will have interpreted their profession as artists in this way. I started to remove all the figures that had a relationship with the other figures. The man removing the lady’s fur coat disappeared; of the two figures looking at each other only one remained, his eyes now merely fixed on emptiness. The inquisitive dog disappeared, as well as the woman undressing. Of the twelve figures I had drawn, only four were left. Their actions remained the same as when they were together; but since I had removed all the relations between one person and the other, those actions, which had been created in the context of a common aim, became foolish and ritual. That was the moment that I started to paint more convincingly, more precisely, without emotion. These paintings, as I now observe them, finished and signed, are the result of a work that lasted seven months, and that started when I decided to paint a man talking.

Alberto Sughi , Rome



7 November 2005, The gesture of the painter

(Observations on painting - Part One)

I want to paint a man talking. So you can see all his teeth. I want it to be the portrait of someone who feels satisfied because he knows how to choose his words. Typical of a class that I don't like much, who talks of territories, districts, of exploiting and profit-sharing. But really he’s a cynic. He doesn't believe. I don't like the way the picture is turning out. His open mouth talking is so different from how I imagined it would be; and then you can’t listen to what he is saying. That’s it: you ought to be able to hear him speak; but then someone would like it. And that mustn’t happen. And so I take my time and paint the background: some pink, a lot of grey. But the eyes are right. The nose, the mouth: they are all right. What’s missing? I get the idea that the open mouth could be swallowing something, instead of speaking, so I draw a hand bringing a bun to his mouth. Now I like the idea of the painting. It’s very rough. Doing it quickly helps to capture the liveliness of an expression, of a movement. The vague outlines give us a glimpse of a wide range of possibilities. They are lines that don't confine the image. I leave the picture in this state. I will think about it later. For now, I am satisfied that I have created something to be pleased with. Today I take another canvas and sketch a woman eating, with a large mouthful puffing out her cheeks. I think about not giving too much importance to the meaning, or the story. I want to paint the act of eating as if I was painting a still life. I don't want to represent a purposeful action. But rather a portrait, where the gesture, removed from the reason why it is made, gives physical substance to the figure I’m painting. I put the two pictures next to each other and start to think about painting a buffet supper. I do other paintings and realise that they could be placed next to each other. The supper would be recreated in the eyes and minds of the spectator. The characters appear alone; it is their belonging to a group, a social class, a rite that is being enacted, which is the only reason for this alienated proximity. They are together because, as individuals, they have the same parameters of cultural background and interest. And these parameters are so much part of their physical being that they emerge, through the material form of their gestures, faces, and clothes. They are solid and well-defined figures, like geometrical shapes. They don't look at each other, they just are together. Life goes on a long way away from this scene, populated by statues. It is the end of solidarity, the negation of affection. This negation seems to create an impenetrable wall; a wall with no flaws, violently rejecting every weakness. The ideas and thoughts of these dinner-party characters are only physical. The act of eating has become a way of thinking. Their static pose reflects the unshaken moral inertia of their lives. People who have made their protective shell into armour, hiding the emptiness that they carry inside: lack of pity, an ideological void. These "people" are terrible. They can scare you. How can an artist paint in terms of "beauty" and experience an aesthetic attraction for this frozen and violent world? How can the artist take so much care in painting a face, gesture, clothes, when he is well aware that the more detached he becomes from his work, the more successful his painting will be? It is a question of split personality that he experiences, and which makes him determined to carry on a work in which opposites cohabit and interrelate: an optimistic wish to give the form and substance of beauty to a painful and pitiless life that he considers alarming and violent.

I said that I wanted to paint the act of eating, as if portraying a still life. But it actually shows something different and sadder: a still life is the representation of objects that are useful, or that have some kind of relationship with man. Acts belong to man; they are part of man himself. It would therefore be more correct to say, straight away, that I wanted to portray the absence of man. I therefore mean the absence of all the references to ancient art, from museums, that have accompanied me in providing formal, stylistic solutions, and techniques, in my paintings. These paintings, deriving from a strong obsession with content, could only be successful if conceived inside an eclectic and rigid formalism, that placed the characters in a neutral "space" within history. This is the space that the dehumanisation of man has always taken within history; when, whether positively or negatively, man has been portrayed in terms of power or impotence. My relationship with neo-classical painting, including evocations of more ancient art (some reference to certain types of light, to certain physical characteristics of the "sacraments" of Poussin, some suggestions of Guido Reni) has therefore been a historical-social interpretation, aimed at understanding better what I wanted to say, and finding the most effective ways of doing it. It has certainly involved a transformation, and the use of light and forms occurs in such an arbitrary way as to appear unfaithful to these references. Nevertheless, they are there, and they are not motivated by any academic nostalgia. At this point, I have to say what the existence of an avant-garde that has furiously attacked and destroyed any relationship with tradition for over half a century, means to me. Essentially (strictly within the contest I am here talking about) it means not allowing the modern artist any possibility of a stimulating re-evocation of history and tradition, if he doesn’t want to have to live in a climate of hostility and distrust.

Returning to my work and, above all, to the method with which I have proceeded, I have never liked the use, any use whatsoever, of photographic material. I am convinced that the artist’s memory, draughtsmanship and skill provide a more precise and synthetic image of the idea which he, or she, intends to convey. Precisely by denying recourse to any external documentation, the painter can exploit all his, or her, structural devotion to the image, which neither wishes, nor is able to reproduce reality; but which represents a relationship, a judgement, a criticism of reality. If a problem of abstraction exists, and has always existed, in painting, it must be identified with the need to remove from painting all those misleading and superfluous elements, from the point of view of judgement, that are also present in a scene, in an event, as they are in real life. Abstraction, in other words, is the elaboration of a style that gives material substance to the painter’s idea of reality. I have, therefore, worked without the aid of photos, or even of models. I have taken considerable pains to give a correct form to these representations. I want to examine the method I developed to make the first large-format painting of the supper. I will try to be as precise as if I were writing a diary of my work. But let us pause for a moment. I believe we first need to ask ourselves a question that requires an answer, if we wish to provide more than a report of what I have called the diary of my work. What is the relationship between the artist and his, or her, paintings? But I shall speak personally. Is this world, in which I try to give substance to an image, something that happens outside and against myself? Something for which I can feel sorrow, fear or condemnation? Or do I paint these pictures as if, looking at myself in the mirror, I see inside me those marks of coldness, those signs of a man imprisoned in a coat of armour? It could be both of these things. It could be that the artist identifies himself, at the moment in which he’s creating, with the figures that he is painting, just like an actor on stage takes on the character that he is interpreting, even if he has a negative opinion of that character. But it could be, on the other hand, something quite different; that is, that the artist transfers to an external world, to a social class to which he feels he does not belong because of his cultural identity, the weight of guilt that he cannot bear to recognise in person. In this case, the artist wishes to transfer his, or her, own psychological problems, from personal experience, to a dimension that takes on a social context. The artist therefore wishes to use his own existential problems to express the characteristics of a social and moral situation. In other words, it is a belief that what has happened inside us is produced in a wider context, and we are only containers of these difficulties in life. We need to ask ourselves if these things are useful or useless, if they are able, that is, to produce an answer, or if they will remain unresolved forever. The "ourselves and others" relationship is the key to our anxiety. It is our awareness of detachment, which we try to overcome through the concept of social behaviour, that gives unity to the loneliness that is tearing us apart. It is an activity that we cannot conduct alone. It is a journey that we take on with others, and within history. But even if it is a clot of existential anxiety that we want to melt by seeking out sociability, it would be an illusion to expect that this act can be controlled by rationality. Anxiety is irrational; it is always and only something pertaining to the uncertainty of our being. Its emotive potential is compressed by reason; it tries to suffocate its self-destructive tendencies, and to channel them towards something socially profitable. It organises our relationships with the external world, with others. But this relationship cannot naturally turn into an idyll. It could give rise to a painful clash, in which each of the parts looks hopelessly only for reassurance.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


19 September 2005, Writing. Painting

As I tidy up the studio now that the summer is coming quickly to an end, I find in a forgotten drawer notes and diary pages written many years ago. I open another drawer one with more recent letters. I take the letters and arrange them on the large desk standing by the window. Now the old and the new letters lie side by side! Next  I make a broad selection, assemble some of the writings together and rewrite parts of them. Then I cut a lot and add a bit. So now let me see how it looks this copy and paste operation, an operation that in painting would have been quite difficult, not to say impossible.

I'm walking down the street. The face coming towards me (and that I'll soon be passing), has a color, shape and look that remains fixed in my mind. …. I seem to recognise people that I have never seen before, as if I had always carried them inside me. The people I meet are almost like a mirror that I never tire of looking at. However, my reflected figure is hazy and the silence that lies between myself and the people around me makes this image more mysterious. These chance meetings with other people in the street give me the same sensation every time. But perhaps it's enough just to look. Perhaps it's important to observe this mass of people moving around the city - this only too apparent and monotonous rep­etition. The city contains obvious meeting places: the cinema, subways, pave­ments, bars, pedestrian precincts; and there are equally obvious backgrounds: walls, posters, signs on the wall "no smoking", "exit" "entrance", "slow down"; and then there are the neon lights, the skyscrapers, the windows and, high up, little pieces of sky.

People seem to be caught in a net and their movements seem to fit into fixed patterns. Sometimes, it seems that only our private lives can fill the monotony of time; only our private behaviour can give meaning to our existence. Is this our destiny? Of course not. Perhaps this isn't everything. The strangest things fit together in life and there are small and great occasions to break the circle that surrounds us, and that we have constructed to defend ourselves and our lives. Sometimes a book, a picture, a newspaper, a gesture, made by one or a thousand people, is enough to make us ready to shake off all the habits that time has loaded onto our shoulders. So we still have to walk round the city; to look more carefully, to get to know it with our eyes wide open. On the walls I have seen the writing of peace and war. I have seen people run­ning with banners in the sunshine (and I still remember other people running, while the sirens were blaring under an iron sky). I have seen women bending over their children and women making provocative gestures. In the city, every­thing gets mixed up. The sky sometimes looks like the eye of a young girl, wide open. Houses sometimes look like people and people sometimes seem to be life­less. In some galleries I've seen abstract, "informal", nuclear paintings, looking like urinals, exhaust pipes, dirty, mouldy things - and there are people who look like those paintings. Hollywood stars smile in the newspapers next to photographs of hanged men. On one page we find high society gossip with a furcoated lady and, on the next, tor­tured Iraqui prisoners.

Terribly different things happen in the world at the same time. In one room a woman and a man make love, in another a woman is murdered. And there are others that are even more incompatible: "Top level conference to be held before November", "G8 will meet in Europe", "Iran Rearmament", "Blair in New York" are the news headlines. We have to observe, understand and be attentive. We mustn't laugh or cry too much. This entangled skein of wool must have an end, even if many threads are knotted together. And in this mass there are always men walking, drinking, reading, watching and women with children, women showing their legs and dyeing their hair. The newspapers, the radio and the posters, the cinema and the television, the one-way streets and the subways keep people enclosed within the labyrinth of the city.

But I get the impression that behind all this there is someone laughing, someone who doesn't follow the rules - someone eating, drinking and smoking on his own with a great grin ofsatisfaction on his face. This someone has little white eyes and roams around the deserted city at night - the owner of everything, with his hands in his pockets, satisfied by what he sees. I get the impression that the man who passed me in the street this morning, smoothing his lips with his hand, doesn't walk on the zebra crossings, but crosses over wherever he wants, that he is the one who leaks alarming news stories to the press, that the prostitute waiting for a client is waiting for him. And I think that he was responsible for sacking the man who hanged himself in desperation. And I'm afraid he exists because I, too, have allowed him to exist. I'm afraid that this man has his roots somewhere inside me, and that he is also, in some way, a reflection of myself. Can all this be painted? Yes, perhaps. I think it can.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


29 July 2005, Is painting dead?

 Here I am in my study, sitting in front of the easel on which my latest picture hangs, immobile. "Is painting dead?", I wonder. At the age of 77, it is certainly not the first time that I have asked myself this question. In the past, other people have asked me the same thing. And many other times I’ve read, on the pages of some newspaper or other, a statement with words to this effect.

For painting, this difficult period started between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, when it stopped performing the public function that it had traditionally fulfilled. From then on, painting was no longer the only means of narrating, or representing, civil and religious history. First photography, and then cinema and television, because of the speed with which they are able to transmit images around the world, have replaced the role that was assigned to painting in the field of communication. Painting has lost its actuality; but its profundity, and the specific characteristics of painting are not identifiable, luckily, with any particular role. We can admire a work of art without necessarily having to refer to the social reasons for which it has been painted. Perhaps we should remember that, ever since the early years of the twentieth century, many artists were already well aware of this problem, so much so that they concluded that, freed from any moral, illustrative or didactic restraints, the very essence of painting would finally be revealed. No longer under obligation to represent the world from an ideological point of view, it would be free to champion the cause of “Art for art’s sake”. In all this, I agree with my friend Vittorio Sgarbi, who states that the arguments of those who claim that the revolution in the sector of communication coincides with the end of painting are weak and irrelevant. Unfortunately, these arguments that my friend considers weak and irrelevant have become so intrusive and deafening that, today, it has become difficult to question them.

* * *

I am still sitting in front of the easel. And I still don’t like the way my picture is developing. As a painter, you are not only the author of your pictures, you are also often the first person to regard them with indulgence, or, at times, with severity. When you decide that a picture is finished (always a difficult decision to take), your judgement is generally based on the structure of the composition, the energy of its lines, the intensity of its colour, and so on. The issue of the message behind the work is, strangely, a matter that hardly enters into it. I am interested in measuring my painting through certain characters, environments, or atmospheres. I try to do my job as a painter well. When I paint, I don't send messages and I don't pass judgements. My painting demonstrates: it does not deduce. I speak as a painter, and can only speak in those terms. When I am in my studio I paint, I think, I torment myself. I do not imagine that I am creating a masterpiece. I paint a picture, I revise it, move it, destroy it, and refer to it as something that does not seem to have any practical use. It is, in fact, the absolute lack of any practical aspect that allows me to create a good painting, which can serve to make the person looking at it reflect. I am convinced that the job of the painter does not end with the finished picture. Instead, it ends in the eyes of the person viewing it. If there is no possibility of re-inventing it, to put the painter’s experience in his studio to our own use, then painting really dies.

* * *

On a previous occasion I wrote that I do not generally agree with the way that art is promoted today. Yesterday, on the phone, I discussed this with a journalist from Rome. He said: "Alberto, do you think that the number of visitors to museums is growing mainly because people need to go to places where everyone else is going?" This is a very curious situation indeed. You stand in a queue in front of a museum. One exhibition attracts 30,000 people, another one, 100,000, yet another one, 20,000. It’s viewed in terms of a market survey. But nobody tries to understand why it attracts so many people. It is difficult to imagine, as I have already said, why people go to see an exhibition and then hurry on to another one that is completely different. And of course, more often than not, they can't even manage to see the paintings on view properly, because there are continuously people passing in front of them. It is rather like going to hear a concert where people are making so much noise that you can’t hear the music. Nobody worries. They only worry about the tickets that have been sold at the ticket office. And this kind of market phenomenon is all very good business for administrators, art dealers, and politicians. In the past, when you went to see an exhibition, you stopped to concentrate in front of a picture, to think, to reflect. I remember when I was boy, I went to Urbino to see the Flagellazione by Mantegna and, in the most complete silence, I admired it and tried to understand and capture the meaning and hidden value of that masterpiece. I do not think that painting is dead. But the way of promoting it, and perhaps the way of capturing its meaning, is dead. However, the history of painting cannot be reduced to the last 30 years. It seems highly conceited, to me, to believe that we have arrived at a point where we have an accurate method of measuring everything, in every single field. Before it matures fresh in the spring, wheat decays under the winter snow. I am convinced that art will also revive and bloom, even after a long, cold and dark night.

And I don't think (unlike others) that multimedia installations or other technologies can replace painting. These are other types of experience, just as the cinema, for instance, with the novel, with painting and the theatre. Even if the cinema has given life to a new form of language that has neither been an antagonist nor a substitute for traditional art forms.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


19 July 2005, Searching for a way out

10 July: I have been painting on two canvases that I had already started, making substantial alterations. One, showing a woman sleeping in an interior with a bunch of flowers, has become a young woman in front of a bar window. The other, representing a man watching, through a window, a woman absorbed in her own thoughts at a cafe table, has been radically simplified to gain expressive complexity. I removed the figure of the woman in order to leave the man observing as a central and mysterious image. In this way I have managed to depict something disturbing, no longer related to any particular event.

I4 July: This morning I went back to work on this painting. After defining the face and trying to outline the structure of the whole composition better, I decided to stop, because I seemed to be working too intellectually. I was trying to paint too well. I wasn't being helped by the inspiration that is essential in giving life to a painting. The second painting was going much better - "the woman in front of the bar window". I managed to find unexpected and pleasant touches, and I was enjoying myself. I felt that I was absorbed in the adventure of painting. When you find yourself entering this kind of world, you need to know how to distance yourself from everything around you.

I wasn't able to continue with my work because Millo arrived - whom I had arranged to meet a few days before. I would certainly have enjoyed his visit, if it hadn't interrupted such a creative moment. When you are in a period of intensive work, you mustn't even arrange to meet people you normally want to see. They nearly always arrive at the wrong moment.

I5 July: Now I have been "rowing" inside this painting for five days, and it seems to have become a storm at sea. And I, torn between faith and dejection, have continued to insist in not allowing the boat to sink. I have resisted well beyond hope. When everything seemed to be lost, the sea unexpectedly turned calm again, and here I am, in front of this canvas that has perhaps been saved from shipwreck.

The days are rapidly passing, and I still can't leave this painting alone. I often seem to have found the solution that I have been looking for. I feel a moment of satisfaction, which unfortunately doesn't last for very long. Then all my doubts come back and I decide to cancel and redo a part, which then means that I am forced to alter something else, and so it goes on. It is nine in the morning. I have come down into the studio a little while ago and have already looked at the painting in question. I could leave it alone, at least for today, and go on to paint something else. This would be a wise thing to do. But can someone who has always taken the risks that experimentation requires, ever behave wisely?

I6 July: This has been a rather uncreative day. Perhaps I am tired. For whatever reason, I haven't managed to produce anything and I have been forced to put off the con­ clusion (at least, I hope this is the case) of this wretched painting, in which my work for my next exhibition has got stranded, for yet another day. Time is not getting any longer, and all the time that I am spending on this painting will not be available for finishing the others. Since I realise that completing this painting has become the gate through which I must pass in order to go on my way, I simply have to hope that I will find a road that will be easier to follow beyond the gate. On other occasions this has been the case - as if the labour of giving birth to this creation, in which so much thought and energy is consumed, in which moments of exaltation are followed by moments of unease, leaves the artist with unexpected enrichment.


I7 July: Today is time for resting and thinking about my canvasses. A painting is created from all those that you have painted previously, and from what you have already learned about painting; but, above all, it is created from a wish to explore the world, to discover what continues to escape you.But as I wrote before both on this blog and elsewhere, I have the impression of floating on a wave that seems to be taking me towards the shore, but then takes me back towards a vortex in which I could drown.In this state of mind it is easier to capture the contradictory nature of existence, rather than acquire the insight and discipline of a historian. Perhaps we are lost in a labyrinth whose exit is always on the other side, whatever point we find ourselves in. I believe there is a time when painting could represent the drama of a world trapped in a labyrinth and hopelessly searching for a way out. Perhaps this is another kind of history: that of the labyrinth we have ended up in.

Alberto Sughi , Rome



22 June 2005, The state of Art in the modern world

Do the virtues that have, in the past, shown an artist’s greatness - talent, expressive force and original artistic research - still count, even when it seems that they are no longer fashionable? If we consider Italy today, my homeland, which has always been so profoundly divided (about everything, not only politics) into black and white, or red and blue, I am surprised to find that there seems to be apparent agreement in the world of art: above all, those artists who cannot agree to conduct their artistic research at the command of others, and who are unwilling to operate within the limited scope of commonly accepted norms and regulations, have been entirely excluded (from the national and international scene).

When I read newspapers containing contradictory or widely differing views, interests and opinions and compare them, I realise that, from the economy to war, from the internal problems of society to the free market, the points of view expressed are totally irreconcilable. We have to get to the current events and gossip pages in order to find any news that is less prone to heated debate, and, finally, to the Arts pages, where any differences of opinion disappear altogether.

It is often said that Art cannot belong to anyone; being universal, it is, by definition, for the common good, and cannot be exploited to serve the interests of any particular group.

Thank goodness: finally we have found a shared value, even more than the flag or the concept of patriotism.

But is this really true?

In fact, behind so many fine words, we find that numbers and statistics have been creeping in, and so the value of art is based only the quantities that they provide.

In fact, the same statement, according to which art belongs to everyone, expresses an intrinsic simplification in its rhetoric, and is ambiguous.

A work of art, the pure creation of an artist, belongs to those able to evoke it, recognise it, imagine it and appreciate it: it is alive and necessary as long as it produces debate and reflection, helping people to compare their own convictions with other people’s ideas. It becomes useless and inert whenever, in order to recognise its value, we base ourselves on auction prices, or on the sort of market survey, which is the number of visitors to a well-sponsored exhibition.

In election times, and in the Bel Paese (as we continue to call our country) these can be very frequent, the subject of “par condicio” (fair and balanced news coverage for all political parties) is considered the only condition required in order to compare diverse political opinions, in order to offer citizens the possibility of choosing between the various proposals.

However, in the field of figurative arts (today we prefer, rather ridiculously, to call them visual arts) are there any people, at an institutional level, responsible for checking that equal opportunities are given to the various trends in contemporary art? I very much doubt that this is the case. It seems to me that the same people are in the limelight everywhere, so much so, that it appears that the Italian artistic panorama consists of little more than a virtual puppet theatre.

(But is it like this everywhere else? Does this also apply to other countries?)

We started, first in Naples at the Capodimonte museum, then in Rome at the Galleria Borghese, and finally at the Accademia in Florence (on the occasion of the opening ceremony for the restored statue of David by Michelangelo), to exhibit the works of these nuovi maestri (new masters) next to ancient masterpieces. This is certainly not to stimulate an impossible comparison, but rather in order to certify, beyond any reasonable doubt, making a famous and provocatory theory by Duchamp into a norm, the incontrovertible nature of the work of art in these works. (In fact, Duchamp theorises that if a chair were hung on the walls of a museum, it would lose its function as an object of daily use, and take on the form of a work of art; such is the power and influence of a Museum! )

Functionaries of the ministry, councillors responsible for cultural heritage, and all those who are responsible, in some way, for the delicate job of promoting modern art and culture, are certainly not required to be discerning (they often believe that they are art lovers without being capable of recognising art). The task of those with institutional responsibility should principally be that of promoting the confrontation of new ideas and new trends, of supervision, so that those working in solitude are not penalised, and not always to trust in astute advisers and conformists, who are thoroughly familiar with the art of seduction, and who have, in their pockets, a tape measure full of numbers: those of the market forces.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


9 May 2005, War does'nt have its own colour

Late at night, in a room sheltered from the wind and rain, a man and a woman lie in a tender embrace.

In another part of the world, while the sun rises over a calm and transparent sea, a jet bursts suddenly and noisily through the sky, peppering the sand on the beach with rounds of ammunition: two soldiers lie still, their escape halted in dust and blood.

The sun keeps shining, ignoring the devastation of war. And the night falls on times of peace.

No light and shade, black or pink, to represent fear and serenity. So we see that in the natural world there are no colours of peace, or of war.

And yet black, leaden grey, dirty white, and violent contrasts of light appear to be most fitting in representations of death, destruction, terror and all the disasters caused by war.

But these are not the only colours of war; but rather the modern conventions we use to represent it.

In the church of S. Francesco in Arezzo, Piero della Francesca depicts a terrible battle in a great cycle of frescos, using a completely different range of colours. ( Battle between Heraclius and Chosroes, 1460 ca .)

There are spears piercing through bodies, the heads of dying soldiers glimpsed between the horses’ legs, elegant coats of armour, and standards waving in a cobalt blue sky.

The Renaissance artist held firmly to his principles. The ancient masters believed that "in colouring, we intend to show the colours of things as they are, whether light or dark, according to how they are illuminated" (“colorare intendiamo dare i colori commo nelle cose se dimostrano, chiari et oscuri secondo che i lumi li devariano”)

However, in the second half of the seventeenth century, battle scenes became a pictorial genre, like a great epic, with horses and riders combating in a vortex of dust among leafy trees, under skies variegated with gilded clouds.

Only in 1808 do we finally see the traditional representation overturned by Antoine Jean Gros and his Napoleon at the battle of Eylau. “For the first time a painter of violence does not embellish, does not transform carnage and death into a festive occasion, full of scenic beauty” (Á. Masson).

Immediately afterwards The retreat from Russia, the great and terrible canvas by Nicolas Toussant Charlet, irreversibly leads us to associate black and grey with the representation of war.

Then the moving images of film arrive, using colour to indicate the psychological, tragic and foolish, as in All Quiet on the Western Front, directed by Delbert Mann in 1930.

And only recently we became spectators, through television, of a green backdrop with shadows stirring in the midst of white flashes on screen. It looked like part of a video game, but was, in fact, the war in Iraq, with its infrared rays: the most terrible war, the night bombardments in " Verona" green.

Finally, in coming to terms with war, there are the colours of our words, beliefs, feelings, our hopes and fears and, at the same time, the bitter colour of opposing views, which every war renders implacable.

Even though it is never easy to distinguish right from wrong, when we are at war, experiencing the devastation it produces, any kind of distinction becomes almost impossible.

Truth and Untruth often look very similar, and the differences must be smaller than we think, if it is so easy to present falsehoods as the truth.

And yet that difference, so difficult to perceive, contains the implacable contrast between the two terms.

But is it true that these two expressions are only, and always, contrasting?

I have often heard people say: “It’s the lesser of two evils.” Or “It’s black and white”. However, I have always been very wary of what people claim to be absolutely clear and obvious, and I continue to believe that the truth is so hidden under appearances that it is not easy to make it come to light.

Is it true that only history can disclose the real meaning of events, enabling us to understand the hidden meaning behind what we thought we saw? Or will even history continually have to be rewritten?

Or will art, instead, nurtured by ambiguity, adventure and judgement, be able to represent the unthinkable connection between truth and untruth?

Alberto Sughi , Rome


2 April 2005, “The morning light” I am alone in the silent studio with these great canvases leaning against the walls. At first I feel lost when I look at them, then I almost start to caress them. I would like them to guide my hand, to suggest what I must paint on them.

I don't know why I wanted to go back to a habit I had abandoned some time ago - that of preparing the canvases myself. Who knows, perhaps I wanted to go back to the craftsman's origins of the art of painting. Now I look at the canvas, that I have placed on the easel, as though I already wanted to see the image that would soon appear ... I already have an idea of the title that I wish to give this painting: "The morning light". My thoughts return to when I used to watch the sun rising, bathing the hill in front of my house in Carpineta (between Rimini and Bologna) in morning light. I would be entranced, watching the slow and magical process of shapes being transformed and defined clearly and precisely by the light.

So many times I thought that this spectacle in front of me had been repeated since time began - that an infinite number of people before me had watched the same scene, that I found so enchanting, and in a cultural and emotional frame of mind that was so different from my own. Anyway, they had also taken part in the same event: the light shining down on the hill was the same for them and for me. And perhaps they had been enchanted, too.

I would really like "The morning light" to be the first painting to be started today.

I wanted to highlight constant experiences. I wanted to go back to examine things that do not change, that, by there own nature, cannot change. It might seem strange that a painter who has always believed that he had to show the changes in people's behaviour, who has always tried, even by searching through news headlines, to represent the signs of the time, should produce a reflection on something so diametrically opposite - that he should want to turn his attention to a more dilated sense of time, in which differences fade away and similarities come to the fore.

And I'm not only thinking of "The morning light", but also of people's expres­ sions, of joy, smiles, fear - of the wish to run away, not to be alone and of so many other things.

So I don't believe, although I might seem to at first, that this removal of the con­ temporary in order to return to a denser and more profound sense of time is a sign of disengagement or disillusion. It is, above all, a wish not to die every day with things that only last for a day.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


20 Feb. 2005, Roman Fragments

I don't know whether the place we have left is more reassuring than the place we are arriving in. The best moment in a trip is when you are on your way, when you are far away from everything. I haven't been so "crazy" as to move back to Rome, after I had lived there from 1948 - 1953 and from 1968 - 1970, prompt­ed by nostalgia or by a search for comforting situations. On the contrary, I am convinced that you can only enter into the heart of things through a process of "malaise". Perhaps this seemed the last opportunity to follow a path that requires a certain dose of energy and youth.

.. .Rome expresses all the contradictions of the country as a whole. It contains something unresolved, chaotic, run-down and disturbing that marks the modern era. It has become very difficult to live there. But it is so ancient and full of hypocrisy that it ends up putting together and mixing up everything. It still exerts a fascination and attraction that cannot be destroyed.

Sometimes I think that a fragment of that crumbling and corroded city of Rome could even appear in one of my paintings. I don't know how. Sometimes I take photographs and then I forget to develop them. My camera is a spyhole when I use it. I hardly ever use the results. My memory is much better at selecting images.

Disorder also affects human relations. You often realise that the desire to be together hides a selfish interest, almost as though friendship itself serves to get somewhere or other. So then I refuse to move from my studio. I imagine a possible relationship with the world through my work.

A new song gets into your head after you've heard it several times. The same thing happens in painting: you need to get used to a style, a painter's work. Many people think that they love art more than they are actually able to recognise it. It is highly probable that, if my figures and their feeling of expectation had not appeared in books, magazines and newspapers, the spark would not have been lit. There is a natural human tendency, which is, nonetheless, deceitful, to give more importance to what has already been consecrated.

When did they start to give me credit? When I had no money at all, everyone wanted hard cash. Then, when I first started earning money, nobody wanted to be paid any more.

"There's lots of time, Professore. Don't be in a hurry. We'll be doing other work for you."

I used to live in the country. I could see the landscape from my window. But it was a mysterious, enigmatic landscape. It had a strange, stormy, almost menac­ ing beauty. That series of works culminated in perhaps the most atmospheric painting - two metres wide - that I left in Carpineta. It shows a man in a wheel­chair, looking at the horizon. He's being watched by a dog, and is surrounded by a mass of green trees and bushes. It represents paralysis in the face of things, a rigid attitude that extinguishes the will to understand.

Alberto Sughi , Rome


05 Jan. 2005, Lost in a labyrinth

Yesterday I wanted to finish one of the large paintings that I am preparing for the exhibition for the CSAC in Parma ( Center Studies and Archive for Comunication, Parma University) . I hadn't worked on this painting, which I considered to be almost complete, for a long time. However, I had decided to touch up some of the colours and define some details on the figures more clearly, since I had left them too vague. The painting is 160 x 160 cm. The subject is a woman asleep beside a telephone. Since the painting seemed to be rather good, perhaps the best that I have made in the last few months, I tried to be very careful not to make any alterations that would have upset the balance of the image. I seemed to be progressing quite well in the task of putting the finishing touches to the work, making sure that I recreated the colours and hues accurately, so that it wouldn't be noticeable that the painting had been retouched. Unfortunately, I had forgot­ten that caution is the skill that comes most unnaturally to me. I lose so many of my qualities as a painter, if I don't paint as though I was in the middle of a risky adventure In a very short time I was lost in a labyrinth, and couldn't find the way out. I had to be more courageous. I abandoned my excessive prudence and tried to recuper­ ate my more natural style to get to the end. Too late. The large painting was already jeopardised and my insistence in wanting to carry on painting had only produced a progressive ruining of the image. At seven in the evening, feeling awful, I reluctantly decided to stop. My beautiful painting no longer existed.

Alberto Sughi , Rome

Alberto Sughi's blogs are t ranslated from the Italian by Coelle Crowle

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