Our tale begins immediately after World War II. Paris at that time was still – despite the interim of the War – considered in artistic and intellectual circles as the world capital of culture, and therefore art. Picasso and Matisse led the way: two dominant figures whose achievements every painter dreamed of matching.
Yet in 1947-48 there suddenly emerged a new generation of artists who threw themselves into abstraction. Lyrical art, Informal art, a new school of Paris, tachisme... all these terms designated a new approach to painting, now based on the act of painting and the working of matter.
It was, then, perfectly logical or the young Gianni Bertini to embark on his artistic carrer with works halfway between abstract and figurative art. His painting were based on words and motifs taken directly from daily reality. He was one of the first to realize that abstract art was leading nowhere and that, compared to developments in New York, French art offered a mild-mannered variant of a type of art already in decline.
He became captivated by signs. There was no end to the number of the new signs produced in 1950s society: public areas were swamped in them. But, just when the art world was discovering the power of his works, Bertini made another about-turn coinciding with his move to Paris in 1951.
His training as a mathematician now returned to the fore. Functional curves, masses balanced according to the strict principles of classical composition... these were his guiding principles from now on. Alongside his painting, revealing the distant influence of Hartung, Bertini was soon to produce his first collages, leading naturally to the production of emulsified canvases. These works placed Bertini in the vanguard of a new movement: Mec-art.
Mec-art (short for Mechanical Art) surfaced in 1963, uniting a handful of artists (Pol Bury, Mimmo Rotella, Alain Jacquet) who employed photographic methods to transfer to canvas a composition or collage with an iconography taken directly from magazines. From Bertini, the process of reproducing mechanical images through painterly means involved appropriating society symbols and inserting them in an autonomous image that was objective in both form and content. This mechanical reproduction process enabled Bertini to produce numerous versions of the same picture, dealing a decisive blow to the notion of an “original work”. Bertini was one of the first to realize that the ordered world continuously juxtaposes new modes of representation.
His passion for cars, and also for women (or more precisely for representing women) dates from this period. Gradually, over the next few years, his work became imbued with the mythology of the 1960s and 70s, in a way that was both critical and mildly ironic. His characters and decors reflected, above all, the absurdity of the modes – and power of the codes – of representation. It was not until the 1990s that his work regained a certain gravitas. A series inspired by the Gulf War, and another by female nudes, both amounted to attacks on the “pornography” omnipresent in modern society.
Since the mid-60s and particularly since 1982 when he effected a synthesis of his different styles, Bertini has continued to produce a poetico-sociological form of art which, far from being a simple manipulation of the signs of our society, actually enjoys discarding these signs through the power of a purely pictorial approach.