Critics anthology Print

The informalist period – Periodo informale

The black lines of Bertini's drawings fill up the space like some conflagration sparked off by a rotation nucleus. A radial movement is scattered around outpourings of nuclear connotation. The some semblance of form is constructed, the architecture of an expanding cosmos. “This is based on surrealist principles”, suggests Guido Ballo in an article in “Avanti” dated 20th November 1957, about a personal exhibition of Bertini's at the Galleria Blu in Milan. And indeed her are emotions and perceptions fit to unhinge the mind and the canvas itself. In this formal, original beg bang, we get a first glimpse of the bolted and lubricated structures that machines are made of, that activate the motors, and cry out with titles inspired by ancient Greece: in 1957, “Selene addormentata” (Selene asleep), in an oily patch; in 1959, “Cadmos schiacciato” (Cadmus crushed) by the weight of a rotor, paling in the light of blue and yellow flashes of lightning; and “Raffiche di Teti” (Gusts of Thethis),raffiche_1957 in which strips of pitch obscure a partially clear sky. Through Bertini, the gods have come down to earth to be transformed into cogs and shafts, in a desecrating mobile concept of power that smells of paraffin, and have recreated an Olympus more like a garage workshop. Bertini moves along similar lines towards a future of variants and modifications, inclusions, and technical and structural innovations. This intemperate trend in the MEC Art and ABBACO pictures was destined to generate new strengths, due to the synthesis of  figuration and informalism put into practice in the early 'eighties that is still valid today. On the other hand, for Gianni, the free approach means vitality and transgression combined with and set against the descriptive meaning of a narrative, like a mental and liberating alter ego, like some provocative emphasis, between reading and understanding. Nowadays the gods dress up as centaurs – by which I mean, of course men who ride motorcycles – or as top models just asking to be smeared with filth, punctured, or obliterated with black paint in the most offensive way. Sometimes this looks like a masochistic rite, whereas in fact it is the rite or metaphor for up-to-dateness. Informal art therefore sets off a process of negation, or else gives an indication of an escape or an attempt to achieve at least provisional liberation. In any case, for Bertini – and for who knows how many other artists – inspiration was helped by circumstances: “I remember as though it were yesterday – in fact it happened in 1952 or '53 – I was walking along past a wall in Boulevard Auguste Blanquy. On its white or grey surface somebody had drawn two black mustaches, using a large paint-brush. Two random doodlings, without any particular meaning. At that time I was all wrapped up in my informalist problem, all involved with research on my sign language. For a long time, I stood looking at these crossed brush-strokes, paying careful attention to the way the paint had run: the spaces between the hairs of the brush, the way that pain had gone over the edge, and other random features, as I were looking at the Mona Lisa”.

Extract from Luciano Caprile, Bertini. Works 1948-1993, Contemporary Art Museum. L'Agrifoglio editions, Milano



Numbers and letters – le cifre e le lettere

Andrè Pieyre de  Mandairgues once wrote: “Bertini is a painter of accidents, or rather collisions, who knows how to portray the shambles caused by an impact ...” If need be, he gets help from the onomatopoeic words typical of cartoons: his “SPLACK” lends greater impact to his 1967 punching-machine, while a “SPRACK” denoting disintegration accentuates the underlying effect in “Protée fait sprack”, painted in 1963. protee_1963
Thus, words too become pictures, reinforcing them in the way well-known to ad-men and as taught us by many a pop singer. But in Bertini, the pretext  immediately takes on the leading role, bypassing the event itself and embroidering a sense of conceptual or formal order amid the disorder of an impulse or explosive catastrophe. Indeed, some pictures tend to sum up the pressures in a central nucleus: others appear to have emerged from total collapse; others again seem to explode outwards towards the edges. In all cases, the words – but the letters of the alphabet too – or numbers may act now as a unifying glue, now as an emphatic caption, now as an additional support for the picture, without necessarily attempting some connective aid to comprehension, some descriptive affinity. Perhaps there should be a distinction drawn between the letters of the alphabet combined with an informalist gesture and those associated with MEC_ART, or “Bertinization”, or alternatively, with the highly personal process of a photographic insert on the canvas that he launched in 1963.
In the first case, the words are translated into a violent, explosive shout, desecrating in its visual impact vis-à-vis the work in question. Taking the second assumption, on the other hand, the role of support and accentuation, or of form within a form, prevails. In this way the subject becomes wider-ranging, since the letters fit excellently into the various situations that we shall be looking at further on. Thus a genre becomes a means of expression, an illusion, or perhaps the illusive capture of a moment, a sigh, a mouldable shriek in an attempt a the absolute. Bertini had used words and numbers before, in the days of his “Cries”, and was to make further use of them later on. For him, words are essential: “You can't live without words. Without words, I wouldn't know what to do”. And the same goes for numbers, when one remembers his original mathematical studies. It was with words and numbers that he chose to set up an extravagant collage entitled “A 100 à l'heure le docteur Jivago valse avec Galeazzi-Lisi”.

Extract from Luciano Caprile, Bertini. Works 1948-1993, Contemporary Art Museum. L'Agrifoglio editions, Milano