Critic review:

Paolo Levi

Prof. Mr. Paolo Levi: art critic, journalist, essayist, art curator
"His contemplative spirit, his Venetian religion of pantheism, his certainty of being part, of a prearranged plan, took him to witness the beauty of the world"

Gianni Piva started out as a figurative artist. Endowed with instinctive manual skills, he practiced in absolute freedom from early youth, outside the constraints of art schools. Piva transformed this vocation into an all-consuming life choice during a year-long stay in contact with nature in the Caribbean, in a condition of escape he shares with various poets modiste and unconventional painters, and which brought him critical and popular success.

Crucially important to Piva’s oeuvre has been his progress towards a brushstroke-focused, yet as Piva himself points out, non-abstract approach in the representation of nature viewed through the microscope or, in contrast, from an astronomically huge distance. In his works, Piva does not describe the impossible or unfathomable. Instead, he evokes the figurative echo of an emotion and then transfers it onto a not so easily interpretable page of painting.

His contemplative spirit, his pantheism-veined religiousness and his conviction that he is part of a preordained design that has led him to bear witness to the world’s secret beauty on canvas, all distance him from the orthodoxies of the informal. Any other painter who subscribes to the non-form would reject all references to the visible, restricting himself to an exercise in pure, instinctive brushwork with no mediation, and in the intrinsic energy of the automatic application of paint.

In contrast, Piva stresses the continuity with his initial work as a landscape artist. He views his current experiments as the fruitful development of an underlying intuition that has been transformed into an artistic synthesis by a process of interiorizzation and subtraction of the superfluous.
Once Piva’s manual skills were relieved of the need to reproduce reality, they took flight in the distribution of colors and acquired tactile sensuality in the use of mixed techniques, where materials not strictly related to painting add form, depth and chromatic vibrancy to his method of composition. Obviously, the procedure requires great concentration, as corrections are not an option, and a speed of execution whose final effect is to lend dynamism to the visual narrative that the artist has generated in devising the work. This means it is not practical to read these paintings using criteria that focus on the stages in their development for each one of Piva’s creative moments is a finished product in itself, and cannot be catalogued as part of a manner or a cycle.

Nevertheless, Piva’s stylistic signature is traceable in the text and the tiny signs that refer from one work to another, in the folds in the bulk of the materials and in the interplay of light and shadow. Clearly, there is an intentionality in his indeterminate projectuality, with chromatic material appearing to expand and proliferate on the support without premeditation, or even a precise awareness on the author’s part, of the final result. This relates Piva to American action painting but he keeps it at arm’s length thanks to the quintessentially Mediterranean sun’s light with which he imbues his compositions. It is a sun’s light present not merely in his chromatic choices but also, and above all, in the visual connotations that emerge from his ability to meditate on and participate in the teeming life of the universe.