Officine Saffi is delighted to announce Pastiche, the first solo exhibition of Paolo Gonzato (Busto Arsizio, 1975) with the gallery.

The show puts together a group of new works, especially made for the gallery. With his new solo exhibition, Paolo Gonzato focuses his reflection on the artistic practice of Giambattista Piranesi (1720-1778), the eclectic genius and leading 18th-century figure who, moving between Venice and Rome, between Baroque and Neoclassicism, laid the foundations not only of taste for the generations that immediately followed, but perhaps of the very idea of an artist as creator but also architect, archaeologist, antiquarian, documentarian, designer, merchant, impresario and forger. Breaking down those mental and practical categories that are still considered irreconcilable by many today.
The works that most pique Gonzato's curiosity are Piranesi's large historic vases such as the Boyd Vase, currently in the British Museum. It is a 'pastiche', that is, a set of fragments plausibly reconstructed with the addition of contemporary elements made by Piranesi's own workshop, thus creating a historical counterfeit but one with the power to stimulate the imagination, dreams and ultimately desire. A certain desire for possession, which gave way to a school of collecting and collectors, but also that intangible desire to be something else… "His 'pastiche' works," according to Gonzato,"were real mixes of cultures and signs, which Piranesi himself then drew upon to create engravings that became his manifesto but also a sort of advertising poster – if you like – and which served to increase his notoriety and ultimately his value.

For me, this is nothing other than that 'cultural nomadism' theorised by the Transavantgarde in the 1980s and which today we all call globalisation, but understood as the appropriation of signs of various origins for the purpose of commercial sales."

This is how new works come into being for the Pastiche exhibition, decorative and architectural fragments of uncertain date, entire ceramic artefacts rich in sediments as if they had just emerged from archaeological excavations of an ancient civilisation, or even omens of a dystopian and post-apocalyptic world.

"One of the most representative works is a diamond surface made using an artwork of mine as a mould for the ceramic, which in turn reproduces a type of tile popular in the 1950s and 1960s in hypertrophic dimensions. Although given its modernist nature, the work appears almost like a contemporary archaeological find, that which, a hundred years from now, an alien eye would see and reassemble in an attempt to reconstruct it. The surface strip of a megalithic architecture, on display after conservative restoration in a museum that has perhaps not even been created yet. I first made the plate which I then destroyed, entrusting the already baked fragments to a ceramic restorer, who treated it as he would an ancient urn."

Alongside philosophical and historical reflection, the exhibition also aims to provide a closer look at the artist in the medium of ceramics, which he first used to produce works from the second half of the 2000s onwards. "I found it to be a rather obsolete material in the artistic practice of the time, contemporary art in Italy did not make use of it, and this attracted me."The experiments with ceramics are then part of his broader vision on sculpture: successive stratifications on a Brutalist system.The theoretical knot that binds this medium to Gonzato's pictorial work is exemplified by the fact that both his paintings and ceramics undergo transformations, on the one hand uncontrolled, and on the other falling into a well-defined "conceptual" cage, as is very clearly the case in the OUT OF STOCK series. This cycle of works undertaken in 2004 takes its cue from a reflection on the accumulation of scraps of pre-existing materials and on the deconstruction of already-created works, giving rise to the diamond pattern motif which is still one of the trademarks of Gonzato's oeuvre.

The element uniting the exhibition, which will link a large wall painting with protruding inserts to the new ceramic works, will be the use of purple: already typical of Gonzato and widely used in the L'isola delle Rose [The Isle of Roses] exhibition (2004) and related output. "Purple for me is a fetish colour that holds various symbolic and significant information that simultaneously evokes atmospheres, beliefs and rituals." This colour, composed of red and blue, has some particular characteristics that associate it with psychological and spiritual introspection. It indicates a predisposition to mental and physical concentration prior to a creative impulse. The study of purple finds its highest point here in a large-scale work for which the artist – almost compulsively – has created simple cylindrical, irregular vases of various heights and diameters, to produce an accumulation that could obscure the individual pieces. "Piled on a workbench painted in the same colour as their glaze, the multiple vases become a monochrome, a homogeneous collection, like a museum display organised analytically by type of design." Work of art, design object, functional art, in a science fiction perspective it could be said that the same object is as if it lived in different multiverses with different specific purposes and functions.

In reality our present is already so liquid – as the sociologist Bauman (1925-2017) defines it – that a work of art can inevitably only assume this protean characteristic. In Pastiche, different lines of temporal research coexist, classical courtly inspirations overlapping with impromptu creative forms. For Gonzato this is not a form of irremediable dichotomy of reality, but conversely a holistic vision that lets us imagine ourselves one way and the opposite at the same time.

The exhibition benefits from the editorial and curatorial support of Fabrizio Meris, whose critical essay is partially cited above.

Paolo Gonzato was born in Busto Arsizio in 1975; he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera; he currently lives and works in Milan. Gonzato’s artistic career goes through a meticulous analysis of the surrounding space, in a physical but also sociological and emotional sense. The ego of the artist is thus to be dissected and applied to a geometric mental grid that becomes the matrix on which to process his own works both belonging to the horizon of contemporary art (paintings, sculptures, collages, installations and performances) or that of functional art, with works that combine the form of design with the poetics of art.