Fulvio Di Piazza, born in 1969 in Sicily, is one of the circle of artists known as the “Palermo group” (Bazan, Di Marco, De Grandi, Di Piazza), which has for many years practiced “painting for painting’s sake”, a partly neo-realistic and partly neo-visionary approach which achieves undoubtedly interesting results.
Fulvio, who is already recognized internationally and who was my pupil at the Academy of Urbino, now works with prestigious Italian galleries. His work draws on a naturalistic imaginative artistic current which began in the early 19th century and evolved into the important Surrealist and Metaphysical 20th-century movements, conferring a sense of mystery on the subjects represented. This sense was also dear to the Flemish school or to “maverick” artists like our own Arcimboldo, whose expression of the grotesque is created by combining similar objects or elements which are linked metaphorically to the subject being represented in a sort of trompe-l’oeil, with consequent debunking of its meaning.
In this artistic procedure, however, while Di Piazza operates a kind of exorcism of the content, he never forgets the importance of technique; based on oil paints, this achieves results of the highest quality, projecting his neo-figuration (as we might define it) into a dimension where tradition and spatiality dance on the tightrope of a highly contemporary fantasy approach of great evocative impact. If we analyse this type of representation, we see that Fulvio’s work is undoubtedly generated by the particular epoch-making moment we are now living through, in which ideologies and guiding values have been destroyed by commercialisation and the quest for instant gratification.
At the end of the 1970s, the figure of the artist as important moral and civil educator was often overshadowed by the presence/absence of that of the solitary artist who decided to shut himself up in his dream-world, in his “parallel world”, convinced of the impossibility of modifying society through art. This aspect definitively marginalised the Enlightenment type of collective utopia, so that figurative painters in a certain sense shook off the tangibility of realism, and colour schemes were expanded in order to paint also, if not mainly, what was unseen but nonetheless part of experience.
The first symptoms of a form of refusal of rationality could already be seen in some Baroque works and during the 18th century. In 1775 Diderot himself declared the importance of the “obscure” dimension of the human mind, a dimension not illuminated by the light of reason, admitting the existence of a “secret pact” between death and the night. In fact in the Paris Salons of that same year, numerous paintings of nocturnes and ruins were exhibited; images of a mysterious, lugubrious world in which the sensitivity of both artists and viewers was stirred by the desire to verify the limits of the mind in order to push them to their extreme consequences, so that artistic representation might go as far as to transform the occult forces of dreams into visible form. Out of this current sprang artists of the calibre of Goya and William Blake. Today instead we have, besides Fulvio Di Piazza, artists like his friend Enzo Cucchi, who in his drawings plunges into a deeply literary imaginary world; or like the German Markus Lüpertz, whom I recognize as one of my masters, for whom the human figure must never be submitted to conceptual rules.