By virtue of looking
The penetrating virtue of looking, I would say, is like a descent in the thin body, at times impalpable and constantly changing, of the pictorial matter and the physical matter transposed in it. It is a matter that unravels, through radiographic transparency and with the filter of the light that strikes it and imbues it, its sparse textures, stratifications, and deposits. This looking, that of Giovanni Greppi, is not analytical or objectifying, even though the formative process is quite rapid in him. Colour etching on multiple plates is the graphic means that he prefers and that he uses in an exquisitely pictorial manner to obtain rarefied atmospheres in the absence of the even slightest plasticity of the mixtures of his paintings’ equally sensitive body.
Greppi’s look does not aim at a rendering that is optically exact, and is thus mentally estranged from submerged structures and subtle evidence of the real phenomena. Neither the outcome of the lens nor the fixity of the image belongs to his graphic-pictorial style, even if he does entrust, and he does so often, the task of recording the visual imprinting to his photographs or the photographs of others. From here, his reconnaissance/reconstruction of the visual artifact from real life starts. Often a poetically evocative black and white image is semantically relaunched and formally regenerated, always with strictly manual interventions.
The look of Greppi doesn’t flow as if mirrored on the surface that is going to be covered, but it rests to collect impressions from the outside world and simultaneous projections from the inner one; it finds its own path in the Italian visual art; it reveals, in its more rarefied and suspended results, some contiguity in the experiences of those painters of perceptive duration and of ultra-worldly insinuation made by Roberto Tassi about Metacosa. Being set for the long pose and for the descent through matter, Greppi’s look is not tempted by cold hyper-realism; he is equally estranged from naturalism, that, moreover, would often be justified by the subject.
Not infrequently, in fact, Greppi has visited states of natura naturans that seem to offer themselves as genuine germinative epiphanies, made of biomorphic textures and variegated vestments in which the motility of the mark and the colour resonance play a vital role. I remember the sea bottoms and the vegetable curtains that marked his entire first creative period, matured in the wake of the symbolic naturalism of Pont Aven through the lesson, formative for Greppi, of the latest Dova. They are immersions that are still recurring among other aspects of his environment repertoire.
Besides representing them with some cohesion to the outside, Greppi passes through the portion of the world chosen, the critical situation investigated, and the scene of ordinary everyday life that attracts him from time to time when he senses the unfulfilled potential of the truth, even of a latent beauty that he sees as possible access to the hidden dimension of the imaginary. It can be a fragment of nature, indeed, that is still as livable as the original one or, better said, looks original by virtue of the specific angle and the effect of his look that is often close and that locates and extracts that particle from the widely unnatural anthropic environment in which it seems imprisoned, thus needing to be revealed.
It can be the man who Greppi met in his bodily presence during the entire second season of his research and his conceptual and testimonial view of the Pietà: the man with the material and immaterial experience of his “civilian” status and his “factory” that produces goods and contamination; the man of spirit and of culture, art and linguistic and regulatory codes, of idealistic passion but also capable, in parallel, of feral behaviour and everlasting bullying prevarication, of senselessness and cruelty in the exercise of personal and collective power.
Greppi finally isolates his elective pieces of reality from context in his third season by framing them and composing them as inserts of the disregarded “ordinary nature” or as icons of the distractions of the contemporary look, for which the link between image, meaning and beauty has become irrelevant. Through visual artifacts, simply shot at the beginning of his trip with a cellphone (like Warhol when he was shooting the “models” of his silkscreen portraits with his equally simple Polaroid, only launched to enhance the makeup effect of the pictorial surface), Greppi fulfills its reinterpretation by formal filtering, stylistic elevation, and enhancement of meaning. Thus, he removes them from the gyroscopic screen of our daily vision, on which the forest of visual messages, that are the true reflection of our present life, flows rapidly. What a jumble, what a noise and what a drop of sense in the flow of images that besieges us, brushes us, leaving us with no deposits in our memory!
The reason behind the shots in which Greppi removes some of those images from the flow, also in his current third season, and elaborates them with a graphic medium that requires a long and laborious formative process, consists in the desire of reading them with a different rhythm. It is another perceptive life and inner experience and a different expressive style, with respect to the linearity and lability of the fluid communication to which we are becoming increasingly accustomed. It is an inevitably projective reading. You cannot express it without having assimilated, and internally elaborated, the original real data in light of the sensitivity of the artist, stimulated by him, and in light of the emotion of his soul. This is why it is important to rebuild the thread of that motion along the entire formative path and into the vibration, not only the undercurrent, of the image to which he finally arrives.
I would, then, detect the continuum of Giovanni Greppi’s ongoing visual research in the perceiving and participating quality of that piercing look that presupposes a journey of revelation of submerged things through the pictorial matter, the physical and metaphysical locations, and the existential and psychological situations that it stages. It is a continuum that, in the run-up to the eighties, when the formal and stylistic identity of his style was essentially acquired, can be said to be divided into three great seasons to which we have referred and that constitute an example, rarely found today, of work concentrated and involved in the visual arts. It portrays images of nature, of the human condition and of the current communicative lability. This, always through the filter of sensitivity and personal feeling, with the sole purpose of restoring the eye’s ability to discover and reveal the sense, the truth, the beauty of things and creatures that accompany us, of the world in which we are immersed and where we travel, like a spaceship in space.