Mattia Lullini, OK OK OK OK OK

🇬🇧 Critical text for OK OK OK OK OK, Mattia Lullini's solo show at Galleri Magnus Winström, Göteborg, November 3 2016.

…he demanded a disquieting vagueness that would give him scope for dreaming until he decided to make it still vaguer or more definite. […]

He wanted, in short, a work of art both for what it was in itself and for what it allowed him to bestow on it; he wanted to go along with it […] into a sphere where sublimated sensations would arouse within him an unexpected commotion, the causes of which he would strive patiently and even vainly to analyse.

Joris-Karl Huysmans, À Rebours , chapter 14


“OK. OK. OK. OK. OK.”. You happen to mutter this frenzied sequence, as your creative self takes over your consciousness, in that very moment of supreme inspiration when you know you are about to achieve something. It sounds like a weird obsessive formula: an inward, autogenic mantra that not only triggers the sudden shift from thinking into action, but also pushes the mystery of creation and the self deeper, to an almost unexpected stage.

“I have found myself trapped into styles and rules so many times now that my OCD persona should be the final subject of my art”. While hearing these words coming out of Mattia Lullini’s mouth, one may probably think of that overwhelming force that Kandinsky used to call inner necessity. This becomes clear if we consider some statements from 1911’s Concerning the spiritual in art: “The artist must be blind to recognized and unrecognized form, deaf to the teachings and desires of his time. His open eyes must be directed to his inner life and his ears must be constantly attuned by the voice of inner necessity”.

The act of making an artistic subject out of one’s own OCD persona responds to the Kandinskian imperative, which is a hymn to creative freedom from the cage of forms and rules, and also a call for self-exploration: in the specific case of this show, the artist seems to find his very purpose by exploring everyday anxieties and the ordinary, normalized neuroses. But let’s be immediately clear about that: none of the works that constitutes the body of the exhibition has the taste of dark and anguished introspection, as if it was a journey into the artiste maudit’s cliché. Indeed, those sinuous and seldom biomorphic shapes, worming their way through the space of  Mattia’s canvases, cutouts, and hybrid sculptures, have nothing to do with such a commonplace: they actually embody the inner transit through the feverish steps of creation in a bright, light-hearted fashion. The outcome lies in the positive tension between what Mattia Lullini calls “a nervous breakdown and a secret triumph”.

Once asked to talk about his creative method, Philip Guston – whom Mattia’s palette and brushstrokes seem to salute – said that “There’s some mysterious process at work here, which I don’t even want to understand. I know that if I stop painting and became a psychologist of the process of making, I would probably understand it more but that wouldn’t do any good.” A little further in the same interview, the painter adds: “What I’m always seeking is some great simplicity where the whole thing is just there”.

The price of simplicity is precisely that mysterious process at work, which often appears to be a struggling and puzzling trail. The artist, whose secret goal is to disclose such a mystery and a struggle, by making it the actual subject of their art, looks somewhat like Des Esseintes, the main character in Huysmans’ masterpiece, À Rebours (Against Nature): an antihero who escapes the platitude and ennui of society and retreats in a countryside villa that he turns into a sort of wunderkammer, a bunker filled with books and art and extravagant objects. His daily routine is entirely devoted to the indolent exercise of memory, intellectual speculation, daydreaming and aesthetic contemplation: “the history of a neurosis”, as Maupassant once called it, but also, I guess, a grandiose metaphor of what happens to the artist’s inner self when they retire in that special chamber of curiosities that is their atelier and their mind. A solitary space yet filled with memories and thoughts and relentless constructions.

OK OK OK OK OK is an attempt to unveil that very space. It does that in the only possible way, through the inextinguishable language of abstraction, where each step of the creative process is by no means hidden or negated, but melts and dissolves in the arduous, patient, and perhaps vain pursuit of simplicity.

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