Limen: Maurizio Bonfanti

Below written blog post is from the critical text “Maurizio Bonfanti - Limen” by art historian Fernando Noris, for the catalog of “Limen”, an exhibition curated by Angelo Piazzoli and Fernando Noris organized by Fondazione Credito Bergamasco



Entering into Maurizio Bonfanti's most recent artistic path is how he resumes the rhythmic habit of declining the grammatical trend of a word like Limen, with its neutral and absorbed beauty, as well as from the wide semantic range of threshold, entrance, border,  house, dwelling, starting line, glimpse of life ... And to deepen this term, in the pictorial interpretation that Bonfanti implicitly made of it, it would be enough to refer to its etymological origin: Limen, as they specify.  the philologists, stands for Lic-men and designates the transversal stone of the door, both the lower one that is trampled with the feet, and the upper one and draws from a root LIC that has the sense of bending, being oblique, transversal.  The images that take shape on Bonfanti's canvases, in this recent production of his also scenographically imposing formats, are created in the act of dialogue with these entrances-exits, with these oblique suspensions and in a close dialogue with the strongly characterized spaces  that host them: spaces intended not as descriptive or worse naturalistic settings, but as non-places, supporting actors, and non-backgrounds, of a tense and dynamic dramaturgy.  Indeed, it could almost be said that it is the human figures who mentally host indefinite spaces within themselves and therefore give them a sense and a dimension.  The figures are monumental and live in representative views that make them impressive as intense anatomical architectures.  They coexist with paths and signs, often barely hinted at, which, in some way, make them consist within peremptory lines of force and tendency such as hinted steps or suspended runs.  Indeed, the definition of the human figures on the plane of the canvas is almost always concentrated on its extreme sides, inside a sort of segment, like the golden section.  And this layout, made so stringent at the borders of the pictorial system, to condense them into a constipation that explains their intentional push towards an invisible beyond.  Invisible as an ineluctable destiny on the edge of knowledge and even more, perhaps, of the imagination. 

Maurizio Bonfanti Figurative Artwork 1


With this exhibition, Maurizio Bonfanti reaffirms, after decades of committed activity in Italy and in Europe, his resolute predilection for what the means of painting still and always manage to suggest to guide and to concretize a unitary reflection of intense formal content and  of rigorous human tension.  The stica and dramaturgical articulation.  The possible hesitation of a possible naturalistic fragmentation of the story is completely abandoned in favor of a lucid analytical anxiety towards the dynamics that Man lives every day in the anxiety of being able to orient himself towards a recovered identity or a painful disso  - The quality of an excellent drawing allows itself to be penetrated by textures rich in dreams and aspirations.  With this formal-content choice it could be said that Bonfanti returns to his starting points: to the specifics of painting.  When the artist works, he obviously takes into account all the codes of painting: composition, line, matter, sign, light.  More precisely, he practices so that the line becomes profile, the stain becomes a shadow, the line becomes a figure, the sign becomes a drawing.  And when all this converges towards the final result, a sort of immaterial imperative takes shape that conditions the evolution of the story.  Matter comes to impose itself with absolute authority, in its sedimentations, in its scratches, in its combinations, in its overlapping.  As a possible element of abstraction (as perhaps it would be more convenient and hasty for others, but not for Bonfanti), the pictorial material makes each painting take on the completeness of an organic and coherent whole.  In a long list you will see the alternation of chiaroscuro, shadow and light, of contrasts between dazzle and darkness, and above all of light, which shapes the bodies and highlights their volume.  "Light that touches and bounces, that is absorbed and diffused, desiring light", as the dear friend and director Pierpaolo Venier who recently passed away would have said about Caravaggio.  Then again insisting, again Venier, on the "phenomenal representation of bodies", as "immanence of the imminent" (Pierpaolo Venier, Caravaggio playwright, Bolis Edizioni 2009).  

Maurizio Bonfanti Figurative Artwork 2

In all of this, Nature remains present as an obsessive truth.  Indeed as the only obsession capable of possible revelations. It is so present that it allows a tactile, as well as visual, verification of itself with the roughness of the doughs, in the interstices of the gluing, in the thicknesses which are then clotted as diluted by washing operations and by dripping left free of flow. He presents the naked bodies to cloth after having undressed them with a mental drawing investigation almost from a radiographic operation.  It will be these fragments of dress or drapery to reveal differently invisible or unrepresentable bodies.  In the alternation of white lead and color soaked in there, the actors of this sort of sacred secular representation impose themselves with their bodily know-how and with their clothing in the scenic role conferred on them, and they play this role with the compunction of feeling barely adequate.  to the artist's commitment.

Maurizio Bonfanti Figurative Artwork 3

A theater of affections

The absence of the multitude is striking in this staging by Bonfanti: there are no masses of people, or collective identity underlines.  The condition of loneliness of "his" men is the exact opposite of the contemporary deception that would like widespread, practiced and saving communication.  In reality the artist is aware of the inconsistency of these current areas of communication, unable to generate community.  This collective wandering around apparent and sterile communications does not give rise to the relations that belonged to the Polis or the Renaissance square, and even more to our streets, which have become populously deserted.  It is also for this reason that the artist almost never succeeds in placing "her" man in the center of the painting.  The ideal that man, the man of these days, can still want to define himself, with Protagora, the "measure of all things" is not found in Bonfanti's paintings.  It is true that in his uncovered and not a little naïve protagonism, today's man would still and always tend to place himself at the center of the world, of "his" world, that which he has built in his image and likeness, or rather  his television mediocrity.  When perhaps, the painter suggests, it would be more in keeping with his destiny, to stand aside to watch himself live.  In the company of your own shadow.  Which is then, at times, the last legacy of a memory just consumed, but fortunately persistent: the indicator of a certain origin, in the face of an orientation to be deciphered.  And all relationships to be created.  In this succession of decentralized or oblique figures, a perennial dilemma arises that the artist is forced to experience first and then to represent: the alternation between objects and their transposition into images, between chiaroscuro and colors, between  shadows and lights, between close-ups and sequence shots, between rigid outlines and blurred outlines.  It would therefore seem to be faced with unsolved enigmas, to overcome which embarrassment is supported by the observation that all these objects-subjects represented are nothing but a necessary expansion of painting.  

Maurizio Bonfanti Figurative Artwork 4

A renewed sincere trust in the quality of the painting and in his self-sufficiency to tell not so much what Bonfanti heard to say, but the urgency to show what he could not avoid saying.  And what then could he not avoid?  First of all not hiding oneself behind, or within, the artifice of artistic invention, but to reveal the grace of having had to respond to an impulse that does not resolve or camouflage the secrets of living, but nourishes.  It will be said that transposition and imagination are still involved, but you have emphasized the fact of the presence of an operation that tends only to provoke an elsewhere, which is beyond the painting and the person of the artist.  Yet both the things produced and the generating hand, unavoidable interlocutors.  But not absolute.

Maurizio Bonfanti Figurative Artwork 5


A renewed continuity

The artworks of Maurizio Bonfanti, from the youth ones to those of this last exhibition, Tivelano the constant of intimately connected and cyclical relationships with them, having given life to groups in which recurring parrations with an immediate  recognisability.  Both formal and thematic.  Starting from the titles of the exhibitions.  To say just the last, in 2001 Five doors in memory of the Shoà, The night of Lazarus, in 2003 Dressing the Ignudi, in 2005 Passio.  pel.  2006 Arbor Vitae, in 2008 Memory of walls and bodies (Gormleys Fine Art of Dublin) and The sacredness of the body (Palazzo dell'Ovo, Naples), in 2009 A city without and in 2011 Terra d'Ombra.  One wonders with what curiosity the public and critics have followed this long progressive anthology by Maurizio Bonfanti over the years.  Simply with the austo that we hope will be renewed, in this year 2016, in front of the Limen exhibition.  We wrote above about "immanence of imminence": let's try to play this apparent game of assonances.  Immanence is the persistence that is registered by the eye of the observer, that is, by what he is given to see: the phenomenon, or if you prefer, the signifier.  Since the Crucifixion of Marne, the Christ, suspended inside a triptych of rare conciseness, below the light bulb at the top of the scene (inherited from the egg of the Brera altarpiece by Piero della Francesca), spoke of a non-representative vision of a memory  , of an ancient fact, but of an actualized torment.  deposited within an unspeakable timeless human suffering.  It is no coincidence that many have read there the allusion to the devastation of the deportees in the daily lagers.  And this is the imminence, that of a present that escapes the obligation to become the past.  Or at least that he intends to respect the vision of time formulated by St. Augustine, according to which "we cannot say that there are three times: past, present, future. It would be more precisely to say: the present of the past, the present of the present, the present  of the future. They are all three in the soul. The present of the past is the memory, the present of the present is the vision, the present of the future is the expectation "(Confessions, Book IX).  Following this expressive criterion, even in the Limen exhibition there is no spectacle of worn-out memories crystallized by forms: a man who has fallen, who has become unbalanced, settled, dissolved.  A space that accompanied him or supported him or swallowed him up or rejected.  In this exhibition a plural narrative is accentuated as of an irremediably present event, on the verge, or on the limit (in fact) of something that is happening and will continue to happen, at the same time, between memory, vision and expectation.  Something destined to happen forever.  But that is already happening here under our eyes.  In an incorruptible and inconsumable way.  We could call it the procedure of the "unveiled Bonfanti" or, rather, unveiled.  "That there are those who explain the tricks and who, second, the magic. Not the techniques and artifices, but the power of art, the prodigy that acquires meaning and significance: a world that was not there before and"  that "(and not" of which "as someone, with his handbook of the artifices of the artists, wants to do) reveals the hidden mystery" (Pierpaolo Venier)."

To learn more about the Italian Artist Maurizio Bonfanti, you can read the Story of the Artist. 

To see his profile page and his collection, please visit Maurizio Bonfanti's Profile Page.

Maurizio Bonfanti Figurative Artwork 7