Recensioni

La verità delle cose, di Fabio Lazzari

LA VERITÀ DELLE COSE

di Fabio Lazzari

Il testo di Silvia Evangelisti sul teatrale incanto dell’opera di Carlo Cola si presenta così esauriente e chiaro da scoraggiare ogni ulteriore sforzo critico-interpretativo.

Ciò che sfugge, a questa come ad ogni altra lettura puramente iconografica, è casomai il legame, spesso inutile o addirittura fuorviante, tra l’epifania della pittura e ciò che si nasconde nelle pieghe della vicenda personale dell’autore. Questo rapporto tra pittore e pittura mi pare utile invece, nel caso di Cola, per cogliere certe risonanze che, per affinità o per contrasto, finiscono per completare la trama e il telaio della costruzione pittorica.

Di questo vorrei dire qualcosa di più.

Forte quanto basta per potersi permettere di apparire fragile, Cola vive “del” colore e “nel” colore, seguendo i ritmi inconsueti di una sensibilità sanguigna e naturale. Perfino la casa, per Cola, è un luogo di esplorazione della creatività, un vero e proprio work in progress nel quale oggetti, luci e pareti acquistano il senso di un’enorme superficie dipinta.

Frutto di improvvise e imprevedibili accelerazioni emozionali, la pittura è certamente lo strumento ideale per soddisfare sino in fondo il bisogno di intervenire nello spazio con la vitalità esuberante dei pigmenti; un modo energico, quasi violento, di scaricare un contenitore di sensazioni pieno di immagini e di fotogrammi incontrati per caso, depositati nella memoria e poi trasformati attraverso l’elaborazione poetica in lembi di tela sontuosamente ornati della sostanza grassa e sensuale della pasta colorata.

Per Cola il colore è un simbolo, anzi, è il simbolo che consente di trovare corrispondenze esteriori alla complessità dell’universo interiore; ed è il linguaggio più naturale per dare voce a un’anima ricca di semplicità e di profondità, nella quale gli slanci emozionali e le passioni sono trattenuti da un’inclinazione alla riservatezza, direi quasi all’indolenza.

Nella quotidianità, questa dialettica interiore si stempera grazie alla naturale volontà di rapporti, al contatto anche fisico con le persone, con i piccoli mondi del paese, delle relazioni affettive, con i suoi “ragazzi” a scuola, dove Cola sperimenta le infinite potenzialità della creatività accesa da una corrente di affetto e di intensa fisicità. Ma quando si tratta di passare attraverso il linguaggio misterioso della pittura, la comunicazione si fa più forte, vorticosa, ai limiti del disordine. Perfino il gesto dichiara la modalità esplosiva con cui il pensiero si affaccia al discorso pittorico; un gesto forte, deciso, profondo, che ha bisogno di una superficie capace di resistere all’urto corporeo di una necessità che travolge il controllo. Quando il recipiente pieno reclama la pittura, le tele vengono piantate su un’asse che diventa il limite della fisicità del segno, e accolgono il trionfo liberatorio del colore e del gesto.

Per giorni e notti nel chiuso dello studio, i quadri diventano le uniche finestre sul mondo, l’unico risarcimento da offrire al privilegio di una sensibilità fuori dal comune: avanti e indietro, dalla tela al divano, per godere in presa diretta del mistero di un segno che si fa oggetto, di una pennellata che diventa luce, di un’immagine mentale che diventa mondo, sogno, viaggio nello spazio e nel tempo.

Senza concedere nulla alla premeditazione, le tele si sporcano appena di una sottile traccia di carboncino, presto travolta da ondate di colore che giungono scomposte, quasi confuse, in attesa di ritrovare un equilibrio nell’opera compiuta. E spesso, nelle meraviglie dei paesaggi o nelle segrete atmosfere degli interni, si nota l’assenza della figura, mai percepita come negazione o mancanza. Forse perché si sente che una presenza c’è stata e in qualche modo c’è ancora nelle opere di Cola, ed è quella dell’autore, primo fra tutti a subire il fascino e l’incanto di una libreria, di uno studio d’artista, del profilo imponente e scuro di una montagna.

 

Così, per quello che sono, senza intenzioni retoriche o letterarie, gli oggetti, anche i più umili, appaiono trasfigurati dalla luce gialla che li avvolge entrando da finestre che mai lasciano vedere ciò che sta oltre il limite della stanza dipinta.

Amico vero e prezioso, Carlo è uno di quegli uomini-bambini che sanno accogliere e trasmettere la meraviglia di un’emozione pura con la semplicità con cui un fiore si apre ai raggi del sole a alla pioggia. Eppure è raro che la pittura diventi oggetto di dialogo, quasi temendo che parlare possa significare tradire ciò che è già stato detto e fatto nell’architettura delle forme e dei colori.

C’è come uno scarto qualitativo tra la disponibilità e il pudore quando il soggetto diventa la pittura, e ancora di più quando si tenti di violare l’intimità dell’atto creativo e dell’ispirazione.

Mi sono chiesto spesso il perché di questo pudore e ho trovato la sensazione di una possibile risposta in un prezioso libretto di precetti del poeta-soldato cinese Lu Ji, il quale, riferendosi ad un altro linguaggio espressivo, dice:

ogni scrittore scopre una via d’accesso al mistero,

ed è cosa difficile da spiegare”.

In un altro bellissimo brano di Lu Ji si legge:

 

”L’oscurità della mente resta nascosta;

i pensieri vanno portati alla luce come un neonato dall’utero materno,

urlante e terrorizzato.

Incalzare le emozioni è un errore che induce errore;

lasciarle emergere naturalmente significa lasciarle emergere con chiarezza.

La verità delle cose è dentro di noi, ma nessuna forza al mondo può costringerla a uscire.

Sempre, in questa lotta, sondo il mio cuore.

A volte una porta lentamente si schiude; altre volte la porta resta sprangata”

Questo catalogo e le opere che contiene sono il segno di una porta che si è aperta, lasciando uscire la verità di cose che sanno incantare e stupire. Di questo, con l’affetto di sempre, ringrazio Carlo Cola amico e pittore.

Fabio Lazzari

Pubblicato per l’esposizione “IN VIAGGIO” di Carlo Cola. Catalogo ART’ Ė 2002, MILANO

(English ) - Fabio Lazzari, The truth of things

Silvia Evangelisti’s text about the theatrical charm of Carlo Cola’s work is so exhaustive and clear that it discourages any further critical-interpretative analysis. Nonetheless, what can be noted from this, as well as from any other purely iconographic readings, is the relationship, which is often redundant or even misleading, between the epiphany of painting and what is hidden within the author’s personal history. This relationship between painter and painting seems to me useful in the case of Carlo Cola, in order to catch certain echoes that, out of affinity or contrast, complete the frame and the interwoven elements of the pictorial construction. I would like to add something else to this. Carlo Cola, who is strong enough to allow himself to look fragile, lives both “from” and “within” colours, following the unusual rhythms of an earthy and natural sensitivity. Even his house is for the artist a place where he can explore creativity, a real work in progress  in which objects, lights and walls acquire the sense of a huge painted surface.

Painting – the result of a sudden and unforeseeable emotional rush – is certainly the ideal tool to thoroughly satisfy the need to intervene in space with the exuberant vitality of pigments; it is an energetic, almost violent, way to unload a mass of sensations, full of images and photograms encountered by chance, stored in memory and then transformed onto sections of canvas by way of poetic elaboration, sumptuously  decorated with the fatness and sensuality of coloured paste. For Carlo Cola a colour is a symbol, and one that allows him to find exterior connections with the complexity of his interior universe. This is also the most natural language to give voice to a soul full of simplicity and depth, in which emotional impulses and passions are held back by a tendency to privacy, I would almost say  indolence.

In everyday life, this interior dialectic is softened by the natural will to relate, the contact (even physical) with people and the little universes of the village, the affective relationships, at school with his “pupils” where Carlo Cola experiments with the infinite potential of creativity fostered by a current of affection and intense physicality. But when this is viewed through the mysterious language of painting, communication gets stronger, more vehement, almost chaotic. Even the brush stroke states the explosive modality through which the mind perceives the discourse of painting; a gesture that is strong, firm and deep and which needs a surface capable of resisting the physical push of a need that overwhelms control. When the full vessel wants painting, canvases are fixed on planks that becomes the limit of the physical potential and accepts the liberating triumph of colour and gesture.

For days and nights shut in his study, the paintings become the only windows onto the world, the sole compensation to be offered to the privilege of an unusual sensitivity: to and fro, from the canvas to the sofa, to directly revel in the mystery of symbols transformed into objects, of a paintbrush that becomes light, of a mental image that becomes the world, dream, a journey through space and time. Without conceding anything to premeditation, the canvas is slightly stained by a thin trace of charcoal, then soon overwhelmed by the addition of disordered waves of colour, almost confused, waiting to find a balance in the finished work. And in the wonder of the landscapes  or in the secret atmosphere of the interiors, one often notices the absence of  figures, never perceived as something negative or  missing. This is maybe due to the feeling that in Carlo Cola’s works  there has been a presence  and that somehow this lingers: it is the author’s presence, who is the first to be fascinated and charmed by a bookshelf,  an artist’s study, the dark and imposing outline of a mountain.

In this way, without literary or rhetorical intentions, appearing as they are, objects (even the humblest ones) are transformed by the yellow light that encloses them, coming in from windows that never show what is beyond the boundaries of the painted room. A true and precious friend, Carlo Cola is a kind of man-child who can accept and convey the wonder of a pure emotion as simply as a flower opening to the sun’s rays and rain.

On the other hand, panting seldom becomes the object of a dialogue, as if out of fear that talking may be interpreted as a betrayal of what it has already been said and done through the architecture of forms and colours.

This is something to do with the difference in quality between being open and being reserved when the subject is painting, and even more when there is an attempt to violate the intimacy of inspiration and the creative act.

I often wondered about the reasons of this reserve and I had the hint of a possible answer in a fine booklet of poetic rules of the Chinese poet-soldier Lu-Ji who, referring to another expressive language, says: “[….] each writer discovers an entry way to the mystery, and it is a difficult thing to explain”.

Another beautiful passage by Lu-Ji reads:

“The darkness of the mind /remains hidden / thoughts must be brought to light / like an infant from the mother’s womb,/ screaming and terrified. To force emotions / is an error / that leads to mistakes / allowing them to arise / naturally / means to let them emerge with clarity./ The truth of the thing / is inside us, / but no power in the world can force it / to emerge. Always, /in this struggle, I probe my heart, / Sometimes a door slowly opens / other times the door / remains barred” ( NdT: my translation from the Italian version in Lu Ji, L’arte della scrittura, Guanda, Parma 2002)

This catalogue and the works in it are the signs of a door that has opened, letting out the truth of things that know how to enchant and astonish. For this, with an undying affection,  I thank Carlo Cola, friend and painter.

“L’eloquente silenzio della pittura” di Silvia Evangelisti

L’ELOQUENTE SILENZIO DELLA PITTURA

di Silvia Evangelisti

Pittore appartato e segreto, Carlo Cola ha una vicenda espositiva, iniziata alla fine degli anni ’80, scandita da rare mostre (da segnalare l‘”avventura” a Dubai, negli Emirati Arabi, la cui atmosfera ha ispirato alcune tra le più affascinanti opere esposte in mostra); ed è la prima volta che il pittore romagnolo si presenta al pubblico con una così ampia scelta di opere. Ė dunque un’occasione preziosa, la rassegna milanese, per conoscere l’arte di questo singolare pittore, per incontrare le magiche e silenti atmosfere dei suoi dipinti, dalla cromia calda e particolarissima.

 

In un gioco cromatico luminoso e inconsueto, i suoi quadri ci raccontano della fascinazione che su di lui (e su di noi) esercita il dipingere, mestiere segreto e misterioso, occhio spalancato sulle cose del mondo, che l’artista vuole conoscere nel loro profondo silenzio, nella “normalità” della vita che scorre, usando, come unico strumento, il colore, un colore pastoso e intriso di luce, dalle tonalità insolite e dalle cromie forti e vitali di viola, lilla, arancione, giallo squillante, verde, turchese, azzurro. Medium privilegiato e meraviglioso, la pittura può creare universi, atmosfere, sensazioni: attraverso le forme e i colori può farci vedere le cose in modo nuovo, diverso; e ciò è ancora più affascinante se i soggetti sono – in sé – consueti, conosciuti, anonimi. Ė questa la magia della pittura. “Non vi è arte più manifestamente creatrice della pittura” scrive il filosofo francese Gaston Bachelard; “Come ogni creatore, prima dell’opera, il pittore conosce la fantasia mediante la rêverie che si raccoglie intorno alla natura delle cose.”

Il termine rêverie, difficilmente traducibile in italiano, col suo significato di fantasticheria, sogno, immaginazione fantastica – quell’abbandonarsi a occhi aperti, dimentichi della logica e della razionalità, a memorie ed immagini del presente con la libertà del sogno – mi sembra particolarmente appropriato per i dipinti di Carlo Cola, per quel suo modo di rappresentare la realtà in maniera fedele ma quasi trasfigurata, come se dalle cose emanasse una sottile sensazione poetica di sogno, di fantasia, che diviene il mezzo attraverso cui l’artista ci trasmette le sue emozioni, la sua personale ed intima visione del mondo.

L’arte di Carlo cola ha un sottile fascino che va oltre l’effetto della rappresentazione – i suoi, d’altra parte, sono soggetti “comuni” e normali – per evocare nella nostra mente, ma sopratutto nei nostri occhi, un’atmosfera particolarissima, trasformandoci da spettatori distanti in protagonisti privilegiati della visione. Quasi che attraverso gli occhi dell’artista noi vedessimo ciò che lui vede, come se partecipassimo dall’interno a quella sorta di mondo parallelo che Cola rappresenta nei suoi dipinti: un mondo del tutto simile a quello che conosciamo e che vediamo intorno a noi – interni di stanze, biblioteche, chiese o quieti paesaggi, ville e architetture immerse in giardini – eppure come straniato e quasi indecifrabile, sospeso nel tempo. E questo solo per mezzo della pittura. Un mondo che vive a fianco di quello “normale”, con il quale condivide l’immaginario e i principi figurativi, ma dal quale si discosta per forza di immaginazione – per rêverie, si diceva – che la pittura concretizza in immagine tramite segni, forme, colori.

 

I soggetti sono ritratti con una pittura veloce e nervosa che, seppure non ricalca con fedeltà la verità ottica della realtà, ne evoca la visione “complessiva”, pur mettendone in discussione le regole statuarie, a cominciare da quelle prospettiche. I tagli obliqui, le inquadrature “dilatate”, le profondità spaziali volutamente e quasi scenograficamente calcate insinuano, nelle scene dipinte, un senso di silenzio, di attesa che pare mettere in crisi la certezza dell’immagine, la sua ipotetica inalterabile verità. Protagonista dei dipinti è la luce, intensa e “assoluta”, che invade la tela con la forza e l’energia di una fonte di vita: una luce-colore che taglia come una lama la superficie del dipinto, rendendo “pulsante” la rappresentazione e trasformando gli oggetti stessi.  E nella magica sospensione di un’ora luminosa, di una visione quieta e calma, il reale si ricompone con armonia di forme e colori.

Un mondo parallelo dunque, che, pur nella perfetta verosimiglianza, non “funziona” esattamente come quello reale: prospettive imperfette, punti vista multipli, campi lunghi. I dipinti di Cola sono caratterizzati da un taglio particolare della visione, che reinventa lo spazio della tela e vi immette una nuova dimensione, quella del tempo. Non l’attimo impressionista, ma piuttosto il tempo “lungo” di un fotogramma, l’immagine bloccata di momenti di vita fermati dall’artista, che guarda la realtà come se assistesse ad una rappresentazione teatrale. E quasi come un fondale scenografico, l’artista dipinge il mondo come un palcoscenico su cui – ancora – gli attori sono assenti, ma in procinto di iniziare la loro rappresentazione. Come se la vita fosse, per il pittore – e l’osservatore – oltre un diaframma, al di là di un immaginaria finestra dalla quale guardare la scena del mondo. E d’altra parte il tema della finestra è ricorrente nelle opere di Carlo Cola: la finestra da cui entra la luce del sole, come un taglio di colore; la finestra che apre sull’esterno, sul verde, sull’aria, sulla vita. Così come il tema della porta, spesso presente nei suoi interni, sovente semiaperta, ad indicare altre stanze, altri mondi, altre vite.

Non si sente, in questi dipinti, nulla che appartenga ad un’idea di dramma; a volte, semmai, una sorta di lieve inquietudine, sottolineata dall’assenza della figura umana. I quadri di Cola non sono, infatti, mai visivamente abitati, eppure – ne siamo certi – qualcuno abita quelle stanze, quelle case, quegli atelier; qualcuno frequente quelle chiese, quelle biblioteche; qualcuno sale e scende quelle scale, apre quelle finestre, si affaccia a quei balconi di cui si indovina l’esistenza; qualcuno è appena uscito da quelle porte semiaperte, qualcuno sta per entrare. Si assiste alla scena del dipinto come ad una rappresentazione teatrale che sta per iniziare, ed il pittore sembra evocare quel lieve stato di inquietudine, di attesa, che si vive nel breve tempo in cui, alzato il sipario, il palco è pronto a ricevere gli attori che ancora non sono entrati in scena: tutto è silenzioso e fermo, in attesa dell’azione.

Ecco allora, per esempio, le case dei pittori: casa Chagall, casa Picasso, l’atelier di Francis Bacon; stanze che l’artista non ha mai visto dal vero, conosciute attraverso qualche immagine fotografica, che rivivono nelle sue opere come luoghi reali ed immaginati al tempo stesso, dove la naturale confusione di un atelier diviene metafora del lavoro dell’artista, la cui presenza è evocata dagli oggetti – strumenti del mestiere, libri aperti, carte, modelli – come se l’abitante di quelle stanze fosse uscito un attimo, interrompendo il lavoro solo per pochi momenti, e fosse lì lì per tornare. Ė questa sensazione della presenza, pur nell’assenza fisica, che differenzia irrimediabilmente le raffigurazioni di Cola dall’immagine fotografica che pure, spesso, ne è il punto di partenza, lo spunto. E ciò avviene in molti dei suoi dipinti, persino nel curioso quadro che ritrae un “Missile” – inconsueto soggetto – dove il razzo è rappresentato nel momento della partenza; eppure tutto è fermo nel dipinto, quasi fosse il fermo-immagine di un filmato, e l’azione da reale diviene quasi metafisica.

Così pure negli “esterni”, vedute di giardini, ville, case, ripresi spesso nelle ore del tramonto, quando il sole sprigiona la sua ultima luce obliqua e le ombre già avanzano (Ponte inglese, Lisbona, Monastero di Ponteleimon  , Isola Santa, Case indiane, Tramonto in Italia per citare qualche titolo come esempio). Dipinti in cui natura e immaginazione vivono in magico intrico, creando un’atmosfera silente, sospesa: luoghi costruiti e abitati dagli uomini, ma rappresentati nell’assoluta solitudine. E della presenza umana sono solo le tracce nei panni stesi ad asciugare all’aria, nelle persiane aperte delle case di uno scorcio urbano, in una finestra illuminata.

Silvia Evangelisti

Pubblicato per l’esposizione “IN VIAGGIO” di Carlo Cola. Catalogo ART’ Ė 2002, MILANO

(English) - Silvia Evangelista, The eloquent silence of painting

Carlo Cola is a solitary and secret painter, and his exhibitions, which started at the end of the 1980s, have been characterised by their rarity (notably the “adventure” in Dubai, in the Arab Emirates, whose atmosphere inspired some of the most fascinating works to be found in this exhibition). This is the first time this painter from Emilia Romagna has publically presented  such a wide range of works. The Milan show is therefore a precious opportunity to get to know the art of this original painter, to encounter the magic and silent atmospheres of his paintings, and admire their warm and truly unique tones.

Thanks to the unusual and bright chromatic scale, he communicates the fascination that painting has on him (and on us). Painting is a secret and mysterious craft. It is a window wide open to the world around an artist who seeks to understand its profound silence , as the “normal” life passes by, using colour as his only tool, a colour that is mellow and full of light, with unusual tones and strong and vital chromatic hues of violet, lilac, orange, bright yellow, green, turquoise and blue. Through the privileged and wonderful medium of painting, it is possible to create universes, atmospheres, sensations. Through shapes and colours it can show us things in a new, different way; and this is even more fascinating when the subjects are ordinary, known, anonymous.  This is the magic of painting. “There is no art more clearly creative than painting” wrote the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard; “As with all creators, the painter , before working, knows the imagination through the rêverie  that gathers around the nature of things.”1  The term , rêverie is difficult to translate. It, has the meaning of fantasy, dream, fantastic imagination, of letting go and daydreaming, of memories and images of our present viewed with the freedom of dreams, irrespective of logic and rationality. This term seems to me particularly suitable for Carlo Cola’s paintings, due to the way he represents reality, faithfully but also almost transformed, as if objects emitted a subtle poetic sensation of dream and fantasy , which is how the artist expresses his emotions, his perceptions, his personal and intimate vision of the world to us.

Carlo Cola’s art has a subtle charm which goes beyond the effect of mere representation – his subjects are remarkable for their “common” and ordinary qualities – and these stimulate our imagination, but above all our visual senses, turning us from detached  spectators to privileged  participants in the world he sees. It is almost as if through the artist’s eyes we can see what he sees, as if we enter as insiders into a  sort of parallel world of Cola’s paintings: a world very like the one that we see around us – room interiors, bookshelves, churches or quiet landscapes, villas and buildings surrounded by gardens. A world that is nevertheless, estranged and almost indecipherable, suspended in time. All this just through painting. It exists alongside the “normal” world, with which it shares the same images and  figurative principles, but from which it differs s by the sheer force of imagination – through what we can call rêverie  – transforming the imagined world into concrete images of  signs, shapes and colours.

The objects are represented with a restless  and  vigorous painting style which, while not faithfully adhering to the optical quality of reality,  evokes its “overall” vision, – even though it questions its statutory rules, starting with those of perspective. The painted scenes, with the slanted views, the “dilated” framings, the spatial depths that are deliberately and dramatically exaggerated, all suggest  a sense of silence, of waiting that seems to question the certainty of the image, its hypothetical , inalterable truth. Light is the protagonist of the paintings, it is intense and “absolute” and pervades the canvas with the strength and energy of a fountain of life: a combination of colour and light that cuts like a blade through the surface of the painting, so that the objects themselves are transformed and the images seem to “pulsate”. It is by the magic suspension of a time full of light, of a quiet and calm vision that reality is recomposed with harmonious shapes and colours.

This is a parallel world which, even with its perfect verisimilitude, does not “work” exactly like the real one, with its imperfect or multiple perspectives and views from a distance.

Carlo Cola’s paintings can be characterized by their particular slanted  vision, which reinvents the space of the canvas and introduces a new dimension to it, that of time. This is not the “moment” as captured by the impressionists but rather the “extended” time of a photographic image with snapshots of life captured by an artist who looks at reality as if he was watching a  play. Almost like in a theatre, the artist paints the world as if it were a stage set on which the actors are, as yet, absent but about to start their performance. It is as if life were, for the painter – and the observer – viewed through a filter, on the other side of an imaginary window from which one watches the scene of the world. The theme of the window is a recurring one in Carlo Cola’s works: a window lets in sunlight, like a stream of light; another window opens onto the outside, on the green, on the air, on life. The same happens with doors, which are often present in his interiors and are often half-open, leading to other rooms, other worlds, other lives.

In these paintings there is no feeling that something dramatic has happened; but there is, sometimes, a sort of slight restlessness, highlighted by the absence of human figures. In actual fact, Cola’s paintings are never visually inhabited, although – we are sure – someone inhabits those rooms, those houses, those atelier ; someone goes to those churches, those libraries; someone goes up and down those stairs, opens those windows, looks out from balconies; someone has just gone through those half-open doors, someone is about to come in. We look at the scene of the painting as if it were a play about to start. The painter seems to evoke that slight sense of restlessness, of the pause   we experience during the short time between the raising of the curtain and the entrance of the actors. The stage is ready: everything is silent and still, waiting for the action to commence.

Here , for example, are the houses of painters: Chagall, Picasso, Francis Bacon’s atelier ¸these are rooms that the artist has never actually seen but knows about through photographic images. They live again in his works as places that are real and imagined at the same time, where the natural disorder of an atelier  becomes a metaphor for the artist’s work, whose presence is evoked by objects, tools of his trade, open books, sheets of paper, models – as if the inhabitant of those rooms had gone out for a moment, interrupting his work  for just a few minutes and was about to come back. It is this sensation of someone being present, although physically absent, which makes Cola’s representations so entirely different from the photographic images which often serve as their starting point and inspiration. This happens in many paintings of his, even in the peculiar picture that portrays a “Missile” (Missile) – an unusual object – where the rocket is represented at the point of being launched. On the other hand everything is still in the painting, as if it was the freeze-frame of a film, and the action turns from real into an almost metaphysical one.

The same is true of  the “external”, views of gardens, villas, houses, often painted at sunset, when the sun shines its last slanted light and the shadows come (Ponte inglese, Lisbona, Monastero di Panteleimon; Isola Santa, Case indiane, Tramonto in Italia  to name just a few examples). These are paintings where nature and imagination merge in a magic tangle, creating a silent, suspended atmosphere: places built and inhabited by human beings, but represented in absolute solitude. The only signs of human presence are in the clothes hanging out to dry, in the open shutters of an urban view, in a lighted window.

Silvia Evangelisti

“Memoria e nostalgia” di Alessandro Riva

MEMORIA E NOSTALGIA

di Massimo Riva

Quella di Carlo Cola è una pittura sorprendentemente anti-contemporanea, che ha proprio in una voluta, cosciente, quanto drastica presa di distanza dagli stimoli provenienti dai linguaggi e dalle formulazioni caratterizzanti la storia dell’arte più recente, in particolare quella di questi ultimi decenni – dalla realtà mediale alla fotografia alla fiction cinematografica o televisiva – il suo fulcro poetico e visivo. Cola, infatti, utilizza una pittura che sembra a prima vista non voler guardare ad alcuno dei movimenti e delle pratiche artistiche storicizzate dall’avanguardia artistica nella seconda metà del Novecento, sia in termini di linguaggio sia in termini di suggestioni o di contenuti. Il suo lavoro si muove, con sorprendente levità del segno e del colore, su una linea del tutto autonoma, solitaria, priva anche di compagni di strada e di convergenze con il lavoro dei suoi coetanei o di quello delle ultime generazioni di artisti italiani. La linea è quella della ripresa di una pittura veloce e gestuale che, se da una parte recupera un certo intimismo nabis che oggi pare completamente sparito dalla scena contemporanea, quasi fosse poco corretto politicamente riproporre scenari di intimità borghese e di solitaria e domestica quotidianità, dall’altra recupera anche l’utilizzo di un segno forte, fluido, di lontana ascendenza matissiana, felice nella sua straordinaria leggerezza e libertà, e di una materia corposa e spessa, oltre di un uso di colori forti, contrastati, di vaga marca espressionista.

L’opera di Cola è, a guardar bene, un intricato puzzle mentale e visivo, un gioco di rimandi e di citazioni, anzi, più precisamente, un gioco a rimpiattino con la memoria della pittura, con i suoi protagonisti e i suoi punti di riferimento fondamentali, ma sempre tenuto sul filo sottile dell’intimità e della suggestione poetica, quasi che la citazione dei grandi maestri – da Picasso a Matisse – dovesse passare per una via segreta e silenziosa, attraverso dettagli domestici o fugaci accenni coloristici e compositivi. Quello di Cola è un mondo tutto mentale, fortemente anti-naturalistico, che ci parla di noi stessi, delle nostre letture, delle nostre passioni e dei nostri amori, in breve della nostra intimità, attraverso la riproposizione di un mondo scomparso che non sconfina mai nella nostalgia e nella malinconia, che non utilizza il linguaggio del sentimentalismo ma quello di un lirismo asciutto e diretto, di una naturale e semplice levità delle cose che ci appartengono e che appartengono alla nostra cultura, al nostro passato ma anche al nostro presente.

Alessandro Riva

Pubblicato per l’esposizione “IN VIAGGIO” di Carlo Cola. Catalogo ART’ Ė 2002, MILANO

(English) - Alessandro Riva

Carlo Cola’s painting is surprisingly contemporary. Its poetic and visual core lies wholly in the desired, conscious and  radical distancing from the stimulus of the languages and forms of art history – particularly those of recent decades, from media reality to photography, to the fiction  of cinema and television. In actual fact, Carlo Cola uses a technique that at first sight does not seem to refer to any of the historic movements and art practices that originated with the artistic avant-garde in the second half of the 20th century, either in terms of language or  in terms of inspiration and content. His work moves, with amazing lightness of colour and sign, on a line that is completely autonomous and solitary, quite different from the work of fellow painters , contemporaries and that of previous generations of Italian artists. The line is that of  a revival of rapid and gestural painting. The latter,  on the one hand revives a certain nabis intimacy – which has all but completely disappeared from the contemporary scene  as if it were politically incorrect to re-propose scenes of bourgeois intimacy and the solitary and domestic habits of everyday life. On the other hand, it re-establishes the use of strong and flowing lines and, in the pleasure it derives from depicting an extraordinary sense of  lightness and liberty, it is vaguely reminiscent of Matisse. At the same time there are hints of expressionistic thought through its thick  robust qualities and use of vivid , contrasting colours.

Carlo Cola’s work is, all things considered, a  complicated visual and intellectual puzzle, a game of references and quotations. Perhaps, more precisely, it is a game of hide and seek with the memory of painting, with its more important protagonists and points of references . These connections, however, always possess a lightness of touch, both intimate and poetic, as if in quoting the Great Masters – from Picasso to Matisse – one needs to traverse  secret and silent pathways, across domestic details or fleeting signs of colour and composition. Cola’s world is of a completely internal kind, strongly anti-naturalistic, one that speaks directly to us about our readings, our passions and our loves – in short of all aspects of our personal life –  through re-inventing a lost world which never strays into nostalgia and melancholy, that does not use sentimentalised language  but favours a direct and terse lyricism, a natural and simple lightness of things that belongs to us and to our culture, to our past but also to our present.

(English) - G.P. Bianki, Three incipits for the singular Carlo Cola

1.

When I was born, Carlo was already there. He was seven months older than me;  I don’t remember ever meeting him for the first time, but I clearly remember the first time that, for him, I became important. When we were seven/eight years old, we built a shelter under an old kitchen table, inside a closet, a locked room which was dark and without windows. Every day we would add something to improve it.

To have some light, I brought a battery with a bicycle bulb, as I had seen my brother do with his older friends. In the dark, under the table, I connected the bulb to the battery with an electric wire and … there was light!

It was an explosion of light that suddenly pushed the shadows all around radially. I saw Carlo’s face transformed by surprise, joyfully staring at the small source of light. He looked gleefully at my face lit from below, at our transformed surroundings,  lost in intense and unexpected pleasure. It was just for a moment. I broke the contact and everything went back to the flickering dark that one sees after staring at a light. I switched it on and off several times to show him how easy it was. The bulb found a definite place under the table (seven years later this same table became our first light table, but this is another story…).  Since then, as happens between children,  I have been thought of  by Carlo as a very able technician….

I know that it is not right to relate the work of an artist to small biographical episodes; there is the risk of being unjustly selective, like a mother telling embarrassing childhood stories about her son to his future wife.

On the other hand,  when I look at Carlo’s many paintings, I go back to that moment;  to his surprise for the unexpected vision; to his wonder about how we see; to the innocent enjoyment  of the emotion that we feel when we watch.

In his paintings I feel the call to a condition of  naivety deprived of malice, as it is in childhood. When even the gaze is virginal and , with the sense of wonder, we see things for the first time. I feel the surprise of his gaze mixed with the urgency of preserving the moment.

I have become convinced that when Carlo Cola takes the brushes in his hand, he does a mental exercise of approaching the image he wants to paint, asking himself: “If I was seeing it for the first time, how would it be?” And I think that while he is painting he asks himself this question many times, as if he were reciting an empathic mantra that puts him in touch with a collective zone, in which we have all lived during our childhood, and from which he takes the vital lymph that feeds his work. This is where nostalgia is, the regret for a lost condition. But there is also the evidence that the contact has not got lost forever, that a mental click is enough to go back and see things in their original shape, that a  click is enough to turn off the  background noise of daily life that soils our minds. I know that Carlo Cola has found his personal switch, that he turns on and off, filling me with wonder.

2.

The interior was dark,  the upper part of it became a darkened Prussian Blue, the thick painterly substance became thinner, it descended to the floor with the light, covering the eaves with aquamarine reflections. On the folding table transformed an area of colour whose origin was indefinable  contributed to pushing back the niches of mysterious violet on the superior orders.  At a sidereal height, perceivable through its small size, a tiny red dot burns like an offering. “Hey Carlo, what happens if you erase this red dot from the painting?” – I say,  jokingly, like a wisecracking Jiminy Cricket. “What happens is that the whole painting collapses, you cretin!” he replies with a know-it-all tone.

I would like to say a few simple things about Carlo Cola’s paintings. At least as simple as his art. Well, I would like to, but I can’t! I write and I continuously erase what I’ve written. I am forced to admit defeat. This is because his paintings are not simple: they are deceptively SIMPLE,  that is to say THEY LOOK Simple. In his paintings everything is CLEAR Yet to speak of clarity is impossible, words are an insult: you cannot explain what is self evident.

What I can say of Carlo Cola’s painting is that it is DIRECT: it goes straight towards a pre-established direction, it leads straight to whoever looks at it without any diversions.

And I also want to say that it is COMMUNICATIVE.  “An actor’s communication can be really spontaneous only when applying a technique of rigorous acting”

Nice statement. It is written in italics as I am not sure it is really mine. I am, however, sure that it can also be referred to a painter, because it is an inescapable fact:   communication takes place through a technique that permits it, a technique that becomes really impeccable when it is not perceivable any longer.

Hence I can add that it is virtuosity…. (so much so that it seems simple), but virtuosity is a dangerous term, which scares musicians too. I shall then say that it is  a VIRTUOS painting[1], yes… good, with a tendency to goodness. Not morbid; a bringer of virtues.

There is an impression of undeniable INNOCENCE in Carlo Cola’s art, even while I am trying to show that his work is complex, in spite of  its clear simplicity, which is not spontaneity, in spite of its direct communicativeness. I think it is important to specify that his art is not the result of abstract thinking about the new world order. By following his instincts and distilling his work through his experience Cola has found a way to operate; we can only accept that and enjoy the results.

ENJOYMENT, here is another word that I think is adequate, bliss…. Pleasure of the senses, SENSUAL painting. Part of the eye, it stimulates the retina, it goes through the optical nerve, it reaches the brain, it increases the production of natural endorphins,  a languor rises from the stomach, knees weaken, it is …. ECSTATIC trance. Oh! What a wonderful word , it manages to  merge together ecstasy and statics and its assonance with aesthetic makes it perfect: what is a painting nowadays if not a static image, whose function is to accelerate the  psyche.  In Carlo Cola’s art all this happens without sexual morbidity, the coital anxiety, as constantly depicted by the media besieging  our daily lives. Now, of all that I have written, there is no direct proof in Cola’s art. His art is not a manifesto, its function is not to demonstrate truth (mine even less). Carlo Cola, simply, paints. But try to do a little exercise to approach his paintings; when you look at them repeat the words I wrote in capitals in your minds, test their validity. In the end you will agree with me that perhaps a painting by Carlo Cola is not the bearer of  messages. But at least enjoy its MESSAGE. Retina focused for the time being… then, who knows.

3.

I saw Carlo many times the day after, more squeezed than his tubes of colour, showing me the painting that he had done during the night. More than a painting, a transfer of pure energy. This confirms that it is typically human to give of yourself until you die, the expending of yourself in burning activity. In the light of his nocturnal activity Carlo seems to me like a tomcat after an amorous adventure: dishevelled, bruised, aching. He allows me, with a sort of post mortem languor, to be the First Spectator. He is not afraid of my judgment, he knows that he has come out victorious over the creative labour once again. On the surface, I do not appear excessively agitated and I throw in a technical remark (I don’t know why but he expects this from me). I adopt the knowing expression of a man of the world, accustomed to seeing exceptional things: so much so that I am not even capable of surprise. Carlo smiles slyly. He knows perfectly well that to really surprise me he should show me a bad painting….

Carlo Cola long ago stopped asking himself what is the relationship of his work with the whole history of art. Since then he has obtained excellent results.

I am not an art critic… once I used to do an exercise when confronted by art and divided images into two categories:

1.     Images that take you inside the frame, forcing your gaze to enter illusory depths, or into routes on the surface, without sending you back outside. PAINTINGS OF TALES. Entry points to the world of the artist who created them.

2.     Images that break out – come out of the frame – works where the route of the gaze is nullified. PAINTINGS OF PERFORMANCE which provoke a reaction of emotive acceptance or rejection of the object which we stand before, creating a series of references outside the work itself.

This scheme, not very sophisticated[2], allowed me to draw a border line between modern painting and past painting.  Many paintings of Carlo Cola make it impossible to use this division. Miraculously, they take elements from both categories, but they don’t make them clash: each of his paintings is a performance. I know that every time that he starts a painting, he seldom stops before he has finished it; in the big size paintings  the brushing gesture,  ample or  frenetic, which skilfully determines the image  is perfectly visible. The physicality of doing is not hidden but is continually led back to the needs of the story, a simultaneous narrative/image, whose temporal development is determined by whoever sees it.

A painting by Carlo Cola can be exuberant to the point of leaping out at you His means is the seduction of the gaze. His aim is to point to another way of looking by showing. The adopted shape is often that of a mise en scéne, the scenery of  an immanent happening: looking at them always makes you think of someone who has just left or, of someone who has yet to arrive. The notable absence of people from the scene makes us appreciate the beauty of their actions. The human is signified by its absence. The entry of an actor would steal the scene from the scene itself, soiling it: like a mollusc returning to its empty shell.

Carlo Cola’s paintings serenely ignore the categories people try to pin on them. The truth is that they are temporal rebuses, they could have been painted one hundred years ago and nobody would have understood them (thus paying homage to their innovative quality). Because they are contemporary to us, we delude ourselves into imagining that we can understand them. All things considered, what can appear to someone as if a century has past, could equally be viewed as belonging to an earlier century .

 


[1] If someone, influenced by easy semantic assonances, will think of virtual…,he or she should be challenged at dawn under the wall of the Carmelitane, it is old , anyway.

[2] Ça va sans dire!

(English) - Janus, Carlo Cola, Room with a View

CARLO COLA

Inside the silence

Janus

Carlo Cola- Room with a View

When I say Room with a View I don’t mean Edward Morgan Foster’s marvellous novel (nor even the poetic film adaptation by James Ivory). I’m thinking instead of what the novel did not express and  so of what is left unsaid and merely alluded to in Carlo Cola’s painting, its hidden, even invisible aspects. It is as if each of his paintings were located in a solitary place, removed from its immediate surroundings, as if on the highest point of a hill. And, in actual fact, Carlo paints in an isolated room, at the very top of his house,  a room which can be reached only by way of a steep wooden staircase. The stairs are between the outside and the inside of reality: on the one side, far below, there is the city and its old winding  streets; on the other side, further up, in a sort of tower, there is a kind of quiet retreat,  gradually detaching itself from the surroundings almost as if it were in the middle of a desert or forest.

We are already in a room, and it is from this room that, especially in the last few years, Carlo has been creating his paintings. He is a painter who cultivates a love for solitude, but this is an interior solitude, a secret one that is enjoyed within an imaginary space because Carlo, in reality, has an intensely active social and working life, a life with many deep human relationships. However, when he paints, it seems that he closes the door of his tower-room and immerses himself totally in his art. This is the central aspect of his aesthetic sensibility: to paint as if we were moving through the picture; or a forest or desert. Stones, pebbles and twigs could be collected along the way.  Also, in his paintings, bizarre objects or even simple furniture, seem to be visible as if through a kind of mist. It is there that we discover them, as if carefully gathered by an archaeologist. Carlo Cola is, in truth, a collector of memories. He needs to preserve them, to place them inside a larger showcase:  the secret room of his art and his imagination. He is a painter who travels a lot in his mind , a painter who needs to have a solid wall around him where he can place his objects, his paintings, his memories. Scattered around him are a huge number of  jugs full of strange liquids, like an alchemist. On a table lie hundreds of tubes of colour, some new, some already used, some squeezed or twisted, or hardly touched, which through the practice of painting have become soft, almost fluid.  They look like glimmering precious stones in the lamp-light. Around him, old wooden doors are half closed, while the tower reveals another maze. The colour is in his paintings and it is also in the room where he paints, glimmering like some oblique sunlight, as if the pigments from the tube flowed all around like water from a stream and had found a still place on the walls of the room, on the floor, on the painter’s hands. The room has a bizarre quality of its own, the accumulation of objects makes you think of the room as the Wunderkammer of an ancient collection that is characterized by randomness, the painter’s casual whims;  a place where order and disorder meet. Also there is a hint of Carlo Cola himself in these paintings, although no human figure is ever visible. He enters and leaves his paintings, not literally of course,  but as if he has become at one with his colours. There are no mirrors in his room and they are rarely to be found in his paintings. Mirrors are just deceptive, dazzling surfaces, they are opaque, they try to escape within the depth of the walls. Everything is part of that which is depicted. It’s almost a mystery how all those objects exist within the room. The painter says that he has drawn those rooms from actual places, they are the Rooms of Picasso or of Chagall, the Room of Balthus or of Marguerite Yourcenar, of famous and unknown people, but can we believe painters even when they seem to be telling the truth? True Painters, of course, never lie, they always tell the truth, but this is a truth that only belongs to the origin and history of those who paint, not the history of those who look at the painting and who ignore, must ignore, what that room has been based upon. These works are like ships that have crossed the desert. They are covered with a thin layer of salt, the wind has pulled and torn their sails, the sea has burst through the hatch, sea birds have flown through, the very structure shows the storms they have faced,  they have been transformed into castles, towers and precious gems by the painter. It’s like the desire to investigate the universe before or during creation. Too much time has passed. We see only the finished result and must be content with that alone, like mortals must be satisfied with what they can see with their own eyes. Also the room has made a journey through time and memory. We know that it comes from far away, from other experiences, that it has already lived for a long time, but we are interested in its current life, what it is now. We are like Alice, we went through the looking glass, we went beyond the mirror, we entered a room that is on the other side, and it is here that Carlo Cola’s artistic adventure begins.

Meanwhile, we can begin by asking ourselves what happened inside his paintings, inside that bedroom, that drawing-room, that library. We have the impression that everything has been placed the wrong way up, even if each object is just where it should be and the furniture is firmly anchored to the floor or rests against the wall. There is order certainly, but at the same time those objects now have an elusive quality, they are transparent, intangible, they have another face. We can hardly recognize them, even if they clearly resemble objects like a table, a chair or a lamp. They have already acquired another life, another form, another sensitivity. We don’t know what happened in that room;  was there a crime or a love story or just another dreary kitchen sink drama, but we can still hear the echo of distant words which are hidden within the folds of rugs, still whispering  and slowly falling, like grains of dust, onto the chairs or wardrobes.   Someone went through that room, someone lived within those four walls, but now there is nobody, only silence reigns, all who were there have already departed through an invisible door (a closed door at the bottom of the room), like the actors at the end of a play. The stage is now empty, but ghosts remain, as in certain stories by Henry James, in which it is difficult to distinguish the dead from the living (The Altar of the Dead for example) or the living from the ghosts (as in The Turn of the Screw  and others).  These paintings are also inhabited by ghosts,  whose shadows still slither along the walls and whose rustling steps are still present. They are abandoned places and at the same time places that are still possessed by some unknown presence, by reddish reflections passing through one wall to the next, by the memory of the old inhabitants of those places who have long since silently departed  or even died. Perhaps they are still talking behind a door;  they will never come back. That room too has become a place of pain and regret.

Objects are restless. The bookshelves, the books scattered on the floor, the sheets, all refer to a lack of order. The painter has raised the curtain for a short while to allow those objects to enter. In a sense he has imprisoned them, we can look at them as if they belonged to an unknown time. But the painter can always let the curtain fall without warning, closure may come unexpectedly as happens when the visitors to a museum realize it is late and have to hurry towards the exit before the lights are turned off. In the same way, in Carlo Cola’s rooms there are surely ways in and ways out but they are  a long way apart and it seems that to move across these spaces will take a long time, a place with no end. Those objects, which look so remote, do, actually, pull back those who walk in front of them, as if they grasped the viewers by their arm or their clothes, as if they wanted to prevent the gaze from turning away. Where have the owners of those objects gone? They were surely there a moment ago, now they are  gone.  There is no one left, only the echo of their presence, only the furtive rustle of their steps. What we see belongs to the past, we are now contemplating only objects that are somewhat greedy, that are possessive, that have not forgotten their past and what they endured. They try to capture the attention of those who pass nearby as they themselves have been captivated,. They are also passionate objects. They still want to be inhabited,  possessed, to keep on living under the skin and inside the body of other inhabitants. Those objects do not want to die. They want to rediscover the excitement of life, they want to be loved. They are also erotic objects, because of their dense, strong colours which dominate every shape, but above all because of their passion, their insatiable greed and intense desire to carry on living. The candelabra hanging above looks like golden or enflamed stalactites, they still exude the flow of a subterranean rain that penetrates the walls of the house like the tempestuous blood in the veins. These drops have oriental perfumes and scents, human secretions, but they have been embraced by a region that seems to have borders with Asia and Africa, so rich is it with colours, imagination, character and passion. You sense that the sea is not too far away. Those candelabra look like bodies that fall from ceilings, like coiled snakes with bright skin, with golden reflections. That room has an old flavour, it almost looks like a jewel box. The poetics and drama of interiors has a century long tradition in painting (and also in literature), from realism to symbolism, which would take too long to list here but those interiors were conceived to contain a clearly visible human presence, the real, physical body of its inhabitant. However, in these paintings the body is absent, it has been forcibly removed, it has been excluded. Only the objects remain, as if space had closed in on itself like a trapdoor, as if it had become impenetrable, inaccessible. But the game of illusion manages to capture my gaze and, for a moment, I feel as if I am sitting in one of those chairs, waiting for an unknown visitor, or as if I am lying on that bed, which once belonged to someone else, waiting for a sleep that will not come.

His art, with its sumptuousness, has the characteristics of a stage setting for a passionate drama but it also represents the scene of an intimate confession, whose memories , both happy and unhappy, remain. His art is a bit like the antechamber of Hell as Sartre evisaged it in his play Huis Clos or perhaps, even better, like the antechamber of Paradise [Heaven] as Dante imagined it, or  as Milton did, a paradise that has not yet been conquered, that is very far away. It is not a rarefied and impalpable paradise, but a real one, as it must have been when Adam and Eve inhabited it, placed in the very far East, surrounded by two rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, and just abandoned by those two unhappy beings, punished for a venial sin. Perhaps behind that wallpaper the biblical snake still slithers: we do not see it, but we can detect its presence from the swelling of the objects which the light has slightly deformed. We see those furnishings and yet we do not see them, we are never sure that they are at their place where its original inhabitant had placed them in the remote past. They have certainly never stopped their imperceptible movements, slithering slightly along the floor,  leading a secret, restless existence. However, there is nothing arbitrary in those places, nothing artificial, a new law has taken possession of that place and if the painter has tampered with the scene or has changed the arrangement of the furniture, this was his right. Everything seems subjected to a new equilibrium, that is, the inscrutable right of art to dictate where a particular piece of furniture should be placed and, above all, which colour it should be. This is where another law interferes, the law of aesthetics and harmony, which stems from the sensitivity of the artist, from his creative energy. That room is already another thing entirely and will transform into yet another room, it is free to assume a different shape: the painter has entered that secret place and he has revisited it in his own way, not from a whim, not out of madness, not to violate it, but because all those objects are not just objects, they are like little flames that flicker in the night, they are wandering souls, they do not come only from reality, but come from another interior intuition in the painter’s mind.

At this point of his artistic evolution – which is material, spiritual and perhaps also affective – it seems that every object appearing in his paintings, at some point during its journey, has tumbled in on itself, has crumbled, has dissolved into infinite chromatic particles; but the painter, with his enduring patience, sometimes even impatience,  has reassembled them, has rebuilt them, has healed their wounds, has dug them out from the depth of the earth;  in the same way he did after digging under the foundations of his old house – or his tower as we like to call it – which is built right in the historical centre of the city; he, by chance, pulled out ancient amphora, fragments of old furnishings that he then  reassembled them bit by bit. His rooms also come from the depth of the earth, from the dungeons of his mind, from the soil that mankind has trodden on throughout the centuries. The painter does the same thing here, it is work that is apparently manual, carried out using colours or powder. Carlo Cola paints as if he were still digging among rocks.  It is part of his nature, I don’t know how much he is aware of this, but it is surely a mental mechanism. He needs to plunge his hands into this primeval magma, in the earth that conceals its ancient treasures. This is why he sometimes uses images that already exist, real images, rooms that belong to unknown or famous people. This is only the starting point. It is the beginning of a mental amalgam. Carlo Cola has the soul of an archaeologist in the desert who is digging in the sand to unearth some antique sarcophagus or, at least, some humble trace of humanity that existed there and left some fragments behind. Carlo Cola travels through the past while staying inside his room, in the same way that someone like Xavier de Maistre did, when he was imprisoned in his room for forty two days as a punishment. He was, as we would say nowadays, under house arrest because he had been in a duel. But Xavier de Maistre was not really a swordsman, he was not just an anonymous, undisciplined officer of the Sardinian army, he was also a writer and, above all, he was a painter. That is to say, he saw his room through the eyes of an artist and described it in his famous novel A Journey Around my Room not only describing what he saw, but also how he remembered it, the way it could have been after years had passed, the way he recalled it and imagined it. He wanted to be precise and methodical, but, at the same time, he was ironic: “My room is placed  at the forty fifth degree of latitude … After the armchair, proceeding in a northerly direction, you can find the bed, which is placed at the end of the room…”, or “The walls of my room are decorated with paintings and prints that embellish it and which I would like to show you”.  This is why Xavier writes, this is why Carlo Cola paints. Xavier, above all, would travel in his mind, like Carlo Cola does so in his paintings. In another novel, again set in his room, Xavier defines his journey as a night expedition and this is the way Carlo’s paintings should be defined, as if drawn by semi-darkness.

His room is not the work of an architect or an interior decorator, it is rather the poetic work of a painter searching for hidden emotions. It is always a room that has feeling. It is the Camera Blu (Blue Room) of lovers – which could equally be Rossa (red) or Verde (green), depending on the mood. In Room With a View, by Forster, the Florentine landscape which the English female tourists search for and want to see from their window; is a metaphor of the freedom which at least one of them longed for. The window that appears in Carlo Cola’s paintings often consists of pure brightness, it is a golden space lightly covered by a shimmering veil. The landscape lies beyond the light and the light is the true romantic landscape that intrudes upon the more dramatic interior of his rooms. The light is the metaphysics, the room is part burial ground, part museum, part daily shelter of wandering souls and part the search for quiet  in a romantic tower. The suspicion remains that something dramatic happened in those rooms or in the rooms of that library. In another novel by Forster, Howard’s End, the main character dies when a whole library shelf, on which he had been leaning, comes away from the wall and crushes him. Books literally rain down and submerge him. Also in Cola’s paintings there is something of this idea of being suddenly submerged. Those objects have just stopped falling, they have just reached the ground, perhaps the old inhabitants of that place have been choked by the weight of that furniture or those beds. As a matter of fact, houses have their own way of living and dying that does not always correspond with that of their inhabitants. Houses are living beings, they know it and they also want to announce it. Furniture is also living. This is the idea of metaphysics. As Virginia Woolf wrote in Jacob’s Room – a novel as delicate and fragile as a watercolour, as transparent as Japanese lamps made of coloured paper – a room is a magic place: “Jacob’s room had a round table and two low chairs. There were yellow flags in a jar on the mantelpiece; a photograph of his mother;  cards from societies with little raised crescents, coats of arms, and initials; notes and pipes; on the table lay paper ruled with a red margin – an essay, no doubt — … There were books enough; very few French books; but then any one who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, with extravagant enthusiasm …. Listless is the air in an empty room, just swelling the curtain; the flowers in the jar shift. One fibre in the wicker arm-chair creaks, though no one sits there”. This already sounds like a description of Carlo Cola’s paintings. Towards the end of the novel Virginia Woolf repeats the same concept: “ Listless is the air in an empty room, just swelling the curtain; the flowers in the jar shift. One fibre in the wicker arm-chair creaks, though no one sits there.” How many imperceptible creaks can one perceive also in the furniture of this art?

But what then lies beyond that room? What happens beyond those walls? Is there the normal life one can observe along the streets of Cesena or Forlimpopoli?  But, above all, what is there? Nothing? Or is there an unknown city? A city of the Year One Thousand? Or a future city? Are there more cobwebbed houses? Landscapes of the soul? When the painter dragged himself outside  his rooms and went outside, what happened was a phenomenon that still intimately belongs to the artistic stimulus: the roofs, the houses, the castles, the trees that he painted  also look as if they were inside a room, also neither the earthly landscape nor the urban one has ever left his tower. They say the same thing that was stated by his rooms, which are so strangely devoid of real doors and points of entry, with the exception of the bright rectangle of a window tearing through a wall. Here too each entry seems slightly reticent, unapproachable, and looks more like a trap rather than a real door. Also his landscapes seem placed on a solitary mountain top or at the peak of a hill, with walls made of herbs or shrubs, as if they were the walls of a forest, and windows which are only openings onto the void made of a mystical light.

The heart of those rooms is burning, is ageless. It is an inaccessible heart. Little by little those rooms have turned into sanctuaries or ,better still, altars. There are also in these paintings the interior of churches but there are no worshippers. What is outside, in the open, is only the projection of an imaginary city. They are not inhabited cities, they are architectonic hypotheses, even if we can recognise them it is a recognition that we want to erase or forget. We want to go beyond, embark on the imaginary journey that the painter has undertaken. That table is in fact also an altar, that chair is a bishop’s seat, that bed is the Virgin Mary’s bed, even if in the past, in the real world, it was occupied by a whore. Then, also that window is not a normal one but is a church window, it is the rose window that divides the outside from the inside, it is just a transparent veil that moves gently in the wind. Those books scattered on the floor, or lined up on the shelves, perhaps tell the apology of the saints, they are old missals, or perhaps tell erotic or forbidden stories. Those houses that suddenly rise from the earth are only the projection of those rooms. Going through a door is always risky, as many fairy tales tell, but we are  sure we will not meet Bluebeard, perhaps not even Beelzebub, because beyond the threshold  lies  the absolute kingdom of solitude.