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Antonella Imolesi Pozzi - Daniele Cantoni’s structures of light

It is a long time since 1978, when a group of youngsters, mostly self-taught, met on the top floor of Palazzo Ginnasi in Castel Bolognese, to discuss about painting and “making” art in a different way. Daniele Cantoni was among them and for his determination and artistic vocation he became the most active member until 1984.Daniele was driven onto the paths of painting by an urge and passion which “are the expression of powerful artistic wishes”1, as his friend sculptor Alberto Mingotti said. This vocation has supported his enthusiastic research and the realization of his works. Besides this artist’s talent and dedication, in his works you can immediately notice the craft acquired during his studies at the Ceramics Art Institute in Faenza, and the importance of meeting the artists who he recognizes as teachers and who inspired him most: Angelo Biancini, Felix dè Cavero and Germano Sartelli. Since the 70s Cantoni’s development can be seen in terms of cycles rather than linear progression, because his works clearly suggest future developments and further stages of research. After starting from abstractionism, part of his works in the 90s tended toward figurative painting. The deeply emotional paintings of that period look like “an artistic declaration of states of mind”2, obtained with colors and essential expressive forms, which violently break into the surface of the painting, reaching surprising chromatic effects. Even when he left figurative and abstract painting, his works were characterized by a special chromatic strength. Today his graphic sign conveys his creative energy in colorful pieces similar to kaleidoscopic fragments deprived of their precise contours and expanding on the whole surface of the painting, or arranging themselves in the repetition of painted wooden bars, which strictly order the artist’s poetic expressive world. His works explore the opportunities of endless shades overlapping in a material texture made up of visual densities and rarefactions. His painting comes out of a skillful use of different materials such as assembled wooden cubes, newspaper sheets and plaster. “Concrete” and not abstract painting, because there is nothing more concrete than a line, a color, a surface. The spirit has reached the age of maturity. It needs clear intellectual means to manifest itself concretely”, claimed Theo van Doesburg in 19303, introducing the term “concrete” for the first time in relation to abstractism. In the turbulent afterwar years, this term, later used again by Max Bill in 1936, became the landmark for those who considered the word “abstract” as a compromise with the natural world. This concept comes back to your mind when you look at Daniele’s works and perceive the originality of the materials he uses in his “plasters”. In his latest works, made by assembling brightly colored bars horizontally and vertically, the reality of experience is dissolved and transformed until its memory can be brought back by the sheer color and physical substance of painting itself. His language of colors and signs is far from reality, the legacy of childhood fantasies slowly recreated through artistic research into a peaceful sequence of fragments, into a “romance sans paroles”, to put it in Proust’s terms. Art becomes tekné by exploiting all hues of color and unusual materials and techniques (wood, plaster). It gives back a concise fleeting impression of reality reduced to its essential structural elements, namely lines and colors, melted and merged into bright colorful rhythms. His evocative poetic world is a condensation of emotions free from all unnecessary visual details and reveals a spiritual experience which gets into the truths of things. The experience is contemplated and purified and finally broken into the colorful pieces of a stained glass window. Cantoni’s painting gives up the logical rules of figurative language in favor of an unconstrained representation of distilled light, color, space and time. The originality of Cantoni’s latest works lies in his ability to transform “colors” into “structures”, in heightening perceptive elements into a source of knowledge. His use of colors and new materials such as wood and plaster, as well as horizontal and vertical bars in relief, poetically recreate the concreteness of his original past experience, and rearrange it into new imaginative artistic shapes.