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Carlo Previtali
Orietta Pinessi October 2000

The shiny and precious but at the same time worrying and upsetting "Grottesca" (ceramics and platinum) shows us in an ambiguous way into the very personal world of Carlo Previtali.

Previtali regards his work as a magic object, a hypnotic song that draws to itself everything that is needed for the successful outcome of its deceit. Here it seems like a paradise...but the deceit is present. Medusa charms and fascinates but petrifies whoever looks at her.

In Previtali's world classical features and modernity are melted together, as a matter of fact, even for the artist it is impossible to forget his background and move into an indefinite world. The differences that distinguish individuals and in particular artists from the never-ending sea of likeness spring from this impossibility and limitation. Differences give singularity to the work of art even when it shows a theme that has already been worked through: every representation is a new representation, a new image, a new expression of the artist's will. The iconographic development of a myth can accompany us through the different periods of the history of art, can illustrate how a work of art relates to its own historical period showing us the feelings, the desires, the wills that formed it.

Previtali builds his own myth with pieces of his life and imagination and the myth is moulded in the artist's own image and likeness. Here Previtali expresses his way of being and feeling; his myth is populated by strong figures deeply linked to popular traditions. Each face and body is self-contained but at the same time it can be completely understood only within a wider composing theory of carved bodies as in the sorrowful "calvaires" that are still present outside Breton churchs.

Not realism, but something emblematic drawn from expressions, connects the different images. It is the typical and ideal value subtracted from life that is forever repeating itself. The moral problem is central in Previtali's research: he is a cheerful person but at the same time he clearly feels the presence of a crisis and this is the reason why we can perceive in his work a sort of perplexity in line with his pure and simple way of looking at our paradoxical world.

Previtali establishes a never-ending confrontation between his own world and its opposite, a brutal one without human values and inhibitions, where there is no space for culture and sensitivity to art. The result is a witty, imaginary world where strange figures take on life: heads without their bodies, melancholic looks that seem to be nearly provocative in their open sincerity that in our world is felt as anachronistic. Reality is much more absurd than imagination, and these timeless figures are its symbolic representation: here men are not admitted but we can easily find mythological characters like Bacchus or fauns weighed down with boredom and pleasure, gods, demigods and nymphs used up by time. A mechanism of transfer is at work: thanks to the physical language of sculpture a surrealistic world takes form to denounce the lack of adherence of daily life. It is no longer a time for heroes, they are out of fashion; their power spent, our society has neutralised them and Carlo Previtali, with his amused irony (which also contains a veiled social criticism) reduces them to grotesque figures, impoverished, emptied of their meaning and caricatures of themselves. Surely heroes, but common and worn out. The status of "common hero" arouses the curiosity of the observer and heads him towards the ironic and joyful dimension that runs all through the work of the artist. And this, in my opinion, is his most fascinating characteristic: his ability to find a distinctive vocabulary which is both wholly up to date and yet timeless.

Unbound by rules and schemes he observes reality in order to mould it, to build a sort of comedy of errors that let us perceive the artist's reflection upon human loneliness. And so in the work of art we find happiness and sadness, melancholy and amusement, human thoughtlessness and human tragedy.

But what matters is that sweetness and irony, grotesque and imagination, play and seriousness are deeply linked in a single, indissoluble plastic sensibility. And the art of Carlo Previtali is aimed to pick it out through divertissement and through a style that is elegant and highly symbolical.

In this process lies the first expression of the urgency of creation: thought makes itself concrete in the form of the work of art.

In contrast with the simpler and more conceptual ways of expression, Carlo Previtali stands for the importance of a concrete form that gives singularity to each work in opposition to the repetition of structures similar to each other. He has clearly understood how modern art has lost touch with the body and with matter and, so, it has destroyed the play, the fable, the myth while it was trying to be free from limitations. But the result has been only disillusionment; the direction of the artistic search is different: memory and introspection must be recovered. As a matter of fact Previtali's production is fed by nostalgia linked with a firm and clear irony.

The mythical background of the work of art is not a matter of its content, rather, it concerns the immanence of the form.

Form and myth, that is to say the style and deep origin of art stand in a reciprocal relation to each other: the true form is not the result of an abstract and metaphysical calculation, but lies in temporality mixing up visible and invisible, myth and origin with appearance.

The sculpture becomes the means by which a return is possible to the primeval myth of the word, of the sight, of the deceit and truth. Passions and morality are reflected in it and the strong deforming tendency that characterises Previtali's work reminds us of an ancestral human condition, of a never-ending search for the complete understanding of human existence, of frustrated yearnings of the plastic form.

Carlo Previtali loves moulding because matter very well "translates" the needs and the excesses of expression. The primeval beat of the vital energy, the transformation of form give life to unusual and unexpected sculptures, that are never neutral or static: they break, bud, deform, they are part of a mystic and wonderful reality where everything is possible and where even matter has a soul.

Observation of the details helps us to understand the whole: the abraded and shiny surfaces absorb the light in different ways and the shadows created by concave and convex parts invite the eye of the observer to stop upon them many times. The fullness of time allows us to appreciate and understand the value of only partly defined figures, of deformed and lengthened faces that move forward as to expand themselves into the three dimensions of space.

I think that in Carlo Previtali two tendencies live together: on one hand the need to be direct and essential, on the other the apparent antithetic will to speak, explain and express. Over time, this double face soul has melted into a sculpture that seems to express the matter in the etymological sense of pushing it out; it is shaped as if it were projected itself towards the observer and touched him slightly while the interrelations of the volumes speak an ambiguous language attracting the observer and taking him prisoner in a sort of charm.

Terracotta is for Previtali the most important material to express his creativity: from the technical point of view, it offers endless possibilities for moulding; from the conceptual point of view, it is absolutely neutral in the terms of its tangible and historic connotations. It is neither precious nor impoverished, neither too refined nor too banal.

The result is something both real and concrete, an incarnation of mind and imagination, it is nature thought by a human mind, it is form and not object. So the clay, that does not imitate nature but its processes, keeps on transforming reality in a never-ending and impressive metamorphosis where plastic and symbolic intuitions combine with each other in a extraordinarily fluent and magnetic synthesis.