ROBERTO ALTMANN: A GESTURE BEYOND AN IMAGE by Luciano Caprile
The hand runs on the white canvas with frantic insistence as if the crayon could run after a quick thought to be instantly grasped and immediately translated into an image. Wide lines blossom and repeat one another, stressed by black marks that tend to erase the underlying signs and yet justify them while this continuous underlining produces a magma of gestures: bodies and faces take form, a hand rises and then is suddenly recaptured and reabsorbed into a cosmic warping creating a scene…
To Roberto Altmann Form is the result of an intimate search to bring back to the surface visual emotions derived from his background based on Classicism. Insisting memories come back to light from an aerial construction that creates and fills up both physical and mental spaces through a never-ending progression of sketched compositions whose conclusion is every time delayed, though their unfinished state is merely apparent.
How can Roberto Altmann’s painting art be classified? Whereas some if his works lead us to a sort of oneiric Symbolism interwoven with his Classical cultural background, the construction process shown in his works of recent years recalls a sort of Expressionism – that of the late generations of German artists – where Art exceeds the limits of Expressionism and becomes Informal as soon as bodies are disembodied into hardly-identifiable lines or as soon as the sign simply suggests a human figure.
Therefore Altmann’s present achievements can be considered as the sum of a whole lifetime devoted to a research that officially started in 1982 with an “Expressionist” period characterized by re-elaborations of figurative themes of academic style. In 1985 his further evolution tended more to Abstractism: his signs and gestures became wider and more independent, free from any pre-organized form, thus leading Altmann’s towards the lyrically Informal style that had begun in 1989 and went on until 1992.
From that point on the human body has been revisited in less evident ways and has taken up ghost-like semblance in works that convey and preserve traces of his former painting styles with contained intensity. In his more recent works memory is the recurring theme: memories of the personal background and the reminiscence of a culture dating back to the Renaissance.
Hence in Altmann’s works the spirit of a new “Renaissance” revives. Here the wholeness of the human essence is no longer stressed by the magnificent presence of a body with magic anatomic proportions but through the troubles of the contemporary man, who is at the same time creator and victim of all his contradictions, anxieties and miseries… Here the upsetting picture of the crisis of our times takes form and leads to a less contemplative reading of Altmann’s works. His art is cast into the reality in which we are living now, day after day. We can better understand the meaning of a gesture that while violently carving and incising on the canvas is at the same time trying to perform a sort of expiation and catharsis. Only at a second stage the human figure stands up free from the toiling tangle of apparent chaos, eager of a rebirth, a redemption, a meaningful place in space…
Why Roberto Altmann has chosen such a difficult, winding path to penetrate people’s minds and hearths? Because for hundreds of years this has been a well-known path, an ever-renewable path but only for those who have adequate artistic know-how and refined sensitivity. This is Altmann’s “declaration”, a sort of symbolic “writing” linked to the past: he uses these long-aged structures and soaks them in the contemporaneity of the present, since emotions and soul stimuli cannot recognize differences in times and fashions. He knows how to remain linked to the present time resorting to the basic knowledge and mental structures that guided the hands of many artists of the past.
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