Essays and articles
Artist's writings

Agostinelli, 2002

I dream of the battle on the Tagliamento: a plain, a river that one can say is inexistent…
Franz Kafka, Diaries 1917
At the point in time when Lucatello left Venice, he had recently exhausted the experience of the Lower Po valley; where he had matured the process that had driven him to a new realism expressed through the “Deltas”. This new realism, lacking in dictates and rhetoric, in favour of more authentic pictorial justifications, which were influenced by his deep–rooted origins in Venetian art and by the cultural modernization that the whole of Italy (and especially significantly Venice) had been elaborating in the fervent climate of the post–war period.
The Biennales and the institutions talked of a modernity that would have to be revised before long, to make up for time lost in autarchic and cultural short–sightedness. But even outside of the “sacred walls” Lucatello’s city appeared to be lively and stimulating: the art gallery owners who were open to the most authentic novelties and the collectors who were attentive and prepared, were components of a climate that the artist lived intensely and which he became an active and recognisable part of.
His artistic friendships and cultural frequenting were very significant during this period, as were the numerous exhibitions that he took part in. He was awarded the Tursi prize for the works shown at the Biennale in 1956 and, as confirmation of the esteem that the city held in the artist, the Museum of Modern Art of Ca’ Pesaro bought 2 works of art for the museum’s collection.
The hard times that Lucatello had known in Venice and his uncompromising nature are confirmed by his decision to decline the contract offered to him by Peggy Guggenheim, and to accept on the other hand the alternative offered to him, to teach at the Institute of Art in Udine.
Peggy Guggenheim described Lucatello as “rough” when he refused her contract, but the hard times as much as from the ideological point of view, as from the artistic and economic point of view, had heavily influenced his choice, together with the financial necessity, to accept the post as professor of life drawing at the Institute of Art. We like to remember this so as to better understand this artist, so brilliant, but yet never recognised enough by the cultural panorama that his very contribution had helped to define.
Certainly, when Lucatello arrived in Udine in 1961, he was the bearer of a lively and modern artistic culture that knew how to adjust to the exigencies of the local climate that he became an active part of, and for many also a point of reference.
Coherent with his modus operandi, this time, Lucatello met with an intense, silent beginning with the reality that was waiting for him; a beginning made of meetings, discoveries, recurrences, ambushes and waiting.
In the memories of Giselda Lucatello, it was typical of her husband to go through silent periods during which the seemingly tranquil reflection and the lull in productivity, concealed on the contrary, an agitation and inner restlessness. This was often followed by moments of feverish research and authentic operative fury characterised by a quick pictorial resolution, intense and burning.
In the artist’s realist conception the subject had its own meaning. Lucatello never evaded his choice and neither did he try to avoid the punctual reference to the situation that inspired him: he confirmed it specifically, even in the title.
Lucatello identified in the Tagliamento, the coherent prosecution of his pictorial behaviour, of his way of expressing his own cultural essence through painting, his own vision of the world and his particular relationship with it.
The reason of this thematic choice, and why exactly the Tagliamento requires a biographic reply, that has acquired an anecdotal sense through time. Used to Venice, the artist never travelled around by car, but with a scooter which allowed him to penetrate every nook and cranny of the territory of Friuli, that he covered inch by inch with the curiosity of discovery and insatiable stupor. From Tarcento, where he lived he often used to go down to that very Tagliamento at the height of Osoppo. He headed down towards Buia, Pinzano, Ragogna, Spilimbergo, where the wide riverbed, having left the alluvial cone and the moraine hills, opens onto the plain that it crosses before flowing into the sea.
Lucatello was straightaway strongly attracted by this “poor little river, (in an) expanse of gravel”, in the words of Turoldo, that in its daily, silent scarcity is the majestic emblem of the people and the territory that it crosses.
We can observe the flowing of the Tagliamento from the first pictures that the artist achieved in Friuli; from the “Countrysides of Buia” in which, after the horrors of the Lower Po Valley, the artist seems to have found a happy vision of nature, restored with the strength and the flagrancy of the discovery. A short time later the river became an autonomous subject, giving birth to the “Tagliamentos”, that we can consider an authentic series, a cycle which he dedicated his research to, at a thematic level, for more than 3 years, a cycle that was born silently, which went through different moments, which exhausted itself and drew to an end.
However, on the inside, each piece of art is an authentic event, from the significance and from the astounding and singular incisiveness.
Lucatello did not intend to take the Tagliamento as a whole, the overall sense, the territorial significance; he did not attend to the vastness of the riverbed, arid yet precise in peoples’ references, which twists to divide lands, languages, cultures: in a manner of speaking he had a lenticular attitude in his materialism. He paused upon those partial, although precise events that characterise and articulate the constitutive multitude of a river that more than flowing, seems to stumble in what should be its primary substance, water.
Therefore it was the “Ponds”, in continuity with the homonymous Venetian works, the ‘old nobility’ from which Lucatello developed his future painting.
As already seen in the “Deltas”, the undefined earth–and–water relationship became a coordinated congenial parameter to the pictorial expression of the artist.
The depressions of the ponds condense tones from which this very Venetian continuity was developed: the Venetian pictorial justification that Lucatello was a natural bearer of as a result of his youth spent in the shadow of the Frari (a church in Venice).
An age–old tradition of colours, bounded forth vitalistically from the works of Lucatello; a tradition capable of conferring autonomous value to the chromatic matter in the constituent and spatial construction, so far as to hold the responsibility of uniting the work according to the proportional and gravitational parameters of light.
This natural chromatic conception was deeply rooted in his works, which went alongside with a sensitivity and a willingness that placed realism as his goal without indulgence, to the overcoming of the object in favour of emotions and least of all the inner vision.
The “Ponds” acquired then density and matter which acquainted them with a concreteness free from every aesthetic indulgence and led them again to a real announcement by the artist who made an aesthetical and moral choice beforehand his own cultural essence.
Lucatello then seemed to lift his gaze and grasp the Tagliamento in its horizontality. The riverbed and its relationship with the primary background elements (the exposed gravelly riverbed, the riverbank, the surrounding bushy vegetation, a few cultivated fields, the horizon) became object of new interest. The artist entered into a new analytical phase, in which the research became objective and the study was aimed at the comprehension and at the appropriation of the most constituent elements of the river. It was all investigated in the meaning of becoming continuous, which denied the river of any kind of fixity.
The atmospheric and luminosity variations, the changing of the times of day and of the seasons were received as situations which drive to uncertainty that moves towards knowledge. The pictures which were born as a result of this were heedful of a representation that was not yet descriptive, but dense and detailed in the very substance of the Tagliamento. These works were interpreted through precise and recurring points of view which were capable of restoring the position of the painter in his relationship with the river element, offering parameters for a clear, although precarious, vision of the world.
At times Lucatello’s analysis became more specific on minimum segments of the river. It seemed as if the artist looked down at his feet and lingered on that fragment of reality that rose as a chromatic microcosm as a result of the choices of light, forever dense, although fleeting and inconstant.
In the detail which deprives reality of its fundamental coordinates, the sense of abstract became irresistible for the viewer.
But, enemy of every abstraction, Lucatello hence adopted a radical solution in order to bring the work back to reality again in an unequivocal way. The artist begun to collect material from the river and include it inside his paintings, because in the material that he collected, he saw the essential and primary constituents of the subject investigated.
Stones from the Tagliamento stick out of Lucatello’s canvases, determining for sure a primary structural interest in the protrusion that focus one’s attention; in the perceptive diversity of context (hard–soft, smooth–rough…) which created, generated, a disillusioned and “materialistic” vision of the world that Lucatello expected as much as explained.
The collection of material is recurrent in several of the works present in the exhibition and accompanies the story of these “Tagliamentos”, above all in the phase of the greatest cognitive tension, in which the relationship with the river is based on the perception and elaboration of its natural elements.
“He used to go to the Tagliamento every day”, remembers Giselda, “when he decided upon and initiated a new period it became an obsession for him”. Subsequently the artist entered into his most prolific phase, until at a certain (and probably very precise) point in time, when he became satisfied in his work. He came close to a kind of negation, in need of peace and quiet, indulgent with time and with the interiorization of what had been elaborated, that everything had to corrode before yielding.
The disruptive force, worn–out by the exploitation of his talents, which had led the artist to an expressive vivacity and to a quick and efficient resolution, seemed to settle offering meditated solutions, in which the known elements became cathartically purified sediment.
It is 1966 and the “Tagliamentos” have become works whose pictorial restitution surpasses every direct reference to nature. The synthesis process has led to free achievements, especially mentally, in which reality only exists as a quiet idea, but absolutely convincing in the substantial and conceptual representation of the river element. The essential pictorial means confer the constituent elements to the tone on tone colours, and hence to the paintings.
Taut monochrome surfaces upon which suddenly, but precisely, thick impastos get denser, lead the elements of a knowledge that is by now fixed and proven, to universal parameters and furthermore, constitute the ultimate and absolute frontier of the “Tagliamentos” by Albino Lucatello.

  From the catalogue of the one–man show “Lucatello. Tagliamento”, held at Artestudio Clocchiatti, in Udine, March 23rd – April 30th 2002



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