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 deeprooted 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 postwar 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 shortsightedness. But even outside of the sacred
walls Lucatellos 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 museums 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
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
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 artists 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
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,
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 earthandwater
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 ageold 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
At times Lucatellos 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
Stones from the Tagliamento stick out of Lucatellos canvases,
determining for sure a primary structural interest in the protrusion
that focus ones attention; in the perceptive diversity of
context (hardsoft, smoothrough
) 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, wornout 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 oneman
show Lucatello. Tagliamento, held at Artestudio Clocchiatti,
in Udine, March 23rd April 30th 2002