Researching on materials, on the possibility of suggesting, through matter, the physical and immaterial energies that animate it, has always been the basis of Giovanni Anselmo’s work (Borgofranco Ivrea, 1934).
In the mid-60s the artist gave up painting to make visible the “physicalization of the force of action”: his works no longer insisted on the representation of reality but were themselves reality in the pure state, thanks to the interaction of primary elements and physical processes. Included by Germano Celant within the Arte Povera group, Anselmo acts on the combination of different materials which, by their nature, dialogue or conflict with each other, creating a tension within the work that extends to the surrounding space.
In his works, the forces at play are materialized and rebalanced, creating an effect of dynamism in power, as in Untitled (1968), a structure endowed with a life of its own due to the fact that a head of lettuce, as it withers, imparts movement to the block of granite to which it is precariously secured (just as, in a similar work, the water contained in a metal structure tended to be drained from it, absorbed by a piece of cotton partially immersed in it). Organic and inorganic, natural and technological, hot and cold, light and heavy are some of the dialectical pairs on which the artist works; coexistence and conciliation of opposed materials and phenomena are extended on the conceptual plane, where Anselmo investigates the relations between the finite and the infinite, the visible and invisible.
In the early 80s, ultramarine blue appeared in his work to define a horizon, the borderline between the earthly condition and a condition of being elsewhere, invisible, almost spiritual: “Most of reality is invisible and it is visible things that enable us to deduce the invisible,” states the artist. In 1990 he was awarded the Leone d’Oro for painting at the Venice Biennale, with his stone canvases, an extreme synthesis of elements potentially opposed.
These reflections also produced the work Invisible (2007), entered in Madre museum’s Collection in the context of Per_forming a collection project, which again included a dialectic of opposites: a block of black granite, perfectly polished and pure in its geometric form, appears truncated, cut across on one side. The missing piece presupposes the absence of the particle “in”, which transforms the word “invisible” (the work’s title) into “visible” (the inscription scored on the work). The heaviness of the material compared with the intangibility of the word; the stillness of the stone, its finiteness, opens to the incommensurability of the infinite and unseen that surround it. With a simple gesture, Anselmo alludes to the possibility of finding completion in the unseen, bringing the sphere of the perceptible to converge with that of the intellect, matter with the imagination, the human microcosm with the universal macrocosm.