A SPARKLING GOODBYE

JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL’S  Photographic Plenitude

from Chatenay-Malabry (Paris) FRANCE

LE BOUT DE LA TABLE ― THE EDGE OF THE TABLE

1998-2010

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A Sparkling Goodbye   by Rosanna Albertini

A mental distortion, perhaps caused by my American life, shows me at a small scale the photographic representation of a big historical ending: European good manners’ last sparkle, humble objects in a splendid farewell.

Goodbye to the Age of Empire and to flaking off dreams of primacy that European countries had thrown like blankets over distant, different civilizations. It doesn’t matter that a new globalization has replaced the first one, built at the end of the nineteenth century. Each European country, the people in them, grow the arts and self awareness out of a specific state mind: a silk thread still holding the civilized road, despite the absence, today, of Eurocentric illusions. The notion of style, maybe, is stronger than political or intellectual empires. Bossuet and Pascal, longer lasting presences than Foucault and Derrida.

“The qualities of the spirit are not something we acquire by habit, we can only perfect them; from which we will easily see that delicacy is a natural gift, not at all acquired by art.”

“To be attached to one thought that doesn’t change, tires and ruins our spirit.”

Pascal, Discours sur les passions de l’amour

Delicacy, maybe, is Jean-Louis Garnell’s secret style.

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Objects are dumb by nature, they have no speech. Not so their images, changed in spirit by human senses. Viewers indeed won’t stop wondering about their fantastic transfiguration, spreading thoughts like dead leaves on the ordinary life they come from.

George Steiner* wrote that poems, statues, sonatas, and we might add visual poems, “are not so much read, viewed or heard as they are lived.”* Did he open the magic gate? An invisible grid of feelings and intuitions, a crowd of unsettled thoughts produce in human lives a space for the arts. It is so boring that words must be precise trying to pin down such an uncertain matter.

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Intimacy, through this changeable texture, is a molecular cohesion of humans searching for aesthetic forms they can love, maybe understand, if they accept that their thoughts are exhausted by life, and discolored by light. Only in embracing death as a fact can an artist bring the most mundane, fragile glass to an instantaneous, elusive smell of infinity. Words won’t catch it.

Shaped by daylight, stories we tell to ourselves are temporary and movable, like the dance of reflections the artist has captured, expanded life already flat and colorless. But among the lines and flat bodies around the edge of the table and the images of glasses and leaves on the table, of more leaves printed on the tablecloth, spreads the beauty of freedom. Visual joy as it might come from meeting a new, glorious day.

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Jean Louis Garnell lights a candle, puts up an electric lamp. “An apple after Cézanne? more than one. Repetition isn’t only time, it’s also a new feeling of light that plays with human thoughts and contemplates them.”

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The foreground, a devalued surface that seems to be the land of nobody because there is nothing beyond le bout de la table, is his secret planet. There, Garnell is a petit prince, inevitably grown up.                

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*GEORGE STEINER, Real presences, Chicago – London, 1989

(A different version of A Sparkling Goodbye is published in the volume JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL, Centre photographique de Marseille, 2016)

THE OLD MAN AND THE PAST

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : the beginning of an adult life

INTRODUCTION
by Rosanna Albertini

Photos and drawing by Alberto Albertini

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Alberto’s stories restart after the end of the war; the treasures of his adolescent ‘expanded life’ put to a very hard test by the frenzy of despair and enthusiasm that was stirring everyone’s life.
     Missing regular school training, and following his father’s path in teaching himself what he needed to learn (Oreste Albertini never went to school – his sisters told me) he built his own way through life and now revisits the past almost curious, rediscovering a figure of himself he had lived in, at times unaware, other times building a brilliant career almost against his wishes.

To recuperate the lost time is a complex desire: it runs after fantasy images hoping that some of them could improve the wish of an expanded existence.” AA

Dreams had cracked up, sinking in the snow. Chance and necessity blowing cold wind on his neck, reluctant and rebel by nature, the only things he never gave up were his family, his passion for photography and his spirit as an inventor, call it smart tinkering if you want, something that, despite himself, always worked.

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School training having been irregular and incomplete, Alberto looked into his level of ‘incompetence’ as realistically as possible, and filled the holes studying by himself everything that was connected to filmmaking: chemistry, photography, radio technique, physics and mechanics, often supported by friends.

1946: an attempt at going to a film school in Milan – a poor school in a basement – did not fulfill his desire of exploring camera work, scenography, costumes making.

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1947-48: Alberto had a job in a company for film development and printing: FILMSERVICE. His naive enthusiasm for free political speech after fascism had just turned around the corner put him in serious trouble. Reported and fired when his very young companion, who will be his wife for seventy years, had symptoms of pregnancy. “The darker time of my life – says Alberto – from which I got out for the simple reason that it was pointless to stay in it.”

Maybe searching for light, he rushed headlong into making his version of fluorescent lamps (a novelty after the war), and patented them, only to discover that commercial development was not in his range. Here’s a drawing:

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History of his adult life is also the history of film sound technologies in Italy after the war. Alberto was also involved in film making as a popular service, in some ways like the agitprop train set up by Dziga Vertov in 1917, when Vertov was twenty two. Equipped for a complete film process, from acting to editing and projecting films, the train had the mission to encourage soldiers and simple people during the Bolshevik Revolution. The Italian experiment instead happened in time of peace. It was called CINESERVICEFILM: a trailer completely equipped for film making and projection was pulled by a Jeep. The little caravan: a trailer, a car and a Lambretta went through the Northern regions of Italy for two years (1949-50) filming peoples’ lives and projecting the film at the end of the day for the ‘actors’ to see. It was a celebration of life and joy after many dark times. Like Dziga, Alberto was in his early twenties. 

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CINESERVICEFILM and the flying song of a nightingale

By ALBERTO ALBERTINI

9 ROSANNA

Between 1949 and 1950 Mr Vallerga, about whom I only knew he had been a fascist, had a pre-realityTV intuition: a vagrant film studio shooting people’s lives and projecting the shots the day after, in the same location. The person supplying me with chemical products pointed out this operation to me, and I introduced myself offering my initial services for free. A good way to take part in the birth of those things. A trailer equipped with tools for developing and printing 16mm films was pulled by a Jeep, one of the war left overs. Operative issues weren’t less interesting than the technological adventure. At the beginning we were three: Mr Vallerga, a driver and myself. Vallerga and myself used to spend the day walking through the village or town where the show was supposed to happen, shooting places and first of all the local humans! I developed the shots during the night and after editing directly the negative, printed and developed the positive. In the meantime Vallerga was placing a 16mm projector in the local movie theater and, using a tape recorder, was adding a musical background. In the small towns the success was remarkable: everybody came to the theater to see themselves or the others. The general mood was joyful.

To make me independent from the trailer and the car used by Vallerga, I was given a Lambretta. Between moving from one place to another, developing and printing, there was no time to sleep. The sheet metal wrapping the lab was an oven fed by the sun, to more or less 40 degrees centigrade. To avoid laziness, I added a photographic service taking pictures of cafes and customers. The pictures, always developed and printed by me, were given away as presents. More workers were added later, and I tried to organize a fair anti-stress division of labor, but costs weren’t catching up with benefits.

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How did it all start? Vallerga was a seller of Fumeo 16mm projectors to the parishes. It was probably in a parish that he met the Luciani family, owners of Dreher and Pedavena beer factories and of Pizzolotto liquor. He had convinced them to finance his project as a brilliant idea to promote their products. The only advertisement, in reality, was the announcement that the show was offered by the Pedavena or Dreher beer, and maybe something was written on the trailer. We had scoured through almost all Northern Italy when the news arrived, near Ravenna, that the party had ended: the Lucianis had stopped investing money in us!
Montebelluna, Treviso, Pedavena, Bassano, Romano Lombardo Trevalcore, Bondeno, Trecate, Borgomanero, Varese Rho, Marostica
and so many other small and bigger urban centers, some provinces. A world on its way to waking up, to restart moving, but still structurally intact, especially in agricultural areas. We had shot a factory for weaving cotton, it was terrible: an enormous shed with weaving looms, an unbearable hubbub… and women at work… We found a spring of mineral water where bottles were filled by a tube, and bubbles were created by gas; the prosecco producers, the carnival in Pedavena sponsored by the beer cellar. Many memories? Not at all, there was not time to breath: in Treviso, a night spent fighting mosquitoes, and in Verona, never seen such a hot weather! At noon in Bondeno one could hear the knife chopping tagliatelle at every, every day.

In Bassano del Grappa, late night, I had finished installing the projector at the movie theater for the following day; it was two, three in the morning? I walked out on the small balcony. Through the deep silence of a space made infinite by darkness, I heard the flying song of a nightingale. It was powerful, solitary, and limpid. Distant reverberations nailed me into my own solitude. Magic moments happen in this way. For him, maybe, it was already wake up time!

And I can only conclude with two images from Wikipedia: the agitprop train for Bolshevik Propaganda in 1917-19, and Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poster WANT IT? JOIN.

Dziga Vertov produced weekly film series and the first newsreel series in Russia for the Moscow Cinema Committee (Kino-Nedelya). He had on the train actors for live performances, and equipment to shoot, develop, edit, and project films.  “The trains went to battlefronts on agitation propaganda missions intended primarily to bolster the morale of the troops.” (Wikipedia)

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MOON FLOWERS

THE SACRED DANCE OF NATURE

and

various ways of telling the same story

Watercolors by Edgar Honetschlager      Text by Rosanna Albertini

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The moon wakes up in the night. Sometimes she pretends she is a gondola, a light sickle that rocks in the sky; or she pretends to be happy when the clouds make her round face wet, and her look is so bright that millions of bulbs would not be able to make the same.

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To tell the truth, the moon is as dry as a block of wood, as a stone dried up in the sun.  But deep in her memory ― and she does not know from when — she keeps something, she does not know what, a vague dream of grass, leaves, and most of all of white flowers.

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Let’s pretend ― this is the flower of stories — that all the white flowers on earth were born from the moon. The white iris in particular. Maybe they have eyes that the stars forgot. Once the petals are open, they look up at the sky, and the white of the iris becomes a nocturnal flesh, as if flowers had sucked light from stars.

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In the summer, magically, the moonflowers open up all at the same time of the same day. Maybe the moon sent stardust to the earth to wake them up? They do not live more than one day and one night. They dry quickly, maybe the moon wanted it so.

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This is the sacred dance of nature, in front of which we are only gaping. Let’s make a cake.

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BLACK and WHITE


PHOTOGRAPHS OF ORESTE ALBERTINI’S PAINTINGS

by Rosanna Albertini

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I am in this painting, the little girl sitting in the foreground, 1949?

We say BLACK: as if the night was an impenetrable bucket of ink and a pupil was a colorless spot in the middle of the iris instead of a hole, calling for light to come, hello mister brain, would you please activate your colors.

WHITE, instead, is an imaginary brush canceling lines, mess, imperfection, the same as snowflakes in New York sticking on the sidewalk. Piles of garbage bags become hills of the city covered with a white mantle.

I was torn by a dilemma for a few days: some of my grandfather Oreste Albertini’s paintings, reproduced in black & white photos, seemed to me utterly beautiful, not less than his oil landscape paintings that I see every day before my eyes. But these are photos of old paintings that I had never seen. Regression, toward a sentimental confusion? And what about the myth of the original art piece, usually treated as a religious icon? Am I committing an abstract sacrilege? What’s more important: the object or the intangible aura spread by the painted object, in which the art secret is held like a hostage. A high price in tension is required to set it free.

 

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Oreste’s paintings in my house are not decorative complements of my daily life, they are fragments of my own life magically brought together in one canvas or on a small wooden surface. The very moment of my birth is posed on a 15 x 11 inch painted tablet. The painter’s feelings are there, in the silent vibration of light over a day of labor, soaking grass and mountains with faltering strokes.

In the white shelter of our skull, through the gray matter of the brain, an almost unthinkable conversation between light and our neuronal trees unfolds flowers of color, sentiments, sounds.

Colors, sounds, sentiments, are different for each person. They are the body and soul of the arts. That’s why ideas, maybe, are the most conventional and convenient food of our lives, from mouth to mouth, resting on pages, never definitive. They only sound like the daughters of certainty.

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Wanting company, I looked for original, clear minds. I found Giuseppe Panza di Biumo* and his memories as a collector, Mark Rothko,** Fernando Pessoa*** and Alberto Albertini, Oreste’s son.

Fernando Pessoa  “Life for us is what we conceive in it. For the peasant, whose little farm is everything, that empire is a little farm. … In point of fact, we possess nothing more than our own sensations; within them, therefore, and not within what they see, we just find the reality of our lives.”

Mark Rothko  “…making close the remote in order to bring it into the order of my human & intimate understanding. …”
Here, says the painter, is what my world is composed: a quantity of sky, a quantity of earth, and a quantity of animation. And he lays them out on the table for me to observe at the same distance, to hold in the palm of my understanding without editorship – and these are eyes or a head – that are the desires and fears and aspirations of animated spirits.”
I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom or so on – and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions. … The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!”

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Giuseppe Panza “The relationship between idea and form, so difficult, almost impossible to define, is the secret and mystery of art, its obscure and powerful core; its force that overcomes the limits of reason and connects to the unknown, to the mystery of life. As if one would touch something impossible to imagine, arising from the springs of life. Not an intellectual operation, rather a phenomenon that precedes and goes beyond us as human beings.”

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Alberto Albertini “My presence next to him as a child, while he painted, fills my vision. I often went out with him and watched him while painting outdoor, and more than anything else I absorbed the charm around him. I used to curl up by a hill’s shoulder to protect myself from the wind. In March the sun is barely warm. I could perceive the same atmosphere he was painting. He was able to transfer his perceptions into the painting; that’s what his paintings give me back, those immersive moments.”     (  https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/the-socialist-painter/ )

My dilemma remains, along with my love for the black & white ghosts.

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Oreste Albertini, Notebook

Alberto Albertini, A Socialist Painter, in this blog

Giuseppe Panza, Ricordi di un collezionista, Milano, Jaca Book Spa, 2006

Mark Rothko, Writings on Art, Yale University, 2006

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Boston, Exact Change, 1998

 

PER FRANCESCO E DIEGO:

IN BIANCO E NERO

PHOTOGRAFIE DEI QUADRI DI ORESTE ALBERTINI

NERO: lo dico ed è come se la notte fosse un secchio di inchiostro impenetrabile e la pupilla una macchia senza colore nel mezzo dell’iride invece che un buco, un buco che chiede alla luce di entrare, signor cervello buondì, mi faccia il piacere di accendere i colori.

BIANCO, invece, è un pennello immaginario che cancella segni, tracce di caos, imperfezioni, come fanno i fiocchi di neve sui marciapiedi di New York. Sacchi della spazzatura ammucchiati diventano colli urbani coperti da una mantello bianco.

Un dilemma mi ha turbato per qualche giorno: alcuni quadri del mio nonno pittore Oreste Albertini mi sono parsi bellissimi nella versione fotografica in bianco e nero, non meno dei quadri a olio che ho sotto gli occhi tutti i giorni. Eppure sono fotografie di vecchi quadri che non ho mai visto. Stavo regredendo verso una confusione sentimentale? Cosa ne faccio dell’opera d’ arte originale come mito, che di solito si tratta come un’icona religiosa? Sto commettendo un sacrilegio astratto? Che cos’è che importa di più: l’oggetto di per sé oppure l’aura che emana dall’oggetto dipinto, che quasi tiene in ostaggio il segreto dell’arte. Per liberarlo, ci vuole una tensione che non ha prezzo.

I quadri di Oreste nella mia casa non accompagnano la mia vita quotidiana come decorazioni. Sono momenti e luoghi della mia vita, dei frammenti che rivivono come per magia su una tela oppure su una tavoletta dipinta. Il momento esatto della mia nascita si è posato su una tavoletta di 38 x 29 centimetri. Sensazioni dell’artista, luce che vibra in silenzio sulle fatiche di un giorno, mentre i campi e le montagne prendono forma impregnate da un pennello esitante.

Nel ricettacolo bianco del cranio, attraverso la materia grigia del cervello, una conversazione inconcepibile fra la luce e gli alberi neurali sviluppa una fioritura di colore, suoni e sentimenti.

Suoni, colori e sentimenti sono diversi persona per persona. Sono corpo e anima delle arti.
Forse per questo le idee sono il cibo più convenzionale e opportuno, di bocca in bocca, qualche sosta sulla carta, niente di definitivo. Figlie della certezza solo in apparenza.

In cerca di compagnia, ho trovato alcune voci oneste e originali: Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, un collezionista con le sue memorie, Mark Rothko, Fernando Pessoa e Alberto Albertini, figlio di Oreste.

Fernando Pessoa “La nostra vita è solo quello che riusciamo a vederci dentro. La fattoria è tutto per il contadino, l’impero è una piccola casa. … E’ un dato di fatto che non possediamo niente più delle sensazioni; è al loro interno, non in quello che vediamo, che siamo in grado di trovare la nostra vita come è in realtà.”

Mark Rothko “… rendendo vicine le cose distanti per portarle nell’ordine della comprensione umana & intima …”
“Ecco, dice il pittore, i mio mondo è composto di: un po’ di cielo, un po’ di terra, e un po’ di animazione. E dispone le dosi sul tavolo per farmele osservare alla stessa distanza, perché le tenga nel palmo della mano senza alterazioni – questi sono occhi o una testa – che sono i desideri, o le paure, e le aspirazioni degli spiriti animati.”
“La sola cosa che mi interessa è esprimere emozioni umane fondamentali – tragedia, estasi, rovina o cosi via – e il fatto che un sacco di gente si emoziona e piange davanti ai miei dipinti mostra che ho trasmesso emozioni fondamentali. … Chi piange davanti ai miei quadri sta vivendo la stessa esperienza religiosa che avevo avuto quando li ho dipinti. E se tu, come dici, sei toccato solo dalle relazioni fra i colori, ti perdi l’essenziale!”

Giuseppe Panza “Un riesame del rapporto tra l’idea e la forma, rapporto difficile da definire, anzi impossibile da definire, è il segreto e il mistero dell’arte, è il suo nucleo oscuro e potente, è la sua grande forza superiore ai limiti della ragione, è il punto di connessione con l’ignoto, con il mistero della vita e di tutte le cose. E’ come toccare qualche cosa che non si può neppure immaginare, e come arrivare alle sorgenti della vita. Non è un’operazione intellettuale, è un fenomeno che precede il nostro essere e lo supera.”

Alberto Albertini “La capacità di dare corpo, consistenza, materalità ai volumi dei paesaggi mi pare straordinaria. Io tutto questo lo vedo in relazione alle mie presenze, da bambino, quando dipingeva. Spesso uscivo con lui e lo vedevo dipingere ma soprattutto assorbivo l’incanto che vi aleggiava. Mi raggomitolavo contro una riva, al riparo del vento, al sole tiepido di marzo. Percepivo l’atmosfera che lui dipingeva. Penso che avesse le stesse percezioni e queste riusciva a trasferire nel dipinto, questo mi rievocano i quadri, l’atmosfera, quei momenti.”