FRANK MASI : The Remote Life of Images

FRANK MASI : THE REMOTE LIFE OF IMAGES

after his recent journey to Japan

 

 

 Rosanna Albertini to Frank Masi — Los Angeles, December 2018

Dear Frank,

Your photographs of Japan are a dream of unreality. They are beautiful in an odd, almost disquieting way. I look at them and think, maybe Japan is not the point. The man I met many times in the past is a well organized, a practical person in love with the arts, and a very interesting collector of art. But these images that you grabbed and printed: the partial opacity of a window through which you saw the uncertainty of a blurred garden, and the frame of leaves tickling your curiosity; your oblique gaze through another window big this time that seems to protect from intrusion the peace of an inner space; the silent observation of manufactured clay cups waiting to dry – you call them ‘quiet’- these are works of a dreamer. A less mercantile term than the word artist.

Did you ever meet Fernando Pessoa?

 In dealing with any object, the dreamer should try to feel the clear indifference that that object, taken as an object, inspires. The dreamer should know, with an immediate instinct, how to abstract from each object or event anything in it that is dreamable, leaving for dead in the Exterior World anything in it that is real — this is what the wise man should seek to achieve in himself.”  The Book of Disquiet

Still drying Kutani clay / quiet tools / no wind no fire / waiting

Haiku by Frank Masi

It seems to me that’s exactly what you do, whether the object of your attention is a river, a branch, a stone in a forest or an old wooden house falling apart, or a pair of pink gloves hung behind a glass door of a simple house, a daily routine sanctuary. Don’t mistake me, pulling the door of history shut behind you makes you free from the devils of History, objectivity and documentation.  But then, is Japan as a real country the center of your work? And, does it matter? Problem: the questions come from a limited experience that came to me via Japanese artists and friends in Los Angeles. My gardener Eto is my largest source of information. He was born near Hiroshima. He is reader of old poems whose language is today obsolete, forgotten.  He remembers trucks filled with corpses passing by his village, and stories of his life as an after war child, when he and his school friends worked in the countryside cutting vegetation with machetes. By accident, the head of one of them was cut along with the leaves. See, History is a bitch, a cutting weapon against art. 

Fact is, looking at your photographs I didn’t think of Japan, I mainly tried to unveil your perception while you captured moments that became images and in so doing mutated, moving from the surrounding reality to your instinct that hunted for silent meaning in a dreamed landscape. Photography is a surgical act, images are cut out from the body of reality. And yet it’s an act that guides me to your own sensations. Your images are the two faces of the same human reality: preservation of nature and urban variety of dignity and decay.

Forest shadow moss / mountain child rock / river clouds / sky somewhere

Haiku by Frank Masi

Visually omitted, the human presence is embedded in the scape of the land. And your eyes through the camera seem to rediscover fragments of a remote life in places and objects, a life that escapes time as well as control. Objects and landscapes are more foreign than national identities.  Maybe I felt something similar on a beach in Turkey, such a pristine and isolated site that I almost forgot about civilized life.  There was no sand, only red pebbles with round shapes sculpted by the waves. Not rocks, they were remains of pottery from ships sunk to the bottom of the ocean during ancient storms. I was walking on naked bones. 

Nature is not mechanical to that extent for all its mornings and evenings, for all its inhabitants of China, or India or Russia, for all its waves, or its leaves, or its hands. Its prodigy is not identity but resemblance and its universe of reproduction is not an assembly line but an incessant creation. Because this is so in nature, it is so in metaphor.”  Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel 

The true poem [or painting, or photograph] is not the work of the individual artist; it is the universe itself, the one work of art which is forever perfecting itself.” Ernst Cassirer,  An Essay On Man 

I must tell you, your photographs of Japan brought me into a cloud of nostalgia, reopening themes that never leave this blog, like termites attacking an old piece of wood. Nostalgia not for Japan, where I’ve never been, I’m thinking rather of an intellectual paradise with many comfortable chairs and humans sharing, comparing ideas, sometimes fighting to the death around the objects of their efforts, hoping to understand and to enjoy tremendously, face to face, the mysterious disconnection between images and words. How many times do we really feel the power of our voice, a sound which adds time and physicality to the bunch of words that we call ideas? Once more, writing eliminates sounds. Thoughts for eyes, strange as they are.

We are not far from Christmas, maybe the tail of The Kite will turn into a comet, and lift your images in a luminous constellation. 

I wish I had a kimono / and walked with others /wearing kimonos

Haiku by Frank Masi

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998

Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel, Essays on Reality and Imagination, Vintage Books, New York, 1942-1951

Ernst Cassirer, An Essay On Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture, Yale & New Haven, 1944

 

 

 

BLACK and WHITE


PHOTOGRAPHS OF ORESTE ALBERTINI’S PAINTINGS

by Rosanna Albertini

1095 B-N

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.

 

1078 B-N

1103 B-N

 

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.

1107 B-N

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!”

1094 B-N

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.”

1063 B-N

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.

Oreste-ideas002

 

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.”