ERMANNO LEINARDI (1933-2006): PAINTINGS 1970 - 2004

14 September - 12 October 2007

Including works by:
Ermanno Leinardi

Austin/Desmond Fine Art is delighted to present the distinguished Italian artist Ermanno Leinardi (1933-2006) in his first London show. The exhibited paintings span over three decades, 1970 to 2004, and delineate the development of his investigation into the creative possibilities offered by the small oval, line and rectangular solid. The recurrent and consistent use of the ‘0’ represents Leinardi’s experimental engagement with composition. While referring back to lyrical abstraction, his work breathes new life into geometric art.

In 1965, while painting in his studio, Leinardi accidentally spilt ink on the floor. He decided to integrate the resulting spot into his work and to explore its creative implications. The following year it became the aforementioned ‘0’. With the help of this oval he embraced the challenge of constructing form and movement in space. Initially, he limited himself to the use of black and white only, occasionally accentuating features in primary colours or shades of gray. From the late 1970s onwards, he increasingly introduced colour – non only primary colours - but a rich palette of violets, yellows, blues, greens, browns, and pink. His emphasis moved from confrontations between lines and circles on a monochrome background to an “ambiguous space”, Spazio Ambiguo as he called it, indicating possibly a spiritual affinity with Lucio Fontana’s Movimento Spaziale and Antonio Calderara’s Spazio Mentale. The developing paintings hover indeterminately between two- and three-dimensionality and are composed from unusually matched colours. The '0', both symbol and object, usually is in relief and placed within the composition as a kind of reference point, a means with which to explore and try to understand the surrounding space with its optical illusions.

Leinardi formed defining friendships with the artist Calderara and the painter/art critic Michel Seuphor. Both Leinardi’s and Calderara’s work contrasts with Constructivism and Art Concrète in that they did not follow strictly radical concepts or colour schemes, but were partly guided by intuition. Seuphor points out that Leinardi’s “originality is manifest in the choice of two forms apparently in opposition: the ‘0’ and the straight line.” From the 1960s to his death in 2006, Leinardi remained faithful to these two components, be it in the medium of painting, watercolour or print. His approach was fresh and focussed to the last, his compositions never ceased to stimulate and surprise.

In 1966 Leinardi co-founded the art group Transazionale (with T. Casula, U. Ugo, I. Utzeri) proposing a renewal of art in Sardinia through the means of a work ethos conducive to an artistic exchange promoting the cause of abstract, concrete and informal art. This initiative reached beyond the boundaries of Italy, maintaining and newly establishing close contacts with abstract artists Europe-wide. In 1970, the Centre Constructivisme et Mouvement Paris staged a Leinardi show presented by the Italian art historian and politician Giulio Carlo Argan and, in 1973, the longstanding director of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (Rome), Palma Bucarelli included Leinardi’s work in the X Quadriennale of Rome. Leinardi also taught at the Roman Istituto Statale d'Arte and the German Akademie für Bildende Kunst in Trier. In the 1970s, he was artistic director of the Galleria Contini, Rome, and later served as a consultant to the Atélier Arp for graphic arts, Locarno. After sojourns in Rome, Milan, Zürich and Paris, Leinardi moved to Calasetta (Sardinia) in 1979 where, in 2000, he founded the Civico Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Calasetta. This museum houses his own personal collection of works by European abstract, concrete and informal artists, such as Calderara, S. Delaunay, Dorazio, Fontana, Seuphor, Nemours and Honegger.

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