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      WHILE NO ONE IS LOOKING By Alberto Zanchetta, Artistic Director MAC Lissone Flag ESP
      AÑIL By Flaminio Gualdoni
      LAS PIEDRAS NO PIDEN NADA   An inevitable and indelible shape By Alberto Zanchetta
      IMPRINTS AND UNPERCEIVED APPEARENCES around the recent works of Luca Serra By Claudio Cerritelli 
        GRIS Y GRANDES DIBUJOS (Grey and Wide Drawings) By Luca Serra 
        A SUBSTANTIAL MIMESIS by Ivan Quaroni 
     HECCEITAS / ET CETERA by Alberto Zanchetta
By Alberto Zanchetta, Artistic Director MAC Lissone

Introduction of the catalogue
Luca Serra - Mientras nadie mira, Museo d'arte contemporane di Lissone, Lissone (MB)


We never see the primary and fundamental gesture that generates the works of Luca Serra, but only its trace, a form “welcomed” as an unexpected gift.
What we see is an imprint, a memory that enables us to imagine what was lost or distorted in the final stages of the painting process.

To understand the question better, it is worth citing the words of the artist when he explains that the project of the image «is subjected to a spilling, a real moulding, from several layers of an adhesive acrylic – which will then become colour – on a canvas, and then removed from the original support. That is the final state of the work, which is essentially different from what was painted. So this procedure is a kind of alchemical gestation during which the colours, the marks and the whole painted surface are the result of a process of oxidation, an osmosis between the painting and the absorptive and temporary tar surface and the assimilation-division of the mould».

In these works there is a desire to control in the subdivision of the space, and at the same time a loss of control when the mould is removed to reveal an unexpected painterly quality, intuited but not defined a priori.
The “accidents” of the work – as the artist likes to call them – mark times and events that are fundamental in the painter’s experiment: the rubber mould is not a simple technique, but a theory that aims to refute itself, verifying the initial ideas and what is actually produced.

The artist’s palette owes much to his encounter with Spain (the earthy and shadowy tones are those of dust and sand, of soil and straw, of wood and coal, of ashes and soot), while the division of the surface may call to mind a good part of twentieth-century abstraction, which now seems to have been inspired by a spirit that was absent from the historical avant-gardes.
In his attempt to reduce painting to its essential values, Serra proceeds “blindly”, offering us a reality without emphasis, coarse but refined, in which rejects and quandaries surprise the artist as much as the viewers.

By Roberto Borghi

Text from the catalogue
Luca Serra - Mientras nadie mira, Museo d'arte contemporane di Lissone, Lissone (MB)

  Let us try to confront the painting of Luca Serra as what we see instead of what we know about it. Let us put aside for the moment all talk of the procedure – long, complex, meaningful – with which he produces his works and on which almost all the critical readings of his artistic career have centred. Let us indulge in a game of observations and deductions like those made by children at school when they perform their first scientific experiments.

First observation. To confront is the mot juste. Serra’s paintings demand a resolutely – perhaps even exclusively – frontal gaze if they are to be seen in their singularity. On the other hand, the works in which the painting – the painterly energy – follows an oblique course are few: almost always the motion intuited by the viewer proceeds mainly from top to bottom or vice versa, speckled by horizontal interferences. There is something implicitly and paradoxically Cartesian in these works that make a show of being chaotic. Deduction. The artist confronts the painterly surface in the sense that the surface suffers an affront, is violated by something imposed on it with a violent gesture. The artist acts in a condition of frontality, adopts a frontal position vis-à-vis the painting, the language in which it is normally articulated, its manner of execution.

Second observation. A lot, in the paintings of Serra – particularly in the more recent ones – happens at the edge. Almost every painting demands paying close attention to the borders: it is there, in the periphery of the painting, that appear chromatic flashes – or sometimes dampenings – of unexpected tonalities; or, more frequently, caesurae, interruptions in the painted surface that call for attention. They often have a regular, almost geometrical structure: lines, slender and oblong rectangles that, together with some lines mysteriously imprinted on the support, introduce a sort of orthogonality into images that would seem refractory to geometry.

Deduction. We are dealing with a frontal but not central painting; a painting in which the frontality is tempered by the absence of centrality. It is not really an absence: it is as though the centrality, the presence of a dominant chromatic element – let us call it a mass of colour – were sabotaged by a productive interference at the margins. We are probably dealing with a painting that eludes hierarchies, hegemonies, predefined structures, a painting that seems to be bent on deliberate confusion.

Third observation. Serra’s works would seem to be broken down in cycles organised around a colour: the black of the latest ones, preceded by blue, red… To borrow a theatrical metaphor, we could say that the main colour has to face competition from a few other supporting colours – the cast does not usually consist of more than three or four players. As in a successful theatre production, what counts is not how much an actor is on stage, but what he does to further develop the action and how dramatic his appearance on stage is. Certain intrusions of yellow, or some residual patches of blue, for example, are capable of putting the more extensive black in the shade.

Deduction. Here more than elsewhere, more than in other contemporary artistic situations, the painter behaves like the director of the painting, motivated by the desire to see how the actors interact. His is an experimental theatre in which the play has to make do without a plot and is based only on the emotional characteristics of who is on stage. The fact that metaphors from the theatre come to mind confirms the feeling that this is a performative painting, a painting of action, not contemplation. To sum up a complex attitude in a few words, we could say that, in our case, the artist does not contemplate his own state of mind through the painting – he questions it.

Fourth observation. At first glance, Serra’s works seem to be connected with various non-figurative experiences of the twentieth century. But if we take a closer look, they do not appear to recall any of them, or rather, perhaps, from time to time they appear to negate them all. The mass of echoes and assonances with the inquiries of the Abstract Expressionists dissolves when we perceive that primordial – virginal – element that characterises this painting. Primordial and elegantly brutal.

Deduction. The artist probably makes his paintings unobserved by anyone else: paradoxically, not even by himself. This should be taken not just metaphorically, but above all literally. Metaphorically, in the creative moment, the artist is mentally isolated, puts himself in a state of oblivion, and forgets the visions of the paintings of the last seventy years. Literally, the artist creates while no one is looking. No one, not even himself.

Observation on the observations. Up to this point we have played an enjoyable game, but nevertheless a game. As a wise proverb advises, it should be above all short, and then leave room for talking about what we know about the painting of Luca Serra. For example, his début as a sculptor and his discovery, in a certain sense, of painting during his sculptural activity. Or the importance he attaches to the components of the mould from which the work emerges: in particular tar, a highly chromatic material characterised by its peculiar black – which is really an indefinable combination of colours – but also by its inherent instability, its resistance to any attempt at total control. Or the attitude of giving the process of creating the painterly image the largest possible margin for instability and autonomy: even autonomy from the artist himself.

Perhaps there will be some talking about these points, but the hypothesis underlying the game of observations and deductions may suffice, namely that when he creates his paintings, Serra too conducts experiments not too unlike those that are performed by children at school: usually the aim is less to obtain results than to amaze.

By Flaminio Gualdoni

Text from the catalogue
Luca Serra - Añil, ABC-Arte, Genova

"Almost astonished veronicas": when facing Luca Serra's works, Francesco Arcangeli's ancient critical shard (1958) comes up to memory. Another one is the 1890 Maurice Denis' opening line, through which he highlights "the fertile concept of a flat surface covered with colors in a certain order." Both sentences are related to a way of painting, which is anything but abstract - and to a certain extent, the topic of representation or not is one of the least successful in modern art and one of the least interesting for this artist - but they are useful to measure the relationship wanted by Serra between the observer and the art work. It is a matter of doing and being done, it is not an image conceivable without its specific body. The problem of the mental and physical process, in which the artist dives in completely - and always consists of interrogations, never of verifications or even demonstrations - is its own concrete physiology, the story of its own future.
Serra's generation is now mature and did realize that the artwork is not just a matter of moving our body's physical and emotional energy into the painting's body. It does not even consist of releasing experience into the cold essence of minimizations, where awareness is too often replaced by calculation. Neither it represents a prearranged and totally reconceived way of certification, nothing but a further dress added by talent and style.
Recalling Gastone Novelli's solemn commitment ("I will never make a painting in my life again, but I will create only events, and if they will be too big, never mind"), Serra chose to deal with the supremely ambiguous fullness of painting. He transformed it in the most proper place for a tenacious, ruthless and inflexible way of thinking, each time hidden and accessible through those concrete actions leading to the birth of the work of art. Even Serra may say: "I am fascinated by the event, by what occurs beyond my control and my intentions": it must be added he is also extraneous to any hint of reflection about painting. Here, painting is the unique protagonist. He definitely quits the outdated idea of control as moving from an operational planning to a necessary result, whether it may be complying with a dubious ritualization of the pictorial fact, or following what has been brilliantly defined by Jean-Bertrand Barrère as “mentalité décennale”, which was also confirmed by Paul Valéry with his “l’ennui du choc”. "If the painting is exactly what I am able to do or give - says Serra - why should I paint?" wonders properly Serra.
He chose and still chooses to assign a place, and especially a time, to his thinking. The location is the suspended and silent space where he works in perfect solitude around Almerìa. His isolation is truly far away from the snobbish loneliness associated with genius, as well as it is physically distant from those places where art discussion becomes too often blague, a chatty farce, a frivolous game lost among skepticism and masturbation. This place conserved a different measure of time, which Serra believes fundamental. This is a mental time, made of reflections and questions, hypothesis and innovative creations, which work as a trigger. It is the long, arduous, complex, examining time of the painting's creation. This is a crucial time, in which everything is crucial, since any choice emanates and absorbs new thoughts and new questions. Serra writes in his notes: "The pictorial work is not literally painted, but is, rather, the execution of a cast of the previously stretched painting on a prepared surface”. Practically: the chain of actions played by Serra to realize the whole operation expects the disposition of pictorial substances, different by nature and density, on a selected surface. Then a canvas, previously treated with adherent acrylic, is placed over it. The substance impression will create another substance, different from the previous one. In simple terms, this action recalls a bit of a cast, a pictorial rip, as well as of Robert Rauschenberg's transfer printmaking, even if this was conceived in a completely different environment, with different procedures starting from existing images. Instead, for Serra the original surface represents only a necessary but totally de-identified precondition. The effective conclusion happens once the canvas had completed its transfer, modifying the initial situation in a definitive way. The transfer concerns the traces of gestures spreading colors, the clear cadences along the two juxtaposed supports, while the same tones are matched through their rough or nervous identities. Through this transfer, surface becomes a totally extraneous image to something handmade: Alberto Zanchetta reads these canvases "as if they were acheiropoieta", "not painted by human hands". As we said, like "astonished veronicas".
It is clear that the primary qualifying element is the removal of the gestural effect, the physical relationship between agent and acted, together with the addition of an essential acceptance of all implicated variations and accidents. So, it really consists of observing the painting's development, helping it to happen, while making crucial the gap between the author's forming imagination, an intention open even to its own partial contradiction, and the final result. To recall Duchampian filigrees, Serra's option is not connected neither to indifference or indetermination. The quantity of unpredictable or unplanned factors - such as the substances' reactions during the process, due to the light, the air, the cast phases - leaves a casual possibility, which is created and welcomed by the artist, an accomplice and not the owner of the event. Because of these aspects, and only for them, the artificiality of this process shows some similarities to the ceramist's activity. He does not work on the work of art, but on its prediction. He accepts the many accidental factors happening between the fabrile process and the solutions coming out from the open oven. He loves, with emotion and surprise, the final result.
By a reading point of view, Serra's works offer a strongly tactile perception, although with a low objecthood rate. In his mature visual economy, where architectural pauses are nothing but visual cadences, they are not the result of a composition, differently from the not-objective tradition they come from, but as a maçonner, essential to sustain the skeleton of visual expectations, spreading vertical and horizontal lines for the balance of space and nothing more. Through a distant confrontation, these pauses are close, in a certain way, to the visual veining in the first chalks and the first Achromes by Manzoni, such as their mere elemental structure, presented in its absolute concreteness and made of partitions created inside substance itself, instead of being imposed artificially following a previous plan. Similarly, they do support, through Serra's basic structure, applications, additions, changes in the pace and volume of substance as well as gestural variations.
Serra's work on tones is even more complex and fascinating, revealing his pure and naked poetic abilities. Even in this case, it is pointless to focus on the naturalistic leftovers hidden in his combustive blacks, the various range of rose ochre colors, the greys coming from cement, his reds at times deriving from dark browns, given the artist's accurate selection to transform them in not-objective statements, as it happened, to a certain extent, to Ben Nicholson in the Thirties. The sour and enchanting nature surrounding Almerìa must have influenced him, who grew up celebrating the ground colors of his Bologna, in a similar way as Horta de Ebro did on the young Picasso. It is simple for him to combine this visual scent and tendency with his discrete and never declamatory approach, full of careful hesitations. Then comes the incursion of blue as a counter-melody (and those who know ancient Greek colors are aware that the primary cadences were already between the ground and the sky), taking important responsibilities regarding weight and movements in the last artworks, even if it avoids meretricious sensitivity or easy visual and stating interceptions. Therefore, many elements are now stable in Serra's painting pot, such as precise pictorial choices coexisting with sharp post-conceptual thoughts, the elaboration of a slow and revitalizing process - time is the artist's first measure - which prefers focusing on operating rather than executing, and the coincidence between the internal story of an artwork and the existential awareness of the artist. His paintings require a different reaction from the observer, in tone or not with an aware expectation of recognition and definition. Looking at Serra's paintings is not a matter of question/answer: it is the experience of temporal extension, taste, intensity.
An inevitable and indelible shape
By Alberto Zanchetta

Text from the catalogue
Cuento Chino, 2015, Galerie Carzaniga, Basel


Time passes, but is seems to leave Art unharmed. Me, as writer, received the confirmation of this fact in the ten years of following Luca Serra’s work. The more I observe his work morph over time the more I am convinced that they may live forever, as if they were Acheiropoieta, “not the product of human hands”. There is a creative process in these paintings that tends to de-personalise the pictorial gesture and, so to speak, a valorization of the identity of their author. It is strange how the word ‘identity’ can correspond to two alternating concepts: one expresses the profound awareness of the individual; a distinctive entity from others, the other unifies it and dismisses it, thus retaining that it is identical to something else. In Serra’s work we witness an analogous conflict, because in the attempt to reduce the painting to its essential values, the artist obtains the diametrically opposite effect; an increase in its own individuality.
The rigor that we recognize in these pictorial structures belongs to the decrees of the Modern Movement (1), ordained to the less is more. The distribution of the surfaces may recall largely the abstract geometry, that now seems inspired by a spirit that was absent in the historical avant-garde (the geometry of the artist’s work seem to vibrate continuously, without ever risking to become stiff). The cult of order, that of an overly sensitive sphere close to the divine becomes, once again, human; made of attempts and reworked versions that persist in pursuing an impossible goal. There is a desire for control in the division of the space, and simultaneously a loss of the same, at the moment in which the model unveils and reveals an unexpected pictorial aspect, an aspect intuited but undefined a priori.
The use of the locution pictorial rather than painting is not a coincidence; in the work in this exhibition we do not see the generative, primary and founding gesture but just its shroud, the ‘received’ shape as unexpected gift. What we are observing is an imprint, a memory that – similar to a ghost - allows us to imagine what went lost or distorted in the final phases of the pictorial process. In order to completely understand this question, it is necessary to take note of the words of the artists when he explains that the project of the image «is subject to a reverse image, a real and proper mould, by means of several layers of acrylic glue, that then become color, on a canvas that is then detached from its original support; the final state of the work is different in its essence to what was painted. This method is therefore a kind of alchemy during which the colors, the symbols and all its pictorial surfaces are a product of an oxidation; an osmosis between painting and receptive surfaces, of the temporary surface of the tar, and the assimilation-division of the glue of the mould» (2).
In all working cycles by Serra we encounter an evident serial quality; a reiterative loop that underlines discards, uncertainties and differences between one artwork and another; a blind pursuit that in the end, surprises the author as much as the viewer. Chasing perfection is impossible, but it is this awareness that allows the incontestable impulse: wanting to “excel, deficiency notwithstanding”. What is perfect instills in us a veiled boredom, while the curiosity of the perfectible is always dignified, it allows for an infinite amount of experiments, to be explored and analysed. Serra therefore is outside the already determined itinerary, the predictable, that would risk limiting his authorship, relegating him to the role of simple executor. In this case the artist remains maker of his pictorial calling, forced (even if in a pleasant way) to confront himself and to renovate its own language.

Serra’s work is imprinted with his concept of life, art, passion and emotions. They seem: “not made by human hands” even when the abstract tension seems to come closer to the real, a concrete, physical, tactile reality. So, what if these aniconic art works were nothing different than still lives, or maybe, landscapes? Théophile Gautier said that "L’horizon charme l’œil: à quoi bon le toucher?" [«The horizon spells the eye – why join it?»] (3). If not exactly landscapes, then it would be legitimate to consider them architecture. Observing the artist at work, a spontaneous comparison with the constructive interventions of Carlo Scarpa arises; the unforgettable style of the Venetian architect rediscovered today in the wall-like surfaces obtained with formworks, that once removed created imprints on the covering of the wooden surfaces, lending their specific woof and weave on the walls. The result obtained by Serra is not dissimilar when he detaches the canvas from the pictorial support, obtaining an exfoliated skin in which we recognize the development of the materials. In Scarpa’s reinforced concrete and in the rubber of Serra we acknowledge the need to leave a trace of the previous work, visibly showing how much went wasted in the various phases of the working process. What we see is “what remains”: an ode to the intentions.
Sometimes Scarpa added other materials to the cement paste, so that the drips would acquire hues that tend toward ochres or reds. In turn, Luca Serra uses cement in powder mixed with different pigments (note the golden halo’s that revive the bituminous background color, or the reds that excite the greys). The artist’s palette owes much to his encounter with Spain. The earthy and dark hues are those of a landscape dear to Zurbarán and Velázquez, to the Masters of the informal and to Miquel Barceló.
Serra is hungry for “local color”: that of dust and sand, of the earth and straw, of wood and charcoal, of ashes and of soot. The mystical, passionate, grotesque Spain, sweet and fierce, is the artist’s country of choice and adoption.
The instinctively loved Iberian landscape became a spiritual homeland to him, a place of the soul. His first trip to the south of Spain dates back to 1984, he would come back four years later, but 1999 was crucial, the year in which he established himself near Almería.
His ties to Spain, lived and assimilated in his painting, are also revealed in an unmistakable way in the titles of his works. The titles of the paintings are anything but explanatory and retain their suggestive quality, wrapped in a halo of uncertainty that indulges the aspirations of the artist, according to which all of us are more in need of process than product. Indeed his paintings are the consequence of the unexpected, of randomness and of circumstances that contrast with their final appearance, similar to a rock, whose shape is indelible and ineluctable. These “incidents” – as the artist calls them – articulate times and events that are of fundamental importance to Serra’s experimentation; the mould in rubber is not simply a technique, but rather a theory that wants to confute itself, thus verifying the initial idea and that which is effectively produced (4).
At the end of the day, this work is nothing more than the mould of reality without embellishment, rough yet refined. The paintings of Luca Serra give us back a layering of signals and gestures, in inclusions and exclusions, just like the engraved rocks in the primitive caves. They are “ancestral walls”, original, even more than original, that continue a dialogue that has its roots in the beginning of time, at the birth of human existence and the existence of art itself.


  1. It was one of the most important movements in the history of architecture, whose theories and experiences postulated the abandonment of historical styles, the eclecticism and the classicism in favor of a design language which combines simplicity and functionality
  2. L. Serra, Gris y Grandes Dibujos, Lorenzelli Arte, Milano, March 2012, p.15
  3. T. Gautier, España, Mondadori, Milano 2001, pp.6-7
  4. For example: the color halos that are formed on the canvas are a reverse reaction with respect to try to delete them by rubbing.
around the recent works of Luca Serra
By Claudio Cerritelli

Text from the catalogues
Gris y Grandes Dibujos, 2012, Lorenzelli Arte
Huella y Dibujos, 2012, Spazia Galleria D'Arte + Galerie Carzaniga


The paradigm of Luca Serra’s painting lays in the secret events of the matter, filtered by the time of construction that imprints images without certainties, shapes commensurated by the lack of colour, to the seduction of the light and of the shadow, to the calibrated balance of the composed depths.
The adopted method is not an invariable pattern but a process of structuration, where the matters are transformed leaving large margins of surprise, random mutations are part of  true painting,  of the possibility of the art work to arise autonomously. 
When reading the poetic text by the artist, one understands that the technical process is not subdued to unconvertible rules of the execution but that it is an integral part of the phases of the sedimentation of the shape, a tangible experience of that what happens in the artifice secrets that lead from the project to the painting, from the initial idea to its final outcome. 
But is it really possible to plan painting? Serra cross-examines himself on this question without hesitation, convinced that the decisive moment of the research is not the original idea or his hypothetical conclusion but the process of the reaction between the chosen materials, thus the impossibility to plan the painting itself, leaving space to its unexplainable performing.
Indeed, no pictorial disclosure is unable to transform the intended project of the color in the evidence of its concrete body, in its sensorial language of the textures, in the marked appearances provoked onto the surfaces during the painting.  
From this scenery it turns out that the artist is also a sensitive receptor of textured stories in which the silent transformations of painting are described, without minimalist distractions or conceptual inventions, he is rather attracted by the onset that occurs outside his control.
Serra is disposed with a confident dedication in observing the mutations of the materials, following the reaction of the pigments in the space and in the time, registering the indeterminable events that accompany the creation of the shapes, the different effect of the mixtures, and the changing factors of the work in progress.
The perception starts from the materials and amplifies not only the technical awareness’s of the painting but above all the idea that painting can reveal that what does not exist before its actual creation, being space in which that what seems a measurable epidermis, adopts the aspects of a new concreteness.
As it is not an exact method that is repeated often and it is neither a place of psychological mirroring, the painting of Serra is an event without references, structure of the material storytelling in tension between the perimeters, the will to dialogue with the object-subject of the matter.
With this understanding the artist has constructed spaces of irreversible cohesion between the different techniques, cycles of works produced with limestone’s of gum on the canvas, abstract iconologies, gradations of light, stratifications of shadow, variations of emptiness and infinite horizons.
His working method is a rite of daily obsession that explores the identity of the materials knowing that the color is never the same, it’s a source of perplexity and ferments just when the artist stops and observes the color.
Painting means facing the dilemma of the vision not yet assimilated, waiting to be recognized. It would be cold mannerism applying rules without possibilities to contradict them, revealing other meaningful thresholds, other settlements of energies in action.
In the work notes one sees the opportunity to communicate the underlying and the indecipherable motion of the materials. The tar spread on the provisional support, the diverse molded and matched elements, the intrusions of the pigments and the absorbed traces of the plaster, and lastly the pouring of the image as a tar onto the canvas.
It is also essential to know that the artist is the provoker, author and first witness of what happens during the processes of fixing or oxidation of the colors and marks, precious abnormalities that encounter in the so-called alchemic process.
From these instructions one understands furthermore that the role of the art for Serra is not that of chasing the myth of invention but to place himself in relation with the energy objectified in the matter, with the color generated from the gasp of the primary elements, without this tension the life of the art work would be lost in the motionless repeating of its grammar.
The role of painting has a larger value than being strictly aesthetical. It implies a physical and mental depth that opens visions only possible in the human experience of the art, for that the artist loves to produce works that are a direct provocation of their creation, long from the cold formalistic calculations.
The challenge in any case is hard because it interrogates whether painting greatly can be a limit that puts the artists’ skill to the question, a skill that is needed in order to use the color to its potential, give a meaning to the material that was absent before.
Quite for this reason Serra is pervaded by the self-critical impulse of doubt with his recent works, as a vital exercise that cannot be dominated by things but searches beyond for the uncertainties of the mutation.
The body to body with spatial metric of the color, the composition of the chromatic features that convert into the identity of the surface as plan of the assimilation of different manipulations, between excesses, mixtures, minimum discards, residuals of material escaped from the coordination’s of the project.
Colors and signs, shapes and depths, sharp allocations and shapeless stains are joined, modifying the implicit qualities of the materials, trials of imagination measured on tense shades and linear scans, large planned compilations and details undetectable in appearance.
In the recent cycle “Gris y Grandes Dibujos” the chromatic gradient descends directly from the powders of concrete and from the precarious touches of the light intermediated by the grey, at the same time the imprints of deletion emerge, undefinable transmutations that belong to those unexplainable factors that have their own life and would be impossible to produce as they appear.
The drawing comes to the surface with a troubled texture of marks that do not outline established shapes but reveal mediations with the substance of the color itself, slight vibrations that generate themselves “randomly and involuntary” in the creation of the work.
The outstanding reality of the materials is essential for the artist that listens to the vibrations by the purpose of another kind of expectations, always different from the assumed projected conscience of painting.
On the contrary, one could say that the meaning of the operation put into action is that of wanting to undress painting itself from its estimated thoughts to conduct it to its naked concreteness of potential material, primal matrix of qualities only detectable after they are embodied into the instantaneous mixtures of color.
If we observe the works exhibited in this new personal show at Lorenzelli Arte the sensation is that Serra’s path is continuously “towards” colour, painting that exists without the comfort of aesthetical and theoretical protocols, in sight of an objectification of flexible powers and spatial respirations that are born from the several connections of the materials.
Different structural adventures animate the surfaces revealing the screen deep in the space, the weight of the gaps, the connecting and disjunctive polarities of the original shapes, the tactile feeling of the light that expresses larger transitions compared to the preliminary relations already occurred between the act and the matter, density and sharpness between the single parts and the whole.
The chromatic contrasts produce alternative relations between size and depth of the spacious cuts, according the constructive ways that the artist follows from the beginning, at least from when he preferred to accentuate the asymmetric dislocations compared to pre-established harmonies.
Each work expresses a fused impulse that is always in making, a living organism consisting of operative moments that overwhelm it in ways that reject the embodying of a style; they do not want to be part of a recognizable and reassuring trend.
It is clear that Serra has assimilated the aniconic orthodoxies of the contemporary painting, but he did this by never bringing his language to correspond to the coldness of the analytic thought, preserving always the intense physical-attractive relation with the transmutation materials.
The echo from the fluid abstraction acts in him as a desire to observe painting with the eyes of pure sensitivity, putting himself in the open state of someone that was never gratified and searches for the possibility in the impossible.
We are talking about an inhaling that evidently the works bear, indeed observing what remains onto the surface, one sees mysterious stains, shapes that become thicker and suddenly disappear, they contrast eroded imprints and slight luminous steams, overlapped by large layers of material, areas of flatness hardly visible that shift the geometric balances from above and below.
The epidermis of the color seems a membrane that takes complete possession of the shapes, in reality everything can be expected, the apparent stiffening of the construction shows chromatic moods, corporal pulsations that communicate with essential signs and minimal pressures onto the margins and rims.
The lines are not marked according to habit but they originate from the combination of the surfaces, so they arise from the contact of the material compilations, from the discard of their different thickness that- we should remember- are tars of something that happened prematurely, a kind of process post-painting that switches into the new physical identity of the rubber and of the acrylic gum. In this procedure there is no simulation of identity but a synthesis a various technical coefficients that arrange the shapes in their entire concreteness, which allow sustaining the seduction of the pictorial process, retrieving the magic of all the primal transits.
This imaginary archaeology made out of imprints, traces and remains of painting has numerous moments of verification in the expositive route of the exhibition, real and typical put in show of rhythmic parts and of the poetic tension, belonging to hidden paths an of suspended silences that force the observer to seal a deal of unity with the shapes.
Beyond the modulated sequence of the works, of small and large dimensions covered in transparencies and in the depths of color, Serra thought to display on one of the large walls of the gallery a series of pictorial fragments placed on various levels of reading, with an instable map of thoughts that pour beyond the limits of the infinite work.

Unambiguous signs of his anxiety to conceive painting as a cyclic movement that returns to itself, nourishing the comparison between different urges of the materials. Irreducible animation of pictorial units that are released within the intervals of the emptiness, new metric accents and as many moments of surprise, spatial metaphor of the unstoppable germination of the imprints left without destiny, “unknowingly”, as the artist suggests in his text.
Gris y Grandes Dibujos (Grey and Wide Drawings) WORKS  
By Luca Serra 

Text from the catalogues
Gris y Grandes Dibujos, 2012, Lorenzelli Arte
Dilema, El Hombre del Saco y Otros Accidentes, 2010, Galerie Carzaniga Basel 


When I conceived this work, I was seeking a dialectic point in painting, starting from the point of view that invention, truthfully, is nothing more than a transformation, a search of approach, the moment, in which the essence of things changes. The paintings act as a relationship between the idea and its final result, between the intention of doing and the absolute outcome or rather the process that engages the idea and the absolute shape, concepts of mandatory contradiction.

Consequently what I am trying to create is an assembly of materials and give them their own story, accompany them along the physical events that change the mix in something that maintains the same physicality, however changing their essence.

In order to make something of an image - the painting itself is no longer an aesthetic composition but it converges into a story, in time, or in an event, in order to transform the abstract of the image and to subject it to a real experience. Realistically, in the end I adopted a procedure, a synthesis of different reactions that caught my attention:

Any kind of research has its unexpected part, or let’s say chances. The reactions provoked from the relation between the materials that instead of remaining stable, transform in time (like in the case of plaster and the temperature of the tar), or in the act itself when uniting or disconnecting them (like the parts of a cast of a sculpture or the powders that separate it), these were the phases of the procedure recommended to me:

At first, the tar, plastic material that together is instable, once applied (spread, marked, painted) however gives a temporary support- panels and partials- cut by hand, molded, assembled until they adopt the shape and the structure of the projected  image, assisted by pigments, powders and paint based on plaster that releases and absorbs the tar, color and texture which, although interchanging, maintain the authentic technique as a sculpture removed from the mould.

This project undergoes then another treatment, a true and actual modeling with diverse layers of acrylic glue, that eventually will be its color, on the canvas which hereafter  is disconnected from its original support. This final work is essentially different from its original painting. Thus this procedure is a species of alchemic development during which the colors, the marks and its complete surface are produced for an oxidation, osmosis between painting, and a temporarily sensitive surface, caused by the tar, and the assimilation-division of the glue of the plaster.

It is of no importance to me whether I am exactly capable of creating or giving, but I am fascinated by the event, of what occurs, therefore it is not in my interest that the result is something that I have not executed, that I have not been able to produce, it is however a series of true events where I am an observer, the initial observer of my work where the outcome, the work of art, is a result of events that I evoked but have occurred in complete autonomy beyond my control, past intentions and thus not the invention and the sequent representation of an image but the objective exposition of the relation occurred between the causes that have produced it.

Perhaps it is only a way to understand the (human) necessity to control the world that conflicts with the impossible and that each effort in itself is a question, a doubt.
A doubt, a Dilemma is an interesting starting point.

Doubt in my work, that will be subordinated to the objectifying  process of moulding, that is present in every decision and is accentuated in this final series of works “Gris Y Grandes Dibujos” (Grey and Wide Drawings) where the introduction of a new element, the “Drawing” is accompanied by the structure of the art works, as is the black background of the previous series of “Hombre del Saco” that symbolizes the need of certainty and the consequent reaction of destabilization when this certainty is lacking. The paintings continue thus the path already focusing on the impossibility of control to what will happen and to its consequences, unpredictable and uncertain, of its proper working.

The word “Grey” in the title is referred to the material more than to the color, a concrete in powder, an intangible and sensitive substance that offers the possibility to be “eliminated”  once even slightly touching it, due to its precarious adherence to the panel that initially covers the support or “project” in order to become “marked”, giving space to signs and shapes,  and finally “drawings”.

Drawings that, -I’d like to think- subjected to the same procedure of moulding, no longer belong to the initial planned image, but stripped of their edges and borders and transformed, leave only that what others may perceive.

At the same time, by drawings I imply large stains, initially black and then colored, deriving from an automatic gesture, of resetting, blind and uncontrolled, that of “eliminating” (in case of the black stains one may think that they were executed onto the surface as black as tar) as when one attempts to clean the drops of color that fell on a table, rubbing with a cloth, cancelling indeed- eliminating its traces- and the result yet is an imprint, a larger and more personal trace, diverse and opposing to the aim that provoked it initially, despite of the intention to wipe it out. Thus a different and unintentional drawings  that once again remains overwhelmed by the event, that then will be observed.

I last to believe that poetry resides in the intention, regardless the chance of success and that the result of one’s proper actions, positive only for random circumstances, cannot be the one projected, calculated and “predicted”, but a mix of numerous varieties, events, completed to transmit something very dissimilar, even if it’s a surplus of the initial conscience. Only of this an imprint remains, left without notice.
By Ivan Quaroni

text from catalogue: Irreversible, 2007, Galerie Carzaniga


In an essay on Francis Bacon, Gilles Deleuze says that the present painting offers "three big directions [...]: abstraction, expressionism and what Lyotard calls the Figural, which is different from the figurative, exactly one production of figures”. (1)
The term figural appears as an escamotage of the brilliant French philosopher to introduce a pictorial typology that can not be comprised within the now-classic schemes of abstraction and figuration, as it is equally refractory to both definitions. Yet the term figure, from which the adjective figurative, defines both the shape or appearance of an image, either the symbol, allegory or meaning which on it is based. We are therefore led to believe that the figural is a category that is distinguished from the figurative by a different degree of approximation to reality.
The figurative painting, in fact, gathers the images from reality, with greater or lesser degrees of fidelity, where the figural painting would produce the images through an endogenous process and, therefore, not mimetic. By accepting this terminological distinction, we find ourselves, however, to face more questions than we could to solve.
Since even abstract art is using figures not derived from the phenomenal reality, what, then, would discern it from figurative painting? It is clear that the suggestion of Lyotard, quoted by Deleuze, leads us nowhere. More sensible, However, it seems the definition of Achille Bonito Oliva, who, discarding the traditional antinomy between abstraction and figuration, writes that "The figure is the focal point of the art", for "holding the centrality of language, as it is the bearer of the intention and the desire of power of the imaginary”, adding, then, that "this desire disguises itself through various attires, assumes the role of the condition related to the expressive needs” . (2)
If we accept the definition of Bonito Oliva, we also clarified a doubt about the search of Luca Serra, who has repeatedly stated that his "is not properly abstract art”, because starts from a real and concrete occurrence, which is the result of a combination of predetermined factors and guided accidents.
For Serra "the pictorial work is not literally painted, but is, rather, the execution of a cast of the previously stretched painting on a prepared surface”. In practice, the artist uses tar paper covered panels on Which has laid, following a very personal sense of order and balance, tempera, pigments, powder, chalk and glue coats. On this prepared surface, the artist glues the canvas, which then removes. The tear has for consequence the removal of part of the chromatic materials, glues and tar paper present on the matrix and the canvas is, thus, imprinted as in a sort of cast whose outcomes are only partially predictable.

Observing the works of Luca Serra, it is natural to ascribe them to the field of abstract research. On his rubber molds on canvas, in fact, they do not appear recognizable forms, nor vague shadows that can suggest the idea of some presence. There are, rather, signs and traces, washed out and abrasions, scraps and fragments that compose between them an unexpected textures, a weaving that appears to be coherent, balanced in weight and mass. The impression given by these color markings, which also possess a sort of order in certain horizontal or vertical scores, is that of being in the presence of surfaces that have suffered the abrasive action of time and weathering.
Those that crop up on Serra paintings are figures in the proper sense expressed by Bonito Oliva, namely as "bearers of the intention and the desire for power" of an imaginary that, in his case, turns to be an attempt to appropriate the aesthetic qualities of matter and a fierce desire to possess, and perhaps to recreate the chromatic enchantment of certain mineral surfaces, whether stones or earths. It is on the base notes of this hunger for knowledge, this insatiable curiosity, that Serra plays his painting.
A painting that has the characteristics of a challenge, sometimes amusing and sometimes dramatic, between man and nature, between the artist's technical quality and the intrinsic properties of materials.

For this, the procedure put in place by Luca Serra does not resemble in any way to that one, all exquisitely mental of abstract artists. His painting is equally equidistant from the theoretical premeditation of Minimalism as by spontaneous gestural Action Painting. Rather we feel in it a pressing need for empirical verification of occurrences that elapse in the chemical osmosis of the cast, when the canvas is imprinted on the matrix.

”I’m fascinated by the event - the artist writes in his notes - from what happens out of my control, beyond my intentions”. Luca Serra can only imagine the result of the chemical metamorphosis which are produced in the only blindness moment of the entire process. However, when the matrix and the cast adhere in the dull darkness of pressure, the substances mingle and alter in an almost uncontrollable way, producing amazing results.
Serra plays therefore a risky game between order and chaos, between the sequential causality of his Opus, and randomness (guided) of alchemical transmutation.

“I want that painting - says the artist - should be able to give me something; I am the spectator, the first viewer of my painting”. In simple terms, the Serra attitude recalls the one of a research scientist at which, after setting all the elements, all that remains is to observe the final result of the experiment.

His is, therefore, an immersion in the doing of painting, intended not just as the unfolding of an exercise end in itself, but as the possibility of an epiphany, a revelation of aesthetic order of the cosmos, that goes beyond a mere voluntary act and aligns the artist's intention with the secret laws that govern nature. That's why, in his case more than in that of other artists, we can speak of the alchemical process. The great alchemists of the past knew that their efforts were strained not so much to achieve a tangible result, as, for example, the base metal into gold, but to understanding the operation of the intimate nature of all things. The Great Work corresponded to an initiatic and spiritual way of imitation of creation.

Now, the art of Luca Serra looks like an investigation, so much pictorial as ontological, on the genesis of chromatic and visual effects that seem to belong to the phenomenal world much more than the algid geometries or pseudo-organic forms that recur in so much abstract art.
And it is for this reason that the term "abstract", referring to his work, it seems inappropriate, almost restrictive. When we think about an abstract work we interpret it first as the aesthetics formulation of a project concept or a modus operandi, which translates the formal ideas on more factual plan of the art. Serra, however, adds a substantial shift, of the unexpected event, of the elusive occurrence in which the aesthetic intuition can manifest itself in the form of unveiling. A revelation that comes from the material itself, from nature - would be tempted to say - assuming, therefore, an objective value that the artist can not dominate or control completely. Whenever his technique becomes too refined and the result of it too predictable, Serra changes method, introduces new steps to "safeguard" the fundamental gradient of surprise, preserving, with it, the pleasure itself of discovery and learning.
"If the painting is exactly what I am able to do or give - says Serra - why should I paint?". It is revealed in this statement the initiatory meaning of his artistic doing, which think about the painting as the relationship between the intention and the result and, therefore, as the divergence that creeps between the idea and the finished form, which here it passes through the experience of matter. A matter, he said, "hostile to changes," but at the same time, principal agent of it.
Just as in the alchemical course, which requires the disciple to confront first of all with the brutal and formless substance, in that long, preliminary phase known as Opera al nero.

The works of Irreversible series, which represent the latest results of the artist's research, are another proof of how painting can dig into the inner recesses of nature without tracing over the shapes. Serra does not imitate the phenomenical world, but tries to capture its secrets, to seize the essence. And that is why the figures of his painting never assume the guise of real things, but they merely suggest the idea of shapeless and elusive textures, that remind the chromatic effects of rusty inflorescences of land , of the crumbling plasters, of moisture emulsions, but also of bituminous halos, of wreaths of water vapor, of the scratched chalks ,of abrasions of the solvents, of the residues of glue,of the traces of oxides, in short, of all the whole irresistible, brutal fresco of the Earth's chemistry.


    1    Gilles Deleuze, DIVENIRE MOLTEPLICE, pag. 104, Ombre Corte, Verona, 1999
    2    Achille Bonito Oliva, Figura: una semiotica della grazia, in IL SOGNO DELL’ARTE, pag. 9, Spirali Edizioni, Milano, 1981.
By Alberto Zanchetta

Testo dal catalogo: Cuentos de la Respiración, 2003, Galerie Carzaniga+Ueker


[..] They found that when we look to something carefully we are pushed or to hold your breath for several seconds, or otherwise to breathe less deeply than usual. And the reason is that when we focus on some object seems to us that the sounds and the same feeling of muscle movement are sources of distraction (1) [..] - Aldous Huxley

The Evangelist Luca was really a painter? The portraits of the Virgin Mary attributed to him testify to the ancestral desire to transform the matter into sign, and hence the sign in language; but a language is constituted of individual lemmas that cannot be isolated, for which the sign - once transposed - aspires to return into matter.
This is proved by the invention of the design that was of Butade, the first of all sculptors.
He filled with clay the incision made on a wall by his daughter - who overnight has portrayed the beloved by following the features projected by a lumen - and obtained a relief. Ironically, the discovery of the drawing is therefore attributed to a sculptor and not a painter (could not be otherwise); “paradox" that is substantive in French boutade, "whim", "quirk" which is also a genre of painting, graphic especially.
But the ambitions of vraisemblance (2) are not noticed in the work of Luca Serra, who admits the visible only as a functional image in the proceeding [in statu nascendi], therefore the paintings as "knowledge of things through their first causes "[causarum cognitio].

This is because gods are the only having knowledge of fullness; Men, however, are reduced to guesswork. Conjectures that for Serra they move from the visible in function of the invisible : through the material it is made the world and what is immaterial lurks inside. “Matter - says Goethe - each one has before his eyes; the content it is only for who has something to add and form is a secret for most" Once that is ascertained that the inexpressible of the sign does not result for this unthinkable, springs the invocation of the matter [Veni creator spiritus] looking for a pneuma (3) in which coexist the thought, as endogenous process, and the action , as exogenous process. Atmospheric air and alveolar air are then converted from volatile element into thought-soul.

From the - necessary - dependence with the world, breathing pursues an osmotic relationship, also introduces a contiguity between the Psyche and the environment, especially in the case of the Italian popular spirit which is conveyed in the air (4) even when changes settlement (the conflict between the body and the head asserted by Steiner, which makes the Italian a "man of nerves", fails when the thought, being produced by the brain, has aerobic necessity ).

"At primitive observation of the breathing we need to add another one that could singularly reinforce the idea of power of breath. It is the action of the breath on the fire" [Paul Valéry]. An afflatus that extinguishes instead to nourish. That stifles the igneous red of the series Caucho, cools the color leaving in its place the ashy of the relics, scattered and calcified on the canvas in the manner of a rain - of ash and lapilli - on the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
These new works, these "cuentos / tales” are like dust in the wind that human breathing purifies from the fine dust. Are [epi] phenomena of the intellect; they transform any material into energy, into life / mental process.
The thought is one, but continuous, subjected by the principle of transformation. Of Multiplicity. The haecceity: the principle that each thing is different from the others.
Although if in its totality the world was created according to an original type, in it proliferates the detail that tends to diversify, to change, as the antithesis to the "whole" of the Greek philosophy that, conversely, is immutable [mutatis mutandis]. Everything has a mould, from animals to plants,from the mineral to man, none of which is free from anomaly (meaning by it the uniqueness of each individual, like distrust to the exemplarity) that makes it different, unique. That shows that even the mould is something different from the original, it is rarefaction, copy after copy ever more. Nevertheless use damages the cliché, it wears out, it causes rupture. And if the deterioration is the primary cause of his exhaustion, the mould must be changed, renewed or improved before it can incur in a deleterious worn-out.
From a primordial model also generate art.
The rubber casts of Serra gather oxides, powders, adhesives, rubber, tar, graphite, gypsum - and so - according to the dictates of a module that cicatrizes on the canvas (surgical suture dating from Burri to San Luca, which in truth was a doctor and not a painter); the concretion of the detail, the fragment that is re-composed, thus tends to order the abstract universal.
At the model and at the module is then annexed the matrix, which is in Serra an idea respect to the environment: it is geomorfia.
In it are reflected the different color phases, to undergo a manufacture process / refining of the vile matter surrounding the artist ... probative metamorphosis into noble material. From white (turbid) in ivory, yellow in gold,gray in silver . Atomistic exchange that is explained in Parmenides' " changing location and changing bright color ", singenesis in all similar at chameleon that feeds with air (5).
Where the compulsions of the paintings are confronted with the collation of haecceitism, and of the etcetera, the work of Serra becomes discursive on the example of the Conversazioni (6) of the '90s. The Piittura senza qualità proprie (Painting without own qualities) that had preceded the present search it continues in the more or less explicit allusions of the titles, puns that reference to the different materials and appearance tone, as Pestábile and Choupolvosis. Because the technique of polychrome is nothing but a proportion, color = cover.
Cover the sign in an attempt to reabsorb, to engender. With deuteragonist effort, of painter-sculptor [Serra] in antithesis to a sculptor-draughtsman [Butade].


    1  From: A. Huxley, The Art of Seeing, Arrangement with Chatto & Windus Ltd. - London 1943.
    2   “appearance of truth; verisimilitude”.
    3   principle-breath informing the world.
    4   in this regard see the Berlin conference of 1918, later collected under the title
           “Anthroposophische Lebensgaben” nel Rudolf Steiner Verlag - Dornach 1991.
    5   As it was argued in Pliny's Naturalis Historia.
    6   series of paintings that the artist has developed in the second half of 1990.

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