The figure of the painter is like a navigator who dispenses images to establish a course. The magical territory of Enzo Cucchi’s painting resides amid this complicated movement of feelings, moods, and emotions, where art is produced by the wind, the waves, and by nostalgia for the land.
Cucchi was born in the province of Ancona, and his work, which reexamines European and, in particular, Mediterranean art, are rooted in the Marches and its landscapes. His figurative world is not meant to be interpreted, but rather experienced, perceived through the senses, felt more than observed, seen more than understood. His imaginary universe is populated by legends, mysterious figures, recurrent dreams and nightmares, regional traditions, and folk expressions. Cucchi considers himself a European artist in the sense of tradition and in that it sustains drawing as a discipline, as a fundamental practice that is basic to form. His art defeats immobility, his world and his poetics are in movement, and his journey takes place along an ideal frontier of Europe, between the soft hills of the Marches and the horizon of the Adriatic Sea.
His ideas come out of the moods of this land, which acts as a spokesperson for other cultures and ancient civilizations. He traverses the universal languages of art history to convey the story of his subliminal feelings. It is this relationship, established with his most private and inner world, that we discover in the works by Cucchi in the Castello’s collection.
His interest in signs is evident in the drawings that occupy much of his artistic production, and which are developed as independent and autonomous works. Considered the origins of form, they are an indispensable tool for creating images, as artist has stated: “There is no technique, no other disciplines, if first there is not drawing.” These drawings share the same visionary quality as his paintings, the same imaginative capacity, as seen in La guerra delle regioni (The War of the Regions), 1981, in which a concise and evocative line delineates two large enigmatic figures that occupy the entire surface of the paper. In his works light and dark coexist and in this particular context the compositional structure is simple, ut the horizon is populated by visionary disturbances.
In Cani con la lingua a spasso (Dogs with Wagging Tongues), 1980, the irrepressible need for wonder, which leads the artist toward painting, is palpable. According to the artist, this need becomes an absurd vice, an extremely strong desire, and an authentic obsession. A trace of intense energy exists amid the indistinct magma of colors. At the center of the scene are a group of dogs and a human figure that emerges from the pictorial mass. There is no need to tell a story, for his paintings are themselves stories.
There is no need to describe an event, to precisely convey facts, and the work contains no devices that construct its meaning. Instead, the narration is developed through details and is heightened by the chromatic value of the painting. In Eroe senza testa (Headless Hero), 1981, the physical presence of a single image is heightened in the dialectic established among the different color tonalities, the glow of the most vivid colors and the shadows of the darker ones. There is a heroic and a tragic aspect to the work. In this faceless figure, an unknown hero who seems to be supporting the weight of the world with his arms, almost like a contemporary Atlas, we can interpret Cucchi’s love of myth, which he considers the only “reality.” Vitebsk/Harar, 1984, represents the tool for a symbolic voyage into the universe of creation. It is a journey into art, through a painter and a poet, Kazimir Malevich and Arthur Rimbaud—a passage into their lives at two critical moments. Vitebsk is the place where, in 1919, the Russian painter, who aligned himself with the government, was sent immediately after the Revolution. Harar is an Ethiopian city where the French poet stayed in 1880, to pursue a business venture, following an artistic crisis. The psychological value of the shadows plays a fundamental role in this work. Cucchi isolates the images—a skull at the lower left of the surface and a moon, obtained by removing the material —and reduces them to minimal elements. The rest of the composition is a harsh landscape, with forbidding, piercing outlines that define an inhospitable land, in an interpretation of two difficult moments in the figures’ lives. The painting represents a moment of exclusion, but Cucchi finds in the images a thaumaturgic value.
In the 1980s the artist also began experimenting with the use of techniques that integrate different and unusual materials. In La deriva del vaso (The Drift of the Vase), 1984–85,a boat navigates on a flame-red surface that seems to evoke a Dantean landscape. White plaster elements are inserted into the figuration and call attention to the intense, pasty quality of the material. The approach toward nothingness, the drift to which the boat seems destined because of its lack of sails, evokes voyages suggested by the artist’s familiarity with literature.
Piogge sante (Holy Rains), 1987, first exhibited in Basel, consists of a large canvas on which slender poles are arranged in a sunburst configuration, representing rain. Typical of Cucchi’s works, the narration is only the point of departure for a fantastical wandering within the artist’s imagination. A neon light, located at the back of the painting, turns on to bear witness to the presence of a miraculous event, but the mystery must remain unrevealed and gives free rein to the flow of creativity. Coraggio (Courage), 1998–99, is a description through images whose story is tempered in the exuberance of the colors and in the grandiosity of the mountain landscape, the peaks of which are illuminated by LED lights. Whether the elements are made of plaster, iron, neon, wood, or electrical components, the artist works the surface as a means for arousing associations and analogies that stimulate the senses and the imagination.
Sipario di Senigallia (Senigallia Curtain), 1996, is a study for the aluminum curtain created for theater La Fenice in Senigallia, Italy. The features of the figure, which looks down from above on the five symbols of the city, are inspired by another image, conceived earlier, when the artist was collaborating on set designs for a production of Tosca, staged in Rome at the Teatro dell’Opera in 1990.
Cucchi’s art finds expression in detritus, in harsh and livid objects, in the fantastical drift of creation, in the overflow and isolation of images. It is a boat without sails, where rhythm rushes headlong and disequilibrium reigns. His is a poetic imagination, where fear and allure coexist. From his past emerge murmurs, fragments of distant scenes that describe landscapes and passages, estrangements, collapses and approaches, flashes and shadows, light and darkness.