Mimmo Paladino

According to Mimmo Paladino the artist is like an acrobat who moves in many directions. Although he was raised amid the numerous and heterogeneous references of southern Italy ’s age-old culture, where the principal sense of affinity is based on syncretism and integration, Paladino has chosen a personal
language that he has developed through the sign and the primitive power of the image, defining a strongly recognizable lexicon. Rejecting solely narrative interpretation, his art presents neither questions nor answers, but lives in the silence of its existential dimension. With his work, we witness a return to the subject and its emotions. Rich in both references to the past and contemporary stimuli, Paladino ’s art is intended as an investigation into languages, a voyage within the original significances of the materials and techniques that the painter explores with an insatiable curiosity. He searches out new realms for the image, coming up with materials that are unusual in the history of figurative painting. Proceeding through shifts in
direction, he understands the act of painting to be pure energy, an exercise and practice that can restore the meaning of a primal experience. His body of work is characterized by a love for magic and mystery, symbolic and visionary references, allusions, use of ritual rather than myth, and an absolute freedom of interpretation proposed through fantastical elements —all of which are distinctive aspects in the works in
the Castello ’s collection. A Napoli dopo gennaio (In Naples after January),1978,and Lampeggiante (Flashing),1979, share a palette of acidic, intense colors ,a free expressive vein, and a style that fluctuates between abstraction and figuration, which is typical of his early works. The dialectic between sign
and chromatic setting brings out the peculiar quality that defines the compositional equilibrium of the works. The choice of materials is tied above all to a discourse on manipulation.
Fascinated by assemblage and collage, Paladino introduces masks, silhouettes of animals, metal objects and shapes with imprecise and unidentifiable outlines. In La virtù del fornaio in carrozza (The Virtue of the Baker in a Carriage),1983,his poetic imagination shows a grotesque side and the influence of alchemy. To the left,a sculptural element in the form of a baker ’s shovel is inserted into the composition, occupying the
space and effecting an encroachment beyond the surface.
Two mysterious figures, a man and a character with long donkey ears, enter the scene. The painted frame, the combination of unfamiliar bodies, and the transformation of objects in alchemical terms are all elements that suggest the ancestral nature of the artist ’s creative universe, where secrets are evoked but never revealed. Giardino chiuso (Hortus Conclusus )(Enclosed Garden),1982,is a bronze sculpture that includes certain pictorial elements, and moves toward a new monumentality. The color, used both as material pigment and expressive value, initiates a dialogue between the pictorial and sculptural dimensions. The figure of a sailor-warrior rises up vertically amid the wreck of a boat In the superimposition of various elements and cultures, the image of this voyager and his spectre, reflected in the hollow of the boat, betrays the double nature of Paladino ’s art —one solar, the other dark —and validates the continuous mobility of his artistic references, which drift in multiple directions. In Senza titolo (Untitled), 1999,the chromatic value of the painting comes from the luminous intensity of the gilded surface. Gold —the alchemical color par excellence —spreads along the entire panel, containing the universe of signs and two-dimensional black figures in the foreground. Any sense of depth is negated. The simplified forms, rendered in profile, appear as expressionless heads and bodies, while pure color spreads over the surface.
The fluidity of the signs,the space that arouses the imagination, and the complex iconographic strata reveal the most intimate nature and enchanted territory of Paladino ’s art, which requires silence and a vast expanse of chromatic tones.

[G.C.]

Artworks