The first programmatic action carried out by Niele Toroni dates back to January 3,1967,when,on the occasion of the Salon de la Jeune Peinture in Paris,the artist drafted a declaration, along with the painters Daniel Buren,Olivier Mosset,and Paul Parmentier,that encapsulated the approach to art that he would continue to take throughout his career.This extremely polemical declaration listed the qualities and functions traditionally attributed to painting, such as the importance of chromatic relationships and the application of compositional rules, and it concluded with the resolute phrase: “We are not painters.” This program
represented one of the radical moments of a debate on the nature of painting typical of the 1970s.Toroni, like Buren and the other signers, but also all exponents of Conceptual Art, thus inaugurated an approach to art that critiqued its visual protocols. In his case, the specifics of painting were not abandoned, but were reduced to predetermined practices and to choices of negation, since the artist intentionally refused to do exactly what tradition expected of a painter. This position derives from the desire to intervene effectively in the ideological social role that capitalist society attributes to the artist and his or her product. Toroni intervenes in these characteristics in order to overturn them completely. Instead of distinctive brushstrokes, he creates works based on a mechanical and anonymous process. Instead of works that change in style, he institutes a constant repetition of works that are “always the same,” governed by the same basic vocabulary
The canvas Impronte di pennello n. 50 a intervalli regolari di cm 30 (Marks of a #50 Brush at Regular Intervals of 30 cm),1984,has as its title the pure description of the piece, or rather of the working method that generated it. It has to be regarded as one of the many episodes of painting that the artist invariably calls “travail/peinture ” (work/painting). It is based on the same rule that has always informed his work: to apply various marks with a number 50 brush, each precisely 11 13 /16 inches apart, until the surface is covered.
Likewise, in the intervention the artist created directly on the walls of a room of the Castello, the work is resolved in mechanically applied brushstrokes. In these elementary and reiterated gestures,Toroni in fact brings the entire system of painting into play, in the sense that he makes all its connotations operative: canvas/support,brush/tool, color/expressive material, and the space that contains the work. The viewers only need to know that the work consists of marks made by a brush every 11 13 /16 inches, because this is what the artist wishes to show them. However it is also true that every work by Toroni can be seen as containing all possible pictorial images, all possible painting, because it is presented as metonymic —the part standing for the whole. The reduction to which Toroni subjects the specificity of pictorial language, and his adoption of mechanical and easily learned practices, serves to demythicize the figure of the artist-creator, in view of a transformation of his or her role into that of a cultural operator, engaged in the socialization of his own expressive techniques.