Pier Paolo Calzolari

Wax, feathers, neon, ice, leaves, moss, candles, freezing elements, salt, copper, lead, gold, tin, flames, electrical materials, and collage—these are some of the elements that make up the expressive universe of Pier Paolo Calzolari. With these elements, the artist orchestrates a symphony of the quotidian, of present reality, as it is experienced and unfolds in the space where his work is exhibited, eradicating any mediation or possible representation. His aim is not to describe or codify, but to live life and art as an act of passion: art becomes life and life permeates art. He brings into his work an alchemical dimension, capable of reactivating the artistic space and the creative process in a sensitive and absolutely personal manner. From painting to objects, from installations to performances, from video to drawing, Calzolari’s work and exhausts every form of visual expression, detached from any attempt at categorization.
Monochromes of frozen materials, luminous neon writing, and devices for freezing that take advantage of the principles of physics, all create an aesthetic of the living organism.
More interested in the formative process of elements than in their forms themselves, the artist seeks to develop “animated” material, in which objects abandon their state of inertia and lose their static condition, to expand into the environment, delineating a new spatial and temporal dimension that tends toward the sublime. Senza titolo (Untitled), 1967, brings together natural materials and mechanical objects. A toy locomotive runs along a track mounted on the surface of a painting. Here, as in the artist’s work in general, Calzolari activates a dialogue between the organic and the inorganic, between the two-dimensionality of the monochrome sheet and the perspectival boundlessness of the three-dimensional object.
Scalea (mi rfea pra) (Monumental Staircase – mi rfea pra), 1968, is a freezing element made of copper, presented in the form of three steps on which rest a candle, a feather, and some metal letters that form the phrase “mi rfea pra.” In his iconography, steps and staircases represent continuous ascent and descent, symbolizing a progressive path toward knowledge, according to sixteenth-century art theories. The writing itself becomes an icon, in which the letters are images and physical entities, while the process-related aspect of the work, the change of state in the material that freezes through a temporal process of condensation, and the burning down of the candle reveal a dialectic between hot and cold, between the lightness of the feather and the heaviness of the metal, according to a principle of reconciliation of opposites that invites reflection and brings a mental dimension to the work.
Senza titolo (Untitled) (mortificatio, imperfectio, putrefatio, combustio, incineratio, satisfactio, confirmatio, compositio, inventio, dispositio, actio, mneme), 1970–71, is a large installation that palpably occupies the physical space. The origin of this work lies in the alchemical tradition, and the diffusion of light, as a fundamental element, enlivens this environment, made up of sounds, lights, and language.
Twelve lightbulbs hang from the ceiling. A narrow neon tube runs along each of them, forming the Latin words contained in the title. The writing alludes to the process of destruction and reconstruction of matter that is the goal of alchemical practices, but with a shift to a metaphorical level. Neon, a reductive material, cold as ice, and the sound produced by some speakers that repeat the same words, as if in an echo, are elements of the artist’s sensibility, referring to the idea of a work of art as enlightenment.
In Sedie (Chairs), 1986, two everyday objects made from terra-cotta, but with the seats made of lead, rest on a slab of the same metal, placed on the floor and connected to a refrigerator motor. A long breadstick is balanced between the two chair backs. Once the motor is turned on, the work changes with the passage of time, following a process of transformation of the material that is typical of the artist’s work. Icing over, the chair seats turn white, conveying the aspect of existence that passes, changes color and modifies.
In Senza titolo (Omaggio a Fontana) (Untitled – Homage to Fontana), 1989, material and immaterial light and a transformation of state reappear as fundamental elements of Calzolari’s work, in which the aesthetic dimension is reflected in the physical condition of the elements. In a symbolic homage to Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concepts, holes are made in a rectangular copper structure that is hung on the wall like a painting. Ice, absorbing light, enters into a relationship with the absolute space of the work and the physical abstraction of the material.
Colonne (Columns), 2001, is an installation conceived for the outdoor spaces of the Castello; it was inspired by an earlier version made for Villa delle Rose in Bologna. Three Doric columns, two covered in a patina of lampblack produced with an acetylene torch and a layer of mosses of different shades of green, are surrounded by a train track suspended from its top edge, along which a small train runs. The contrast between the leaden, gloomy but reflective material of the lampblack columns and the triumphant physicality of the gold color at their extremities celebrates the value of light, which the artist presents as an aesthetic and ontological revelation of a physical space, experienced as a place of enlightenment along a sort of ascetic path. The idea of movement (in this case the physical movement of the train) as change, and the suggestion of the landscape as an imaginative and evocative dimension, gives this work a poetic dimension. All of Calzolari’s work enchants, presenting a condition of existence through the elements’ process of transformation, and through the formation and composition of states of materials. Forms and objects in the process of becoming, their fluctuation from one dimension to another, their incessant modification, are a way of keeping alive the essence of art, a tool through which the artist conveys the images of his view of the world.