The title of Giuseppe Gonella's new solo show in Milan (Motta di Livenza, 1984), Echoes, metaphorically refers to the painter's pictorial trait made up of vibrant brushstrokes, chromatic reverberations and tonal dissonances that contribute to giving shape to his personal figurative universe. The canvas Simulacri (2022) leads the gaze into a sort of library-archive whose frames are like 'windows' on the world populated by objects and images that are the projection of desires or aspirations not yet realized, substantiated exclusively in the work.

In this world, the painting refers to the notion of simulacrum understood as an appearance released from a specific reality; we are not faced with the negation of a model, because the figures imprinted on the canvas by the painter are the pretext for giving shape to instances and events that have yet to manifest themselves. Secondly, the simulacra are understood as the ancient statues depicting divinities, to emphasize the importance and symbolic value of the objects that give shape to the domestic everyday life of each of us and that in recent years - marked by the digitization of life and social relations accelerated by the Covid-19 epidemic - has profoundly changed.

Some recent paintings by the artist are based on the predominance of black within which vivid glimmers of light appear: in Night ́s light, body and turtle (2021) a female figure wanders at night in a city with suspended and visionary contours where anything can happen and the boundary between reality and dream becomes blurred; the painted scene does not want to crystallize a precise moment, but to bring back the sensations of a hypothetical meeting of glances with the protagonist. The nocturnal climate distorts the objective vision, alters the forms, leads to a climate made up of unexpected epiphanies and alienating elements. Among them a series of small turtles which, perhaps confused by the glow of the city, are no longer guided towards the sea by the moon and are found swallowed up in the urban streets. Within this tumult of shades and panels, hands appear that seem to want to help small animals, but rather than a narratively coherent occurrence they are the inner thought of the woman, thus creating a multiplication of temporally and spatially dissonant elements in the canvas. In Mirrow (2021) the same nocturnal atmosphere is created through a particular black color that is the background to the features of a young woman inside a Berlin industrial building. In this painting there is a peculiar chromatic dimension played between darkness and sudden lights that reverberate in a mirroring surface, thus subverting the naturalistic vision of things.

In Gonella's paintings there is often a direct connection between the human figures represented and the context that surrounds them: in Something like a flip to inside out your world between worlds (2022) the human figure depicted is surrounded by a pictorial swirl that seems to evoke it. inner states and tensions. For the painter, in fact, the landscape is often the expressive theater of a whole series of emotional impulses such as the Eclipse canvas (2022) where the aerial point of view on the morphology of a city is the bearer of melancholy, nostalgic and perhaps uncertain feelings for the future.

Il titolo della nuova personale milanese di Giuseppe Gonella (Motta di Livenza, 1984), Echoes, vuole metaforicamente rimandare al tratto pittorico dell’autore fatto di pennellate vibranti, riverberi cromatici e dissonanze tonali che contribuiscono a dare forma al suo personale universo figurativo. La tela Simulacri (2022) conduce lo sguardo dentro una sorta di libreria-archivio i cui riquadri sono come delle ‘finestre’ sul mondo popolati da oggetti e immagini che sono la proiezione di desideri o aspirazioni non ancora realizzate, sostanziate esclusivamente nell’opera. In tal mondo il dipinto si riferisce alla nozione di simulacro inteso come un’apparenza svincolata da una specifica realtà; non siamo dinanzi alla negazione di un modello, perché le figure impresse sulla tela dal pittore sono il pretesto per dare forma a istanze e accadimenti che devono ancora manifestarsi. In secondo luogo, i simulacri sono intesi come le statue antiche raffiguranti delle divinità, per porre l’accento sull’importanza e il valore simbolico degli oggetti che danno forma alla quotidianità domestica di ognuno di noi e che negli ultimi anni - scanditi dalla digitalizzazione della vita e delle relazioni sociali accelerata dall’epidemia di Covid-19 - è profondamente cambiata. Alcuni dipinti recenti dell’artista sono basati sulla predominanza del nero entro cui appaiono vividi barlumi luminosi: in Night ́s light, body and turtle (2021) una figura femminile si aggira di notte in una città dai contorni sospesi e visionari dove tutto può accadere e il confine tra realtà e sogno diviene labile; la scena dipinta non vuole cristallizzare un preciso momento, ma riportare le sensazioni di un ipotetico incontro di sguardi con la protagonista. Il clima notturno deforma la visione oggettiva, altera le forme, porta in un clima fatto di epifanie inaspettate ed elementi stranianti. Tra di essi una serie di piccole tartarughe che, forse confuse dai bagliori della città, non sono più guidate verso il mare dalla luna e si trovano inghiottite nelle vie urbane. All’interno di questo tumulto di tonalità e pannellate, compaiono delle mani che sembrano voler aiutare i piccoli animali, ma più che un accadimento narrativamente coerente sono il pensiero interiore della donna, creando così nella tela un moltiplicarsi di elementi temporalmente e spazialmente dissonanti. In Mirrow (2021) lo stesso clima notturno è creato attraverso un particolare colore nero che fa da sfondo alle fattezze di una giovane donna dentro un edificio industriale berlinese. In questo quadro è presente una peculiare dimensione cromatica giocata tra oscurità e improvvise luci che si riverberano in una superficie specchiante, sovvertendo così la visione naturalistica delle cose. Nei dipinti di Gonella vi è spesso una connessione diretta tra le figure umane rappresentate e il contesto che le circonda: in Something like a flip to inside out your world between worlds (2022) la figura umana raffigurata è circondata da un turbinio pittorico che sembra evocarne gli stati interiori e le tensioni. Per il pittore, in effetti il paesaggio è di sovente il teatro espressivo di tutta una serie impulsi emotivi come la tela Eclipse (2022) dove il punto di vista aereo sulla morfologia di una città è portatrice di sentimenti malinconici, nostalgici e forse di incertezza per il futuro.

‘Echoes’ originally was written on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Echoes’, Galleria Giovanni Bonelli. Copyright © 2022 Carlo Sala


Carlo Sala is an art critic and curator working for various art magazines. As a member of Fondazione Fabbri’s Scientific Board he curates the modern and contemporary photography festival F4 / un’idea di Fotografia and the Francesco Fabri Contemporary Art Prize focused on emerging and International art. In 2010 he curated – together with Nico Stringa – the Venice Pavillion for the 12 International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennial. He collaborates with public exhibition venues and private galleries; he wrote essays for about thirty publications edited by among others Allemandi, Marsilio, Mimesis and Skira..



The paintings of the series, I, like (many of) you evoke possibilities of going beyond the first semblance of vision. Artistic vision is a threshold to cross over both forward and backward, towards the zenith and towards the chthonic world. Naturally, I am referring to an ecstatic experience, which is not just an imaginative projection but something capable of transforming perspective and the direction of thought. It is something belonging to the field of multisensoriality, to the polysemy of feeling. In going beyond, the potential of perception extends: one begins from an almost cosmic shift, from a vacuum enriched with chemistry, and begins from a transparent bed where anything can happen. Giuseppe Gonella begins with a darkness, one that includes fear, such as a journey on foot in a night full of noises and pitfalls. He begins with a black background, reflecting as little light as possible. This darkness provides a clean slate from which to begin again, to bring new appearances into the world. In this blackness, which exists in the first degree of the Great Work, one works with secret fire, making the luminous glows of the albedo appear. In “Night's light, body and turtle” (2021) and “Road not taken” (2020), the human body is immersed in a psychedelic space, where the encounter between figure and abstraction suggests the connections of transcurrence known to quantum physics, where past, present and future can coincide in the perception of a more extended instant. Each ever-present image continues its process of metamorphosis in the flow of becoming. In this dimension, colors are meant to be enjoyed and interpreted as a separate language, that of visionary seers, who transmit their perceptions of reality in a dreamlike way. Then, even the figurations take over. Yet, at the same time, the artist resumes the landscape within an ultra-thin advance, as through a digital space, where images form through processual passages, with various media, at different times, with multiple points of view. In his experiential paintings, nature is sucked up in the same kind of way a smartphone will buffer. In Night's light body and turtle, there is the figure of a material born through accident and incidence. A girl is walking towards the viewer (in Copenhagen). The setting is nocturnal. The work took shape while it was snowing outside. And the continuous descent of white flakes from heaven to earth simultaneously induced a dripping on the painting, as in a visionary state of ecstasy.

Giuseppe Gonella's confrontation with the endless stream of everyday existence enters into a diegetic relationship through investigation of the pictorial medium. The artist offers his investigation into the danger of lucidity. The answer is a powerful slap, as it has been rendered in multiple versions through the works "I, love (many of) you" and "The slap". In that powerful slap, a contortion of the body is represented, of a body that speaks of painting. But clearly this hand does not clash only with pictorial research. The image that the painter wants to represent has a much deeper core than the one that is made visible in that act of the slap. The artist reveals himself, for the first time, with a personality and transparency that become more evident than in previous times. It is perhaps a guide that does not represent the painter or an alter ego, but goes beyond autobiographical connotations, to evoke forces and issues that are more universal . The universality of the images is an important aspect and a conflict is created there, because in the universal there is a vulnerability, especially in the comparison of the artist to the other people he owes something, in the beacon that directs his research.

During the period of isolation due to Covid-19, Gonella, in his studio, imagined the comparison with figures of masters of the past, like a supertemporal trip. And the beloved artists appeared, as if they came to make a studio visit. The pinhole (in which visions of the past have passed) aspires to produce a fantasized image and to project it backwards into the artist's consciousness: Gonella evokes something similar to Courbet's Atelier; the transposition of a symposium with past masters that has not happened before, within a re-enactment that is not only dreamlike but also open to creative flashes, handover and potential development of intuitions. Little by little, whispers of images are formed, figures from the past that overlap with those of contemporary colleagues or friends, allegories of various interpretative declinations. The materialization of a failed dialogue has triggered new shifts. From here, the pictorial delirium has extended its connections and links to meaning. The set of figures has become an image full of dreams, fears, mysterious landscapes and irruptions of color, where the auras of the admired and loved painters shimmer. And now, again, everything is being called into question, awaiting new negotiations with what we call “truth”.

Translated by Dana (O.H.T)

I dipinti della serie I, like (many of) you evocano alcune possibilità di andare al di là della prima apparenza della visione. La visionarietà è una soglia da oltrepassare, al contempo sia in avanti sia all’indietro, verso lo zenit e in direzione del mondo ctonio. Ovviamente mi riferisco a una esperienza estatica, che non è solo una proiezione fantasiosa ma qualcosa che è in grado di trasformare il punto di vista e la direzione del pensiero. È qualcosa che appartiene al campo della multisensorialità, alla polisemia del sentire. In quell’andare oltre si estendono le potenzialità della percezione: qualcuno parte da uno spostamento quasi cosmico, da un vuoto arricchito di chimica, e qualcun altro da un letto trasparente dove ogni cosa può accadere. Giuseppe Gonella parte da una oscurità, in cui è compresa anche la paura, come in un viaggio a piedi nella notte densa di rumori e di insidie. Parte da un fondo nero, che tenta di riflettere meno luce possibile. Questo nero è una sorta di tabula rasa da cui ricominciare per mettere al mondo nuove apparizioni. In questa nerezza, che sta al primo grado della Grande Opera, si opera col fuoco segreto, per far apparire i bagliori luminosi dell’albedo. In Nightlights Body and Turtles (2011), Road no taken (2020) e Himmel oder Hölle (2021), il corpo umano è immerso in uno spazio psichedelico, dove l’incontro tra figura e astrazione rimanda a qualcosa che appartiene alle connessioni della trascorrenza secondo la fisica quantistica, dove il passato, il presente e il futuro possono coincidere nella percezione di un istante più esteso. Ogni immagine sempre presente continua il suo processo di metamorfosi nel flusso del divenire. In questa dimensione i colori sono da fruire e interpretare come un linguaggio a parte, quello dei veggenti visionari, che trasmettono per via onirica le loro percezioni del reale. Poi arrembano anche le figurazioni. Ma allo stesso tempo l’artista riprende il paesaggio dentro uno sfondamento ultrasottile, come attraverso uno spazio digitale, dove le immagini prendono corpo attraverso passaggi processuali, con vari media, in diversi tempi, con più punti di vista. Nei suoi dipinti esperienziali, la natura viene risucchiata come nel buffering dello smartphone. In Nightlights Body and Turtles c’è la figura di una materia nata attraverso l’incidente e l’incidenza. Una ragazza sta camminando verso lo spettatore (a Copenaghen). L’ambientazione è notturna. L’opera ha preso corpo mentre fuori nevicava. E quel continuo calare dal cielo alla terra dei fiocchi bianchi ha indotto nello stesso tempo un dripping sul dipinto, come in uno stato visionario d’estasi.

Il corpo a corpo di Giuseppe Gonella con lo stillicidio dell’esistenza quotidiana entra in rapporto diegetico con l’indagine attraverso il medium pittorico. L’artista offre la sua indagine al pericolo della lucidità. La risposta è uno schiaffo potente, così come è stato reso in più versioni attraverso le opere I, love (many of) you e The slap. In quello schiaffo così potente è rappresentata una contusione del corpo, di un corpo che parla di pittura. Ma evidentemente questa mano non si scontra solo con la ricerca pittorica. L’immagine che vuole rappresentare il pittore ha una chiave ben più profonda rispetto a quello che viene reso visibile in quell’atto dello schiaffo. L’artista si rivela per la prima volta con una personalità e trasparenza che diventano più evidenti rispetto a tempi precedenti. È forse una guida che non rappresenta il pittore o un alter ego, ma vuole andare oltre le connotazioni autobiografiche, per evocare forze e questioni più universali. L’universalità delle immagini è un aspetto importante e lì si crea un conflitto, perché nell’universale si è vulnerabili, soprattutto nel confronto dell’artista con altre personalità a cui deve qualcosa, alla luce di dove si sta dirigendo la ricerca.

Durante il periodo di isolamento a causa del covid19, Gonella nel suo studio ha immaginato il confronto con figure di maestri del passato, come in un trip ultratemporale. E gli artisti prediletti sono apparsi, come se giungessero per fare uno studio visit. Il foro stenopeico (in cui sono passate visioni del passato) aspira una immagine fantasticata e la proietta al contrario nella coscienza dell’artista: Gonella evoca qualcosa di simile all’Atelier di Courbet, la trasposizione di un simposio con i maestri del passato che non è mai avvenuto, entro una rievocazione che non è solo onirica ma anche apertura verso possibili bagliori creativi, passaggi di consegne e di possibili sviluppi di intuizioni. Poco alla volta vengono a formarsi bisbigli di immagini, figure del passato che si sovrappongono a quelle dei colleghi contemporanei o di amici, allegorie dalle varie declinazioni interpretative. La materializzazione di un dialogo mancato ha innescato nuove derive. Da qui il delirio pittorico ha esteso le sue connessioni e i collegamenti di senso. L’insieme delle figure è diventata un’immagine densa di sogni, di paure, di paesaggi misteriosi, di irruzioni coloristiche dove baluginano le aure di tutti i pittori ammirati e amati. E ora, di nuovo, tutto viene rimesso in discussione, in attesa di nuove negoziazioni con ciò che viene chiamato col termine “verità”.

‘Night´s light, body and turtle’ originally was written on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Night´s light, body and turtle’, Artemis Gallery, Lisbon, PT. Copyright © 2021 Mauro Zanchi


Mauro Zanchi his is professor, art critic, curator and director of museo temporaneo BACO (Base Arte Contemporanea Odierna ) in Bergamo (IT) since 2011. He wrote many Art Essay and critics with various publish companies and art magazines;  Among others Giunti, Silvana Editoriale, Electa, Mousse, CURA, Skinnerboox, Moretti & Vitali e Corriere della Sera. He writes for Art e Dossier, Doppiozero, Atpdiary e La balena bianca.

Walking Home


In his recent film Francofonia, Aleksandr Sokurov creates parallels between the fate of the artworks from the collections of the Museé du Louvre during the German occupation of the second world war and the story of the voyage of a - presumably modern - container ship loaded with artworks. In the film we can hear the voice of the Russian director in a series of phone calls with the captain of the ship as it is pummelled by waves and risks sinking, creating an emotional atmosphere suspended between terror and the sublime. The man steering the ship faces the decision to throw his precious cargo overboard to lighten the vessel in order to save his life. As the minutes tick by, the situation takes on the air of an epic struggle, where the ship becomes an arc containing the entire culture of Europe built on centuries-old values. Inspired by this film, the painting Outlying (2015-2016), by Giuseppe Gonella, portrays a voyage which captures the same expressive pathos.

At the heart of the painting is a porthole, through which we can glimpse a seascape where the spray of water thrown up by a storm helps create a vibrant pictorial composition. In stylistic terms, it is interesting to note that this is part of a recent series of works where the artist has abandoned his usual acrylics in favour of oil on canvas. Despite the fact that this change of technique necessitates the use of slower brushstrokes, the final result we see in the work is painted with a pounding rhythm that is all the more vibrant in its depiction of a tempestuous sea. The artist has returned to a technique that he had not used for many years in order to search for new challenges to the gesture of painting, which in this case is manifested through full-bodied masses of material, very different from the tonal brushstrokes so dear to the Venetian tradition he grew up in.

The virtuoso results we saw in previous cycles were elaborated through refined anatomical elements. Here they are substituted by a tension produced by the material, which contributes to the construction of a figuration that tends towards expressionism. In the painting we can see the figure of a woman with an undefined appearance. This finds its formal equilibrium through a number of patches of yellow colour that seem to engulf her in the whirling motion that spreads across the canvas. There is no point in seeking the precise identity of the veiled woman (nor should we fall into the simplistic associations with the stories of migrants we are bombarded with every day by mass media), because the artist rejects any kind of journalistic description.
In contrast to the approach we see on television or in social media, which generate ephemeral images destined to be rapidly consumed, his approach to painting seeks to deal with the themes in absolute terms in order to treat them like genuine contemporary allegories, far from any kind of subordinate relationship with reality. What the painting captures so well is not therefore the story of just one woman, or a specific population, but rather the challenge intrinsic to all voyages towards salvation and the desire for liberty that is central to the human experience throughout the ages.

Even more undecipherable is the symbolic scenario that we see in the triptych Fatamorgana (2015), which elaborates a subjective and dream-like transposition of natural landscapes. The first canvas, on the left of the work, presents us with a post-apocalyptic, dystopian landscape: zoomorphic figures emerge from the slime, salamanders that become a virtuoso compositional element, as their forms become one with the flow of the brushstrokes which bring the chromatic spiral to life. On the other hand, the trunk in the foreground brings to mind the admirable balance between naturalism and symbolism which adorned works such as L‘angelo della vita (1894-1895) by the Italian painter Giovanni Segantini. The uncertain horizon makes the context even more undefined, a mirage that is fascinating and disquieting at the same time. Continuing the reading of the work, we cannot overlook the way the central canvas constantly elaborates the rotary movement of the forms, from which an impassive angelic figure emerges. The placid detachment of the figure seems even more evident in the lush description of the hands, which instinctively move to protect the belly, in a pose that recalls the still rather rigid and statuary Madonnas painted between the Gothic period and the Renaissance. The juxtaposition between the chaotic surroundings and the indifference of the woman makes the figure seem even more mysterious, making it impossible to understand her true nature and the work in its entirety. This takes us to a dimension with an indefinable geography, beyond time and loaded with symbols. It generates an unsettling sensation in the viewer, suspended in opposing states of fear and fascination.

The element that unites many of Gonella’s works is the reference to fragments of memory and fleeting visions, translated in painting through the desire to keep a distance from a strictly mimetic vision. This is precisely what we see in the painting A Hair‘s Breadth Far from the Ultraviolet Garden (2015). Here the visual reminiscence of the strolling of a contemporary flâneur is imaginatively re-elaborated in the painting. The gaze rests on the interior of a garden, made inaccessible by a fence that seems to be mingling in some parts with a mysterious vegetation with un-natural colours, making it into a place with an arcane air.

Among the subjects addressed by the artist we also see pertinent cultural references, for example in the work Baal (2015). This is inspired by the Bertolt Brecht play, which tells the tale of the dissolute life of the young man who gives his name to the piece. Not unlike the director Volker Schlöndorff, whose Baal was played by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in 1970, Gonella makes the contemporary bohème into a hero, or rather an anti-hero. The painted figure, with his suspended and dreamy expression, echoes Brecht’s approach to shading the character with a touch of autobiography, or, if nothing else, with empathy. While Gonella does tend to elaborate the scene in absolute terms in order to make it a universal experience, every figure that emerges from his canvases is nonetheless a piece of himself, to some degree. In this way the young poet, that Gonella has unconsciously associated himself with, turns his melancholic gaze towards the floor and is surrounded by a fluttering mass of colour that seems to express the unavoidable nature of events.

In Portrait of the Court Jester Gonella - Tribute to Jean Fouquet (2014) there seems to be a touch of irony in referring to a historical figure who shares the artist’s name. However this work explores a curious subject addressed in a 15th century painting of the tale of a court jester described in many literary sources as the protagonist of numerous novellas. In Gonella’s work the figure is brought up to date with the appearance of a contemporary young man, caught in an unconcerned, un-natural and highly theatrical pose. We have seen that many of his works contain a dimension of complicity with his subjects, but the artist is also capable of producing self-portraits, such as Self-portrait - Milky Haze (2015). Here, his own image is shown within a vortex of material and colour, which has been the most emblematic aspect of his painting for many years, used as a way of expressing the eternal tension that underlies the human condition.

A more placid atmosphere can be seen in his female portraits in the series Yonder (2014-2016), where each portrait is an opportunity for exploring form. The figure in the paintings is always the same, head and shoulders portrayed in a series of different poses. There are significant stylistic variations to test a different way of deconstructing the form, or to develop abstract colour fields. These amalgamations of materials are taken to the breaking point, which we see in the most successful paintings, where there is a cancelation of the physiognomy of the face through the overlaying of an image that is divorced from the scene. In these works we can clearly see how the artist does not just transfigure the real world through memory, but also appropriates pre-existing images, or, as we see in Walking Home (2014-2016), he takes this even further, simulating the specific mimetic malfunctions created by digital errors. The painting shows a cat’s rear legs suspended in the foreground, the front of the cat is not to be seen. Gradually we are able to discern three incomplete human figures among the touches of colour. However, these shreds of bodies do not have the drama we see in the anatomy of Géricault or Goya, because they use the formal expedient of an optical and intangible deformation. The painterly gesture of Gonella seem to be reproducing a visual glitch, thus generating these glacial bodies, lacking any kind of carnal nature, which leads us to reflections on the problems of language itself. The impersonal condition of this flesh is juxtaposed in the construction of the artwork by the exuberance with which the oil paint is used. At times the brush is abandoned in favour of anything that comes to hand that can be used to work on these material surfaces and create the crumpling that at times recalls the frottages of the surrealist Max Ernst, and the sense of the unknown he wanted to create. As a result, there is a dialogue between two forms of chance in the same painting. The first is typical of today’s digital culture, the second is entirely object-based, analogical and part of modernity.

In considering the entire body of recent works by the artist, we can see how the true power of Giuseppe Gonella’s figurative painting comes from his ability to represent the anxieties, fears and aspirations of contemporary humanity, without resorting to a realistic narration. Rather he challenges the canvas with splashes of colour and material to make an existential content emerge, seeking evocations that are both intimate and universal.

Translated by Simonetta Caporale

‘Walking Home’ originally was written in the occasion of the exhibition ‘Walking Home’, Magic Beans, Berlin, DE. Copyright © 2016 Carlo Sala.


Carlo Sala is an art critic and curator working for various art magazines. As a member of Fondazione Fabbri’s Scientific Board he curates the modern and contemporary photography festival F4 / un’idea di Fotografia and the Francesco Fabri Contemporary Art Prize focused on emerging and International art. In 2010 he curated – together with Nico Stringa – the Venice Pavillion for the 12 International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennial. He collaborates with public exhibition venues and private galleries; he wrote essays for about thirty publications edited by among others Allemandi, Marsilio, Mimesis and Skira.

On the Eternal Return


A moment everybody knows and has experienced before: when our head slowly sinks into water until our eyes are at the water level, the gaze is divided and we literally float between two worlds. Below, the silence of the sea, and above, all the here and now of the world, the wind causing the waves to ripple, sunshine, light. Giuseppe Gonella calls the painting that captures this moment Under the Skin of the Sea, and it sums the theme of the exhibition: De aeterno reditu, on the eternal return.

Water is the origin of all life, and therefore it is significant that under that skin, life pulsates in the form of fluorescent particles, microorganisms that represent the beginnings of evolution, while at the same time, in the far distance in this world, the island Pontikonisi emerges from the water, probably the model for Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead.

The big, fundamental themes of time, life, death, and new beginnings that Gonella addresses in all his paintings are the contextual reference that holds the exhibition together and unifies it. His point of departure is the mural painted directly onto the largest wall of the gallery, showing a monumental landscape of ruins: collapsed columns, centuries-old witnesses that have already seen all the pictures of the life narrative that is displayed in the paintings. They will also accompany those paintings that this life narrative will have in store until its end. Two small canvases are framed by the mural: the Guardian of the Sun, a small yellow bird that appears repeatedly in the paintings, is juxtaposed with the Guardian of the Night, a sinister reposing faceless figure, enwrapped in a distorted chessboard-pattern. It is no surprise that Giuseppe Gonella refers to the chessboard, which is also a paraphrase of society, games where life and death is at stake, to symbolize the darkness of the night. Such contrasts like the ones evoked by Under the Skin of the Sea can frequently be found in the dialogue of the paintings. Each of these contrasts invites us to explore the field of tension created by it. Here a nursing mother, symbol of life-giving force, but also a kind of cyber creature, there the hint of the mythical creature Ouroboros that is self-sufficient: “The past bites everything in the future into its tail.”

In another painting, Reassuring Horizons, a figure dressed in a transparent rain cape walks through a destitute end-of-time landscape, while in Sunny Side Up several people, paradisiacally naked, are grouped around a huge tree trunk. Like DNA, neon-colored tracers run through the paintings, evoking memories and emotions. Sometimes bright plains grow out of these lines, fragments of color that together form the ground on which Gonella usually just intimates figurative elements. The humans in his paintings are rarely executed completely, rather, they are often depicted overlapping themselves, transparent, like in the two paintings In the Same Breath #1 and #2, as if they were not really present, but rather about to move between times.

Most of Giuseppe Gonella’s paintings bring together several moments, like snapshots that are elusive in terms of their temporality. This interplay between finiteness and infinity adds to the contested field of contrasts in terms of content an apocalyptic dimension. Acting for the beholder, the jester in Portrait of the Court Jester Gonella – Tribute to Jean Fouquet exposes himself to the immense impact of the paintings, and his terror is clearly visible in his pale face. Just like in Mente Locale, Gonella does not suggest that things will come to a good end, and it is not easy to face up to that. But there is some small comfort: his paintings show some kind of survival, even though it doesn’t seem to be the survival of humankind. We yearn to be back under water, Under the Skin of the Sea, in the dreamy silence and its colorful, pulsating particles from which life evolves, in the hope that evolution may take a different path, so that the peaceful paradisiacal vision, which Giuseppe Gonella can also paint, may prevail.

Translated by Wilhelm Werthern

‘On the Eternal Return’ originally was written in the occasion of the exhibition ‘De Aeterno Reditu’, Egbert Baquè contemporary, Berlin, DE. Copyright © 2014 Helge Baumgarten.