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Giorgio Griffa

Giorgio Griffa is an Italian abstract painter whose works on unprimed and unstretched canvases are nailed to the wall. Griffa initially completed a law degree in 1958 and became a practising lawyer. From 1960 to 1963, he learned how to paint by assisting the Italian painter Filippo Scroppo (1910-1993). Despite early associations with movements such as Arte Povera, pittura analitica [fundamental painting] and Minimalism, his work has always stood outside the mainstream currents in contemporary art. His visual language is simple and universal, comprising lines, dots, geometric forms and repeating linear patterns, which are often used alongside letters, texts or numerals. Another distinguishing feature is the artist’s preference for diluted pigments in luminous, desaturated colours.

He has created eleven major cycles, ranging from the early Segni primari canvases to his recent Dilemma paintings. Each grouping possesses a start date but is otherwise open-ended. Furthermore, certain works belong to more than one category since Griffa’s creative trajectories—typically inspired by music, mathematics, philosophy, poetry and literature—often intersect and coalesce. Many paintings contain elements that can, in theory, be continued indefinitely (e.g., the numbers in the Fibonacci series) or which are extracted from a larger whole (e.g., lines from a poem). This creates the idea of a ‘before’ and ‘after’, be it of a sequence, pattern or text.

Giorgio Griffa (b. 1936, Turin; lives and works in Turin) participated in important international exhibitions such as Prospekt, Düsseldorf (1969 and 1974) and the Venice Biennale (1978, 1980 and in 2017) as well as Processes of Visualized Thought: Young Italian Avant-garde, Kunstmuseum Luzern (1970) and A Painting Exhibition of Painters who Place Painting in Question, curated by Michel Claura, Stadtische Museum, Monchengladbach (1973). A selection of recent solo exhibitions were held at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2022); Villa Romana, Florence (2022); LaM - Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, Villeneuve-d’Ascq (2021); Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto (2020-21); Camden Art Centre, London (2018); Mies van der Rohe Haus, Berlin (2012); MACRO, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2011).

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Sophie J Williamson on Giorgio Griffa

On the occasion of Luce buio (2022)

Exhibition

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