On the clouds

When Laura Trevisan told me that her challenge was to paint the invisible, I immediately thought of Mahler’s saying that what counts most in music are never the notes themselves. In fact, independently of the medium of expression, the main task of an artist is to take us to that silent and invisible space which is the source of every authentic work of art. It is this space which confers to an art–work its meaning, and which is at the origin of that enhancement of our awareness and vitality which great art communicates to us.

In her series on the clouds, Laura Trevisan literally pushes to the extreme the process of evaporation of matter which has been at the centre of her work for many years. European painters have been fascinated by clouds for several centuries, at least since the Renaissance. One only needs to think of Andrea Mantegna, an artist who was essentially interested, in the words of Portuguese writer José Saramago, in the ‘intrinsic minerality of the world’ and thus in rendering what Bernard Berenson called ‘tactile values’ – but who, paradoxically, has painted in several works the ethereal and impalpable element of the clouds, seeing in them sometimes recognizable figures such as hidden faces or even – in a painting now in Vienna – a man on a horse. With the passing of time, clouds have progressively moved from the background to the fore of pictorial representation. For example, for Monet and the impressionists the theme of painting was above all the rendering of the atmosphere, for which clouds are of course on of the main defining elements.

But besides it obvious relationship with the European tradition of painting, the theme of clouds is part of a dialogue, which has animated the whole of Laura Trevisan’s career, between east and west. Impermanence and change are at the root of the vision of the world of the millennia-old traditions which from India and China have then spread throughout the whole of Asia, and which starting from the twentieth century have had an ever increasing influence on our culture. In fact, clouds are the impermanent element par excellence: they allow ever new forms to be represented and suggested, without ever reaching a permanent and definitive state.

Stefano Grillo