Published in July 2022, the catalogue entitled ‘Enrico Pulsoni 1975-2021′ explores Pulsoni’s artistic production, listing his numerous experiences and revealing the thread of his ‘poetic discourse’. A discourse that is striking for being simultaneously clear and elusive, as all true discourse is.
It is difficult, almost impossible, to condense the life of a person into a book, regardless of whether they are an artist – even a book hundreds of pages long. And when we are talking about an artist, even trying to condense just his art into a maze of neat, yet still chaotic, pages seems an arduous and inconclusive task. This is because the images of the works, the critical texts and the archive photographs can only hint at a world that, between past and present, stitches back together the thoughts, choices and actions of the creator of these artworks. The difficulty becomes even greater, in the case of this book, when we take into consideration the entire output of an artist like Enrico Pulsoni, so eclectic and experimental regarding different media, always in touch with the past and yet never old-fashioned, meaning that those who are leafing through this tome find him difficult to place. A task that is utopian at best, but extremely important for ‘ordering’ (immanently) and ‘caressing’ (transcendently) the thoughts and actions of almost half a century, including paintings, artist’s books, terracotta, metal and papier-mâché works, but also a lot of theatre, which unlike the intimate and saturnine propensity of painting and sculpture, is made up of a common space, relationships and reactions.
These two worlds of Pulsoni constantly collide in what may seem contradictory, but actually represents the vital spark of his artistic output. The contemplative propensity of his painting production counterbalances the artist’s nature as a ‘catalyst’ for events, situations and important collective artistic productions such as that found in the artist’s book series cinquantunosettanta (fifty-one seventy) and Duale (Dual).
This artistic essence of being at once one’s own self and in one’s own time is a typical feature of a certain artistic production in Italy in the1970s: precisely the period in which his first works on paper appear, moving between geometry, collage and conceptualism. Then, at the dawn of the 1980s, in the wave that was to prove the immortality of painting, canvases painted in a neo-expressionist style began to appear among Pulsoni’s works which, work after work, page after page of the catalogue, became a highly personal, profound and ironic poetics between sign and image – at times darker, at times more playful – always with metaphysical characteristics, poised between figurative and abstract, primordial but not at all verbose, a profound insubstantial sensory encyclopaedia based on sight. One of the most interesting high spots is represented by the VoltiTraVolti series, but the sculptural works also embrace the other senses in a synaesthesia strongly in line with what these two-dimensional works already hint at, despite their being naturally dominated by the eye.
And so, after the introduction to the artist written by Antonello Tolve and the long pictorial sequence that has already been mentioned, further on in the catalogue, we find the artist’s books, often in a single copy, and often ‘sculptures’ in their own right, with their own spatial property relating to the content without suffocating it in form, in total harmony. These are followed by the terracotta works, produced from the 1980s onwards, and the works in metal, produced in the following decade.
In these sculptures, on the one hand, there is a clear continuation of the artist’s pictorial poetics in the third dimension, whereas on the other, the importance of the sign (graphic or iconic) that transforms the works into a puzzle or, better still, since we have spoken of metaphysics, into an enigma. This places the brain in relation to the eye (also the case in books and in some of the pictorial production), but in three-dimensional works, both these also relate to touch (even to be understood in a trivial way as a synaesthetic nerve impulse or as a consideration of the O’Dohertian ‘spectator’).
As we continue, we find a small number of pages referring to papier-mâché works and here there is once more something or, rather, new nuances of a poetics that is always faithful and yet ever different, never falling into the trap of ending up as an epigone of itself. These sculptures, which include the formless – in this ‘theatrical’ material so relative, fragile and light yet compact and resistant – in the different series (Dagenerati, Sogni di spettri, Mementi molli) together with the environmental work Tragedia degli esclusi, represent an excellent transposition of the artist’s painting: pictorial sensations that, while remaining ‘sensations’, bypass Space to become the (in)consistent matter of the life of the spectator who stands before them. Theatrical essence without theatre, pure acting of shapeless meta-human objects that become actors of essence – when they are not actually a fundamental part of a theatrical performance, as in the case of Sogni di spettri (Dreams of Spectres).
Much more could still be said, perhaps being prompted by and letting ourselves be helped along by the poetic and critical skill of the numerous personalities in the extensive critical anthology edited by Giulia Perugini at the end of the catalogue. Contributions such as that by Enrico Cocuccioni who defines the artist’s work, in a 1984 article in leArti news, as being stimulated “by a tactile attention to the material of painting. From a calm, light-handed automatism allowing fleeting gestures and allusive signs to proliferate, to perhaps a secret biology of the image”; or, to remain with the topic of painting, the text by Paolo Balmas, who wrote in Flash Art, in 1983, “Enrico Pulsoni’s painting with its acerbic and extremely refined tones, with the evidence of its structural vocation and the surprising breadth of its suggestions and suggestiveness is a beautiful, confident and vibrant proof of the vitality […] of that splendid motion of the intelligence, the irreversible conquest of thought and senses that is called abstractionism.”
Or we find, by using the artist’s autobiography in the third person, pages full of events and curiosities which, through the biographical data, exhibitions the artist took part in, fragments of critical texts and personal reflections, give both an objective and subjective sense to the story of an ‘artistic life’. The catalogue ends with a sentence that sums up so much of Pulsoni’s artistic practice, which is based on drawing, an element in the artist’s books that is explored in depth, in the paintings or sculptures that are always present under the surface, and the foundation and motivation of a magmatic art that finds meaning in the impulse of its making: “But”, as the artist says, “drawing forms the basis and guiding thread and, at times, it veers towards a geometric quality that pushes it towards sculptural reductionism. Conversely, if the drift takes on a figurative quality, this then leads to the fragile creations with all the spectres, more or less talkative, that inhabit it”.