“ Understanding the lights of Taverna 

    by  Gian Paolo Prandstraller,

prof.  Sociology- University of Bologna


To  interpret  Attilio Taverna, I would like to choose an epistemic approach, that is to

locate this artist  within the effort of “ getting to know reality”, an effort that inevitably interests all of us.

I dont believe that a strictly aesthetic glance can explain the work that he has undertaken or allow the understanding of what he is trying to achieve.

 It is a common notion that art has been for almost all its life a modality of representation. It has diligently conceived its object reproducing nature as the eye sees it, even if through several subjective modifications.

The nature, from which art has borrowed, is the one that for centuries has integrated the perceptive reality, the land, the landscapes, the figures of human or other kinds, the sky, the sea, the clouds and so on. An identity only recently denied has been produced/happened between the “ object “ of the art ans “ nature “.

A nature of which  artists have come to discover, with time, new and unknow aspects, even if they did not abandon the idea that these aspects were a part of the body located under the control of the senses.

 Even under a social point of view, art has undertaken the job of reproducing the natural existence, and through the proof of that, it has performed several functions like illustrating actions of important men, facts of religious history, features of persons, and similar functions.

Functions that if we want are secondary to the human activities dedicated to survival but that, through the notion of “ form” were fully within the field of “ knowledge”.

Art has been an investigation concerning the form, the outline of natural identities, the recipients within which are collected the various parts of reality.

 For a very long time, art with its specific means has tried to find an answer to the question “ what constitutes reality “ ?  a basic question in the cultural experience of man. The answer has been : the visible forms of reality  are these and those, this is one aspect this is another one.

This approach, that we could call representative, was in large part abandoned by artists at the beginning of this century; and the most syntomatic mode of the abandonment has been giving up on the idea of “ form”.

 Art has destroyed form in several ways, all know by its recent history : destroying the figure and messing up the parts that comprise it, forcing within abstract lines the outlines of the object, emphasizing phenomena that do not obey to any rule, underling the randomness of the possible events, having colors preemp the line, using uncontrollable automatisms ect.  The decision of art to abandon form has appeared during the century, to be substantially incontestable.

It did away with nature in the way we percive it with the senses and as a consequence has assigned to the artist enormous discretion. By eliminating the form I will call naturalistic, the artist has become a true and proper arbitrator of the intrinsic essence of reality.

 Reality has been transformed into something completely subjective, created exclusively by the artist. At this point it is no wonder that the  “ act” of the artist has become the true experiental field of art; being no more a representation of reality but rather an outpouring of the internal vitality, of the turmoil inside the artist. From here derives the tendency and the impulse to transform artistic action into pure a simple “ performance”, intrinsically identical to any other action of life that man has to undertake to remain on earth.

From here, derives the identification of art with life ( daily, of every day) that arises in the second part of the century; for this reason accomplishing an action in art, being present as identifiable subjects on the canvas or in the sculpture, being photographed as living statues, leaving weak remnants of ourselves, accomplishing some actions of importance, all of this is art.

 At this level the old concept of “ death of art “ dissolves into the  new concept that art is nothing else than life, with the thin distinction of that “ sense” that characterizes the conscious expression of life, left naturally to the artist. After arriving to such a conclusion, it becomes logic to give artistic value to any object, as many artists learn to do  - from the ironic lesson of Duchamp  -  taking for their own the formae mentis of the antique animists that assigned a soul to the forest, to the river, to the volcano, to the treetrunk, elevating, for example, this last one in a totem pole, to an object loaded with value and supernatural pecularieties.

 Thinking this way the question “ what constitutes reality “ ?  remains as we would say hanging, given that reality that counts is no longer the natural one, but rather the one that the artist  - animist  -  is able to impose upon an object of which what matter is no longer the true form but the sacred charisma imposed by the same artist.

 Let us now return to this crucial question, and ask ourselves if the contemporaneous science has added any new possible answers when compared to the times in which reality was offering itself in its macroscopic aspect.

In my opinion the answer is positive. It is natural to identify in “ quantum mechanics”, the physics of the elemetary parts introduced by Plank at the beginning of the century, added to the “ relativity theory “ by Einstein, a vehicle of a new way to see the structure of reality.

 Being a way of discovering an infinitesimal reality and of establishing the characters, this derivation of the physics represents an entrance to the “ intrinsic form” of what exists. And this form is all to be explored, an open field of investigation, very attactive, even seductive. Well, this is the place to which Attilio Taverna addresses himself  -  I am finally talking of him -  whose research, for this reason, must be interpreted as a tentative to visually penetrate the “ quantum reality “ that you cannot see with the naked eye even if it forms the-in-depth tissue of every identity.

 Taverna proposes to observe it through the expressions of painting, and it is here the radical risk of this tentative, given that now that are well know means for that purpose, the technological means with the contemporary man is provided, like the machinery used by the physicians, the computers and so on.

The challenge of Taverna is here : to utilize painting as an instrument of investigation of the “quantum world”, even knowing how limited the instruments of painting are.

Such an undertaking of risk is nonetheless motivated by Taverna in the idea that painting  can “aesthetically  see ” better than science the “ quantum space possible “, the geometric declinations of that context, the infinite modulations of the element that makes it visible :  the light !

 Science investigates this space through its equations, through a mathematical approach that emphasizes its formal relations, without offering its vision. The equations in fact are not visions. The particle accelerators show trajectories, networks of signs that indicate the existence of the particles, but one again they do not offer an open view of the reality constitued by the particles.

 The painting instead can have access  - says  Taverna – to the concealed world of the new forms, to the complexity of that invisible that has now become visible. And if art does not take advantage of this supreme opportunity to become a transit toward the mysterious reality of “ quantum”, it has fewer paths in front of itself.

In fact, the other road, to be a performance and life, cannot maintain its charme for a long time. It can even become the indefinite fall of a time full of falls in which everithing is homologated to the vital flow and in that way risks to drown in it.

 For this reason, the intention of Taverna is not a gamble, but a conclusion of a reflection on art, developed in a moment in which, in front of an art transformed in life philosophy, it is necessary to open to the idea of art as penetration and knowledge of what has not been yet represented.

It is at this level  - affirms Taverna – that art plays its role, its reason for being.

 It seems understandable that moving along this line, Taverna does not feel with the normal sufference the problem of originality as the “ invention” ( a problem that nowadays influences more than anything else artists that derive from invention both their personal identity and differences with other artists ). Some else torments him : an urge to discover, given that he has in front of him an unknown reality, noticed and penetrated only in this century from the science of the elementary particles.

A similar reality is the object of cognitive acquisitions that were not possible before and that have now become readily accessible.

 But to “ discover”, we need to take into account what the others have discovered before us. As everybody knows, science has until now proceeded, according to principles called natural laws; their listing has been nothing more than an ordering criteria on the basis of which it was possible to forecast the phenomena. In an absolute and eternal way, it was affirming the classical physics  - from Newton to Laplace.

Nowadays the natural laws are considered probabilistic, but that does not mean that the principles have ceased to be important. They still are important, and the “ searcher “  Taverna knows it quite well. And, in fact, in his effort to know reality, he relies on principles set forth by scientists of this century. Before naming them it is necessary to say that they are the support to a conviction that, once again legitimizes

Taverna’s effort.

 The conviction : in our century, Physics eclipses  - if we can say so  - the substance to become an eidetic experience; and  it is the “ way of going” or vectorial direction of the light that is beyond this change. Richard Feynman, as our artist remembers, gets awarded a Nobel prize in the sixties because he has found a way of representing the interactions between the elementary particles and the “ way light moves”. He has created the “ Quantum Electrodynamics Theory “ that predicts the interaction of light with substance, how the photons get converted into electrons and vice versa.

 Here is then, from Taverna point of view, the intersection between the science of the elementary particles and light  tout-court . It is light, he claims, that is the primary elements that the artist has to analyze; in the ways indicated by recent “quantum theory”.

 So the antique conception of Plotino, that was transcending the platonic theory of Beauty through the postulate  you cannot give a theory of Beauty without involving light ,  is elevated by Taverna ( through an excursion that we could call a brief history of light from antiquity to our times ) to an investigation of light as the revealing element of the quantum nature of reality.

An investigation that has a precise goal : make live spatial eidetics that were not there before, reveal spaces the existence of which we did not suspect the possibility of before.

In other words:  the goal is to point to the discovery of the unknown spaces, whose vibrations filled with breakage, broken rhythms, strange contorsions, asymmetries that are ready to be investigated.

 The confrontation  of Taverna with geometry, “ the measure of entities “, but in a new sense, happens in this terrain. Investigating reality means now understanding geometric essence that take into consideration the hidden reality. This cannot be done without taking into consideration certains principles described by the “ quantum physics “, and keeping in mind that in a physical existence a randomness rule commands from which derives the dominion of chaotic reality over the linear one, that is the impossibility of predicting the trajectories of particles with certainty.

 The principles by which Taverna becomes the visual applicator are :

 a)       “ the principle of indetermination “, of Werner Heisenberg (1926) according to which throwing a quantum of light over a particle in order  to identify its position, you alter the state of the particle, with the consequence that it becomes impossible to establish its direction and future positions with certainty.

 b)       “ the exclusion principle of Wolfgang Pauli “,  according  to which in the same quantum place you cannot have two particles with identical quantum characteristics.

 c)       “the principle of overlapping of phases in space of Hilbert”, that identifies the place  - not place -  where the particles appear.

 Such factors already give the measure of how difficult is in last analysis, the result of their moviments. But if we add to them the concept of “ Chaos “ ( the idea that the evolution of trjectories is not exactly predictable ), we have a more adequate measure of the uncertainty that the researcher must face if he wants to represent the profound reality in the frame of the vectorial dimension of light.

And this in fact, by what I can understand, is the drama in which Taverna finds himself;  he must manage himself between physical principles and chaotic movements.

It is possible to notice in him the effort to overcome the contradiction between the concept of unpredictability and one of Form  :  if, in fact, it is not possible to predict the road that the particles will take with certainty, how is possible to set the form deriving from their trajectories ?

It is a contradiction similar to that one that the scientists of chaos face. Even if they know that the majority of reality is unpredictable, they try to capture its manifestations with models able to control the development of the same chaotic reality.

 It is understandable that Taverna is looking for a way to get out of that aninomy. On the theoretic level, it seems to me that the most solid argument to which he can anchor his approach is the concept of "“negative entropy ", that is, that in reality ( physical existence ) there is a trend that opposes or fights the total chaos, creating a new, unknown order, after the preceding order has reached its end.

It is like saying that in every phase structures of a new kind ( we imagine them more complex than the preceding ) are possible and consequently create new forms.

 This concept seems to represent to Taverna an escape road to defeat the impossibility of predicting, and so of representing the quantum dynamism of reality.

On the pictorial level, instead, he faces the above mentioned difficulty through operative means whose aim it is to interpret the ambiguity and the never-ending complexity of all that exists.

Without thinking of representing them all, I will mention the following : “ the simmetry breakage, the squareness, the perceptive transparency, the use of color to assert differences “.

 A brief illustration of each of these lines, that sustain both his concrete realizations and his differences as an artist from the other artists. The simmetry breakage is conscious antinomy with respect to that system of order and relation that is present in the majority of the traditional painting. Simmetry means that to each form corresponds to the hypothesis that the elementary particles describe, in their rotation, overlapping, vibration, a germinal form that gives a minimum of structure to what would be otherwise completely without a form.

As to the perceptive transparency, it is a psychological concept of perception for which we are allowed to catch several dimensions of the space, several orders of level, through a glance addressed only to the superficial  ( Taverna declares in this point his debt toward Metelli, a psychologic professor of the University of Padua, who gave important contributions on this subject ).

As for the color, there is nothing better than looking at the paintings of our artist to understand how he uses it to exalt the distinctions that light emphasizes; I believe that in Taverna the color is a profound maker of ontological differences, a never-ending revealer of complexity. Without the color, the entire pictorial operationalization of the person who tries to perform such a task, becomes impossible. And this is, luckily, a typical attribute of painting.

All the theories from which his art finds a ( justification ?), for this reason cannot substitute the direct vision of a painting. It is in what we call “ phenomenology” the final explanation of his artistic thought ; giving a definite form to what appears and that is seen thanks to the light ; the base of all appearances and all differences.

Not certainly an indication of original truth of what appeared, but a significant mixture of sensible elements, of forms. Through it, it is possible to discuss the differences of Taverna from the all the other artists that before him have pointed their sight toward the new reality, perceiving rationality, or just with the instinct its appearence on the art scene : men like Malevitch, Mondrian, Max Bill, Dorazio, Vasarely, that Taverna calls “ my uncles, my relatives” and to which he recognizes his intellectual debt even if affirming his originality in the effort to understand the complicated and ambiguous perspective that contemporary science has put in front of us.

Naturally, all of this would be pure abstraction if in the level of the sensorial realization an imaginative component would not intervene ; it does not leave but instead reiforces intensively the cognitive intent. Such a component ( nowadays admitted and recognized also in the sophisticated world of science ) gives for natural vocation the best of  itself  in art.

Nonetheless the characteristics of Taverna ‘ s  imagination is that it is based on ideas, it is built on principles, and for this reason is never purely arbitrarily, free, and irresponsable. And this is what makes more significant the intervention of the Artist in a field still so distant from the common sense, a field that he not only indicates but also cultivates laboriously because he has seen clearly the fundamental point :  there is  in front of us a “ new reality “,  all  to be explored ,  all to be appreciated.


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