Giorgio Griffa


Torino 1936

Giorgio Griffa was born in Turin in 1936; he started to paint as a child under the guidance of traditional painters. In 1958 he graduated in law and started to work as a lawyer. In 1960, feeling the need for a new period of artistic training, he enrolled in the private school of Filippo Scroppo, a Torinese abstract artist who had been a member of the Movimento per l’ arte concreta (MAC). For three years he attended the lessons, although the works he produced  in  this period were all in figurative style. In the following years he proceeded to progressively reduce the representative elements, without adopting a truly  abstract  style, until  he  produced  his first nonrepresentational works, the cycle entitled Quasi dipinto. In this cycle he made the choice of unfinishedness that was to become a constant feature of his work. He displayed these works in 1968 at the Galleria Martano in Turin. In 1969 he started to exhibit with the Galleria Sperone, also in Turin, and in 1970 he had shows at lIeana Sonnabend’s gallerie’s in New York and Paris. It was in this period that he associated with the exponents of Arte Povera, whom he recalled on the occasion of his exhibition in 2000 at the Galleria Salzano in Turin as follows: ‘The intelligence of the material wasn’t used as a tool for new syntheses of form - which, however, was inevitable - but it became the protagonist of the work, with the artist’s hand at its service. Similarly, since l’m convinced of the intelligence of painting, I put my hand at the service of the colours that encountered the canvas, limiting my involvement to the simple gesture of placing the brush.’ For about two years, from 1973 to 1975, he painted almost exclusively horizontal lines: these consisted of a continuous line that was repeated - that is, by a series of brushstrokes placed next to each other horizontally. In the following years, series of different signs started to coexist on the canvas. Griffa began the cycle that he called Connessioni o Contaminazioni (Connections or Contaminations), a modified version of the previous cycle entitled Segni primari (Primary Signs). This was the period in which the artist’s relections of a Minimalist nature paved the way for new thoughts on painting’s and sculpture’s remarkable store of memory. In reality, Griffa wasn’t a Minimalist and Paolo Fossati has clarified the difference between Griffa’s work and Minimalism, but this was the climate. So it was that in 1979 he painted a triptych, not by chance entitled Rilessione (Relection), consisting of three large canvases dedicated  to Matisse, Klee and Yves Klein  respectively. This triptych, displayed in 1980 at the Galleria Martano in Turin (and then at Lorenzelli Arte in Milan), constituted the first step towards another cycle, which was eventually entitled (in 2000) Alter Ego. In this, each work was dedicated to artists of every era. With long pauses, this cycle continued for thirty years. In the 1980s there was a notable development of the cycle entitled Contaminazioni. The signs were often accompanied by areas of colour of varying size, creating an indeterminate account amidst the memories of painting. At the beginning of the 1990s Griffa started the cycle Tre linee con arabesco (Three Lines with Arabesque) in which each work, whether it be on canvas, a drawing, a watercolour or an engraving, contains among the other signs three lines and an arabesque. These works are numbered in the order in which they are executed: the most recent is number 1,661. The numbering is intended to establish the position of the individuai work within the series and, at the same time, to remind us of the fact that they belong to this series. Later in the 1990s Griffa began another cycle in which he made use of numbers. This was the cycle entitled Numerazioni (Numbering). Here, in each picture, the numbers indicate the order in which the various signs and colours composing it were applied. The numbers are intended, on the one hand, to underline the order in which the pictorial event takes piace and, on the other hand, the development of this event, with one sign after another in both time and space. It should, however, be noted that there is no possibility of development or progress from one cycle to another, but there is merely  the presence of differrent aspects of coming into being. Thus, rather than following one another, the cycles overlap, intersect and coexist next to each other, perhaps remaining suspended for years and then started again. The cycles Griffa has produced in the 2000s confirm this aspect: in fact, their origin dates back to twenty years previously, at the end of the 1970s. The cycle Alter Ego, with its references to other artists, such as Piero del la Francesca, Tintoretto, Joseph Beuys or Mario Merz, originated from the triptych of 1979 entitled Riflessione (Reflection), passed through various works of the 1980s and 1990s and clarified its identity with a group of works in the 2000s. In its turn, the cycle entitled Sezione aurea (Golden Section), which regards this endless irrational number caracterizing its mathematical aspect, avails itself of the transparencies of the tarlatan canvas that were already a feature of Griffa’s great work Dioniso (Dionysus) of 1980, which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in that year. Griffa has also published various texts: Non c’è rosa senza spine, 1975; Cani Sciolti Antichisti, 1980; Drugstore Parnassus, 1981; In nascita di Cibera, 1989; Il principio di indeterminazione, 1994; di Segno in Segno, with Martina Corgnati, 1995; Come un dialogo, 1997; Approdo a Gilania, 1998; Intelligenza della materia, 2000; Nelle orme dei Cantos, 2001; Interview conducted by Flavia Barbaro, GAM Turin, 2003; Nota sulla rappresentazione dello spazio, 2003; Post scriptum, 2005; Graceful (with F. Melquiot), 2007; Sezione Aurea - 1,61803398, 2008.


  • 10/15/2003
  • Giorgio Griffa. Opere recenti.
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  • 02/09/2016
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  • 01/27/2017
  • Arte Fiera Bologna 2017
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  • 05/04/2017
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