Giovanna GrossatoDual Natures


The most striking thing about this small-scale but visually intense exhibition by De Zan at Artge in Schio is the solo visual performance of the porcelain and stoneware pieces and the works on paper in black and white. While the former often create a two-dimensional impression, diminishing space from the stories they have to tell, the graphic items, on the other hand, use the relief of their shape to simulate a hypothetical third dimension. Some of the tablets show desert landscapes limed white by the moon, by a millennial wait for the sun. Drawn vases that flaunt their dual natures as paintings or real objects. True/false? Positive/negative? Or simply poetry reiterating its role as mediator between idea and phenomenon?

The patent ambiguity of certain works by Guido De Zan might lead viewers to think their participation is being sought by the sculptor in some way, in an approach characteristic of certain ‘monochrome’ or ‘kinetic’ artists. It is as if the work were awaiting the perception of the viewer before being fully defined through the process of use. Not so very far away, in other words, from the exploration of dual perception of a visual model found in gestalt psychology.

The programmatic use of ambiguity is in any case a typical modus operandi of poetry and music; it does no more than put forward and call into question the concept of time. An essential good, not a luxury, time is examined scientifically as continuum and philosophically as duration, with Bergson, Husserl and Wiener as the high priests of a new religion which seeks an antidote to death in a refashioning of the concept of time.

Quite beyond any scientific or philosophical connotations, however, the impression remains that De Zan’s refined porcelain, his drawings and the series of small stoneware vases (like colonies of barnacles in one light and perspective, or mysterious runic stones in another) are the subjects of an abstract, refined and ironical world, one which delights in playfully hazarding all on the precarious balance of slender sheets of porcelain, stacked up in a challenge to gravity and at the mercy of the merest devastating puff of wind that should happen to blow. One which delights, too, in playfully suggesting vague similarities with natural or mythical elements (is that a Tower of Babel or a series of gradually smaller cubes and cylinders, destined to stop well short of heaven with its undoubted, inanimate geometry? Are those bamboo tubes hollowed out for centuries, or elements of solids and voids, wrapped up in a spotless band to enclose the shade? Are those star points in the sidereal infinite, or merely dimensionless dots identifying a suspension of the uniform consistency of a plane?).

The titles are Towers and Rhythms, but the two things do not represent a dualistic system; art and nature are engaged here in a mutualistic symbiosis which is the bearer of aesthetic values. The primary end of art, namely the reification of a thought, is achieved to the full.

Recalling at times the rhythmical and structural invention of Fausto Melotti, in which the abstract severity based on research into harmonic values never subdues the lyrical tension, De Zan’s sculpture also performs another task of art: it combines and summarises reason and sentiment.

A satrap of his art, vaguely oriental for that certain sense of the essential, of purity – although one should not automatically look to Asian models to find the reason for the luminous linear elegance of his traits – Guido De Zan apparently wishes to concentrate on the small things, aware that they hold wisdom and beauty quite as much as those vastly larger, for which, indeed, they are the model.

2004