Paolo Ricci, born in Rome, Italy in 1939.
From the age of twenty, he has resided abroad in Weisbaden, London, Amsterdam and Chicago. In Italy, he has lived in Rome, Como and Castiglion Fiorentino.
In his early years, Ricci studied in London at a school directed by a student of Kokoschka. His work is thus infused with traces of 20th century Expressionism combined with the contemporary nuances of the New German School. His Expressionistic style, reinterpreted through a personal perspective, is characterized with a semantic richness of images and charged with a kinetic energy that envelops everything strange and peculiar.
Ricci’s stylistic and thematic formation draws its inspiration from a profound understanding and assimilation of a long pictorial tradition. The representations, imbued with a chromatic richness that at times transforms the images into highly decorative fragmentations derive their inspiration from the Spanish Romantic School, the Masters of Vangeli of Aachen and of Rossano, Bibbia of Bury, the illuminations of Byzantine manuscripts, The Master of Bertram and Russian icons. Among the inspiring artists we find: Bosch, Sassetta and Grunewald-for their attention and emphasis of the metaphoric and figurative forms; Fuseli and Blake- for their in depth study of dreams and the unconscious; Rouault, Sickert, Boccioni, Cominetti, Bonnard, Nolde, Van Dongen, Soutine, Bocklin, Kirchner, Bacon, Baselitz, Buttner, Fetting and Penk for their study of color and painterly treatment of the spiritualistic deformation of images; and the alchemic drawings of the “Philosophia reformata” of J.D.Mylius.
The poetic imagery of the artist is born from a continuous philosophical and mystical search for a hidden and unattainable absolute, perceived and represented as a mysterious central core- the dark heart of Being. The images describe an existential thought that searches for the essence of the world and the reasons for the human condition in the face of death and Nothingness.
Many figures are derived from the Eastern and Western Cultures: Buddha, the Saint, the Tulpa, Christ, Lao Tzu, the Circle of life, the Mandalas, mythical images juxtaposed to vortices. From the artist’s viewpoint, the Eastern and Western cultures offer wise and often complementary morsels that serve to nourish the spiritual formation of man. The representations are journeys of a mystical tension analyzed through the logic of reason. From here springs forth a type of mystical atheism that ponders Nothingness, characterized by a figurative language balanced between the sacred and the profane.
There are many quotations from history, from literature and from poetry. The recurring characters are the images of Odysseus and the Greek ship that symbolizes the spiritual pilgrimage of man towards a return to consciousness and salvation; the centaur Chiron that renounces immortality and personifies the desperation by contemplating the silence of God and things; The Grail who recounts the inner turmoil of his search for the sacred to fill his empty soul.
The vigorous brushwork creates a structure in perpetual ascending or descending motion. The tension is further charged by a visual energy polarized by the futile struggle of the deformed bodies and figures that seem suspended above an abyss and whose gravitational pull that bears the weight of the universe is about to annihilate them.
Saintly, demonic, angelic and monstrous representations encircle and entangle as if suspended above the void of Nothingness. They are linked in an ethereal plane and forged through a warm and chromatic palette creating dramatic images that seem to enter the realm of dreams.
The viewer advances, breath abated, approaching the continuous restless motion that defines and deprives the figures and forms. And never absent, even in the moments of highest tension, is the ironic fusion that assembles and characterizes the various representations.
The ghostly movement of the works in acrylic are soothed in their more static representations by means of the larger oils on canvas. The themes intertwine the mystic journey with a political and historical reflection of the events of our times. Among the personalities depicted in their figurative essences, we find: Pol Pot pondering his bloody destiny; Berlinguer dressed as a Tibetan monk; Stalin redefined as a painter of a sacred icon; Bonifacio hurling through the infernal hole of darkness.
Every truth interpreted from the reality of history is translated into metaphorical images that speak a language with an immediacy far removed from linguistic hyperbole.
An obsessive attention to detail is manifested through a demonic and mysterious description of the world. Images of strange beings wander, without respite, among the papers and canvases opening holes that peer towards the Beyond leaving a streak of energy that remains in a state of unresolved anguish. In this sense, one can interpret the representations of the tormented beings as being entrenched in their own oscillating contemplations of Nothingness that emanate from antique architecture, from ancient compositions and from antique images of borderless metaphysicians. Time becomes images, space and silence.
Pain, suffering, death, the discovery of Nothingness, the eternal spiritual quest, the descent into the long night of the soul, joy, mysticism, the dreamt irony that accepts the mystery, the tension wrought by the unattainable absolute, and how to ascend to the dark inner core of Being are some of the principle themes of these visionary works.
The works in acrylic are representations of a book of poetry entitled: “From the Western Book of the Dead” written by the same artist.
Paolo Ricci lives and works in Devon, England.