Purple Art

[January 31 2018]

A Q&A with artist Giorgio Griffa

The first major exhibition of the radical Italian abstract artist in the UK, Griffa’s show at the Camden Arts Centre captures a range of his minimalist work from the 1960s through to today. Painting onto raw canvases, which are carefully folded and stored in between shows, Griffa’s rigoruous, almost religious practice connects with the basic elements of art, time and space.

Jethro Turner — Much of your work is concerned with the golden section/ratio – what makes it so endlessly fascinating for you?
Giorgio Griffa — 
The Golden Section is a story by numbers of the Orpheus myth. Orpheus descends into Hades, he physically enters the unknown, doing what Arts of all times do. Painting uses the visible to enter the invisible. Also the Golden Number enters the unknown. It will never finish and never grow because 1.618 will never become 1.619. It moves beyond the borders of reason.

Jethro Turner — 
For many years your work was best known in Italy. Why do you feel it is resonating so well with international art audiences now?
Giorgio Griffa — 
I had the chance to meet people that know how to make my work known more broadly. History is also made up of lucky encounters. If it wasn’t for the Scrovegni family, Giotto would had never painted the Padua Chapel.

Jethro Turner — How and why did you decide to mix the new and the old paintings in this show?
Giorgio Griffa — 
My work has always been the same. My signs belong to everybody’s hand. I proceed by a rhythmic occupation of space and time, one sign after the other. The paint never covers all the canvas. It remains suspended. Formal differences between time and works do not come from an hypothesis of progress. To me, they are more like physiological variations.

Jethro Turner — 
You often paint with the canvas on the floor and as soon as the paint is dry you stop? What does this bring to the work?
Giorgio Griffa — 
Liquid paint laying horizontally on the ground changes during the drying. It penetrates the canvas or paper following its physical intelligence. It also brings with it the spiritual intelligence that humanity has attributed to it in at least 30,000 years. My hand is at the service of the intelligence of matter.

Jethro Turner — You’ve lived and worked in Turin for most of your life. How does the city express itself in your art?
Giorgio Griffa — 
I don’t know how to reply this question… Maybe it’s the fact that Turin is a city of work.

“A Continuous Becoming” is on view until April 8th, 2018 at Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London.

Text Jethro Turner and photo Ekaterina Bazhenova-Yamasaki

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