Superficie bianca

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  • Provenance

    Arte Duchamp, Cagliari
    Private Collection, Cagliari
    Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    The elegantly ordered canvas of Enrico Castellani’s Superficie bianca offers the viewer a dizzying configuration of positive and negative protrusions which toy with the picture plane. These projections afford the work an almost sculptural quality, drawing attention to the canvas’s spatial existence, and invite the viewer to approach the work from multiple viewpoints. A key figure in the development of Minimalism, Castellani achieved these oscillating patterns of height and depth by stretching the canvas over a background of carefully ordered nails producing the signature protuberances that mark his seminal artistic practice.

    Light dapples across the textured surface of Superficie bianca; the interplay of light and shadow in the present work is exacerbated by Castellani’s decision to invoke a dazzlingly pure white palette. The concave spaces in the canvas subsume the eye whilst the convex areas jut out at the viewer, breaking into our peripheral space to initiate a revaluation of our pre-conceived notions of two-dimensional painting. The asceticism of Castellani’s canvas works to subtly create new painterly semantics, one that is universal and founded upon geometric figurations. In his creation of a unique and innovative visual language, Castellani abandons the painterly mark of the artist, instead focussing upon recurrent structures to disrupt movement and balance.

    Castellani’s relentless obsession with transporting us to a higher plane of understanding is exemplified in the artist’s vast creative output, a testament to the expanses these works aim to harness. Castellani has voiced his fixation for capturing the immeasurable in his practice, sparked by a need to rework traditional methods of painting: 'the need to find new modes of expression is animated by the need for the absolute. To meet this requirement, the only possible compositional criterion is that through the possession of an elementary entity - a line, an indefinitely repeatable rhythm and a monochrome surface - it is necessary to give the works themselves the concreteness of infinity that may undergo the conjugation of time, the only comprehensible dimension and the yardstick and the justification of our spiritual needs' (Enrico Castellani, 'Continuitá e nuovo', in Azimuth, no. 2, Milan, 1960). Superficie bianca stretches into the unknown to carve out Castellani’s own explorative experiment into spatial dimensions, a progressive step in his quest to discover a new painterly language.

    Shattering the borders separating painting and sculpture, Superficie bianca appears to bend space and time according to its own hypnotic rhythm. Its ability to simultaneously embrace the infinite and the void captures the viewer’s attention, yet it retains the ability to elude full comprehension. In the present work Castellani has fashioned an immersive space that locks the viewer’s gaze and holds it under its sway, its soft rising and falling lulling one into a state of transcendence. Through the artist’s expert mastery of materials, Castellani’s vast expanse of detailed peaks and troughs create a meditative arena, prompting us to enjoy an evocative moment of heightened reflection.


Superficie bianca

signed, titled and dated 'Enrico Castellani "Superficie bianca" 1987' on the overlap
acrylic on shaped canvas
100 x 120 cm (39 3/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1987, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Archivio Castellani and is registered under the archive number 87-020.

£250,000 - 350,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £267,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2018