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STEFANO ANNIBALETTO

As long as the Earth was thought to be flat, the seas were imagined to plunge into the void with a deafening roar as they reached their outer edges. We do not know where those waters crashed, but sailors refused to sail too far from land. The idea of a world incapable of containing its liquids and bodies clashes with our logic and knowledge. And yet this surface, now insufficient, had unexplored areas where lions were believed to live, and for many centuries it was large and mysterious enough to host universal mythologies, still able to dialogue with our lives, and archetypes that have entered into a collective unconscious that is still palpitating. After all, the entire history of painting, right up to the cubist collages of Picasso and Braque, also took place in a compressed portion of space. Lucio Fontana dared to gut it. Ugo Mulas photographed him in 1965 in a famous series of shots: the artist points the blade of the cutter at the canvas, his arm outstretched and his eye motionless as if he were a surgeon about to make his way towards the sharp truth of the cure. There is no such ruthless rigour in the papers that Franco Beraldo has been preparing for some time now. They are sheets prepared with broad strokes of a very diluted tempera, which is therefore not very opaque, which cross each other with regular lines and the counterpoint of a measured and discreet dripping. The colours are the vivid ones of his recent palette, bright reds, yellows and blues borrowed (together with their liquidity and transparency) from Murano glass work. Beraldo tears up these papers (breaking up the linearity of the painted text) and puts them together in new combinations, in a structuralist game reminiscent of Italo Calvino's metanarrative research. At times the tiles overlap, at times the fragments take on different shapes and draw new geometries on the background. A similar, joyful "painting with scissors" gave Matisse a new voice in the last, most fertile period of his life. After his illness, he was often bedridden and with his 'gouaches découpés' the artist created 'a little garden to walk around'. With a similar fictional impulse, Beraldo creates the wings of intimate possible worlds: he builds accordion screens with his cut-outs to surround himself with, folding paintings, to collect in albums, to take with him on his travels, papers that are even humble in their sincerity but alive, stretched between laceration and beauty, impregnable in the ideality of their generative tale and for this very reason heedless of their boundaries. One can read in the background the landscape sensitivity that Beraldo dominated throughout the first, long phase of his activity, that Morandi-like economy expressed in the simple forms, in the dull lands, in the uniform light assimilated during his long stays in Sicily. By the early years of the 2000s it had already exploded into a refined and enthusiastic colourism. The volumes had become abstract, the contours had become signs, the masses had become backgrounds worked in superimposed layers with a tasty and evident ductus. Like all rites of passage, those works in which genre painting, however personal, begins to slide towards a freedom that is not yet complete but already conscious, are exciting. The large canvases of those years vibrate with a controlled but continuous impulse; in the links to other experiences sometimes shared with Venetian artists of his generation, from the inevitable homage to Afro Basaldella, Beraldo's are elegant, often perfect efforts to refine the language towards a formal cleanliness that is also and above all a chastity of the gaze. Now the thinner tempera has brought out the white. Subtraction after subtraction, the paper transpires from the pigment and in some works today Beraldo grafts new lifeblood into certain atmospheres evoked in the past by Venetian space artists: masses of earthy browns, abysses of blue, wedges of carmine emerge from the white. Worlds of extreme naturalism in which the organic reference of colour revives the ancient and never forgotten landscapes. Light takes the upper hand, even when its absence is staged: a cycle of blacks has recently appeared, gentle but decisive, velvety and thoughtful. Giving up the view, the forms, the chromatic paste, the colours, the signs, requires courage. Stripping away one's own discourse exposes the nakedness of the truest intentions. Beraldo believes unreservedly in painting.

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