Sumptuous and rational, Baroque and minimalist, classical and anti-classical: continuing and renewing a millenary tradition of thought and creation, Arrigo Musti’s painting is worked out through the paradoxical logic of oxymoron and union of opposites, with that gift of revelation and magnificence that only Sicily has the power to give and to distil, thanks to a history that has its roots in the millennia and in the origins of a culture extended from the Mediterranean to the whole of Europe.
Arrigo Musti, a Sicilian from Bagheria, is an artist who does not renege contact with his homeland, but immerses himself in the vital archetypes of a place whose radiant power he feels and on which he has chosen to found the theoretical and visual bases of his painting system. A further charming paradox of Musti is his ability to evoke a kind of archaeology of the uninterrupted presence of the arts in Sicily, but without falling into evocations only linked to the past and deliberately distant from our present issues in a linguistic, communicative and stylistic sense. Indeed, Musti manages to converse with the history and grandeur of the extraordinary artistic experiences that have followed one another in Sicily over the millennia through a wholly contemporary vision that does not forget some of the greatest avant-garde experiences of the twentieth century. Arrigo Musti’s work is set, indeed, in a personal and independent way in the current context, cleverly blending references to the history of art with pressing and highly topical issues like the defence of the cultural heritage, historical memory, landscape and environment. In this sense, Musti shrewdly starts from rigorous research on the style, form and physical body of painting, the central and indispensable locus of all research that combines a refined formal quality with a solid conceptual core.
In the last two years Musti has chosen to go over an inner geography of memory and nostalgia without losing the tension of his research, celebrating the absolute and scattered magnificence of places, buildings and works that make Sicily unique and at the same time evoking its loss, as happens in the sumptuous cycle Beautiful Decadence of 2012, which evokes balconies, Baroque portals and empty rooms of old buildings with a feeling of the inevitable end of an era and of a civilization that finds in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (and in the movie by Visconti) a clear and magnificent reference point transformed into painting made up of voids and vibrations, centralizations of pulsations of colour and suspensions that seem to be shot through by the echoes of ancient voices that resound in the labyrinth of dust and time.
In his most recent cycle, Drops, 2013, Musti, as happened to his great predecessors who made the “sublime” choice of reduction, has left behind painting seething with ferments of colour, in pulsating density and spreads of colour that quiver on the support in a decided kindling of contrasts. He has moved on to light and monochromatic material, made up of a spatula stroke just hinted at that, thanks to rigorous and targeted choice of the support, creates a thin or dense relief, just sketched on the smooth canvas without the roughness of some previous works. These works can paradoxically represent a synthesis that starts from the images of classical masterpieces cited in the paintings, which form a sort of archetypal root of art in Sicily. They fit into a line suspended between ornament and rigor that could unite the absolute clarity of the decorations of Giacomo Serpotta with the tendency to overcome the disorder and freedom of expression that can link the work of Antonio Canova to that of Lucio Fontana, in the dialectic between the original ferment of matter and its sublimation in the idealized territory of immateriality.
The result is a series of works in which painting moves further and further away from the iconic element towards a style that borders on abstraction composed through slight and quivering and roughness that is combined with a stringent minimalist organization often based on use of bright colour that is almost lysergic.
Arrigo Musti thus immerses himself in an inner flow that aspires to emerge from time to touch the point of intersection between the image and our personal and collective vision, drops down into ancient statues to trace out a geophysical mapping of inner space through spreads of colour reassembling the ancient faces of the sculptures like light waves that break those dark millennial faces dividing them, allusively, again in the metaphorical oxymoron that fuses the conscious and clear space of their features and the nocturnal territory of an unconscious and devouring shadow surrounding their light to drag it into the dark and devouring vortex of oblivion.