Tokyo Morandi Variation and Reminiscence / Text 2

EN /

After my stay in Japan and Tokyo, in particular, inspired by an exhibition I visited about Morandi, I would like to realise the following project. The Italian artist Morandi painted still lifes throughout his entire life; variations of forever the same thing, arrangements of empty bottles and jugs; in this act of repetition he filled the empty objects with questions of perception and enquired about the inner coherencies of “reality” and the possible variance in its constitution. His life was dedicated to one thing alone and, as such, he was connected to other artists of the 20th century, who placed the act of repetition at the centre of their work. In always dealing with the same subject, Morandi also questions the path of artistic creation in a general sense and the working process as the result of small adjustments of the body and space, in particular. To view a group of Morandi’s paintings can be reminiscent of listening to a fugue by Bach. He repeated certain groupings again and again, whereby each time he would vary the harmonic modulation. Morandi was a composer of form, who was inspired by repetition as the discovery of the new. Composition in general is an unresolved area in artistic work. In the very smallest of deviations and the repetition of variations, composition questions one’s perception of reality. In the repetition of ritual gestures, each time the same and yet each time different, one can recognise the perception of perception; what reality can mean for an individual and their memory. This is the variation of fugues with one subject, the possibilities of which are endless. This can translate as if viewing an object for the first time; the object is always the same, yet our perception of it is different every time. Such a premise leads to the question of whether monotony, as with Morandi, meaning repetition, is in fact a form of objectivity. Does this question also arise in music? (E.g. Morandi Recall Bach). The chosen works of art can be the expression of an emotional impulse or a reasoned construct. Taking repetition as a subject places the traces of the past in the present. Repetition and objectivity are terms that are closely linked to one another. The exhibition aims at exploring both terms, in order to approach a further question: What happens when one separates form and material from one another? Is this possible in visual representation to the same extent as it is in music? Why does it make sense to separate form and material from one another? A possible answer is that separation can make change comprehendible. When something changes, something else must stay the same. Otherwise no change may be observed, but rather merely utterly different states. This can, for example, mean that the material has changed (content), yet the form remains the same. This thought can also lead to another question: What happens when the separation of form and material (or content) is observed from the other side? What happens when that which remains the same is not the form but rather the material or the content? As such, formal variations of material can occur, which are identifiable with one other in these variations or of content, which are identifiable with one another in these variations. The separation of form and material (or content) allows not only the explanation of change, but furthermore the comprehension of differing forms of content or material. As such, the observer can comprehend perspectives and levels of meaning. That which is observed remains identical to itself even from differing perspectives or when observed differently, while our perception is permanently changing. That which is observed is the material, which appears in the differing observations, yet which always remains the same, while the way in which the observer views things is constantly redefined, always dependant upon how they perceive the world at any one moment. Therefore, while observing the forever-same thing, they can learn something about themselves. A further theory that can be discussed during the exhibition is that material always possesses a form; yet that material must not always be viewed. It can also exist in the world without a single glance ever falling upon it, due to the fact that, although it remains unobserved it is yet a worldly material, requiring nevertheless a form. What form does material have in the world, which is not viewed from a single perspective? Or, if no perspective is paralleled with all perspectives: What form does material have in the world, which is viewed from all perspectives? Is this the idea of the “empty room”? Does the idea of the “empty room” also exist in music? This unique status of “that which is empty”, which can lead to a special form of “awakening”, a sudden “recognition”, can be found in music, dance, the visual portrayal of time and various other artistic forms of expression. It leads us to the term “Living Joy”, which art historians associate with the painting of Matisse and Cezanne. Both are contemporaries of Morandi, who were a great source of inspiration for him. In identifying perspective and form, the relationship between form and content can be resolved to a great extent. It is the search for that, which beyond all or from all perspectives, forms the material or the content of the world. The search for this can also be the action of forever redefining the form of a material or content, as is the case with Morandi. He shattered the world into fragments and reconstructed them. The philosophical idea of the proposed exhibition project is that the nature of space is something, which can be expanded and changed. In this context, “flatness” can, as a possible “true” nature, present the opportunity for its expansion and change. Can this idea be “danced” or in which form can it be realised musically? Morandi was constantly working on form. Morandi’s paintings display the passing of time in the exact moment of the present, time was the subject, to which he dedicated his life and his work. He acted and painted in a short period of time on the endless repetition of various variations. Morandi worked on one thing alone. His focus was working on form. The pure action of simplification, as in Morandi’s pictures, was his way to order his own perception and to penetrate the very essence of reality itself. He asked how we perceive reality. “We know that everything that we, as human beings, can see of the world of objects, does not really exist as we perceive and understand it.” (Morandi) For him, the parts represent the whole, the infinitely small mirrors the infinity large. The world on a micro scale is for him the world on a macro scale. “It is not important to see many things – but to observe accurately that which one does see”. (Morandi) “I have discovered that all of the misfortune of mankind touches on the single fact that they can not remain alone in their rooms.” The fact that Morandi set himself boundaries, imposed restrictions on his choice of objects, experimented with an endless series of variations on a single theme, still life, all corresponds to a decision. In this sense Morandi’s life is the epitome of “Living Choice”, a form of self-determination, which in his case resembles a type of contemplation not unlike that of a monk, a reduction of things to their simplest and absolutely essential form. As with Cezanne and Matisse, the viewers of the pictures are not only drawn to contemplation but also to a sense of joie de vivre, to “Living Joy”, in the way that these works can be interpreted, akin to Cezanne and Matisse and their pictures.


Love and thieves. Morandi considered painting an adventure without having to leave the house. He never travelled to Paris, London, NYC. He spent almost his whole life in Bologna. He remained there while his pictures travelled the world. The most unique and eloquent show of love for Morandi appears in the story of what happened in Florence, in a room of the gallery at Palazzo Pitti. A small oil painting by Morandi with an unusual round form was exhibited there. The picture was stolen and never seen again. The person responsible for the theft can perhaps be forgiven or at least shown an amount of understanding. They left a hand-written note on the naked wall, which exclaimed “I love Morandi”.


Morandi’s studio was crammed full of objects and materials. In conversation with Arnaldo Beccaria, Morandi admitted that, “I should find the strength to throw them out, otherwise they will just get more and more, and I’ll be ruined.” “Did you know that Japanese painters don’t throw away their used brushes – they bury them?” The metaphor of the intentionally burnt brush can also be seen as a metaphor for disappearance. Morandi’s work lies beyond the boundaries of our language.


Initially it seems as if there is no point of contact between Morandi’s traditional paintings and minimalism. As a painter, Morandi expressed his discovery, while Morris expressed the audience’s experience of his work. Bottles, jars, pyramids, cylinders, the simplicity of the forms that both artists used is no coincidence. Morandi and minimalism are connected by their choice of objects.


During a conversation about Giotto, Morandi answered the remark that bodies are the answer to feelings and that they are magical: “In terms of magic … I understand nothing of magic. I trust only my eyes.”

Text: Maria Hinze
Übersetzung/translation: Pete Littlewood
Danke an/thanks to: Reimund Mimuss