Matteo Massagrande says, “In everyone’s past there is a room of which we remember the light that it was filled with.”
As an 8-year-old he had a building of such rooms to explore in his aunt’s country villa in Italy. He roamed its park, which was “a mix of very little spaces and ample expanses of light…It was inhabited by all sorts of animals, geese, cats, dogs, ducks, enormous empty aviaries…and a bamboo forest that my 8-year-old eyes were perceiving as a jungle. The park was all mine. I had the freedom to explore it in every season, at any time of the day. The villa, on the other hand, was a real mystery, save for the few rooms that we were living in…
“It was a completely new space to me,” he continues, “very different from the city house I was coming from… I still remember that I was not stricken by its richness but by the atmosphere, which I would not have been able to describe as a child but that I can now define: it was a magical and mysterious atmosphere.” “I was cautioned not to climb to the upper floors, and not to go down in the basement…I obviously did not follow this suggestion,” he adds. “Every room was filled with different colors and lights, which were slowly revealing themselves while, without making any noise, I was opening the blinds of the large or small windows…and I was arranging the blinds according to the amount of light that I thought would have made the room beautiful. Since every room had been decorated with different shades of color it seemed to me that every time I was entering a different place…to this day, whenever I choose to depict a place, I am actually opening the blinds.”
His paintings of empty, once well-loved spaces will be shown in an exhibition at Pontone Gallery—the new home of Albemarle Gallery & Shine Artists in Cadogan Gardens, London, from November 23 to December 31.
The spaces are composites, sometimes jarringly so and sometimes very convincing. “The idea of space for a painter is not a volume,” Massagrande cautions,
“but rather a shape that it occupies within a composition…My idea of space cannot be separate from the idea of ‘vision.’ Within my paintings I always want to create harmony between solid and empty areas, between light and dark areas, between colored and achromatic areas…be they still lifes, landscapes, interiors…these things are the foundations of my visions, and I love to see the subject from several points of view even within the same painting, to create that feeling of immanence that I always felt. These places are almost never real, because reality is not enough to me.”
Massagrande’s “spaces” embody an idea and are the result of his experience, knowledge and skill. The viewer gazes over the surface of the paintings entertained by the varieties of light, color and shape. One is inevitably drawn in by the illusion of space and is confronted by a slight disorientation. One can mentally stroll down the loggia at midday without event in Mezzogiorno but be stopped short by conflicting angles and patterns in Sera. One returns to admiring the subtleties of light and color and experiencing the magic and mystery they evoke.
1Sera, oil on board, 27½ x 39"1