t hardly happens that, for us who observe every day works of art to feel emotions, astonishment or to keep memories of an image we have seen in an exhibition: our status of critics, on the other hand, force us to be detached and objective. Unfortunately, contemporary art is often the mirror of our times, where the message, even cryptic, is meaningful and thus different from the art of the ancients, who were able to join meaning with technical performance. As our ears hardly stand a squeaky music, our eyes normally reject colors badly matched on the canvas or a palette impurely pigmented, where grey and white nuances are everything but aseptic.

Contemporary art has now put in the background the crayon outline trace and the black and white narrative drawing. On the contrary, the lyrical creative work and the elevated technical performance are the main elements of Giuseppe Borrello’s figurative message. He, in these avant-garde times, where artists withdraw from beauty, is to be seen as a kind of heretic.

Giuseppe Borrello seems to respond with a sort of candour to the immanent negative view of men that for many painters is nothing else than cancellation or informal expressiveness. From where have we left? From which point does the long-interrupted dialogue re-start, with a recognizable representation? With such questions on his mind he continues on the ancient masters’ way, he gets back to their love for the truth of men, to the elevation of the figure, in the beauty natural and spiritual at the same time.

fig.1. "Argenta", 1994,
monochrome pen
Giuseppe Borrello, before creating the human figure out of the whiteness of the paper, looks for it into his own communicative soul. In the portrait of a little girl of 1994, "Silver" (fig.1), a self-explanatory result of biro-pen monochromy, he highlights the brightness of the eyes and the premonition of the future in the cut of the mouth, which is the centre of a sweet and unarmed face. It is a rare and unimagined work in the current outline of contemporary art, where the world of children has the same ugly features as the world of grown-up people.

Can you tell the "beautiful" from the "plain" in art? This is a difficult question that E.H. Gombrich, the great English expert in art history, posed to himself before a small-size work by Rubens, crayon on paper, representing an old mother with her face and her "vulgar" hands on her lap. The old lady does not convey messages of beauty and purity as a young one does. Conversely, she can put the observer ill at ease. However, if the old figure is drawn by a sensitive artist, capable of portraying the soul and the humanity both transitory and ancient, the miracle may happen. This is also, in my opinion, the case of "Old man’s head" (fig.2), made by silver point by Giuseppe Borrello in 1993. It is the extraordinary representation of the old age’s disguise, where the lost beauty of the face is replaced by the realistic features of a wise at his end.

fig.2. "Volto di vecchio"
1979, monochrome
pen
fig.3. P. Annigoni,
"Volto", red chalk
on paper
fig.4. "La Greca",
1992, monochr.
pen

Undoubtedly, Giuseppe Borrello is the heir of that art current called "Painters of reality", that had started in Italy during the late ‘50s and to which Annigoni (fig.3), Sciltian, Antonio and Xavier Bueno belong. Like these, he does not transfigure what is real, but sublime it in details of beauty joined with sacrality. Another example is the drawing by monochrome biro-pen called "The Greek" (fig.4).

He gets sometimes from pensive and objective to intimistic, he faces topics related to the landscape of Calabria or to the solitary narrow streets of his native village, as he does in the evocative "Foreshortening of Sant’ Agata" (fig.5), made in 1992, which is again the result of his great ability in using the monochrome biro-pen. He is as much virtuous when he uses the metallic point in silver, gold and palladium (like in "Uncle Castore" (fig.6) of ‘94) or only gold-silver) ("Naked woman sitting" of ’94) (fig.7). This mediterranean artist from Calabria, even if living in Turin, goes beyond his geographical borders, and becomes citizen of a world of his own when his past stands as pure mirror of an existential condition.

fig.5. "S. Agata,
casa della Pupa"
,
1992, monochr.
pen
fig.6. "Zio Castore",
1994, metallic
points
fig.7. "Donna nuda
seduta"
, 1994,
metallic points

His works are jewels of painting, mature outcomes of a patient texture of infinite parallel lines put in diagonal, that he overlaps in amagical playing with chiaroscuro.

fig.8. Hen bone
powder
He prepares his paper with bony flour and a special glue spread on the bearing (fig.8). Giuseppe Borrello follows wisely the ancient potion by Leonardo and Cellini. He knows the art of meticulous composition, made of interior concentration, the ancient but still new technique of silver, gold, platinum and palladium point. His drawings come out of extremely tiny traces, where the platinum works as an authentical engraving on paper, thanks to the softness and the pasty and elegant monochromatic result. The mochromy itself fades to black as a consequence of the alchemical transformation of gold and platinum, whereas silver turns into reddish magma.

Giuseppe Borrello’s soul is devoted to the lesson of the Ancients. His images could not come out in such a perfect way if he had not kept in his mind and heart what in 1300 Cennino cennini wrote, that the drawing must be considered as the "milestone of Art" together with "colouring".

Giuseppe Borrello’s drawings are now finished like pictures, whose monochromy and nuances stand as magnificent painting.


Turin, 9 January 2000
Paolo Levi