he usage of the metallic point as an instrument to produce signs is one of the most ancient means of expression of the human being. The first examples of figurative art, in fact, date back to the Stone Age and were obtained by engraving the rock with very sharp flint. With the spreading of metals, the stone has been progressively abandoned in favour of new materials which had proved to be harder and more resistant and which allowed to use different supports.
They soon realised that the effect of a metallic point on a certain surface was not limited to the mere engraving : the oxidation, in fact, coloured the metallic trails, as Plinio the Old had already pointed out as regards the lines found on calcium stones.
The first metal to be used was lead, as it was particularly soft and malleable. Nevertheless, such qualities were at the same time its limits, too : its softness deformed the points, making them imprecise and unsuitable for creating finished works.
Better results were obtained with silver points, with which many works of major artistic value were created over the XIVth and XVth Centuries. Clearer lines, the presence of chiaroscuro and of different levels of perspective as well as a better finishing were the main characteristics of such works. It can be assumed that golden points were also used, but we have not any record to prove it.
Together with the development of new engraving techniques, new supports were experimented such as papyrus, small boards, parchments, medieval and modern paper. Incidentally, the evolution of paper was a basic factor for the performance of the metallic trails and the chromatic tones subject to oxidation over the years. Major artists like Leonardo and Cennini were aware of this and left many comments and notes accordingly.
However, from the mid-XVIth Century the technique of “metallic drawing” is less and less used until it is replaced by other techniques which entail an easier and faster execution and do not require such a complex preparation of the surface. The metallic drawing is, in fact, a slow and difficult technique, that does not give space to any correction or modification, and that requires a long period of assimilation, learning and artistic maturity.
This is why the re-discovery of metallic points belongs to contemporary art : in these latest years, in fact, this technique has been re-experimented only as a result of Giuseppe Borrello’s tenacity and creative rigour. He did not only mean to revisit the classical tradition in a modern way, but also to search for new materials which could function as painting instruments. Beside the already known gold and silver, it was the case of copper, palladium, platinum, titanium, which were tried for the first time by the artist from Torino with highly suggestive results, such as the preparation of the background, obtained after several complicated chemical experiments which made the paper supports, both white and coloured, suitable for “being written”.
The model of the ancient workshop as a place of research and culture, is now popular again. Here the meticulous attention to acts and materials creates a stronger and more human relationship between the artist and his work.
As already said, the execution is quite complex : once the support is ready, the sign is created by engraving the surface with the correct pressure of the point. The infinite number of strokes put one close to the other will create the images, enriched by a remarkable chiaroscuro and a final chromatic property determined by the oxidation of metals. We know that trails left by copper will turn to green, silver ones to brown, gold will turn into black, whereas, because of their recent experimentation and their long period of oxidation, we still do not know which is the chromatic solution of palladium, titanium and platinum.
But this is part of the strength and oneness of this technique, new and ancient at the same time. As the oxidation is a constant process which never stops, works made with metallic points will be affected by a slow and inexorable transformation as well as a slow and continuous chromatic change. Therefore, we are in front of a dynamic work, in which the line, the drawing and the sign turn into suggestions of colour and become painting.
Torino, 15 Dicember 1999