There is a limit that separates true artistic work from the creation of merely functional forms. Both are a result of manual work and belong to the sphere of creativity in general, but within this sphere, certain distinctions should be drawn between what is creation and aesthetic reception, and what belongs to the sphere of experience. The distinction, I believe, is reflected in the unequivocal intention behind artistic communication against the more generic expressive function of an object of use. This means that the product which is the result of aesthetic experience has as primary postulate the need for a level of communication that rejects, or gives little importance to the utilitarian relationship that comes about between the object and its possibilities of usage. The limit, in this sense, is the measure of the work, the space within which the operator decides to work. A measure of intentions but also metric measure, an explicit sign (and therefore conspicuous) with its precise topology, on the surface of the product.
For Alberto Argenton, the limit is that thin line which separates the rational from the irrational.
The key to his work is given by the author himself in the series of watercolours entitled “La corda pazza” [the crazy line] (1983) and still further in the critique he gives, with explicit reference to Pirandello’s ambiguity; “we all have three watch-springs, as it were, in our heads: a serious one, a civil one, and a mad one…” (II berretto a sonagli).
The work of this author, however, has more than three registers and follows the almost inexhaustible multiplicity of the curves of his musical graphics which may however be contained within this narrow strip of territory, the limit, which is crossed in both senses with no restriction or shame. It is this openly showing his play on the rational and the irrational, rather than sheer mastery of his work (which obviously exists in an artist who had his first one-man exhibition more than thirty years ago, at the age of fifteen) that determines the total absence of “contrition” in his work and the fluid propensity towards the arpeggios-like cadences which are his typical sign. Alberto Argenton’s felicity of inventiveness and execution might even risk falling into decoration if it were not for the fact that a different value of appeal gives it that direction mentioned above which we have defined as being peculiar to artistic communication and which is better revealed through a direct “reading” of some of his works.
His creative process stems from a reference, actually seductive, an elementary trace that points the sight and guides the “reading”. It is a strictly geometrical and rational indication at the start which becomes progressively more deformed and disturbed by waves of irrational expression. All this is very clear in a watercolour from 1989, “strambotto” [an ancient kind of short love poem] (fig. 1), which explicitly shows two “parallel” bands of red and black. The appeal here is this illusory one dimension, the negated geometry of the rolling and not orthogonal parallel lines. The use of white as a break between the two coloured bands accentuates rather than diminishes the contrast between the acute accent of the red and the grave accent of the black. On the other side, the white which is used to frame the topology of the arrangement described above, has a different effect since, as a border, its function is simply to frame the space. The order of the picture, which is apparently horizontal, as is usual in Argenton’s work, is also contradicted by the impetuous movement of the two chromatic waves that are to be read as one on top of the other.
There seems to be a prevalent system of signs which is almost constant, based on the capacity of the lines to delimit the zones of colour. This is true in “racconto” [short story] (1988, fig. 2), where the appeal lies in the distortion of the Cartesian axes, an ambiguous geometry that contrasts with the sharpness of the background areas which gradually become more and more luminous as they come from the edges to the center which unexpectedly pulsates sensuously in glowing red.
The sign framework in “this can’t be love” (1988, fig. 3) is more complex. The line here does not separate different chromatic waves but crosses them and the colour gives a horizontal sense to the picture, creating effects of feasible parallelism, while the vertical lines are less marked. The appeal here is born of interpenetration between one field and another, by the illusoriness of the definitions and directions which are never static — which is why this can’t be love.
In another watercolour from 1989 (fig. 4), “formentera 3” [Formentera island], the play of penetration generates chromatic variations, in the heightening of tones or the introduction of deliberately surprising elements, following a choice that simulates the naturalness of a seascape in its play of graphic waves.
This taste for intruding elements becomes a stately pas de deux in “canzone amorosa” [love song] (1989, fig. 5) which can already be seen in the preliminary sketch, “studio” (fig. 6), where the four areas that face each other, the four corners of the earth, are differentiated by the subtle vibrations of the outline, but are annulled in the central ‘love-knot’. This effect is made even clearer when the knot reveals its true nature as a binding element between two chromatically-marked different entities. Thus these small areas of colour disrupt the ordered framework of grey and black and break its conformism: mad chords, wild variables of seduction and sentiment.
Caterina Limentani Virdis (1990) Alberto Argenton: The topography of opposites, Anfione e Zeto, 4-5, 252-253