Open, wait, accept and cut: pain like Lucio Fontana

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And I just wanted to let in some light.

I was misunderstood as a creator of pain, cuts


Concepts such as art and life must mix with each other because there is no point in keeping a distance between human work and the human itself. Life is art (creative energy – sexual), who said that? That is why the most interesting art is that which talks about life, which unravels different experiences, recounts details, curiosities, points of view.

When it comes to life, it is necessary to reject the idea of a perfection to be achieved (in order to respond to this kind of expectation, the only art we could refer to is that of the cinema). Error is the hallmark of being Human, the stumbling block into which we have all fallen at one time or another: superficial judgement, haste, fear, anger, the incessant search for security and control, wrong choices. Don’t tell me you have never made any of these mistakes?

Open: new perspective from which to see

When we fall, we hurt ourselves more or less intensely and are inclined to judge that fall, to consider the mistake a fault because of the expectations we have of ourselves and others. The wound is actually the place from which we see the truth, from which we stop taking refuge in the illusion of perfection (which if it were such should not hurt) and look at what is broken: we look through it and look at ourselves.

Fontana cut with the awareness of breaking, opening, tearing because destroying is often the strongest creative act, all the more so in a society where, from an early age, we are immersed in a strong, impregnating system of beliefs and models. It is no coincidence that Fontana said in 1963 in an interview with Nerio Minuzzo:

“The critics have always maligned me, but I never worried about it, I went ahead anyway and I never took anyone’s salute. For years they called me ‘the one with the holes’, with some pity even. But today I see that my holes and cuts have created a taste, are accepted and even find practical applications. In bars and theatres they make ceilings with holes. Because today, you see, even the people on the street understand the new forms. It is the artists, unfortunately, who understand less’.

When Fontana speaks of street people, he evokes the imagery of imperfection, where the hole is a form like any other in which the becoming of life is manifested. He is not afraid of dirt nor of the violent nature of the creative act: he throws tar on a plaster sculpture of a man and calls it ‘Black Man’.

Years later, the cut becomes the conquest of space, as an overcoming of painting and sculpture, through a new spatiality that contains them both: a break from verticality in favour of a crossing passage.

This palpitation, inhaling and exhaling of the canvas, is reminiscent from afar, in a more intellectual and bourgeois version, of the work that Gina Pane would later do on her skin: the gesture is nonetheless the immortal protagonist in that context where art is destined to be destroyed; the wound and the cut are path, boundary and exchange. The artist herself opens the canvas in two and declares its finiteness; the holes become black holes that give depth and make us perceive the infinite that we will never know.

Wait: new things we do not yet know

Fontana called the cuts ‘Waits’, the openings from which new and different things arise that we do not yet know.

When we make a mistake, when we hurt or injure the other, we have a waiting time before the reaction. First the shock of the mistake and the failure to be overcome, after that, figuring out what path to take to make up for it or get away with it; then we wait for the consequences of that fracture, that mistake, which could actually be a new and great resource. Or not.

Few understood (and understand) this philosophy because they are constantly judging how reality and human beings should be, too used to the two-dimensionality of the canvas. We continue to defend with all our might the right practices, the right way to appear and be in society, so much so that we resort to standards that end up defining Normativity.

Nothing could be more incoherent. Convinced that we know everything, we apply our yardstick to every other organism and ecosystem in the world, but in reality we are looking at it from a narrow and biased point of view that has nothing to do with reality: Anthropocentrism, but also personal interpretations of the other that are almost never the right ones.

Accept: no perfection in the absolute sense.

This also applies to this society that wants us to be better at all costs, without reflecting on the fact that perhaps, rather than raising standards, we should learn to be more accepting of what is, just as it is. Do we accept pain? Do we accept death? Do we accept bodies? Do we accept diversity? Most importantly, after we accept, do we dignify?

Very often no, we resort to invisibilising what does not coincide with the ‘perfection’ of our own little planet or universe. It makes us shocked, angry, disgusted, pushed away, swept under the carpet, and so we manifest the very imperfection that we actually are, but refuse to accept.

Knowing one’s own limits is important, as is realising the interconnectedness of everything that is the world system: either we are ALL put in a position to give our best or there is no competition or effort worthwhile, except for the purpose of fuelling inequality. It is all well and good that some after much effort have made it, like those who have been so lucky.  But in the broader context, always stretching the boundaries a little further, it will be ‘a perfection’ in an ‘imperfect’ context; no ‘Perfection’ in the absolutist sense.

Could this ever exist?

Cut: let the truth in

We can say that Fontana tried, because from the very beginning he rejected the easy paths of success, preferring to experiment with the unknown and the uncertain, that is to say: abandoning the pretense of being the one, he followed the path of research that led him to unravel certain truths.

For me, and my very personal view, Fontana is the one who rips the veil and lets the light through, even if he put obscuring black sails behind the cuts. An artist of spatial art and one of the forerunners of that art understood not only as a work but as a gesture, a gesture, around and as a consequence of action on space, performance as the activation of a narrative, of which much is practised today.

For me, his cuts illuminate all this, opening up new perspectives to art, new points of view on the world and also new questions. The wound for this, is more than pain: the wound highlights mortality, brevity, uncertainty and fragility. Wounding makes us question, makes us question, and this practice is very important to keep our feet on the ground. As difficult as it is to suffer and as much as, in a perfect narrative of existence, it would be great (and right) to learn only through positive reinforcements, as long as we as a society are unwilling to avoid each other’s suffering as much as our own, we are condemned to the unresolved and to live in an unfulfilled reality.

So let us enjoy the cinema and its happy endings, its perfection so taken for granted and which we mistakenly end up taking as a model for life, because the visual arts, on the other hand, are the daughters of suffering, and any artist, in order to tell a piece of truth, has had to pass through the wound.


I recognise you as dwelling in me, and between the folds of anger, judgements, illusions and head-spinning, I will always continue to recognise you. I recognise the pain that inhabits us and I honour it, I respect it and I am here, the space is open to us, even if we would not have the strength to be there.

Author Details
Set builder, decorator and graphic designer. She loves looking at art and getting emotional.
Paola D'Andrea
Set builder, decorator and graphic designer. She loves looking at art and getting emotional.
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