Piero Fogliati: In the vacuum of the space as well as in the mind of the onlooker

Piero Fogliati Lumi-ritratto del artista Or Not Magazine
Lumi, ritratto dell’artista

di Alessandro Trabucco


The first time I met Piero Fogliati (born in 1930 in Canelli, Turin), it was not possible to see his face and recognize his physiognomy, because it occurred in the dark classroom of the Brera Academy in Milan where his work Edicola delle Apparizioni (Stand of Apparitions) was set, perhaps the absolute masterwork of the Piedmontese artist.

In that moment I was struck by what I was observing, because I was not able to understand its nature. There were intermittent flashes and sometimes a letter or a number appeared in the vacuum, but the process for creating such a light event remained unknown to me.

Piero Fogliati Macchina per produrre fantasmi Or Not Magazine
Macchina per produrre fantasmi

Piero Fogliati Reale Virtuale courtesy Galleria GAS Torino Or Not Magazine
Reale Virtuale – Courtesy Galleria GAS, Torino

For sure, the artist had such a very accurate and precise way to introduce and describe his work, dated the beginning of the Eighties but resulting from long studies and experiments on the optics and the perception, as he was able to stimulate a deep reflection on the visual phenomenon he succeeded in performing.

The Edicola delle Apparizioni is the completion of a thirty-years long research journey, that achieved the creation of light works with extraordinary value, both aesthetic and scientific.

Piero Fogliati Prisma Meccanico 1 esito Or Not Magazine
Prisma Meccanico 1 esito

Piero Fogliati Prisma meccanico courtesy Galleria GAS Torino Or Not Magazine
Prisma meccanico – Courtesy Galleria GAS, Torino

The Sixties represented the heroic decade of this patient and constant research by Piero Fogliati on the perceptive phenomena and the visual dynamics of the human eye, a creative period in which the artist settled the basis on which to found his poetics: the non-repetition of the aesthetic outcome and the immateriality of the work, that “exit from the painting” (as himself calls it) that allowed him to obtain results still nowadays astonishing.

With the mechanical technology of that time, we talk about years ’60/70, Fogliati was already reflecting on concepts of virtuality and interactivity, studying in a deep way the light and the physiology of the human eye, in order to create works usable by the observer in an autonomous and always variable way.

Piero Fogliati Rivelatore Cromocinetico Or Not Magazine
Rivelatore cromocinetico – Courtesy Galleria GAS, Torino

Piero Fogliati Rivelatore cromocinetico-courtesy Galleria GAS-Torino Or Not Magazine
Rivelatore Cromocinetico

There were two main requirements to obtain such an important and new outcome: a beam of light very narrow and intense, and the possibility to stimulate in the observer those autonomous movements of the eye, the so-called saccadic movements, exalting them.

With his works Aura Cromatica (Chromatic Halo), of 1970, and the already mentioned Edicola delle Apparizioni, introduced at the Biennale di Venezia in 1986, Fogliati succededed in obtaining the outcome he had always looked for, the vision in the vacuum of an artistic result: in the first case a series of luminous bands, in the second case black and white sharp images appearing.

Piero Fogliati Svolazzatore Cromocangiante esito Or Not Magazine
Svolazzatore Cromocangiante esito

But in his long journey, in what he defines the MYSTERY or the art, there are other extraordinary luminous works that well represent his utopian and revolutionary view, all of them perfectly coherent with his unbroken research related to the immateriality of the nature itself of the light, that is as a pure electromagnetic wave.

The LIGHT section of Or Not Magazine welcomes a representative of fundamental importance in the international light art panorama, our tribute to a great Italian artist, a real pioneer in the artistic research on the light, sound and movement.

The galleries that for many years have been working extensively on Piero Fogliati’s works are Rino Costa Arte Contemporanea in Valenza (Alessandria, Italy) and Gagliardi Art System in Turin.

Piero Fogliati Aura Cromatica Or Not Magazine
Aura Cromatica

Piero Fogliati Edicola delle Apparizioni 1985 Or Not Magazine
Edicola delle Apparizioni, 1985


Piero Fogliati, Aura Cromatica e Edicola delle Apparizioni

Piero Fogliati, with these two works, shook every perceptive parameter previously accepted in the visual art and in the Gestalt theories then adopted by some kinetic and optical tendencies, approaching his own research to refined outcomes aesthetic-scientific, but anyway keeping alive the purely artistic aspect of his works.
Around the middle of the Sixties the artist had conceived a particular light that he called Luce Sintetica (Synthetic Light) or Luce Fantastica (Fantastic Light), using a beamer he had created himself, in whose interior he had placed, between the objective and the light source (a dichroic lamp) a disc of coloured gelatines rotating at the highest speed in a way to appear to the eyesight as the sum of the single colours, that is a bright and slightly warm white.
When bumping a moving element, the luminous beam decomposes and proposes again all single frequences that, according to the physical status of the object, merge in wonderful and delicate shades (as it happens in the work Prisma Meccanico – Mechanic Prism) or they appear in their chromatic purity.
In Aura Cromatica (Chromatic Halo) this vision occurs in the vacuum, because the projection of the light composed in this way, on a little white rod in just one dimention, length, puts the eye in a status of perceptive crisis and stimulates the vision of the coloured bands in the vacuum, that appear and disappear with the same speed of the ocular movements.
With the Edicola delle Apparizioni (Stand of Apparitions) the same occurs, but in this case the artist projects on white rods always unidimensional images that are bidimensional and can be visualized in the vacuum with the same visual principle.
No longer paintings or sculptures, installations or photographic images, videos or performances, but only and exclusively immaterial images, that find their own reality in the vacuum of the space as well as in the mind of the onlooker.

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