by Marco Di Capua
«Small cosmos of painting, where color is for water what origin is for life»
(Valerio Adami, Sinopie)
The roots of the mind and those of art are full of colors, their matrix is polychrome. We can be sure of it, owing that certainty to the many irrefutable imagination tests. But since of real roots we are talking about, no matter how deeply they dig into the soil, or into other types of darkness - anchoring us without letting us slightly swing, like empty reeds in the coming wind - they always preserve an intact brightness about themselves. It is actually the apparent lack of air and light that is responsible for the chromatic strength, enhancing, even though, maybe just because of the saturation and accumulation processes, the glassy force of their skin. And thus, in appearing to us, they sparkle wonders. I could almost dare using "lapillus and lava", without fear of being mistaken, to describe what, every single time, lengthily and glowing, gushes out and expands from Onorio Bravi's paintings and reddens our retinas. And this, despite the fact that, on the flatland where this painter lives and intensely works - a place that, metaphorically speaking, is the same as the spotted surface, and just as flat, of a boundless abstract painting - there are no signs of hills breaking the horizon, let alone a volcano. But I was there, together with Marisa Zattini in Onorio's studio, comfortably sitting, and just as immobile as a plant on the Padana flatland, looking at his latest works. Many, in fact, and I recall him saying about movement «I am a slow man in life, but when I paint, well, my action is much faster», when I thought of how the amazing trend of the contemporary art world has been repeatedly warning us to watch out, to beware, because applying colors to a piece of paper or a canvas - namely, to profusely apply them "by hand", and seeing how they become alive and unexpectedly react, not by changing or multiplying on a large scale "ready-made" solid colors, but instead, entrusting that specific one with everything we have and feel - is by now, a rare gesture and, for some, may the meekest among us have mercy on them, even a puzzling and illegible one.
Once, not long ago, Italian families - while contemplating, with utmost pride, the full collection of those heavy leather-bound books, engraved in gold, which had been painstakingly collected and placed on those, otherwise, quite meager bookshelves - could rightfully believe that all the art, that from the past as well as the present, and very likely even the one from the future was in the production of undisputed "masters of color". Do you recall them? I am sure you do. Never again, since then, they have been made so beautiful and perfect. Nowadays, in fact, it is not rare to see ‘a master of color' having to wait in line, in order to be awarded some sort of attention from the critic of the moment, and then, more often than not, the same being cunningly outmatched by the guru of the most disgusting provocation or that of the funky installation.
Smiling polka dots or whitish cows soaked in formaldehyde will cancel all and any of his chances to embody the spirit of the times. He will, nonetheless, ascertain how a solitary reflection of the time of the spirit will remain on his side and, falling sidelong on his work, give it light. A most intimate Ravenna, shady and radiant at the same time, arouses the brotherly energies and mutual mirroring of the beautiful poetry by Nevio Spadoni and the beautiful paintings by Bravi, for a one-two punch, fast and hard, for a knock-out of any trendy or global blamelessness, so proper and so flavorless. If I may, I would call it ‘art squared', or a DOC art, a local produce, or a high-quality product, because the nearer the better; one-hundred percent Italian, like some of those wonderful and famous vine varieties, which if, by any chance moved elsewhere, even just of a few kilometers, we cannot be sure they knew the air they were breathing, or the soil they were feeding on and thus, we cannot be sure they would give out their best.
As for Bravi, he finds his best in that Expressionism whose roots are unmistakably from Germany, just take a look at Onorio's xylographs and you will agree with me, but then, from those exercises of praise and stylistic adhesion, Bravi moves away towards much more personal and visionary areas, from the image of a cloister; a series of arches; a loggia; a tower or a square in the darkness of the night; the strike of a bell, somewhere, squeezing in them his most violent hues; to a stormy Orient, as if Expressionism was forced to step back along a dreamy and clanking ‘B train' of painting: from Berlin to Byzantium.
Talking about these little paintings, arranged and structured like tile panels, Onorio said «some elements from Ravenna have been essential». In fact, a more intimate and hidden city goes hand in hand with the better known architectures, as if in a map drawn with the heart, in an exciting geography of intimacy, where the word "fiction" surrenders, ‘hands up' and gets expelled from those walls where true art is cherished, which is always, even though sometimes obscurely, a truly lived experience.
As for Bravi's technique, it is a combination of soils, acrylics and tempera; this time even gold and bronze have come into play, to give shape to a layered surface, which bridges painting with sculpture, since everything here simply seems to be plastically shaped into color. That constant reminding to the gesture of sculpting, to that particular gesture of ‘taking away', is also true for the graffiti and the xylographs. The overall effect is that of making us lean over the wavy edges of an overheated world, in constant change, where nothing is pure, but everything belongs to a whole, among chromatic plates saved from the drift and obliged to strengthen the scene. Bravi, skillfully, sees masses and to those, he subjects the figures. The spaces belonging to nature, that of a flatland, or trees, or even buildings, architectures, a dark passage wide open like a mouth, look like vibrant vital organs, a heart, or lungs or a stomach, and they welcome profiles of human bodies, as if they were about to digest them, as if they were sheltering them. Or, maybe, giving birth to them. Once, a monk from Mount Athos, to whom I had so unexpectedly asked what he was doing in church for hours on end, he simply answered «Absolutely nothing, I just sit, like a fetus in a mother's womb».