Projects and Pathways

The works of Arnaldo Battaglini, on exhibit in the entrance hall of the British Institute building in São Paulo, call to mind the valuable constructive legacy created by modern artists and architects. The new concept of the iron structure veiled by panes of glass was ushered in by the Crystal Palace, the work of Paxton, a 19-century English landscape architect, who was active at a time when industrialization was a great repository of hope. But the Crystal Palace was also responsible for firmly establishing the emerging demands of interior space, still fundamental to the inhabitants of large cities.

The image of the Crystal Palace is a fitting one to bring to a first encounter with the works of Arnaldo Battaglini. These works are scaled to the space they occupy, a space which brings their constructive transparency to the fore.

Battaglini's most recent works assume new proportions, taking possession of the external space surrounding them and benefiting from the observers’ relationship to them.

Each drawing configures itself as it finds its place in the world. Once set in space, it establishes its own environment, reinventing its wholeness and inserting itself in relationships of belonging.

I believe that Arnaldo's achievement lies in his hurling himself into the abyss, in order to create through-spaces.

In the artistic arrangement of various scales and supports, he makes particular use of the sense of proportion and precision of the gesture. I cannot fail to make mention of the sensitivity to risk that he transmits through his engravings on the bidimensional support and the organic mastery of the gem chiseled on a small scale.

He seems to put to use the perspective of the passerby, who moves throughout the multiplicity of the large city, whether it is London or São Paulo. He takes nourishment from the casual glance, which is blind to detail. The view shifts to the beat of the metropolis. It scans surfaces, pausing on obstructions end barriers.

The survival of art, in the midst of the urban polyphony, demands concentration and focus. Arnaldo chooses a minimum of elements with the maximum virtual reality.

His poetic language finds its chief means of expression in the line, which, because it is polyvalent, delimits surfaces, transposes spaces, and intermediates relationships.

The drawing is the building block of visual thought. It is also inseparable from constructive reasoning and from the technical skill that the material object reflects and defines.

Generally speaking, what we have before us here are projects that set out to define both places and pathways.

I consider the lines the artist casts as he goes about conquering space as sketch-objects. They maintain the project-like content of visual ideas, of setting one’s gaze straight ahead. Drawing in space is still a utopian adventure.

The drawings made with metallic and not iron wires are evidence of the transformation of the visual ideal in exteriority.

We are not dealing here with the reasoning of a sculptor. Battaglini is devoted to the careful taming of large spaces, inter-related to the physical proportions of the room where the works are located. The wide-open space englobes the observer. At its outer edges, allusion is made to the many ways space can be represented in a two dimensional plane. It is as if the sketch were commenting upon the representational drawing and vice versa. The play between the eye and the hand, between seeing and setting in place, creates this possibility.

The works comment upon spatial directions and proportions: they suggest free and open space, in various directions, to be occupied by man. These include narrow pathways and scaled-down spaces. Places with no exits and impossible dimensions. "Paths that lead nowhere."

Only a poetic motivation could make him find in the figure of the ladder a pretext for the mastery of the scale. This is what they suggest: on the one hand, the dream of the tightrope walker; on the other hand, the sensation of the steps that lead to the same place.

The sketch called 3D, which at first sight appears to be a blueprint, soon reveals itself capable of incorporating its own shadow under the room’s light source.

The intention of shadow-ladders is more unsettling. The shadow-ladders are placed in such a way as to construct an empty space. In these works, the drawing of the ladder is transformed into a being-object of metaphysical dimensions. A strange flat ribbon or a self-contained shadow are nothing more than fantasy images. In these works, the artist foregoes his familiarity with the ideal drawing, informed by mathematics and experimental science, preferring instead to reduce it to the presence of the object-thing.

Battaglini instigates the observer, above all, in the way he opens up pathways and shrinks and superimposes proportions. Also surprising is his ability to invert directions and routes. After all, clarity and uncertainty are not mutually exclusive.

Ana Maria Belluzzo
Art Critic and Historian

São Paulo, June 15, 2004

tradução: Jennifer Denhard