Giorgio Griffa makes his mark for Arte Povera

Giorgio Griffa makes his mark for Arte Povera

Words Vilma Paasivaara

The first solo exhibition in the UK of Italian abstract painter Giorgio Griffa opens today at the Camden Arts Centre…

Giorgio Griffa has been closely associated with the Arte Povera movement, which started in Italy in the 1960s. In a time of upheaval, a generation of artists in Italy, especially around Turin, began to radically question government, industry and culture through work which often valorised the everyday and the mundane. At the time Griffa became involved with a group of painters who sought to radically redefine painting.

Though he never received any formal art training, Griffa learned with Italian artists such as Filippo Scroppo. In fact, he studied to become a lawyer but in the 1960’s abandoned law – and figurative painting – to produce his signature abstract works.

The exhibition, entitled Continuous Becoming in reference to Griffa’s deliberately cut-off lines and unfilled canvases, gives a rare overview of the painter’s work – from his first claims to fame in the 1960s until today. Griffa’s approach to painting is a performative one and he often creates his gestures horizontally on the floor. The marks themselves are informed by his fascination with quantum energy, time-space mathematics, and the golden ratio.

The paintings, often presenting just variations of lines in different patterns, colours, and sizes, all have a very material quality to them despite, their minimal subject matter. Griffa has a close relationship with the painting tools that he uses and he often lets the instruments of painting take the lead in his work. The natural traces of a particular material, type of brush or a sponge are given importance in their own right rather than used to create a certain effect. The same goes for the interaction between the colours and dilutions of paint and the raw materials of his canvases.

When exhibited, the un-stretched linen, cotton and hemp canvases are nailed directly to the wall along the upper edge. In between exhibitions, they are folded and stacked away – and the resulting creases become part of the work itself. Griffa has characterised his work as never finished but to be always viewed in the moment.

At 81 years old, Griffa is still an active painter and works in his studio in Turin, in northern Italy. You can listen to a playlist made special by the artist for the exhibition here.


Continuous Becoming is on at the Camden Art Centre until 8th of April 2018.

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