Eight woodcuts with title page and tailpiece on handmade paper, printed by François Lafranca, Lugano, Switzerland, published by Peter Blum, New York and Zurich in an edition of 35
Each inscribed ‘Francesco Clemente’ b.r. and ‘5/35’, P07848 and P07838 not inscribed
Purchased from Peter Blum Editions (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
P07831 [from] High Fever 1982 [P07830-P07838; P07848; complete]
Woodcut 18 3/4×14 (476 × 356) on paper 26 7/8×21 1/4 (683 × 540)
Clemente titled this portfolio in Italian, ‘Febbre Alta’. It is accompanied by a booklet with a poem by Valerio Magrelli which the artist translates into English as follows:
I want one day
to turn into marble
without any nerves
or tendons or veins.
Dry stone only,
alive, profound and white,
keeping still and relying
only on itself
Though Clemente resists explaining his imagery, preferring to assert the intuitive nature of his work, ‘High Fever’ is said to be concerned with the birth of his daughter. The poem may therefore refer to his crying out against the anguish of childbirth. There is no narrative but from the simple heart, symbol of declared love with his and his wife's initials, on the title page to the circular tailpiece the prints are a single serial work, the order of which is established not by numbering but by the order of illustrations in the accompanying booklet. The heavy sheets of paper, made at the Lafranca studio, hold very strong impressions from the grainy woodblocks, Clemente's deep gouges and cut lines producing very clear white against a variety of blacks from sooty (P07848, P07830, P07831, P07834) to prussian blue - (P07832, P07835, P07837, P07838) or alizarin crimson - (P07833, P07836) tinged black. The prints have a powerful material character, almost like paper sculpture, unlike his conventional prints but related to his handmade books. The blocks have a satiny grain, the natural pattern of which lies behind the cut image: ‘The lines help avoid having the figures fall into emptiness. It is possible to follow the lines, and support is provided by the material of the structure of the wood. Whereas this question of support never occurs in works by American artists, who simply circumvent it, the German Expressionists were from an early period fully aware of this issue...’ (the artist, quoted in B. Curiger, Looks et Tenebrae, New York and Zurich 1984, p.158). Clemente has worked in Italy, America and India and the environment in which a particular work is made has always been an important factor in its evolution. Curiger refers to the disquieting effect of Switzerland's nordic landscape and Clemente's idea of woodcut as a nordic medium,... ‘Northern in the sense that light must be created from darkness’ (p.157). In these prints, as in much of Clemente's work, he uses sexual imagery and symbols as they are used in Tantra, that is as a universal language referring to ultimate enlightenment, but also as direct autobiographical references both physical and spiritual. It is not Tantra as a religion that interests him, however, but its ability to express thought and ideas in its own visual language.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986