Giorgio Griffa

Pink and grey


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Not on display

Giorgio Griffa born 1936
Original title
Rosa e grigio
Acrylic paint and charcoal on canvas
Support: 646 × 1017 mm
Purchased using funds provided by the 2018 Frieze Tate Fund supported by Endeavor to benefit the Tate collection 2019


Pink and Grey 1969 is a landscape-format painting in acrylic paint on a piece of unstretched yellow-tinged canvas with a vertical fold running down its centre. The composition is organised in seven rows, where every row consists of an interrupted set of short, horizontal, hand-drawn dark grey lines: four in the upper five rows and three in the lower two rows. The lines always start near the left edge of the canvas but terminate around its halfway point. Small pink squares have been painted with broad brush strokes above every other short line, creating the effect of a partial grid. After three rows, the pattern is interrupted and the squares appear only sporadically.

Griffa had worked with unstretched canvas since he abandoned figurative painting in 1967, developing a characteristic language of signs made up of raw dabs and strokes, waves, diagonals and vertical lines. He was interested in the physical qualities of canvas and paint, which led to his practice of not stretching his supports over wooden bars but working on them horizontally, spread out on the floor, before fastening them to the wall with flat-headed nails. By folding his canvas, he also explored the way in which the folds become integral to the composition and thus underline the materiality of the canvas but are also subject to change over time. He explained that, ‘for me, the fabric isn’t a support I work on but rather an integral part of the work, with a capacity of its own … I liked to preserve this sense of fragmentation, of something provisional, something that represents the world but makes no claim to represent it definitively or entirely.’ (Quoted in ‘Giorgio Griffa and Hans Ulrich Obrist in Conversation’, in Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva 2015, p.161.)

Based in Turin, Griffa began exhibiting his work at the time of the emergence of arte povera, at a moment when Italian artists were questioning the conventions, and traditional materials of, painting and sculpture. Pink and Grey dates from Griffa’s formative phase in the late 1960s and brings together the essential aspects of his practice: seriality, rhythm, the use of signs and an immediate painterly expression. Griffa determines the length, the rhythm and the frequency of his signs in relation to the size of the canvas and the brush he has chosen to use. He often, though not always, starts his compositions at the top left, as with a piece of writing. The curator Andrea Bellini has described how the seriality of the signs in Griffa’s paintings does not diminish their impact: ‘Even when they are repeated, these signs appear emblematic, for each trace is exemplary and of value only in its own right, appearing new with regard to those have been come before it. The artist never completely fills the canvas, so the work never appears to be complete but remains open as a “metaphor for a permanently unfinished space”.’ (Andrea Bellini, ‘Of the Standard and the Random: Time, Memory, Sign’, in Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva 2015, p.12.)

Further reading
Giorgio Griffa, Works: 1965–2015, exhibition catalogue, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, 29 May–19 August 2015, Bergen Kunsthall, 28 August–18 October 2015, Fondazione Giuliani, Rome, 4 February–9 April 2016, Museo de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, 21 May–4 September 2016.
Giorgio Griffa, exhibition catalogue, Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles, 13 February–24 April 2016.

Monika Bayer-Wermuth
October 2018

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