Critical anthology: Francesca Agostinelli, Peter Allmaier, Elisabetta Bacci, Boris Brollo, Antonio Cattaruzza, Giovanna Coppa, Cristina Degrassi, Giorgio Derossi, Michele Govoni, Philip Jones, Emilia Marasco, Enzo Minarelli, Giulia Parovel, Gabriele Perreta, Lucia Serena Rossi, Enzo Santese, Lucio Scardino, Giuseppe Siano, Francesca Tavarado, Maria Luisa Trevisan, Gabriele Turola, Alessandra Vicari, Roberto Vidali.


Giorgio Derossi

When looking at Giovanni Pulze’s paintings, one is immediately struck by a sharp contrast, accentuated dramatically by vibrant and almost provocative colours: that is to say, the contrast between, on the one hand, squares and streets of large over-lit, over-crowded and over-hectic cities, and on the other, the feeble glint of a shadowy, solitary, almost static figure. What is striking is the total non-involvement of this figure as regards the surroundings in which he finds himself, apparently by chance. And it is an impression that becomes even more acute the moment one notices two strange white or grey stump-like projections, similar to wings, protruding from his back – the characteristic mark of an angel, as is also, in the angelology of the aniconic religions, the hiding of the face behind a blank. There is no doubt that it is an angel, humble but not fallen, since by no means does he resemble a fearsome demon.

But to which category of angels does he belong, among the many traceable ones in the multitude of religious traditions? It is certainly not a Seraph, who has six wings: two to cover his face, two his feet, and the remaining pair to fly. Nor is he a Cherub placed, with a flaming sword, guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden, from which Man was originally banished; nor one of the four or seven “Archangels” or “Angels of the Faces” : Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, Geremiel. It seems clear that Pulze’s Angel does not allow himself to be categorized and that he presents himself as a simple, unidentified, “angel”. Not so much a member of the “Divine court” as in particular – according to the Greek etymology which translates the Jewish – the “Messenger”, the “envoy” who delivers a message, like the emblematic one of the Annunciation: “Angelus Domini qui nuntiavit Mariae”.

But our angel, with his possible message, certainly does not have the splendour that radiates from the description of the Annunciation in the New Testament. The possible “news” of which he is the bearer does not seem “good” but somewhat disquieting, like himself, a “mixture” of characters, more human than divine. He does not appear – as in the main religious traditions – to be a representative of a transcendent “Power”, but rather the contrary, of a “powerlessness”, not being capable of even attracting the attention of the people surrounding him: he appears, but he is not conspicuous; he is, in his colourless apparel, almost invisible. However, it is precisely this iconic mark that constitutes the essence of the angel: he shows us, or rather allows us to glimpse, the invisible within the visible. And this has a peculiar significance, insofar as it unites the represented angel with those who look at the “representation” and with its creator.

There are, in fact, different levels of “observation” of the invisible-visible: there is the observation which perceives a certain “strangeness” in the character which does not, however, differentiate him substantially from the others, apart from his singular appearance; then there is a more thorough observation which can discern a substantial difference, namely the angelic nature of the figure; and finally, a yet more attentive observation can reveal and underline his angelic function. To this last level of observation, one cannot fail to match a corresponding level of “creation” on the part of the artist. What brings the figure of the angel into the “Sacred” context – along with its human creator, namely the artist – is not so much its necessarily divine nature as its function, which is its very raison d’être. The functions are many (to announce, to protect, etc.) and are all manifestations of the divine “Power” (“nomen est officii, non naturae”). Whilst nature distinguishes (even though it does not separate) the divine from the human, the transcendent from the immanent (sky and earth), the functions connect them until they interpenetrate in an almost “sacramental” way.

Representing, or better presenting, this quasi-sacramental merging in the angelic function is, therefore, an act of “creation”, not only artistic but also “religious” insofar as it is the generator of a union which is communion: it is this double significance of the creative act, to transform the figurative “representation” into evocative “presentation”, the “painting” into the “icon”, the “artist” into “prophet” sui generis (namely he who, by painting, becomes a spokesperson and visible announcer of the invisible transcendent Power, of the “totally Other”).

At this deeper level of observation and interpretation it is possible, then, to rescue the angel from anonymity and “baptize” him with the name that seems the most appropriate among the many attributed to him by religious Tradition: namely that of “Angel” (understood not as a common noun but as a proper noun). So, what does this recovered and re-baptized Angel announce? What can be announced by One who has no power, no voice and indeed no face, and nobody – apart from the odd child or stray dog – to look at or listen to him? It is precisely this that he announces: namely, that his total lack of power makes visible the impending meaninglessness, the pervasive inhumanity of present-day human “living”. And he also testifies that it is artistic creation that restores to him the primal power of showing those who observe the painting what they cannot see when observing reality.

By virtue of this “iconic power” of the painting we see the inner void of the people frenetically busy and irresistibly attracted – like robotic mannequins – to the luminous images on which their eyes are glued like agitated moths; we see and realize that they do not care for what is Different because they are not aware, given that it doesn’t shine, shout, or even move. This post-modern Angel, therefore, is not even like John the Baptist, a “voice crying in the wilderness”, that “populous desert” made up of the disconcerting squares and streets of the sprawling metropolis, perpetually clogged and suffocated by hectic traffic.

The new, unprecedented Power that the ancient Archangel did not have, however, lies precisely in this eloquent silence, in this visible invisibility: the Power to show, in the drawings of the Artist as authentic icons, the helplessness of post-modern Humanity, prisoner of a deaf and blind Emptiness into which it is increasingly withdrawing. The apparent insignificance of Angel is therefore nothing more than the image of our insignificance. It is not an image of the Divine, but of a fallen Human: but for this very reason, a “sacred” icon, because it can make us aware of our condition and hence open a passage of hope towards a possible “redemption”. Only by seeing our impotence reflected in his can we, in fact, hope to save ourselves from the Angel of Death which nowadays is upon us like a terrible Demon, already figuratively described in the angelology of the post-Koranic myths.

He is one of the four Archangels and is of cosmic proportions, given that one of his feet rests on a seat of light in the seventh heaven and the other foot is on the bridge between Paradise and Hell. He is seventy thousand feet tall. He has four thousand wings and four faces, and his body is completely covered in eyes and tongues, as many as of those living. During the creation of Adam he managed to tear from the Earth the handful of clay necessary to God for the creation. For this achievement, God entrusted him with the task of Angel of Death – far more terrible than Death itself - because he had created Death first and had invited the angels to look at it, terrified, for thousands of years.

If the rendering of “Angel” does not have the redemptive effect hoped for, this could be the next rendering of another invisible virus, lethal for a Man without soul and future, devoid even of the presence of the merciful Angel who still comes to our aid in the “post-modern icons” of Giovanni Pulze, creator of the “power of Angel”.

2019 MediaAngels

Mediangels by Gabriele Perretta

Those who are accustomed to seeing Giovanni Pulze as a painter with a brushstroke as quick as the flash of a blade, refined and elegant even in his depiction of the urban landscape, and those who think of Pulze as a New Yorker will probably be surprised by his new cycle on Angels and the rise of the smartphone.
But if we bear in mind the painter's early training, his experience of the media and his open and avowed love of the meta-photographic image, we will come to understand how these panels on messengers represent a new metamorphosis for this neo- or cross-media artist. It is easy to be surprised by the “hyper-actual” atmosphere, found in the works of the most provocative interpreters of “post-pop”, “narrative art” and above all the so-called “simulationists’”: this is precisely the mood dear to Giovanni Pulze, inspired by a human sentiment suffused with urbanity and collectivism, attentive to the facts of everyday communicative life, and seeking not to surprise with frills and effects, but rather to grasp the innermost and most subtle elements.

Giovanni Pulze began his journey as a painter in the last two decades of the twentieth century, at a time when Expressionism was extricating itself from the artistic and social life of Italy, the most pernicious and abstruse aspects of Symbolism and Abstractionism were prevailing, and the perilous mawkishness of a Decadent movement was undermining and demeaning the original and vital vision of the conceptual.
Giovanni Pulze did not write Metropolis or the post-Metropolis works of G. Simmel, but rather sees the Metropolis in the exhaustion of a vision whilst not going beyond it. His painting comes to an end as the vision of the metropolitan image is exhausted whilst remaining under his control. G. P. does indeed paint “what he sees”, but does not deny the evidence of what he sees. If he had turned away from homage to iconicism, he would instead have painted without seeing. As an abstraction. Therefore his experience remains a medial one : medial, the collection of iconographic formulae, the binding of reality.

This is still - despite the fact that his intellect puts him on the threshold of the contemporary agora - the cover of cross-media. Despite the particular reality in which he finds himself, Giovanni still considers painting in terms of the plural and not as a singularity, which is independent of the whole and does not need to be unified. And it still speaks of a universal form just when it is at the height of the deceptiveness of the image. But how to express the very deceptiveness of images, without positing at least one image that does not deceive? That is, without submitting to the principle of the ineffable photograph? The simulation ends here and its virtue is precisely that it does not decide, that it leaves something unresolved without becoming an obsession.
Pulze proposes something which remains pictorial but in terms of a vision and not a response. The nexus of which Pulze speaks - like the nexus of the metropolitan communicative topology of the media - is still part of a hybrid conception of the image and therefore a pluralistic conception of the media messenger. The same idea that photography shows in the formation of the so-called artificial mash-ups of Photoshop, or of apps that manipulate the image.

In Pulze's new cycle, Mediangels, I think I detect a hypothesis that is quite insidious in terms of the consequences it implies: there is no topology of the image and the object. The object of media painting is non-topological. Pulze pushes towards the universalisation of vision and an abandonment of individuality in the name of the ineffable. Metropolitan topology proposes the absolutism of vision in the elimination of individuality. What is this banal regularity - made up of forms that are always imaginative if continuously unformed - if not a kind of idealistic metageometry? Such a form is nothing more than the geometric representation of the universal Platonic idea and how it can pervade an infinite number of individual ideas, without changing its essence. A sort of sign of the sign, or, if you prefer, a ghost of the ghost. It is the very structure of what Pulze calls an icon messenger, i.e. a meta-messenger. The continuity hypothesis, however, is an avoidance of time: the crowd is everywhere, in the supermarket, in the bank, in the hospital, in the classroom, on holiday; everywhere and at all times, in summer and winter the crowd assaults the image, surrounds it, covers it. It is always there.

There are fewer and fewer places where there are no crowds with their smartphones, texting away and lost in a hyperreality; fewer places where you are not assaulted by the pictorial renditions of Mediangels. Yet man suffers from loneliness, an anguished and intolerable loneliness that frightens him ever more, even though he is never alone in the midst of the smartphonite. Indeed, the time has finally come for us to recognise a fact: we live in a fallible society in which if a flaw is plugged and an imbalance corrected, then another one manifests itself shortly afterwards. Through the smartphonite we must administer the unstable, knowing that it is the most precious asset we possess. Our style, our medial non-definition, proceeds through uncertainty, without referring to the past to find solutions that reveal themselves to be oppressive. What is digital terrorism if not a form of atomised warfare, claiming victims one by one; a conflict maintained through communication? Turning a blind eye, perhaps because of too much light, is tantamount to making the iconic a matter of omertà.
This is the truth of the cross-media citizen who, in dealing with the image as an asset to be distributed, always realises too late, like Polyphemus, that he was dealing with ‘Nobody.' That ‘Nobody’, Odysseus, who made oars wings for a mad flight. Similarly, in reading these Mediangels, there is both a tone and an encounter and only within the character of the painting itself does this voice find its tone; a tone that does not fade. Moreover, in matters of media, the voice cannot predefine the appropriate cause. Not even whilst aiming to grasp the significance in silence. It was therefore a mistake for the citizen orator who, in order to make the best impression whilst declaiming to the crowd, was accompanied by a smartphone that suggested the most appropriate moments to raise his head to the crowd. Does a bowed head allow one to keep step with the truth? Is expression the art of what happens to ‘Nobody’? Indeed, once the painter's gaze has been turned and fixed on the urban scene, and once it has shed the role of scientist and humaniser of the whole, it finds in its narrative and poetic capacity the gateway to a way of recounting the world through the great dilemmas of humanity, such as the screen, chance or the possible ambiguities of everyday life. Pictorial thinking reveals a re-thinking that, by becoming mythical, neither offends nor annihilates the object of thought or the thinker, since, as always, we find that “in the beginning was the fable” but also that “the end is also a fable”. Knowing that one is part of a narrative thread perpetuated through other images on other smartphones, a terrifying realisation in itself, is a guarantee that one is part of the contemporary media gaze.

This is indeed the sitz im leben of myth for Pulze, and of myth in general: to know and yet never fully understand what one is trying to scrutinise. If you study this beautiful collection in one go, you will quickly grasp the very depth of Pulze's stylistic talent and his personal way of imagining and narrating Mediangels. What remains for the attentive reader of these paintings is the pleasure of having witnessed the "incarnation" of myth through the thousand faces of visual technology, which the more it becomes a "fable", the more it lends itself to the viewer, who is called upon never to forget that it is the image that is at the service of the human and almost never the contrary.


Curated by Antonio Cattaruzza and Philip Jones
IIC San Francisco USA

Giovanni Pulze is a multifaceted artist who has always had a very zealous yet humble approach to painting and drawing. In the course of his career he has experimented different expressive means of artistic creation. For some time he was a successful fashion eyewear designer and became well-known both on a national and international level. As a ceramicist he created colorful and imaginative artworks. Nevertheless, painting was a passion he felt he had to pursue, as if this were a predestined and unavoidable path. Since the end of the 1990s, when he left the design world, the dominant theme of Pulze's works has been the Metropolitan Angel. After holding several exhibitions across Europe – in Scotland, France and Austria – as well as in many Italian cities, finally the time has come for the artist to cross the pond, thus giving a wider audience the chance to appreciate his artistic expression, sensitivity, originality and rich color-palette. Thanks to the Institute of Italian Culture which will host his exhibition in San Francisco this contemporary artist will enter the "new world", home to many great 20th-century painters who are role-models to this day, and embrace cultural currents that have influenced and changed traditional artistic taste and the ways in which we perceive art. As it has already been pointed out on many occasions, Pulze may well have initiated a new artistic movement which we could call “FuturMeta, since it draws inspiration from two great artistic movements of the 1900s: Futurism and Metaphysics. The main theme of Pulze's paintings is the dynamism that permeates modern society, as well as the ever-present and overwhelming role of technology in the twenty-first century. These elements are typical of so-called historic Futurism, which celebrates speed and excesses. Concurrently, time and space seem to have been suspended and symbolic elements have been added to the paintings, giving a clear metaphysical meaning to the artist's creations. Let us now look more closely at the artist's work. Although to a superficial viewer it may seem that Pulze has adopted a strictly figurative style characterized by paintings which contain very few elements and are traditional in style, a more attentive and analytical audience will soon notice that his paintings are composed of several different elements. Each of them invites the viewers to think and allows them to enter a symbolic world which is anything but ordinary and predictable.

Giovanni Pulze’s glowing technicolor cityscapes are full of noise and bustle, of blazing neon, of headlights reflecting on rainy streets. Above all, they are cityscapes full of people : anonymous, faceless people, shielding themselves with umbrellas.

Shielding themselves, yes. But from what?

Beautiful as they are, Pulze’s dazzling surface details serve only to partially conceal a sense of profound melancholy. They remind us of the loneliness, the isolation of the crowd. Pulze’s figures walk alone, unaware and uncaring of those who pass close by. Even those who huddle, arm-in-arm, under the same umbrella in what should be a moment of intimacy, are oblivious to the faceless hordes that surround them. Tellingly, they do not even make eye contact with each other. They are together, but not together.

The umbrella, of course, serves to shield us from the elements whilst, at the same time, holding us in a bubble, a protective circle, that cuts us off from others. Similarly, in a terrible irony, technology and social media serve to connect us to the wider world whilst cutting us off from our immediate one. Like the masses that crowd Pulze’s canvases of Venice’s Piazza San Marco, we look but see nothing. We experience, but feel nothing. As we move through the world, connected to our twenty-four hour newsfeeds, our earphones supply us with our own personal soundtrack as we become the sole protagonists of our own personal dramas. In the midst of the crowd, we are losing our ability to respond to each other. We are unlearning what it means to be together.

Yet let’s look a little closer. Because in the midst of the isolation, in the midst of the emptiness, Pulze has sent us angels. They are almost invisible at first glance, distinguishable only by their fragile, pale wings and their uncovered faces. They move through the crowd, part of it yet distinct from it at the same time. If their faces, like those of the others, are impossible to read, they still convey a sense of awareness, of understanding. They are ‘Holy’ in the most literal sense of the word : that of being set apart from us. Unlike the angels of Holy Scripture, they have no message to speak : their mere presence is enough. They simply invite us to engage with them. To step out of our bubble. To rediscover what has been lost and, in doing so, find ourselves again. We could call it salvation, if you like.

Away from the madding crowds, in a deserted Parisian street, a little dog looks up to see an angel walking alone. In a crowded square, a child looks and points. Their faces, of course, are expressionless, yet we know that a contact has been made. The child’s mother, cellphone in hand, remains oblivious but the child, like the dog, has noticed something. Something different. Something that doesn’t quite fit. To them, there is still a magic in the world. They, unlike ourselves, have yet to unlearn that sense of togetherness.

Put away the smartphone. Take off the headphones. Put the umbrella down. Step outside the bubble. Look, and see the angels.