The Reality of the Symbol: Francesco Zavattari

By Carlo Maria Nardiello, journalist and critic
From the magazine, InArte Multiversi, January 2015, Number 71, Cover story

“My work is that which is most closely related to my sensitive and innermost essence”, states Francesco Zavattari.  And, in fact, the originality of this Lucca artist can be grasped through either his experimental performative techniques or his difficult to immediately decipher symbolism.  
The artist, moving transversally through his talent that ranges from commercial art to design, implements a meticulously elaborated filter system in his canvases. From his first pictorial pieces (2000), a solidity of structure predominates, able to “mimic” the creative personal needs of the artist.

In his collection entitled “Indagine sull’ombra” (Inquiry into the Dark, 2012), Zavattari manages to make internalization comprehensible, inducing the element of observation toward peaks of suggestion that transcend reality. These original paintings constitute a true elegy to the imponderability of modern existence:  the artist’s lyricism is best comprehended that where emblematic figures blossom and swirl,  invading the pictorial surface. In “Canti d’innocenza” (Songs of Innocence, in reference to William Blake), the viewer perceives the manifestation of the self through a formal primitivism imbued with references to personal memories, in a childlike explosion mixed and confused with chaotic and contrasting symbols,  that yearns to repossess one’s essence.

In “Universo instabile” (Unstable Universe, 2014), Francesco Zavattari defines the dictates of a poetic disinterest in intellectualism:  the immediacy of the execution restores the purity, essentiality, and stylization of reality.  A distant echo of the 20th c Art brut, Zavattari’s universe is populated with lines, colors, and shapes that are the fragmented words of a disconnected and parceled out dialogue between artist and  observer. The fragmentism of the canvases photographs the split seconds of a liquid modernity “where everything vibrates”:  thus each stroke bears the weight of both significance and signifier. Especially noteworthy is a photograph, taken by Paolo Cerri, used as a poster for the exhibit of the collection.  In it, the artist (Zavattari) is highlighted but, simultaneously, he presents his work to the onlooker. To astound, the portrait is obliged to “inflame” together with the contemporary warrior in his ephemeral suit of armor armed with a Rolex and a canvas clutched shield-like, banner of his pictorial faith.  Art that kills the artist is accompanied here by a taste for exhibitionism – voyeurism, in an agitated and unstable, albeit meticulously detailed, vision of the whole. 

The iconographic repertoire of the artist displays his innermost expressions, as if they were transcriptions of a dreamlike state, that make sense only if the embryonic and emotional source, harbored in the unconscious, is penetrated.

The frenzied allegorical twirling is accompanied by a gestural knowledge that induces the artist to continuously measure himself against himself.  After the success of the live painting performances, the right-handed artist is vying with his latest ambitious project, “Ambidexter”, wherein he “juggles” with both hands to express his personal view of art, consequently reducing the distance between time and space.  “The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen”, wrote Paul Valéry:   this projection of looking ahead to the future can be similarly applied to Francesco Zavattari’s personal and artistic plans. 

Translated by Eleanor Pieruccini