Sìnce the second half of the eighties Neri usually worked on his painting as if it were a murai, in fact using fresco and beaten encaustic technique, so dealing pictorially with surface material as resistant and rough as the wall.Working in this manner he conjures up a complex and precious world of lines and traces, appearances charged with symbolic allusions, which, even if they are not exact archetypal symbols, nevertheless act as intense recaiIs of memory.
Of course the wealth of marks also carne to him by way of commìtted, knowledgeable and trenchant experience, which is anyhow another salient aspect of his strict and inspired artistic discipline. Even when in the beginning of the eighties he stili practiced a fundamental and evocative figuration, always with a consistent and incisive committment, his evocative and distant images were offered within a materially sensitized, almost scratchy, compositional context.
So Neri’s imaginative process is principally based on a leavening of memory by the writing of evocative marks. “The basic was sown by gratitude”, he says. And such “recognition” of the evocative force of memory manifests itself by sharp marks cut into the material, which is exactly like a wall. In order words the wall is the page over which Neri deploys his own recognition over which he expands the dimension of time from past to the present, and, projecting also a special fate, wipes out a dubious future. He confesses: “Treading on a two thousand year old path with the awareness that any of its tracks are as significant as the mark you will leave on it yourself to-day. “
And indeed Neri turns painting into a kind of induced palimpsest. And it is just this special treatment of his own of the scope of the wall which distinguishes him from the attitudes of the abstract expressionists of the fourties and fifties; from Dubuffet, certainly fromWols, from Burri, even from Fontana (even from his plaster pieces), from Rotella. (It was André Pierre de Mandiargues who pointed out their common denominator in a notorious article in the “XX° Siede” in 958).
But the abstract expressionist wall, the furthest existential frontier of the urban situation, palimpsest of existential living and of timely, most of ali, individuai and even private events, is proof of the only existential history possible; it manifests itself as such exactly by the accumulations of marks, their happening in random stratifications always subject to accident, and so basically illumìnates the tracks of wreckage and the passage of Urne. By contrast the palimpsest Neri offers us is not based on Urne, nor does it point to unmarked existential currents but is instead an unilateral accumulation of linear work which the surface of the wall records and remembers. Of the marks and symbolic allusions which the painter’s imagination evocatively and in a certain sense structurally prints on it, something like a tablet is created on which traces of moods, bursts of memory, far magic hints, the symbol and marks themselves in continuous flux between the moment and evocative distance, are recorded.
So Neri’s procedure turns to motion rather than to repose. Instead of the reading of the reminders of the wreckage of living, he offers signals for the starting of a practical memory circuit where charges against prevailing conditions count little (in the abstract expressionist experience it was just the existential condition of “being”which shut it within itself ) and which is a drive toward the possible. Exactly the possibility of salvaging dense strafa of memory, which gives back its own richness to the lived and the livable and its own power of dominion, defying the daily levelling of the world by consumer goods pragmatism.
Nor does it seem to me that Neri is interested in mystifying originai priorities but rather that he wishes to make a construction of the world of marks and symbols which is able to weave a mesh of awareness; not working just from a mere intuition of the very origins (cosmogenic, preternatural and magmatic, as brought out by the abstract expressionist attitude) but acting from an awarenss of the informational network typical of the sociological moment inhibited by mass media man’s dutiful concern for his fate, for his “scope”, he is ready to save the ali embracing force the primordial memory of to-day’s men and women. So here is the distance of Neri’s wall from the abstract expressionist wall which is anyway ancient history. And anyway the obvious materiality of his painting does not overshadow the linear quality, on the contrary brings it out and aids in stating the record. As if to say paradoxically that the marks do no belong to the wall but they belong to the artist for whom the wall is therefore a used page and not a suffered circumstance. As you say wall, naturally you mean the particular material nature of the wall, hearing his pictorial action. Anyway Neri does not regard the wall for its own sake, but for its capacity of a surface which can catch and show up the power of evocative marks and symbols better than anything else.
Of course Neri also takes on the whole unbreakable frontality of the wall, though if you consider this closely it is also typical of the page taken as surface independent of the wall, as the utmost unsurmountable frontier and extreme existential setting. And this frontality reveals itself rather as part of a sort of imaginative iconic methodology fundamentally manifest; on the other hand it is also an instrument of refinement in relation to the horizontal dimension of time understood as historical unilaterality, in other words as the mere present.
In his paintings of three or four years ago the images of symbolic meaning were deployed in a more open manner, and contained imbedded objects, strings, sticks and such, often sticking out as if to take measure fo the distance between the observing space and the marked material surface itself. In the more recent paintings the mark has become ever finer and intricate, working rather as a multiple evocation of the density of memory. In the most recent paitings of ali, the mark indeed does not outline compositions of tracks, or presences of arcane shapes of somwhat general impact, but more precisely pertains to a world of greatly detailed symbolic and linear charges, while at the same time it is ali the richer for its universal allusions. This wall like surface is in fact the world, the sky, the cosmos, and of course holds the moods and the loves of the artist.
Even without resorting to quotes I do not think it is difficult to deduce that the instinctive vocation towards the deepening of memory of the artist’s imagination is derived from the stamp of the dialogue with the environment which has shaped him and where he stili lives, and which is an extraordinary mixture of classic Roman and medieval recalls which he is encountering daily in a Terracina dominated by the once majestic tempie of Jupiter Anxur.
Recalls not for nothing shaped by an everyday familiarity with the scope of the materiality of walls. And I should add that in some measure Neri did not get to understand ali this only just now, but that his already strong predilection for materiality grew from an exploration specifically aimed at circumscribed symbolic goals, I should say already pointed towards a sounding of far archetypal appearances. And meanwhile the material which works as page on which marks and symbols of the scope of memory are written, has grown ever more sear, so as to slip out of the catch of seductive but dangerous preciousness, and restrains its own presence, so as to let the very symbolic presences it proposes come to flower-and with great consistency.