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Flaubert said: “The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him”. The naturalistic assumption that art is self-generated from a creative impulse was revived after World War II by artists such as Alberto Burri, Antoni Tapies and Anish Kapoor. In the same footprint stands Andrea Neri, who makes to converge the four elements of earth, air, fire and water in a thoroughly personal technique, born out of the combination of two traditional means as yet deemed incompatible: fresco and encaustic.
By subconsciously applying Bernardino Telesio's theory of principles operating in the universe, Neri enables the active principles of heat and cold to work on the passive, substrate matter. Their action is protracted over time, sustaining an artwork that is designed to be “in progress”, never finished but subject to change as it is in living creatures.
Neri's artistic research unfolds - though not consistently - between continuity and innovation along two complementary narratives: on one side there is nature, explored in its significancies of rational/irrational, biological/spiritual; on the other side, memory suggesting the build up of knowledge, emotion, impression and affection owned.
In his production of the eighties and nineties, Andrea Neri recaptures manual skills suggesting an intimate, almost carnal relationship with matter, diverging for the procedures, though not for the substance, from conceptual art movements. Matter is first subject to the artist's intervention, then it is released from it to let the acting principles work spontaneously.
Neri charges the rough surface of timber with a multiplicity marks and graphic signs that are elemental and at the same time capturing an intricacy of hidden references: scrapings, abrasions, smoothness constitute the mark of our transition and the handing down of memories which take on a mystic dimension.
The wood is thus cast into a timeless, archaic region, where the beholder is got to look beyond surface, through cracks and scrapes, for the search of truth and of the existential core escaping perception. All the while, Neri researches an essential form to release the tautness and vigor of matter, with an approach that is icastic, contemporary and in an uninterrupted dialogue with the sensory and emotional sphere.
In some of the works, as “Away From Noises”, “The True” and “Lament”, the austere geometrical framework which is based on the square iteration is disrupted by the arbitrary action of signs breaking in the surface, by scratching and eroding it with extreme force. Also, the autonomy of the mark conveys a poetic feel which is breaking away from nicety towards a more destructive and relevant expression of passion than it is enchantment and romance.
At the end of the nienties, Andrea Neri refines his passion for photography by producing digital images that he builds, breaks up and manipulates with the use of software – a modus operandi that enables him to construct photography not as a reproduction technique, but as an independent articulation of visual arts, achieving a strongly meaningful creative act.
Through the artist's use of mass communication tools, perception is destructured by the building of composite images where imagination and reality interact and mingle with each other. These images become a medium by which information is delivered through extra sensorial perception and are able to awake hidden recognition and empathy codes.
At the core of this work there is the life-death relation, that is the relation between existence and nonexistence, where the latter simply is, in Sartre's words, “a hole of being at the heart of Being”. In Neri's composition there is undoubtedly no contrast between being and nothingness, there is instead an intrigue of profound conceptual references generated by symbolic figures and signs. It is the symbol that, enhanced by the technological medium, makes it possible for the artist to unite the microcosm with the macrocosm, the local with the global and individual experience with collective memory. The interaction between the self and the external world is embodied in the making up of images made of installations mirroring a film set construction.
In his most powerful digital works, such as in “Rosetta di promastigoti”, Neri captures feminine beauty in association with a fascinating and mysterious organism resembling a blooming seed. Still the observer feels in it something unsettling and ambiguous, like the glossy red of a poisonous berry. It is a lethal virus and a metaphor for contemporary society, where the senses are misled by the ignis fatuus of a sparkling world and comfort at hand. Within this framework, the virus has the same mark as genetically modified apples, dioxin chickens, glass executive offices or the battered walls of decayed buildings covered with advertising and neon signs.

Marco Di Mauro