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Un'introduzione a Oliviero Berni

Testo critico di Daniela Veluti

In questa galleria virtuale Oliviero Berni si presenta con una scelta di opere che testimoniano la massima espressione di un itinerario artistico maturato in oltre trent'anni nella scia della migliore tradizione pittorica Italiana. L'attuale fase artistica di Berni si salda con il suo precedente percorso pittorico ricchissimo di altre esperienze sempre vissute con grande intensità e partecipazione, ma se si vorranno cogliere le ragioni autentiche della sua pittura bisognerà riconoscere un logico ed armonioso sviluppo di questo artista. Berni e' un pittore irrequieto, dominato però da una ferma volontà di autocontrollo, dalla capacità di filtrare ogni impulso, disciplinandolo entro gli schemi di un discorso pittorico rigoroso. Con successivi, meditati passaggi egli arriva ad un linguaggio dichiaratamente figurativo in cui si percepisce però ancora l'impronta dell'insegnamento compositivo astratto dell'arte del '900, come testimoniano questi suoi ultimi still-life. L'artista-uomo, in un unico momento esistenziale, vive in una quotidianità tecnologica ma allo stesso tempo sente la necessità di un'intelligente recupero dell'immagine poetica, di una realtà naturale profondamente compresa. Non più enigmi quindi, ma una rappresentazione reale che è inscindibile dal simbolo. La sua abitudine a disciplinare i propri mezzi espressivi fanno delle sue nature morte composizioni raffinate, ricche di fascino nella loro bellezza arcana eppure serena, frutto di una ricerca compositiva che rifiuta qualsiasi concessione al gusto decorativo. La luce entra regolarmente nel quadro da sinistra, irradia il colore di cui Berni si serve per modellare gli oggetti come elementi astratti tra loro interconnessi. Il colore, quindi, è usato in modo narrativo e rientra appieno nelle necessità cromatiche delle composizioni, arricchendole di una vibrazione tattile attraverso piccolissimi colpi in punta di pennello. Da queste sue ultime tele, un aperto omaggio alle nature morte del Caravaggio, emerge tutto lo studio raffinato della composizione e soprattutto del colore così tipico di Berni, e che fa subito capire di trovarsi di fronte ad un quadro moderno eppure ancora dipinto con tutta la maestria dei pittori del passato.


Born in Milan (Italy), he currently lives and works in the countryside. From 1952 to 1956 he attend the Art School at Castello Sforzesco and then Brera in Milan. In the early sixties (1960-65) he completes his artistic training with studies in the field of abstract-geometrical art at maestro Mario Radice's Art Studio in Como. During this time he develops his interests in the most various visual arts. He hold exhibitions in galleries and collaborates permanently with Fratelli Fabbri publishing Group as Art Director. In 1973 he paints cover illustrations for the complete series of "I Classici del Giallo" (Classics of Mistery) published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. From 1972 to 198O he holds several personal exhibitions of painting while also works as illustrator. In 1980, thanks to a collective exhibitions of European illustrators held in Munich, he becomes well known in Germany. Since then he has been working for various German Publishers: Goldman, Heyne, Hoheneim. Then, in 1981 he moves to the United States where he paints covers for the most important American Publishers including Ballantine, Berkley, Bantam, Dell, Zebra, Warner. A time of intense work when he also paints some commissioned portraits and which will eventually lead him to completely leave illustration to dedicate himself exclusively to Fine Art. Since 1999 his work is exhibited at the May & Danela Gallery.
Oliviero is also now represented in USA by Classic Publications Inc.

Essay by Giorgio Seveso

Olivero Berni from 1965 to 1995

Here is a rare booklet concerning an unusual painting. Yes because at first glance, though the impact usually pleasant and reassuring with the eye and mind of the spectator, these images appear to be really everything but ordinary or habitual. Their realism infact, though in the precise way and optically realistic that Berni has to make figurative without the expressionist deformations and narrative disguises which contemporary art has accostumed us to, is only apparent, only of skin, of surface. Under the contemplative tranquillity, in some cases only rippled by litterary motivations there is always in fact, as a kind of intense feeling, a sentiment of intricate and intriguing complexity. Besides, the uncommon nature of this collection consists also in having gathered among them, and with equal value, demonstrations of two different aspects of his work in these last thirty years: that is from one side the one more traditionally pictorial, concernings the "ways" of the portrait, of the "dead nature" (still life), or of the landscape, and on the other, that of illustration dedicated to the covers of a large consumption publishing. Mixture of categories (let's remember only to the transition) to which our to-day's culture so orientated to the utmost specialization is not certainly used to, or immediately available. Therefore, an unusual sequence of different images, that just for the circumstances of their "normality" drive us somehow out of position, in a word, make us disconcerted, bewildered. And that, furthermore, can contribute to remind the fact that in contemporary art to-day, a little defiladed in comparison with the usual clamours exists a sort of world apart. It is all that sector of attentions, of sensibility and of expressive researches which has not given up, if we want to say so, though responding to the necessities of precise commercial clients to more traditional and technical reasons of the artistic image. A rather uncommon world in which everything is equal and still deeply different than that we see around. A world where painting is rigorous and intense style, exercise of thought and heart, a result of extraordinary concentration of every emotional and rational resource, tending exactly to respond to the client's necessities without renouncing the reasons of one's own "work". How long has Berni thought of an occasion to exhibit simultaneously the two versants of his creativity, the one just commissioned or the one "free" instead? I don't know precisley, and I'm not going to check, as what is important it is just his showing together, with the same dignity, the two genders, the two ways. And I think that his problem is, and has principally been this one: that is to understand the substantial equality, for him, of the two sectors (making himself understood by everybody). But is there really equivalence of values between fine art and illustration? It won't certainly be me to solve (or solve him) the problem in a definitive way. Also because how much pure creativity is prevalent if compared to technical of an applied art, basically, I don't think it is so vital.. However, I have attentively followed and observed his work for many years and I must say that if there isn't the theorical and universal certainty of such an equivalence, there is anyway, a subjective reality represented just by his work, whereas appears evident also to the observer less introduced, how much the very surveyed and capable technical calibration acquired in the illustration work, has throughout the years interwined with the painter's art in such a way that, mutually, lirism and fantastication of the pictures have induced larger and original breath to the execution of his covers. With results, in one sector and in the other, always of great suggestiveness and often really extraordinary. At the point that now, basically, it may seem a bit forced or artificial to separate a discourse on him between paintings and illustration. It is not only of look or of physical contemplation nor of technical skill or manual knowledges, on the other hand, that is imagination on the objects consistence or on the shading depths of the naturalistic space for the works in the atelier; his stubborn intervention on the arbitrariness margin generally accorded from the art director for the covers. It is sufficient to look at these ones and at those ones to become aware. There is in them a mature and intimate convinction of the gesture blending in a plastic and incisive way on the twining between the optycal impression and a solid distribution of the volumes between the nervous touch but always softly controlled of the brush work and a precise definition of the composition. But also there is always as a very light restless shadow, the sign of a torsion, of a wrinkling hint. And it is evident at once an inside quality, I should say sentimental of the composing. Something that is given by a sort of vibrality of lievitation of pictorial material intervening in the colour pith to make them crepitating and live, mixing them to the emotion itself which Berni discovers in the image he is going to represent. And such a quality exactly sees accorded in a happy intuition the sentiment and the technique also when prevail in the opera, be it picture or illustration, those motivation of "genders" that seem to be the constant edge of reference of his figural language.

Giorgio Seveso