Born in 1966 in Caserta, a provincial capital neighbouring Naples, Arturo Casanova belongs to the generation of artists who broke down the walls between various disciplines.
As a very young artist, he began to conceive his art as installations, and to work not only as a painter, but also as a sculptor, photographer, video artist, and finally, as a designer.
His focus is on the sacred dimension of art as opposed to any superficial decorative attraction.
As a young artist, he created simplified figurative paintings with colours divided into zones, but since 1995, he has dedicated himself exclusively to monochromes.
His paintings figured prominently in the exhibition Monochromes: From Malevich to the Present at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofìa in Madrid, within the context of the history of art of a single colour. He represented Italy in the 54th Biennale d'Arte di Venezia.
To create the rich moiré effects of his paintings, he used both hands, inspired by the description of Michelangelo working in lrving Stone's novel The Agony and the Ecstasy (New York 1961). This technique produced a novel effect of streaking light moving in both directions. While painting, he may change the orientation of the canvas to create unusual effects dependent on how pigment dries giving the surface an activated rhythm.
The monochromatic hues that Casanova uses most are blue, green, red, grey and black.
But above all, as a painter, he is devoted to blue, because he believes that blue is the only colour that permits him to reach an intimacy with the transcendent. The blue that he used is actually a combination of three colours: light cobalt, Prussian blue, and pure primary blue.
He does not deny that the colours he chooses have a symbolic meaning. Indeed his concentration on the monochrome can be seen as a choice to focus on the symbolic properties of individual colours. Previously, he had used images to convey his meaning, but his decision to concentrate on abstract monochromes was based on their capacity to emit or reflect light.
We know Casanova lives in Capua, and we can infer the movement of waves from the nearby coast to the hypnotic surface patterning of many of his paintings. The shimmering gold and the white marble that he sometimes uses instead may refer to the ornate apartments of the palace, Reggia di Caserta, once the summer home of the Bourbons.
However, unlike the emotional baroque artists of southern Italy, Arturo Casanova's refusal to be sentimental or sensational is not baroque pathos, but something more exquisite and demanding and therein lays its modernity.
Many contemporary practitioners of monochrome painting do so in order to reduce art to an absolute minimum of interpretation, but this is not Casanova's intention. He understands colour as having emotional and symbolic connotations.
His monochromes speak more of the plenum than of the void, of an experience that opens up a psychic space as we contemplate pure colour. In the horizontal paintings, painterly traces of manual operations seem to skid by other works are more strictly iconic and fix the eye on a specific spot.
Casanova's sculptural projects are more strictly conceptual than his process oriented paintings. They are first thought out in drawings after which the artist decides in what material he will realise the work—bronze, aluminium, corten steel, or marble, which he sometimes gets from Carrara where Michelangelo selected his. The marble reliefs are three dimensional realisations of his drawings. Casanova speaks of drawing as the soul, and sculptured marble as its embodiment. They can be imagined as mirror images of each other, the solid marble embodying the intellectual concept drawn on paper.
Although he does not work in series, Casanova often conceives suites of related works. For example, from 1995 to 2010, he worked on a trilogy divided into cycles: Liquid (1995-2000), Nerve (2000-2005), and Mystic (2005-2010).
His works are beautiful and immensely sophisticated. Rather, they demand focus and concentration, rewarding the viewer's efforts with an experience of calm and prayer, or a mantra necessity in today's world of information overload.
The wish to alter not only forms, but the function of art, was first expressed by Malevich, who ruled out materialism or decoration as the purpose of art. His 1915 black square painted on white is not a picture—it does not depict a black square outside the frame. It liberated the concept of painting from that of picturing, and two basic techniques involved in mystical exercises: contemplation and renunciation.
In the sense that Malevich wished abstraction to function as icons had previously, as doors to a spiritual world, Arturo Casanova is one of his illustrious descendants.