In the beginning (A. Monferini)

(In Sandro Sanna – Roberto Almagno “La luce oscura della materia” – Primamusa, exhibition catalogue, Carlo Bilotti Museum, Rome 2012).

On the slopes of the Janiculum in that part of Rome which rests against the right bank of the Tiber, among gardens, seventeenth-century villas, old monasteries and working-class houses, that part of the city which lies behind the Farnesina and Palazzo Corsini and is home to the families of prison warders and prisoners, grown fond of a landscape glimpsed over the years through the bars and which is now a part of them, in this magical corner of the city reminiscent of De Chirico’s famous views of a Rome at once invented and very real, within a garden concealed by a wall rising towards the hill, Sanna’s studio lies hidden. An out-of-the-way place, silent and understated, where the artist cultivates his imagination and regains the power to set flight towards his universe.


I had not been to the place where Sanna works and thinks for some time, and as soon as I set foot in the workshop I was deeply struck by an immense square surface with blacks of different intensity and silvery traces darting rapidly like sudden flashes of light. The huge canvas occupies the whole of the wall facing you as you enter, looming over the viewer and overwhelming them. I was dumbstruck and only regained my ability to speak little by little. It is an elegant and complex structure which appears to rotate slowly around itself. It suggests the idea of a flow, a slow passing marked by a cadenced rhythm like a noise in the background, like a rustling of forms dragged along by a magnetic current which moves them inexorably. It is a space confined within a network of squares, archetypical forms which adopt different positions, intertwining with a mesh of luminous signs. The forms cluster together in a continuous motion and in their rotation fall into different positions; the furthest away are an intense black but become opaque and mellow when closer by; when they turn over they show a side or perhaps only a lighted corner, facing the light.

As time passes and his work takes on increasingly precise and specific connotations, Sanna’s poetics continues to stress ethical and cognitive aspects. From the outset, as we can see in his earliest works, the artist has posed deep existential questions on the obscure nature of things. His constant concern is the search, not for scientific truth, but for a language of forms able to communicate this universal animation. His austere paintings recreate this slow, inexorable movement of planes which attract each other, cluster together, break down in universal space. The essence of movement remains the leitmotiv of his methodical research. Over the years, all his works present a stringent coherence. His quest is to give life to a glossary of forms which better fits this idea of the cosmos, this mysterious movement in space and light which as they alternate create a “pulsating space” (Calvesi) in which the planes move back and forth, shattering in their rush towards the light.

As we have already observed on other occasions, Sanna’s is a universe of magnetic forces, traversed by currents which create a trail and vibrations which shift matter, attracting it and combining it into various forms.

In the history of humanity magnetism has represented one of the most fascinating and frequently investigated mysteries. The Greeks were intrigued by it as were the Romans when they discovered that some materials had the property of attracting others. Until the advent of modern science these phenomena were constantly observed and studied by physicists and scientists.

This enigmatic reality triggered Sanna’s imagination, engendering formulations of enormous poetic and imaginative power. From the early Geodi (“Geodes”) of the 1970s to the Flussi d’Acqua (“Flows of Water”) and the pollen blown by a cosmic wind in Bisanzio (“Byzantium”) in which the corpuscles, struck by the light inundating the universe, communicate a colourful animation, always alight like the life of the universe, the artist has sought, step by step, formal responses which give shape to his existential questions.

Sanna’s obstinate insistence on tackling, albeit in different ways, themes which in the ever new and abundant variety of individual formulations aim at the same central issue seems to us to have achieved fullness and stylistic maturity in these latest works. An inimitable elegance, a lightness and a formal coherence which are truly remarkable.


Augusta Monferini