I've known Luigi Bona for at least fifteen years and I never suspected the germ of painting sprouted in him. Otherwise I would have maybe kept away from him: I hate venturing amateurs, beautiful minds shocked by a window of canvass and colours on the way of their free time. I guessed his instinctive sensitivity when he came to visit my studio and abstained from the usual tedious questions ( which too often I get asked and to which I answer with boring stereotyped expressions since I don't want to waste precious time ) about the meaning of my works. He was quite intrigued by the techniques, subject which fascinates me because, the deep values of the job called Artist must be found and rebuilt in their genesis, scratching on the surfaces of critic argumentations, full of literature and poor of scientific meanings, especially in these days damned by technologies of "cold" reproducibility. A clue should have suggested me his interest for the secrets of painting but I didn't memorize it.
One day Bona aproaches me with hesitation - unusual attitude for him, normally so frank to border on rudeness - asking me to "see something" and stimulating my natural curiosity. The meeting took place in Castello, in a sort of back-shop near Ponte dei Greci. Bona confided in me: "I've been trying to paint for years. I started like all do, trying to reproduce landscapes and the things I saw. But half way through each picture I stopped and couldn't carry on. I asked myself what meaning could have remaking the subjects which thousands of artists choose and represented, through the centuries, with better skill than I did. I almost abandoned this aspiration, when one day I stopped to look at the detail of a sketch: a spot of colour which suddenly seemed mysteriously new to me, almost beating. Since that moment I made some attempts in different directions and I haven't found my way yet. But since then I finish my paintings with satisfaction. I showed them around and people liked them. I wanted your opinion, and, even better, an advice".
I safeguarded myself explaining him that I have a very bad reputation: I'm ill disposed especially towards the self-taught persons and when they ask me an opinion I know that ninety-nine times on hundred they will show me trivial and badly made things; and if they insist to have a response I don't have any human respect. I really say what I think. And I often mention an anecdote coming from the far times of the Accademia when a lady of a good family introduced her daughter for the entrance to Guido Cadorin course. The master looked at the girl, dressed like a nun, and brusquely asked the mother: "Why do you want her to make this hard work?". The lady took the great artist on one side and murmured: "You see, we tried with the secondary schools and even with the professional schools but she lost years with no result. She really can't make it. So what shall we do? If you don't accept her she will be in the street. What do you say: it is better being a student of Accademia rather than a whore, isn't it?". The reply of the rough Cadorin was imediate: "No, dear lady, better being a whore!".
Luckly the neophytes knocking on my door are every day more rare because of it. But not only the neophytes. Recently, a friend of mine, a wonderful essayist and good painter, ventured on the ground of sculpture and asked me an opinion about one of her instalations. After a careful analysis, I came to the conclusion that the third dimension was not among her capacities, I told her my impression and explained the motives. Since then she cuts me. However this is not a big loss: who expects only praises from his friends, is not a friend. And the more time passes, the more I prefer to have around me people who don't like flattery and grow the difficult ground of loyalty.
Therefore I used the metre of clarity also with Luigi Bona. I warned him even before seeing his works: careful because if you ask me an opinion I have to give it to you and I don't like to gild the pill. His answer was: "I want to know exactly if I have to stop or if it is worth carrying on. And I would be grateful to you if you showed me which road to take among the few I started". At this stage he pours out a set of extremely colourful canvass with gestually skilled signs. Some of them are very pleasant and remind the dripping of Pollock in a solar key, others the obscure power of black and red masses of Vedova in the '70.
I say to the author that these are encouraging but dated efforts.
Incidentally, I notice thath in Venice it'easier to fall in the trap of déjà-vu: with the Biennale and thousands other occasions of visual bombing, images surround vortically who is predisposed to "perceive" and go into the drawers of memory. These darwers are opened unconsciously in the critical moment of impact with the desarming candour of the virgin surface.
I think that the epigonism of these first works made by Bona is completely unaware. As much as I believe he wanted to try my frankness because he puts away imediately the canvass and asks me to follow him in another place, not far away. With a more anxious attitude - but already trustful, I will understand later - he showes me some other and more mature works: assemblages of objects applied on plain grounds and chromatically treated. I don't find any problem in expressing my positive opinion. This is also something already seen before ( Arman was the first ) but, after the initial results, it seems more according to his expressive means and, most of all, promising new improvements. I suggest him some technical tricks and wish him good luck with his work. It was implicit we would meet again when the sprout blosomed into a young and strong tree.
Surprisingly Bona rings me up only two months later. I reach him in a small gallery, two steps away from St. Mark square. On the walls are hanging the fruits of a restless activity. Particularly intriguing to me are the compositions obtained with the protective packages for eggs. He glues them with precision one next to the other, he paints them using different techniques ( from spraying to immersion ) obtaining bright effects or grafic repeating motives. Sometimes, on the back of each little shell, he glues glass pearls or murrine. The effects are convincing, as for the soberness of partition as for the timbric variety. And imediately we try to assemble the tiles, imagining the endless compositive possibilities: soon a new show will start along the walls. It is made of a unique band begining with black, going through the whole cromatic spectre and reaching eventually the candour and immaculate illusion of light.
Even the other derivations of accrochage, with accumulation, order and gestual rhythm, seem encouraging. The closely-woven designs, obtained lining up cuttlery and plastic straws, the games between cameras and films, the ties with the recovered technique of dropping, ironically emphasizing the aplomb, are steps of an imaginative path aiming to an expressivenss with a strong communicave impact. Perhaps, the most convincing - and technically more audacious, almost near to virtuosity - works in this direction are the compositions where Bona skilfully uses the tested icon of the little Coca-cola bottle, offering happy chromatic shades.
We saw each other again after a few weeks. He showed me some other works, conferming the same tendence already precisely spotted and he asked me to put down in writing what I said to him, during our meetings, on the different subjects. I considered useful to describe the little genesis of this constructive dialogue taking to the results, now for the first time shown to the public.
I could prolong the story talking about other references, besides those already mentioned. It is obvious that the ascendancy Pop, intersected with Op, incorporates an area going from the methodical catalogation of Christian Boltanski ( opposed to the sentimental one of Maurizio Pellgrini, or to the technological one of Subodh Gupta ) to the programmed trash of a big american production. However, if I did it, I would create an artificious cultural swamp for what the motive of this "kind of painting" represents ( inverted commas are compulsary, since the works use the third dimension to get part of the emotional grip and exploit an effective spatiality which is often allusive).
Luigi Bona does not express himself starting from theorems but from the irrepressible desire of building manually esthetical objects which are beautiful and easy to understand: artifact having a direct relationship with everyday life and with the production of common use goods; they manage to recover the seriality of means through happy changes of context.
They are messages in a bottle, thrown in the ocean of contemporary art, ploughed by entangled routes and troubled by tsunami shrewdly introduced by the market. We hope they will be collected by shipwrecked happy people, ready to smile, on the banks of islands where the trade-winds of peace of mind blow. Works produced with sincerity have to be enjoyed with the innocent ( and intelligent ) look of childhood. Picasso took his whole long and fertile existence to learn drawing with the crudelity and the grace of a child. I believe Luigi Bona works will be loved by those who like the songs of the lamented Sergio Endrigo: we need a seed to make a flower and even a little house, without roof and kitchen can be beautiful if there lives a little bit of sane madness too.