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Italian art consultant, author, and specialist in the use of color Daniele Torcellini brings us this extraordinarily rich look into the work of mosaic master Marco De Luca. With a lyrical blend of science and passion, Torcellini shows us how De Luca’s signature use of color visually transports us as viewers to new and fantastical places. We are especially appreciative of Torcellini’s photographs which were carefully crafted to be exquisite illustrations – be sure to click on them for larger versions. This article accompanies the opening of De Luca’s current exhibit at Ravenna’s Museum of Art (MAR).
By Daniele TorcelliniTranslation by Mirta Baratto
The aim of this brief essay is to analyze a characteristic of Marco De Luca’s artwork – the use of color – through a strictly formal and perceptual analysis.
In Marco De Luca’s work, color is a primary, founding structure, and yet, at the same time, it is a changeable and undefined element. His artworks look as if they have been built through a series of superimposed veils, shade after shade; following modulations of hue, tone or saturation, sometimes delicate and scarcely perceptible, sometimes emphasized and pronounced.
In these fluidified or evaporated layers, colors are sort of suspended, delocalized. They appear not to be in relation to the physical surface of the work. Film color, to describe them using the words of David Katz – one of the most lucid scientists and psychologists of color in the early 20th century – something like the color of the sky, it is never possible to tell how far away from us it is.
This happens in spite of the technique chosen by the artist or, just maybe, because of it. Mosaic. A technique that doesn’t allow for the superimposing of color but only for the placement of one color next to another. A technique in which the only fluidity is in the memory of the natural and artificial processes that have created the materials – glass and stone. A technique in which color gradations are feasible solely and beautifully thanks to additive synthesis – juxtaposing different colors in different quantities.
The additive synthesis of colors is none other than the result of the limitations of the human visual system, these limits allow the most effective possibility to produce and reproduce light effects. Additive synthesis was in the desperate attempt of George Seraut, it was in the success of the first color photography – the Autochrome plates of Lumiere brothers – and it is in what is happening now in every TV screen. Two different hues of color put close together if observed from a distance are perceived as a single color, which is the result of the mixing of the original two colors. A chess-board of green and red squares, in the distance is seen as yellow. The light of a point adds up to the light of a point close by, that’s why it’s called additive synthesis. The light is intensified.
Marco De Luca’s works ask the observer to step back in order to be immersed in them. In this way the eye will be able to find the right distance, so that the fusion of colors can happen, to reduce the visual angle so that many different spots won’t appear as separate but of the same color. The color obtained through additive synthesis is color-light, which brings up-to-date Seurat’s lesson, freeing it from any attempt mimesis of nature and from any aspiration of cold laboratory science, to focus on abstract forms, forms of the visual thought of the artist.
Marco De Luca’s work could be described as color field mosaic. Layers of colors which have depth and are arranged in depth, teeming with atmosphere, going away and approaching the viewer. Intricate layers, where each color is the synthesis of many different colors wisely combined. Layers that vary in space. In the artist’s work there is often the display of what the science of color would define as ΔE, a difference of color. Sometimes in horizontal directions, more often following verticality, color changes, often clearing up, de-saturating or getting lighter. There is a clear direction that allows these color gradations to work, a direction that De Luca has defined and strictly follows.
In Paesaggio Rosso, the intense purple stretches out into a more serene scarlet. In the vast and articulated Mura d’Atlantide, the deep blue clears up in azure, to the white, following vertical bands which differ with more or less emphasis.
And, it is possible to continue.
The delicate variations of beige hues in Mappa. The thin and gradual warm-cold passage in the impressive Ascolta piove….
Or, again, the watery green fading of Capitello.
The hypothetical sky that darkens in the night from horizon to zenith in Stella polare. The lightening from the top to the valley of Il monte di Mauro.
Sometimes the transitions are more rough as in the shading between contrasting colors in Particolare anatomico, La morte di Ofelia or Aga di un pais no me (trittico Pasolini I): visual oxymorons, like a sunset when the yellow-orange from the horizon shades off into blue, its opposite.
The monochromatic surfaces are rare, but the monochromatism is a result of the synthesis of many different colors. As in Il vello d’oro, Mosaico blu, Aga di un pais no me (trittico Pasolini III) or Il faro. La sposa rises silently to sublimate into white – the additive synthesis of all colors.
Pensiero d’oriente , which is a thought that permeates all the artist’s work, it’s a sum of the possibilities of color and its mutable combinations. The bleaching of the blues of the upper part, in azure and cyan blue of the lower part, the intercalation of gold and green colors, that thin out along the same direction, the homogeneity of the orange colors along the surface, everything takes part in the definition of a stratified and complex color, which moves clearing up, creating light from the dark. A balance between contrasting colors, complementary, or almost complementary, where, as noticed by Josef Albers, the chromatic harmony can be obtained not only through the color choice, but through the exact quantity of each one.
Marco De Luca, certainly, is skilled both in the color choice and in the weighing of his colors; reaching visual potentiality that are left to the eye of the observer. It’s up to the observer, finally, to give to these works of art the time and the space so that colors can literally rise to become a reality in the viewer’s perception.
About the Author
Daniele Torcellini (born Fano, Italy 1978) is a docent of Contemporary Methodologies and Techniques at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ravenna and is a Ph.D. student in Contemporary Art History from the University of Siena, where he is conducting research on the history and technology of reproduction of colors in works of art.
Since 2006, Torcellini has been a collaborator with the International Centre for Documentation on Mosaic at the City of Ravenna’s Museum of Art (MAR) His principle themes of research are those of visual perception of colors, particularly regarding the history, conservation and reproduction of the mosaic art form. He has presented his research findings at seminars and conferences and has published numerous opinions and articles in national and international locations. Among the publications is the book The Perception of Colors in the Practice of Restoration.
Derivations, in “O(Ax) = dO(Am) Impossible Equations” exhibition catalog, MAR (City of Ravenna Museum of Art) November 4 – 20, 2011 edited by the Marte Cultural Association
Medium or Message? Limited Episodes of the Reproduction of Colors in Works of Art in “Colors and Colorimetry; Multidisciplinary contributions” Proceedings of the Sixth National Conference of Color (Rome, Sept. 15 – 16 2011)
Sparkles, Colours and other light effects. The problem of the photographic reproduction of mosaic, in “The Proceedings: Interaction of Colour & Light in the Arts and Sciences, 7-10 June, 2011 Zurich, Switzerland”. Midterm Meeting of the International Colour Association.
Torcellini is a member of the Italian “Group of Colors” (www.gruppodelcolore.it), of AIC (International Colour Association (www.aic-colour.org) and of CREATE, Colour Research for European Advanced Technology Employment (www.create.uwe.ac.uk). He is a founding member and president of the Marte Cultural Association and is a contributing editor for the French mosaic magazine, Mosaique.