Critical Notes

Calisti: sensazioni di paesaggio

The Marches in Italian is a feminine, plural name; it’s the name of my territory.
“La Marca”: that’s how I like to call it, using the singular feminine, because of its body and identity, just like a woman. Evidence are the sinuosity of her hinterland, the golden blue of her coasts and the not entirely revealed secrets of her “blue mountains”. She is shy, veiled in modesty, with hidden beauties that only reveals to deserving intimates. Feminine grace is hers, where shapes and colours naturally blend in the confidence of hearts. She wears sober tones and sweet shades clothes that she disposes and changes according to the changing seasons to amuse and every time surprise those who love her. Not looking for adventures, glitz, or noise, she is cosy and intimate as someone who is waiting for the big love. Nevertheless people talk of her grace, and move from far away to discover and get it.
The painter Stefano Calisti’s professional call is to be an interpreter and singer of his “La Marca”, with his striking and excited way, he wants to mess up her modesty to reveal and loudly proclaim her beauty. With his colours, he adorns her so to increase his already intense longings.
He began to court “La Marca”, as a young man, but quite reflective. It was the landscape that attracted him indeed. He realized that it was a subject suited to his temperament as a genre, and to his idea of Art and painting as a spontaneous and not planned conception, expressive, sensual and caste in the meanwhile. Aware of the existence of a local artistic tradition, he had shared it, considering the landscape as an exercise and a representation of an "amiable coexistence." Inside that artistic thought, he distinguished himself for his poetic tension, his vision that he never completely subdued to natural patterns, nor let be influenced by the need of complying with reality. His vision was pushed by the inner urge of mixing the particular with the universal, materialism with spiritualism in that imaginary world where Leopardi and Licini had always been present as “voices over”.
In that historical moment it seemed that conceptualism, alluding “poor art”, exasperated search of originality - often leading to an arid extravagance - should still prevail in art. Calisti, standing out from the crowd, without any ideological vanity, chose to defend his desire to represent reality with the same spontaneity with which he felt its charm. He painted as if the sole and authentic revelations had concentrated in the persistence of a combined action between his manual skills, application and a gift inherent to painting itself: colour.
He derived this attitude mainly from the "education" he received by fate in his early age from a family friend and neighbour artist, his master Wladimiro Tulli.
In Calisti’s art, landscape meant seasons - and thus time -; landscape meant colours and shapes, and thus senses; landscape meant light, sounds, smells, and thus spirit, poetry, love. That’s how he started painting, with controlled naivety, without any other concern than mixing colours and creating forms that would talk about himself, his innocent emotions. He choose, in short, to practice traditional areas of painting research still bearing in mind a need for modernity. His landscapes were realized in bright colours - almost neon lights -, still revealed a glimpse of an interesting discourse on the boundary between the natural and the artificial. That was his discourse on how to interpret and look at a less bucolic and naturalistic landscape, increasingly under the constraints and influences of artificial lights and modern media.
It seems that Calisti, with an appropriate processing technique, wanted to search inside the figurative landscape for that freedom commonly called, in art - and visual art in particular, "abstraction". With its morphologies that are not codified forms, with its colours that are mutable and indefinite, his landscape keeps abstraction in the realistic traits. Painting, such as music, takes breath and inspiration from the landscape, and the artist finds an almost unlimited freedom in it: the freedom to express forms and colours as outward manifestation of its spirit, and dreams as inward motion from the depths of his mind.
The colours that at the beginning of his career had thin drafts and flat, scanned backgrounds at a later stage tend to lump in a more dense and thick stroke. They are a kind of material-colours derived from a mixture of acrylic resins with pigments of different nature juxtaposed to evident areas of thick and organic consistency. Calisti creates parallel suggestions: tactile and visual at a time, as an answer to his need to match the visual element with a more concrete, mimetic evidence, of the same material that gives body to the represented reality.

We can well see that there is no trace of the human figure in Calisti’s landscapes. Nature is practically the only protagonist. In that predetermined absence, I think Calisti intends to depict another strong suggestion: an absent presence, as if someone is no longer – or not yet -there. His "stage lights" remain on for a day vigil that can be meant as a vigil of remembrance but certainly also as a vigil on hold: representation of an evoked and indirectly displayed ethnicity. From ancient history wildlife has always prevailed on the artificial order of the constructed landscape of large urban aggregations in Calisti’s territory, and the nature of its inhabitants has certainly resented it. The fisherman, the farmer, the mountain shepherd, in their long stops or in their vigils, received advice, knowledge and civilization from that intimate nearness to nature and its measured, immutable rhythms. People from the Marches draw their silent reflexivity, common sense, wisdom, spiritual awareness, from this symbiotic relationship more than from the history of their trades, businesses and relationships with other lands and cultures. So in Calisti’s landscapes, although the human figure does not appear - and perhaps because of it – it seem to capture the features of this ethnicity and its land identity. This naturality, dominant in its paintings, may result from the feeling that nature expresses itself the spirit of history and of man more than other symbols and reasoning.

Lucio Del Gobbo

I saw that “blink” in the windows of Ferretti Art Gallery. I already was in Italy, but looking at the new visions of Stefano Calisti, I realized I would have felt at home anywhere with them.
I saw those bright colours evoking the hills, the sea of our Land, the fields, and the spaces to play and to dream up new horizons.
The same visions I used to have when I looked at the Conero from home planning to leave. A departure that does not forget its roots and that hilly land recalling the body of a woman and those scattered little houses, like dots.
Calisti’s “signs” are marks of belonging and stability, but also flying free balloons.
Warm colours, inviting to optimism match that dream, the surrender to the forces of nature and fantasy.
Naming his Land “La Marca” (the brand), Calisti is a “brand artist” in any sense, both when he portrays his land, and when he dreams it as I used to do when I was imagining putting on stage what I had inside me.
Now that I’ve been staging many works, I like to follow the thread of memory in Stefano Calisti’s canvases of jute and sand dough.

Dante Ferretti


Il Prestigiatore dei Colori

Stefano is an extraordinary author, since extraordinary is his way of communicating through art. We could call him a persuader, someone that manages to overcome the matter and speak directly to the unconscious. Such is the perspeclive, that the viewer is led into his paintings becoming integral part of the dream-game. The canvas, like a door, opens onto an amazing dream where anything is possible.
We would call him a "sensory" artist: we breathe the smells, perceive the wind and the emotions, eat the colours of his works. That is the way we get charmed by Calisti's art: tasting it. The artist expresses his essence in the symbolic balances between forms and colours, permeates his way of conceiving the relationship between material and the surreal, belween the external world and himself. A concealed communication, prerogative only of intuitivity. Every single element is essential in the unfolding of the dream-game, and precise link to the direct dialogue of the author with those who want to relate with him. He conveys a complex thought in an accurate iconographic design; he ranges in the landscape with captivating chromatic skills, shaping light, and emphasizing tones from the inside; he enters the imagination with wonder and spontaneity. His unusual expression of using the colour distinguishes Stefano: energetic colours that expand into the setting, so sharp and vibrant to turn into material. His ability on using it makes we call him "the magician of colours".

Melissa Parenti


The magician of colours
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