Stefano Grasselli - 2009, outline for the presentation of S. Grasselli at the Officina delle Arti Reggio Emilia

Good evening to all present. I'm Nicola Manfredi and I'm here to talk about Stefano Grasselli again, to say something else about his work as an engraver, in addition to what is already written in the catalog. We have known each other since the late nineties, a working relationship that I dare to say has turned into friendship or at least on our part into deep-rooted esteem (I say ours to also include the others who work in the worshop).

Grasselli, compared to engraving, presents that complementarity between technique and expressive force that is the prerogative of complete artists, artists tout court. For Calvino, the artist is a methodical craftsman, who every day tackles the same themes, the same tools, the same methodologies to bend them to top quality executions. And it is from this repetition, from this obstinacy that art springs. Such, it seems to me, since I've known him for so long, is Grasselli. An artist moreover of a seriousness and honesty of the past, with all that can be understood. On which you can always rely on common projects that are not fashion carelessness. Who even in commissioned works, accepted without ever presuming to be superior, knows how to express his vision with dignity. (For example, the lithography for the municipality of Casina).

By repeatedly printing the engravings of an artist, one appropriates his world, as long as it is worth it, until seeing certain characters, certain landscapes, certain glimpses of reality, or reading certain books, certain texts, we are told : "But look, it looks like a work of that or that".

Basically this is how, as far as I'm concerned, an art book is born, when you discover the affinities between a writer and an artist who could accompany the words.

For example, after having appreciated and tried to fully understand the deep meaning of Grasselli's engraved iconologies, of these engravings that are not simple frames but scenes, stories in the making of an inner world, find and read the words of a much more authoritative voice, that of Pablo Neruda, who explain their own poetics, well, it was a revelation. Because for Grasselli the engravings are precisely the Nerudian songs of the heart. In the heart there is everything: the deformed and the harmonious, happiness and fear, darkness and light. (Think of the engravings with black beasts, temples and white horses). I believe that Grasselli derived all the images for his engravings from the very heart. And therefore, struck by this discovery, we could only entrust him with the graphic accompaniment for Neruda's centenary volume.

We find the same images and expressions of a stepmother nature, which gives us life, but at the same time inexorable and ineluctable in its evolutions, in the novel by Ciro Allegria. By entrusting him with the task of illustrating it, I have the presumption that I have done Stefano a great pleasure. Clearly to myself too, because I knew it would do a great job. A pleasure because finding a brother of visions is always comforting. It means that perhaps you are not wrong, that you are not alone. It means that we can persevere on our way. And that's what I hope Grasselli will do with his excellent works.

To conclude, partly joking. I did not know how I could have entitled this speech of mine. Then, looking at the illustrations for Hungry Dogs, the deamicisian Dagli Apennini alle Andes came to mind. There and then it comes to laugh, but in reality the reason is serious. The ribbed mountains of Grasselli, which are the iconographic and synthetic repetition of our Pietra di Bismantova, become, in these engravings and in many others, all the mountains in the world, all the Andes in the world, hostile yet vital and familiar places, also them songs of the heart.

Here I stop and thank those who wanted to listen to me and Stefano Grasselli who trusted to invite me.