Eight gliòmmeri - A. Manfredi, 14 September 2022, presentation at the Archiginnasio Library, Stabat Mater room, Bologna

This book represents a dream come true, one of the most beautiful flowers on which the butterfly of desire has been able to rest. It was born from a synergy triggered by Marco Fiori - president of the Associazione Liberi Incisori, promoter of initiatives for artistic graphic, curious and expert collector - and involved nine artists who, with enthusiasm and dedication, provided their matrices, Marzio Dall ' Acqua - always ready with his words to support the practices of graphic art - and Antonio Bagnoli, once again kindly available to provide unpublished texts by that multifaceted man of culture that was Roberto Roversi, carefully chosen texts, inherent to a theme and in the very singular form of the gliòmmeri. These nine artists interpreted the proposed verses with printed works made in their favorite graphic methodologies: in relief - they are the woodcuts and linocuts by Gianni Verna, Raffaello Margheri, Laura Stor -, in cavo - the etchings by Ezio Camorani, Maurizio Boiani , Nella Piantà, - flat - the lithographs by Stefano Grasselli and Isabella Branella. It was an honor, a pleasure and, why not, a challenge to print their matrices trying to do it in the best possible way. Not all the techniques of each language are present, but there was no presumption (nor the concrete possibility) of including them all (we also think only of the absence of aquatint or ceramolle and of all the various experimental techniques of the three languages ). Despite this, a first value of this limited edition edition is that of being a sort of specimen of the main artistic graphic languages, presented in a historically chronological order. The other great value is given by having made the images spring from poems never read before, the best ones, which in simple words synthetically paint profound reflections. We tried to give them the best graphics too, with the Garamond Deberny & Peignot for the text, the Augustea for the page numbers, the Egyptian for the numbers of the gliòmmeri and the Carla, a very unique and mysterious character perhaps of the years. '40, for the title page. All, like the images, printed with hand presses on fine paper, not so much to make a book in the ancient way, but to be able to create it in full creative freedom, with the presumption of having created an object-book that we believe has recovered all the aura of a work of art, considered lost by some thinkers at the advent of the era of facilitated graphic reproduction.

Notes for the landscapes of time byFranco Guerzoni: from the pictorial work to the original printed multiple - 2021, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

I state that I do not want to pose as an art critic at all or make judgments on Franco Guerzoni's artistic work, but certainly if I hadn't immediately perceived the fascination of his works and a commonality of sensitivity that leads from a peeling "wall" to multiple suggestions and reflections, the operational path and the solutions adopted to translate unique works onto printed sheets would not have been so immediate and spontaneous from the beginning in the hazard of choices.

How to reproduce Guerzoni's flayed walls in original printed multiples that preserve their colors, semantic values and poetry?

Guerzoni's paintings have multiple surfaces on multiple levels and have a chromatic tone that is not dull, not warm but makes use of materials provided with their own specific light.

After numerous visits to the studio, bringing tests gradually carried out (visits that have always left me a pleasant feeling of friendliness), after having observed several times works and technical tools, it was the words of the artist, intent on retouching with a brush with an amaranth red, to give the interpretative key and the certainty that, after the attempts, we had perhaps reached the desired goal of reproducing, for the book Manto by Osvaldo Coluccino, five color plates: its torn walls live on "overlapping colors, covered and then brought back to the light give the colors themselves a mutability, compared to the original hue, which simulates the passage of time. The ultramarine softens, the white becomes dusty ... ".

For the first panel, the sinopia of all the others, we resorted to a pencil lithograph transferred to the stone through the artist's drawing on transfer paper, which was superimposed on a dry impression from magnesium cliché, reproducing the texture of a second drawing.

The next problem to be solved was which material to use to adequately reproduce the fragments necessary for the progress of the "unveiling" of the following tables. Declining lessons from Atelier 17 practices and Goetz's collographic method as needed, a specially treated wooden cardboard allowed Guerzoni to create the required matrices and model the carborundum acrylic paste on them.

Later, which inks. Oil-based, they would have rendered a gloss extraneous to the artist's work, so we opted for water-based inks, both chalcographic and monotype - the two best brands on the market today - mixed with stiffner, desiccant and in some cases even with the powder pigments used by Guerzoni for the paintings. The transparency and tactile effect obtained is consequent to non-linear printing passages at the chalcographic press, such that areas already imprinted and rich in color are discharged on the subsequent matrices: here, therefore, perhaps even a little by chance, that effect of tearing, of surfacing, of unveiling of underlying chromatisms that are such an important part of the artist's poetics.

Finally, the inking with a brush has added an element of minimal variability to the repetition of shapes and colors that makes each print almost unique, as if it were monotypes but repeated forty times.

The emotion that the landscapes created by time on the walls that Guerzoni so poetically translates into painting arouse, I hope is the same that reverberates from these printed pages.



Previous future - notes for Luca Pasqualini, 2013, Nicola A. Manfredi

I am convinced that in the drawers there is a deposit of hidden works, accumulated over time, and that the ones we see now are nothing more than the result of an eruption due to the lack of space and the awareness that the time has come to show themselves. This artist is an enthusiastic neophyte of one of the rarest and most difficult religions to follow, that of engraved graphics.

The printing works, which were sea harbors beaten by engravers of all storms, today look more like abandoned stalls where the star wheels of the presses creak at the settling of the dust. But every now and then some good sailor, eager to gear up for unusual routes, arrives again: the ink shines again, all the equipment and experiences are back on the move, at the service of the last good arrived, today Luca Pasqualini.

The technical skill of this young engraver appeared complete and precise from the first moment, always aimed at the graphic idea. He likes schematic and geometric shapes but also random inaccuracies and elegant drawing. His aquatints and woodcuts have a tone of déjà vu, of flavors that perhaps have known each other but that we feel as new. There is an echo of Depero and of certain Munari collages, of Enzo Mari's wooden joints, of Capogrossi's stylistic features and chromatisms, in the whole of a figurative culture of applied art typical of the near past and combined with suggestions of the best graffiti artists. But the proposed iconography, these faces that contrast, repeat, contrast or follow each other, hieratic and astonished like Easter Island moai, bear the unmistakable signature of Pasqualini. These plays of primary and complementary colors in combination, although already tried many times, are his. His are the ideas of unusual formats and papers, his are the matrices which, after the use of printing, appear to be decorative and complex tangrams, objects ready for new and still unknown purposes.

Pasqualini moves in a whirlwind of graphic ideas, assimilates and re-elaborates every compositional memory and every suggestion, with his artistic approach, denying the opinion that engraving is only a slow practice of points and acids. Make excellent engravings at a running pace. And if the printer is not quick to follow him, he risks being supplanted by the machines of a fab lab. Which, as far as I'm concerned, I sincerely hope does not happen.

Stefano Grasselli - 2009, track for the presentation of S. Grasselli at the Officina delle Arti Reggio Emilia - N. A. Manfredi

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.

The songs of the heart - 2008, Nicola Manfredi

I printed Stefano Grasselli's first etchings in 1998. Remembering now, I never doubted, from the beginning, that a highly respected engraver had arrived in the workshop. His recipes are apparently simple: drypoint with intertwined signs drawn with control and medium strength, an orderly hatch, more often in scrolls than straight, reminiscent of the chiaroscuro of the ancient masters of the burin. Sometimes conducted over light aquatint etchings, to reinforce the dark atmospheres of many of the subjects dealt with.

And certainly the constancy of the iconographic themes contributed not a little to making me appreciate Grasselli's engravings: not to devote himself to the squares of bourgeois living room graphics but to characters, animals, dark landscapes, which recall the griffins of the grotesques, the bestiaries engraved in the 16th century, but also the visions of Kubin or of some surrealists, it is an act of courage and coherence towards the persistence of one's own sources of inspiration. And knowing how to translate one's inspiration with an appropriate technical language is characteristic of great engravers.

Grasselli is an artist convinced of his work, reliable for the momentum and commitment he spends on art projects. Over the years I have passed many of his plates under the press and some of the printed sheets I wanted to keep them for the expressive vehemence, for the beauty of the nightmare and the foreboding they emanate: The great vulture, Shepherd with nightmares, The great pitfall … Until the opportunity arose to edit a text by Pablo Neruda on his own poetics. Reading the prose of this solar poet, understanding that poetry lives in the contrast between light and shadow and approaching it with Grasselli's dark engravings was sudden. Neruda says, regarding the themes of the poem: "some hunter alone, imprisoned in the middle of the woods, oppressed by the celestial aluminum, smashed by furious stars, solemnly raises his gloved hand and hits the place of the heart. The place of the heart belongs to us. Only, only from there, with the help of the black night, of the deserted autumn, the songs of the heart come out at the stroke of the hand. Like lava or darkness, like bestial tremor, like the tolling of an unbroken bell, poetry plunges its hands into fear, into anguish, into diseases of the heart. Outside there are always large decorations that impose solitude and oblivion: trees, stars. The poet dressed in mourning writes tremulously very solitary ”. Here, Neruda's words best evoke the themes of this engraver, which are songs of the heart, a heart capable of translating the dark side of humanity and nature on paper. The three drypoints on Plexiglas, with their signs cut without beards, were the best equipment for the Nerudian text.

Shortly after the publication of this volume, we faced Ciro Alegria's Hungry Dogs. Author coming from the same landscapes as Neruda, the same harsh and splendid nature, relentless and lavish, man like a straw that bends, breaks, is reborn, animals as a threat and as a resource. And again Grasselli's engravings, black masses of signs and some whites, generic yet recognizable mountains, portraits of men as beasts and beasts as humans ... The essence of an extraordinary novel in five small perfect plates by Stefano Grasselli.

Thousand engravings - catalogue of the Galleria L'Ottagono exhibition, 8-4-2005, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

In my father's studio, on a table, leaning against the wall, there were always some plates already waxed and ready to be drawn. A little further on, two trays covered with dusty glass, one with the blue acid for the copper, the other for the zinc. Some have emphatically called it the alchemist's corner. But nothing was more natural for him than drawing and engraving a plate, a practice by no means secondary to painting and so refined by experience as to appear banal.

He believed that the value of engraving resides in the design and harmonic construction of the compositional space rather than in various technicalities; nevertheless, its flat biting for such a streamlined and rounded stretch in the hollow was the result of an ability to do and a knowing how to see matured to the maximum degree through that daily and repetitive craftsmanship that ultimately distinguishes true artists. The dry points are equally extraordinary, but not so much in this case for the way of engraving, as for the way he printed them, caressing them with an incomparable lightness and wisdom in naturally bringing black back to signs. He told us that he had learned it from Ciarrocchi, after being teased because he moved, with disastrous results for the cleaning of the ink plate, the palm from the bottom up and not vice versa. And only after years of trying did we children acquire the necessary skill to print them. The engravings of the year 2000, almost all of which have not yet been seen except by some collectors, seem to us to testify well to the perfect synthesis between technique and rendering of the drawing achieved by our father.

Color printing from linoleum matrices was also congenial to him. For several years many, as well as the engravings, had been printed them in our workshop with our help. To achieve the desired extenuation of the chromatic tone, he printed with the download technique, using numerous sheets to then choose a few good copies. I argued that there was nothing worse for a printer than throwing away a lot of paper. He replied that he didn't care about quantity: “Maximum quality with maximum waste!”, He replied, offering me this funny concept as authentic by Maccari. The colors had to compose the image while remaining almost impalpable, contrasting with one or two more intense backgrounds. The fact remains that the chromatic refinement that he knew how to obtain is unique, never found again. These pages of The leg of Namur are the latest delicious fruit.

The cat's cry - 2003, Nicola Manfredi

Sometimes beauty confronts us and we take it for granted, the gaze passes without paying much attention to it, at most it tends to return to it frequently. Until this unconscious coercion of the optic nerve affects our reflection and suddenly we realize that what we are looking at is beautiful; indeed, for the surprise of the discovery, wonderful. It can happen for a glimpse of the landscape, a face or a body, an animal, a work of man, for all the thousands of details that surround us.

Three large drypoint engravings were exhibited in the printing house for a long time. One of thirty-five by fifty centimeters, the second of forty-eight by sixty-one, the third of fifty-nine by forty-four centimeters. Three large images, charged with black, very visible. In the first, on the right, some painful figures have faces and bodies contracted by fear and anguish, just as the old man in the lower left is contracted on himself, without hope. Below also two cats, crouched in panic. Above, still to the left, a landscape of black hills, almost ash dunes. In the second, a woman bent backwards, screaming, her hands to her chest, a dog leans her paws on her stomach and raises her muzzle to ask her why so much pain. Above, a landscape of brambles and thorny clouds and in one corner three crosses, a gloomy Golgotha, a war cemetery.

The third imprinted from bottom to top a female nude, three-quarter back with the turned face emerging from a flowing wavy mass of hair, on the left a Luciferian profile of a man with a top hat and pince-nez, in the center an arch of moon, bottom right playing cards - a five of diamonds and a joker - and a screaming cat. It is a brief description that does not fully honor the richness of symbols and the representative power of the engravings. And it is the third that, first seen day by day, hanging in front of the desk, it was finally revealed to me of complete beauty, for the balance of shapes and construction, for the harmonic play of graphics and counter graphics, for the instinctive attraction aroused by the characters. I arbitrarily titled it The cry of the cat, from the name of a monstrous set of congenital malformations, due to a chromosomal aberration, including a particular tone of the cry, plaintive and acute, simulating the meow of the cat, precisely because that cat, wide open mouth, it is a disturbing allegory of the labor of living. And the other, Golgotha, and the first Nuclear winter. Works of an engraver who under the embellished skin of everyday life sees and represents horrors, hopes, nightmares, dreams, monsters, beauties. Effort to which true artists and true poets are called, so that, distinguishing themselves from cathode ray-fed amoebas, they bring the perennial relief of art to those by now few who know how to appreciate it.

Probably the titles attributed to these dry points have nothing to do with the real ones given by the artist. But evoking suggestions, stories, personal memories in the observer is a peculiarity of each of the many splendid engravings and lithographs by Isabella Branella that I have had the opportunity to admire and sometimes the privilege of printing. And if the titles are present they give indications, they are still incipits whose continuation the artist entrusts to the imagination of others. Overlooking the sea, Moths, Handicap, Hug, Together, The vamp, Distant melodies, Alain's dream, Inertia, The silent: not only images in engraving or lithography but, enclosed in a sheet, whole stories to unravel and interpret at pleasure.

Branella's evocative power makes use of an iconographic lexicon based on suggestions drawn from Käthe Kollwitz, Kirchner, Beckmann, Munch, from the best fruits of Northern European Expressionism, both pictorial and literary; some sheets seem like tales by Kuno Kohn, a lithograph that portrays a robust old man sitting in front of a window, his hand on the sill, looking at a landscape that he can no longer reach, is called Buddenbrok. But also of a masterfully conducted design and a possession of engraving techniques that has the instinctive ease of those chosen by art. Closed in the workshop for a week, hardly nourishing herself except by drawing on her own secret book swollen with drawings, this minute artist has created a series of plates in mixed language - aquatint, etching, drypoint, lavis, for negative - and lithographs in pencil, nib, watercolor, such as to decree her among the most interesting and promising engravers who have come to our workshop: often superior strength and will are hidden in frail appearances. From the distance of Giulianova, where he lives, news reaches us regularly. Isabella Branella, while forcing herself to comply with the dictates of everyday life - a job, money… - continues to weave her stories, passing from the engravings to the Fauvian chromatism of oil paintings, always with the same pathos and the same narrative verve. He does not give up but cultivates with obstinate passion the sacred vice of drawing, painting, engraving. We ask the god of art to take particular care of this very deserving daughter of his!

Notes for Gino Forti, 2 - 2003, Nicola Manfredi

Often guests in the house, observing the portrait of Beatrice with the dog, utter a:

- How wonderful! Whose is it?

- Di Gino, Forti.

Then they browse again and inevitably, in front of the great Owl on a black background:

- And this?

- Also from Forti.

If there are children, at that point the following will intervene:

- Look, look, an elephant with sheep!

They are in the large oil painting with a circus scene, hanging in the hall: the flags and the big top ring with color accompanying a cheerful march of animals on a very green lawn. Forti's painting is in fact cheerful and serene. My son Orpheus then arrives holding in his hands the little Portrait of Pinocchio that the artist gave him and who, from the bedside table, receives his goodnight:

- This is mine!

In the end I have to show all the works by Forti that adorn the walls: the oil with the Yellow Carp and the one with the Jumping Frog, both on a black background, the colorful linoleum of faces, landscapes, pinocchios, other animals, the engravings wise. And the viewer I notice, from the comments and expressions, that he always receives a sensation of pleasure, beauty, well-being, serenity. In fact, what more can we say about the art of this painter with whom we have been working for years, as printers and friends, in harmony, always carrying out, thanks to him, high quality and satisfying enterprises? Even now, finally printing after a long delay, the splendid engravings for the edition of Pinocchio - hoping to have found the graphic design that best suits their beauty - I continue to amaze me with Forti's mastery. Mastery of design, synthesis, sense of space, balance of blacks and colors. If there was a speaker corner nearby, I would like to shout an appeal:

- In these dark and ignorant times, buy paintings by Forti, because they are beautiful and will make you happy in many!

Alberto Manfredi's etchings - 2000, Nicola Arnoldo Manfredi

From the very beginning Alberto Manfredi has used intaglio engraving as an artistic language that is not subordinate but complementary to the pictorial one.

His prints are intended not as minor art, but as a black and white translation of the iconographies and stylistic features of his painting.

For Manfredi, however, engraving is essentially drawing, a synthesis by harmonically organized lines of the chromatic and volumetric values of the painting. If in the female figures and in the landscapes with houses, straight signs prevail that articulate the space of the matrix in an order of angular geometric modules, in the faces - often portrayed - the lines take on circular or elliptical trends converging to the optical center of the image.

Manfredi consciously assimilated the rules of classical and Renaissance harmony and adopted them in style, filtering them through the impressionist lesson - which often resurfaces in the softer and more curvilinear signs - and then the cubist and expressionist one.

Hence the sense of compositional harmony that persists in his engravings, despite the distorted perspectives, the squashed volumes, the optical deformations, the alphabetic inserts and numbers apparently incongruous with respect to the scene.

Favorite technique, etching by unique engraving, which does not allow fakes and errors in the drawing. Drypoint, the other favorite technique, used individually, has sometimes been folded to liven up the regularity of the etched signs with a more suffused black. Manfredi does not like pictorial cuisine provided by aquatint or soft wax.

With this distilled and sober etching language, the iteration, through infinite variations on the theme, of female figures, landscapes, portraits and self-portraits, of animals, generates, in Manfredi's engravings, the sublimation of the represented object and creates the topoi of the art of this one among the last great peintre-graveur of the last century.

Notes for Gino Forti - 1999, Nicola Manfredi

For those who print, for an art editor, meeting a Gino Forti is great luck. The main qualities of the person, of rare balance and joviality, are in harmony with those of the artist: who is versatile, whimsical, with a never dormant passion for work, ready to discard the unsuccessful and the unchangeable.

Watching Gino Forti print his own engravings can be a difficult test for the printer to pass. Those inking never completely repeated, those retroussage shots with the tarlatan in seemingly random, that sometimes insisting with the fingers on some part of the plate, at first cause horror to the palm purist. However, you will notice later that it is the right method for obtaining beautiful prints: Forti will have taught you it for free, rich baggage to add to your skill set.

When, having printed the first test, Forti grabs a scraper or burnisher or tip, or again looks for the acid, to scratch, lower, tap, engrave, seeing it modify engraving that seem perfect to the amazed eye of the press laborer, one could get angry if we should not think of the ancient masters procedure: correcting to obtain something that offers an iconography that is ever closer to the creative feeling. Lights appear where they were shadows, blacks instead of mid-tones, drypoint overlaps with etching, a more ferocious aquatint cancels both, the artist's elan vital is all tested on metal. It is the Fauvism of Forti painter who moves from oil paintings and tempera to apparently monochromatic engravings.

Forti is not a purist, he does not prefer a technique, but uses and mixes etching, drypoint, aquatint, lavis. And this experimentation is fruitful because, at the root of this pictorial way of engraving lies a rare ability to draw and graphic synthesis, as instinctive as you are looking for. Above all - what a satisfaction to be able to say it once - he is an artist who knows the ways to obtain the precise reflection of the movements of the soul from the plate. The style is outlined: he looked at Kubin, at Chagall, at the expressionists, he assimilated and reworked Bartolini's blond and dark ways. Now Forti looks only within himself, at his own joyful graphic fury, and sets out to completely conquer the heroic engraving language for strength and purity of the Maccari, the Ciarrocchi, the Manfredi, his other masters of reference.

The ability to evoke complex scenes in a short time makes him an excellent text illustrator. It is difficult to keep the editions designed with him in step with the quantity of chalcography, woodcuts and linocuts - another etching technique in which he excels - and lithographs - his first lithographic prints made in the old fashioned way, have given excellent results - produced to illustrate them .

While with patience and commitment we spent the days making the menabò for an edition of four cheerful stories by Chekhov, combining texts and his stupendous etchings, linocuts and lithographs, Forti, feeling unemployed, satisfied the ancient desire to illustrate Pinocchio. The result was two engravings per chapter, in total sixty-four, all worked with the same creative force in a complex graphic imposing in quality and quantity. Again - while these lines are being written - we have not finished the edition of Chekhov and we tremble at the idea that Forti is passionate about another theme after Pinocchio. But, for those who print, for an art publisher, meeting a Gino Forti is always great luck.