Gathering Winds / Marc Scheps

A few years ago, Dina Recanati started creating these works developing out of a profound sense of inner necessity. The name she gave to this impressive ensemble of works in progress seems to indicate that adverse winds are blowing with great force. Could they possibly be those of an existential anxiety faced with the torment of the world that the artist attempts to bring together in her works? One thing is certain: Their severity and austere strength express a drama of a rare intensity. These works show us the commanding flow of the forces of life crossing barren territories.
The reliefs, as well as the columns, the spheres and the books continue a work that saw the light of day half a century ago but has now become enriched with a new dimension: Restricted to the most essential, each work unites a course of lines to create a spatially dense, agitated relief that reflects its shadows and gains its color — that is often of a particularly sophisticated nuance — in its body. Recanati has chosen three formats to define a formal structure to contain the formless, dynamic torrent that is already gathering force: These are the square (50 x 50 cm / 20 x 20 inches), the double square (122 x 61 cm /48x24inches)andtheratioof3:2(182x121cm/72x48inches). She makes use of various unstretched canvases (sometimes of cotton) and creates a relief on them out of chaotic movements before painting it with a monochrome — or, at least, dominating — color. There are a limited number of them: various earth and sand colors, a mineral or metallic black; and then, a blue that summons up an aquatic or cosmic feeling, and finally, the white of pure light. With these colors, we are confronted with the four elements symbolizing the universe: earth, water, air and the light emanating from the solar fire.
Since 2000, Recanati has experimented with different qualities of canvas as a material allowing the formation of spatial configurations. First of all, with her “Archives” and “Diaries”, followed by the series of “Bundles” and “Open Bundles”, and finally by the “Samurai”. The series of “Gathering Winds” has its origins in an experience she did not pursue at the time. It is with her creative intuition and her hands that she is going to create movements in relief with a canvas previously saturated with a gel medium that makes it malleable before it dries and hardens. These reliefs have no form; they much more express a sequence of raging, contradictory rhythms. Recanati invests the amorphous material of the canvas with zones of contradiction, with moments of relaxation, she creates hollows and peaks, sets free sluggish or rapid currents. The baroque reliefs end up by finding a sense of equilibrium between the forces that shake them and their own movements that appear to be set for eternity and, in this way, preserve the visual and tactile memory of their vitality. In keeping with their structure and colors, they evoke a terrestrial relief or an aquatic movement. These reliefs have no center, they cross the surface like a hurricane coming from somewhere else and blowing towards the unknown; the limits of the canvas are those of our vision and we can imagine them continuing to infinity.

The “all-over” character of the pictorial surface follows in the footsteps of Jackson Pollok but, in place of the successive layers of drippings that he threw on his canvases, Dina Recanati achieves intensity and depth through the dazzling density of the reliefs that cover the entire surface. As if observed from a distance, we see the topography of an unidentified planet, whose frozen geological hollows bear witness to a whirlwind expelling emptiness and creating a labyrinthine, indecipherable course. However, these images are the result of the artist’s precise vision. Each one of Recanati’s works — going beyond its unique aspects — reveals a style, and message on the complexity of the world and the necessity to keep on moving so that the “Gathering Winds” can lead us to our goal. For the artist, the winds of the spirit and matter meet at the heart of the work.
Looking back at the works once again brings to mind those of several European artists from the late 1950s. First of all, the “texturologies” and “topographies” of Jean Dubuffet who taught us the importance of observing “just skimming over the ground”. One is entitled “Terre mère” (1959-60) where the artist stresses the metaphor of the earth as the existential crucible. Piero Manzoni, with the minimalist folds of his “Achromes” (1958-60), invests the painting with the status of an object — a characteristic we find in the work of Dina Recanati who, however, does not abandon the aura of a significant image. When dealing with the monochrome painting of Yves Klein, we should consider his “Relief planétaire bleu” (1961) that is the expression of a cosmic vision running through his work. Klein and Manzoni, who both died while still very young, belong to the same generation as Recanati. One aspect these artists have in common is their profound need to go beyond the appearances of the visible and develop a vision that, using the materials of the world, permits them to reveal certain truths of the invisible universe.

In her quest for a “different” reality, Recanati has returned to the column that has been present in her work since 1972. They were originally cast in bronze and then created using sheets of aluminum before finally appearing with painted veneer wood. The column in “Gathering Winds” is square, its dimensions human; it is a volume covered with a cloth with all its folds and rustlings painted blue. Its reliefed verticality is possibly a reminiscence of those sculptures representing the gods of Olympus with the pleats of their tunics flowing down their bodies. They are firmly positioned on the ground but their being is of a cosmic nature and the blue column conveys this sense of ascension. This interpretation of the column as the axis of the world, uniting the earth with the celestial spheres is reinforced by the appearance of a new element in the work: the sphere. These have various dimensions and are placed on the ground. They are covered with planetary reliefs, and painted blue or white. Placed in space, they form the beginning of a planetary system; white for the solar light, blue for the mineral, aquatic night of a planet. They form a totality that can be approached from any point.

To complete this microcosm, a blue relief placed on a support adds a horizontal dimension, the basis from which all momentum sours upwards. Dina Recanati does not forget the human dimension and represents this with the book, the visual reflection of our accumulated memory. The book has appeared in her work since 1976 and it has experienced many alchemic transmutations since then — from gold to bronze, and from aluminum to the painted surface. The stratified planetary layers make this an object charged with a greater sense of mystery than ever before. Its compressed energy communicates the images of the intuitive and personal cosmology of the work to us. They make us aware of a reflective intimacy that is anguished but, simultaneously, also curious to discover the secrets and origin of the “Gathering Winds”, a search the artist has still not completed but which she now reveals to us in several moments made unforgettable by their force, their truth and also by their beauty. 

Marc Scheps has been Director of the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, The Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany and the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation. He is the author of many publications on modern and contemporary art.