Shifting patterns play tricks on the viewer’s eyes, and that’s a part of the function of op-art part and part of the intended reaction to Biasi’s kind of art. The sensation of look- ing at one of his works is that of a kind of visual wrestling match between the intellect and the physicality of surfaces and transparencies that move all of their own free will. Although the surfaces move as they reflect light, the artist has calculated the surfaces to achieve the desired effect on the viewer. A viewer’s perception will become manipulated by shifting surfaces and transparencies deliberately placed by the artist. This is set up as a way to create a movement that gives the viewer the sense that they are not en- tirely in control of what is being looked at. It’s true that viewers could be psychoanalyzed on the basis of what their reaction to op-art is. Biasi has even stated that certain viewers become frus- trated almost panicked during a confrontation with one of his works.
A Biasi piece could be an all red monochrome or a piece could be all blue or it could be a combination of green black red and blue, it depends on the de- sired effect. The actual shapes that are being opti- cally manipulated in the human eye are built at different levels and respond to the light refractions from different angles. The tactile nature of Biasi’s work makes it almost sculptural and two-dimen- sional at the same time. Generally Biasi works in two colors, a gray and one other color. The actual gray may be something that is optically mixed by the human eye. In terms of Impressionism the art- ist that comes to mind is Seurat. You could argue that Seurat was not just an impressionist but one of the first optically based artists. But Seurat did not have steeply built out angles or layers of material manipulated in this way. The object here is not that kind of optical color mixing found in Impression- ism at all. You could trace op-art back to Velasquez and say that any painting or art that features ob- jects or shapes that come together through distance and optically manipulate the viewers per- ception are a similar form of art. Comparisons aside, one aspect of interest is the way this kind of art transcends the idea of Impressionism. It some- how moves outside of the constraints of art histo- ry, without being placed in the category of outsider Art. Biasi is interested in surrealism and influ- enced by his colleagues, which makes perfect sense to me. I found his kind of work mysterious and I couldn’t quite figure out why it was made or what was driving Biasi to make this type of work.
I’ve always been fond of art that interacts with the viewer. It was through this mystery and curiosity that I was brought to a point of wanting to find out more. So it was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to speak directly with the Biasi about his work.
– Q&A –
When did you discover a way to use optical illusions in your art or do you not think of it that way?
When a pebble or a drop of water falls on the surface of a pond, we all see circular ripples that seem to ex- pand over the water. In the same way we see clouds change shape more or less quickly when the wind blows. I remember lying under a tree when I was still a child; I was looking upwards and, between the leaves that rustled with each breath of wind, the sky seemed to me to be a continual fluttering of light and shades of blue. Were they simple optical illusions? Some would say yes… but then, since the time of Parmenides there have been those who ar- gue that movement is nothing other than a deep-rooted human illusion. Personally, being wary of theoretical speculation, I think that those visions are innate in human nature and so were ob- jective and real even in their apparent illusoriness.
Did you rebel against something or have a specific political ideolog y in your work or is it all about a vi- sual experience?
When I was very young I was unruly and rebellious in the face of representations; I was dubious about any kind of mimesis, whether of a perspectival, Cubist or a Futurist kind. At first I was attracted by Informale painting and even more by Dadaism. La mostra chiusa: nessuno è invitato a intervenire, Le pitture nere, and La mostra del pane were all sug- gested by the idea I had about art works being on the same level as any other kind of work (I mean to say, that of a baker, shoe maker, carpenter and so on); I was partly influenced by a political ideology. Even the works I made anonymously from 1961 to 1964, as part of the Gruppo N, were part of an ideo- logical idea of art. In fact, though, most of my work has been the result of my personal visual experi- ence, so much so that each work has been made without preparatory drawings and has grown day by day, strictly linked to a preceding work, even one made years before.
What do you want the viewer to experience when looking at one of your paintings?
Years ago I heard a visitor, in front of one of my Di- namica works, exclaim: “That damn things moves, even though it knows how to stay still!”. I think he had felt the disconnection between its stillness and the dynamicity of contemplation. Recently I saw a small boy pass in front of a similar work, stop, and turn back, looking at it with greater attention and, finally, calling his parents to let them know about his amazement too: his mind had become a devel- oping form and had entered the picture.
To put it more simply: in my works there is no rep- resentation of movement, as in Futurism, nor is there any real movement as in kinetic art. I want the viewer to be receptive to the energy in the work, to imagine what is missing – movement above all – and then to fill the gaps in the work with other presences and to transform himself into the maker of the images for which my work was the tool.
In an interview British painter Bridget Riley said she admires the paintings of Francis Bacon. Is there another artist that you admire or that in- forms your work?
I appreciate and love the work of many artists, be- ginning with Paul Klee , Piet Mondrian, Carmelo Arden Quin, and Lucio Fontana; but the artist with whom I have had the most intense exchanges of ideas remains Bruno Munari… though I must say I particularly admire the work by Jesus Rafael Soto.
Do you feel your work is more about colour or more about forms? Are you trying to focus on one or the other or is it something you would like to be work- ing together?
It is obvious to me that a lot of my work is aimed at exalting dynamic forms. Often, in order to privilege
the perception of change, iridescence or simply ki- netics (for instance, look at il quadrato ruota op- pure i quadrati rotolano), I prefer black and white to colour. At other time I favour colour, as for example in Grande tuffo nell’arcobaleno. But mostly, in my researches, dynamic forms and colour are integrat- ed to give rise to works of sublime visual impact.
Were you making non-optically based art at an ear- lier point in your career?
Before 1960, but also later on, I worked with two-dimensionality, and many of my earliest works (as, for example, with Stratificazioni, or the first Trame) were basically optical. Then, however, I began to make them in three-dimensions (I am referring to the three- or four centimetre bas-re- liefs) and called them rilievi ottico-dinamici or di- namiche visuali (Optical-Dynamic Reliefs or Vi- sual Dynamics). These are the works I am best-known for, ones which I prefer to call Gestalt Art, as they were defined by the art historian Gi- ulio Carlo Argan in 1963.