Finis Terrae – Gianluca Marziani



I’ve been looking into different combinations of visual expression for some time now. I’ve even written a  book on the subject, “Melting pop”, which I see as the synthetic mirror of personal obsession which is also shareable, a sort of autobiography which takes us through contemporary objects and icons. However, when it was going to print, I avoided the chapter on the relationship between Art and Architecture. It seemed a bit premature to bring out an embryonic insight into that most difficult of expressive combinations. I decided to wait, seeing as architects usually give me ideas for my in depth research. My only certainty was, (and is) that such a  union  is perfected through visual artists. Most architects (excepting those who see themselves as artists: Frank Gehry being the prime example) show a studied vagueness on the subject. It is only in Dutch cities that we feel this combined experimentation has been used systematically: MDRDV, Monolab and West 8 are three very good examples. Then there is also Herzog and de Meuron who got Thomas Ruff to “redress” the outside of the Ricola factory and the Berlin Eberswalde Library.
Anthony Case, the sculptor, worked along side Norman Foster and Ove Arus on the bridge which lies in front of the Modern Tate Gallery. This last example is a particularly valuable one since the sculpting was planned during  project formulation and this confirms the fact that an artist distils precious works of art which are functional as well as decorative.

Architecture comes from thought, from a mark on a piece of paper, from a glance at household objects, from our most prosaic day to day moments. Anything can inspire the creation of a space. During the making of it the idea must be expanded and taken into physics and engineering, matched against economy and politics until the mechanism between thought and reality is ready. At this point the gift of synthesis will be transmitted in the harmony of its creation. Even if Visual Art springs from thought, from glances between what is inside and what is outside, the artist uses this synthesis as the main foundation of his work. Then, as soon as his work is finished, it is moved into the world, but without damaging its’ original conformation. We will see the creative object in a background which should show it at its’ best, surrounded by other more or less matching architectural creations. The course of each image will become part of new spatial contexts.

Architecture and Visual Art are complementary, they have different working procedures but similar results. They are divided by the macro and micro in their physical presence, by the community  and the individual in their creation and a boundless or limited application in their  use.

If they are combined, however, they offer intense results. They offer two forms through which to see reality, filter it and give it a new, innovative, useful aspect.


Very few paintings nowadays face architectural themes in a constructive way. The cue which unites function and  aesthetics is often missing. What we find is usually the set out narration of real or realistic landscapes or a fantastical invention which builds what is impossible. Art also needs the midway point, the point where idea and physical form are moulded together through content and formal research.  This is where the artists shows  unsuspected directions, this is where he lights the fire of doubt.  A road for “corrosion” and “corruption” which will contaminate those who save in order  not to change what is obvious. The “ulterior virus” belongs to what is urgent in the artist and can spread to wherever it finds receptive ground. In Italy Andrea Chiesi, Luca Pancrazzi or Jonathon Guaitamacchi  spring to mind. These artists look at pure existence from a deviating prospective which is often hidden to the unaccustomed  eye. They find evolution in industrial objects, in inurbane spaces, in the horizontal or aerial rhythm of urban landscapes. Other artists like Giacomo Costa, Martino Coppes or Claudio Spoletino take reality to  then invent a landscape which doesn’t exist but could exist. Their vision seems to be in line with the futuristic vision of Antonio Sant’Elia and Paul Citroen. Costa uses digital imagery which becomes synthetic iconography.  Coppes builds models which he then takes photographs of giving them an estranged ambiguity somewhere between reality and not. Spoletini, on the other hand, chooses painting with a parallel photographic project. He experiments his contaminated vision which lies between idea and reality with great technical ability.


1) Spoletini understands that there has to be a well defined recognition. It is not enough to follow one’s fantastic vision and transfer it onto canvas. A systematic evaluation of the references is needed, something which unites everything, a style which is in line with the mental project. All of this, if a steady balance is kept, goes to form the “iconographic stamp”.  It brings out a linguistic autonomy which does not need subtitles or lists. The painting speaks its own language and its words, sentences, intonation and volume will be understood by others. A reactive vision of landscape must be built using internal assembly where nothing is done by chance. Unwritten rules are needed for the work of art to be not just pure fantasy but a mixture between what is possible and what is probable.  Only the linguistic code can structure an architectural geography which gives the project and its’ contents an identity.

2) Another point underlines the historical tension which subtends Spoletini’s step. One understands how an invented utopia compares to European culture with its constitutional humanistic values. One can see the future but from inside a solid and widespread memory. It is clearly and recognisably as well as strangely distributed: from Russian constructivism to Italian rationalism, from the stylistic Arabs to Aldo Russo’s post modernism, from the heaviness  of  Leon Krier to the concrete metropolis of  New York or the metaphysical silence of the Eur area in Rome. One can feel the stratified weight of a vertical city, an enormous container of hidden solidity and technology.  The physical space becomes the invisible  mixed concrete city. Here is the history of building which is spread across  a restless sea of magma and yet, controlled by a historical synthesis. Spoletini contaminates values, references and cultures in a simplified but not to say simplistic way. His architectural citations appear full of contradictions, of authors with questionable ideas, of post modern  references to a distant past. But this is where intuition lies: in understanding that, ideally, his city is the city of new African kingdoms, of post war reconstruction in the Middle east,  of new spaces between economy and utopia,  of architects who favour mega power. From between paintings and geopolitics rises the city where economy, religion, progress and dense population is all mixed together. Looking at  the canvases we see that both public and private transport  use the sky rather than just terraferma; the streets spread across the water connecting entire areas of skyscrapers to other built up areas; time is shown by numerous clocks, both analogue and digital; giant geometric shapes grow in succession along the landscape, like magnets for the transmission of energy.  The details give us this strange context which we know but do not recognise. Imposing and imperious, the painted world tells us about the future using the living tools of our present.

3) These places are the nerve centres of a possible utopia and not of improbable science fiction. Spoletini’s input moves the mental prospective from the absurd to what is true. These paintings create visions of the future in which reality and imagination live together in precise fusion. Think about Arcosanti, the city of freedom which Paolo Soleri created in Arizona, the rich and beautiful area which James G. Ballard tells us of in “Super-Cannes”, or even of the modern utopias of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh and of Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia. As a final example  think of the collective Celebration architecture in Florida, “cartoontown” (produced by Walt Disney) in which the seraphic calmness shows the monstrous artifice of social control. As with all the above places, Spoletini’s cities have something magical and disturbing. One realises that mysteries and excesses live on the other side of those windows, in places both public and private, within the buildings. One perceives  the distortion and yet one loses the general control, one loses one’s ethical balance, one searches for one’s roots between “our” city and pragmatic imagination.

4) Another emerging fact is  successful cultural contamination through architecture. Buildings carry within them historical inter-weavings, social trends, distinct customs of an already defined culture. They show places of high austerity which do not lose the identity with which they were born. Planning precision updates these elements without lowering the holistic energy of city construction. This utopian city calls together different religions, varied interests, professional and private routines. The domes and decorative motifs remind us of mosques and minarets, other times one can imagine renewed spaces for Catholic gatherings. One then remembers the work frenzied business professionals inside the   skyscrapers. One imagines blocks of flats with Ballardian aerial views. Life amasses there but we cannot see it, it beats in the veiled interiors, it feeds the privacy and mystery. The contamination has become visible and belongs to the ground plan of Spoletini’s ambiguous city areas.

5) Camouflaged but ever present is the vision of the future. A gigantic digital clock on the roof of a skyscraper brings it to mind. Here are some supersonic aeroplanes flying low, cutting through the blue sky. Here are tracks which embrace certain buildings and whizz along the flying trajectories of post automobile public transport. The painting where a green train comes out of a building and descends along sinuous walls is the prime example. There is no railway or overhead line here but an aerodynamic craft which slides along the outside stone of the external walls. One wonders about the logic of  a vehicle going into a seemingly aesthetic building. One thinks of its use, of its rapport with the inside of the building, of the difficulty of the coexistence of sounds of engines and the silence of possible prayer. But that vehicle may not produce sound, maybe the building is not a church but a crossroads of urban life. Beholding this painted architecture, one wonders what is on the inside. Much is perceived without understanding  all. This swings the conceptual balance of the artist: nothing is obvious since the world is changing at such breakneck speed. The great economical chain controls the values of every state, religion upsets territorial destiny, wars change the architectural face of the city. New mega values confront our tomorrows: ecology, management of natural resources, large scale conversion of materials, alternative biology, instant information, neo-humanistic technology. These and similar problems will face those who will be twenty in twenty years time. The politics of each single nation will count for less, as will the fights and arguments of turbulent parliaments and the political factions among those who represent a bored population. Television is already inverting its reference co-ordinates: it will become more and more specialised, channelled to specific groups,  integrated with other domestic video technology. Within all this transformation, the urban landscape will become the central nerve centre for ever more different needs. Spoletini’s vision is not far from the world which awaits us: the spasmodic growth of micro-light and ultra-fast technologies and the civil memory which acts as counterpoint and erects its many urban “monuments”. Tomorrow always starts from a normal and silent present.


Spoletini’s project goes through many different types of visual art. It captures thoughts and reflections on architecture, as already stated, but also on cinema, on sculpture, on design, television…and each time it filters stylistic features and codes into a mixture which does not show the origins of its elements. The constructive sense of the quotation is developed thus: by combining formulas which lose their original autonomy and suggest a new structure for tomorrow.

From the cinema we think of films like “Metropolis” and “Blade runner” , German expressionism and Leni Riefenstahl, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, “Tron”, “Black Rain”, “Gattaca”, “Mister Hula Hoop”, “Il Quinto Elemento”, “The Truman Show”, “Cube”, and as far as the surreal dream in “Parla con Lei”…one can sense an atmosphere from the cut of shot, from an aerial view, in an implicit visual attitude. The cinema absorbs the CNN satellite news style, it becomes part of a painted iconography which brings out the realistic key and brings science fiction closer to our present day world.

Then there are the designs: details on the buildings, symbolical shapes, the advanced forms of new means of transport which cut through the air. There are references to household shapes, tools, bath or kitchen accessories. I’d like to point out the design of the train of the same colour as a religious (maybe) dome. An important detail since the assimilation of distant elements implicates the basic concepts of new civil architecture. Here  design involves the social sculpture, it enters into the shape of the buildings, it characterises  the  visual parameter of an entire metropolis.

Many major cities, let us remember, search for subliminal messages within their architecture. Reflecting on this, with the transversal support of painting, can educate the eye and individual actions.

We walk along the paintings and see skyscrapers, imperious buildings, railways, aeroplanes and other flying crafts, chimneys which emit black smoke, clocks, clouds, monuments…but we never see any human presence. We feel life going on and yet it remains hidden. In continual contemporary frenzy, but it remains behind closed doors, behind closed windows, in the train compartments, in the aeroplanes and in the hot air balloons. The city seems to live inside the delirious geometry of hyperwork . Nature is substituted  by functional surrogates which make life go faster to the detriment of health and poetry. Relaxing in the open is now considered to be impossible, one cannot think of being able to play outside, outside the places where there is no direct sunlight. Imagine gyms, swimming pools, squash courts, football pitches, tennis courts, bowling alleys and other sports facilities: but all of them rigorously indoors, inside multifunctional centres which substitute perfumed things.

A different world, sometimes embarrassing and immoral, plausible  if looked at openly and courageously. A place that men and women have built and fed, taking the lymph from a historical memory which we all belong to. And what if each possible delirium was due to our fear of rebelling against places?  The arduous sentence lies with the landscape, our mirror. Our interior salvation, with the artistic landscape, the questioning way (for a better future).


traduzione a cura di Paola Romagnolo