Gabbie senza saperlo 1960
Tecnica mista su tela
80 × 100 cm
V Premio Termoli 1960
Photo: Gianluca Di Ioia
by Francesco Maglione (grazie all'Archivio Gastone Novelli)

Between 1959 and 1960 Gastone Novelli began making paintings with various inscriptions on their surface. This was based on the artist’s great interest in poetry and literature, which he had already manifested in the magazine L’Esperienza Moderna, founded with Achille Perilli in 1957. In the late 1950s and early 1960s it was also important for his production the presence of Cy Twombly in Rome. Novelli made his acquaintance at Plinio de Martiis’s gallery La Tartaruga, which in 1958 organised the first European solo exhibition of the American artist and, between 1959 and 1960, three group exhibitions in Rome, Brussels and Stuttgart in which both artists took part in. In those years Novelli also began to embrace the influence of the French neo-avant-garde writers of the late Surrealist era and the Nouveau Roman, which rejected the traditional logic-chronologic linearity of the novel and the idea of a narrative in time, in favour of a simultaneity of information, often repeated, originating from an inner dialogue and from the memory of the characters.

In Gabbie senza saperlo, Novelli seems to have the urgent need to bring back to the canvas in an automatic way, an agitated discourse in which inscriptions are traced with contrasting trends and different, fragmented, syntactically unconnected and incoherent handwritings. Here the artist makes one of the first attempts to organise the writing in the canvas through squares and boxes, which he will develop in other works from then on. He almost seems to want to imitate the pieces of newspapers he used to glue together in the canvases of 1959. Despite this attempt at systematisation, his writing is difficult to read because in the canvases of those years Novelli often used white paint to veil the signs already traced, leaving them transparent or covering them until they are no longer perceivable. The title itself is only partially visible in the rectangle at the top right of the canvas. The erasure, the uncertain handwriting and the continuous flow of words mean that his “narrations” require a long reading, made of pauses and returns. We could therefore say that Novelli’s writing is as committed - culturally, socially and politically - as it is demanding for those who watch and read his works.