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Enzo Amendola is an artist highly skilled in the enigmatic. First impressions are that his pictures are lyrical and comforting, until we come to see him as a painter who fabricates illusions which progressively conjure risks for the viewer with too casual an eye. The canon ruling Amendola’s structures is based on the recondite laws of hallucination, a distortion of perception that, without warning, composes visions which are at once convincing and absurd, and intended to lead the most wary eye astray.

In a way barely noticeable, the painter can be seen as an extraordinarily clever creator of deceptions; a rigorous inventor of labyrinths where the hallucinatory dimension will, over and again, switch to a lucid and perfectly conscious variant of nightmare; a state that becomes more and more “altered”, where we are aware not only of the precision of an impeccable and highly accurate pictorial scheme, but of his deliberate intention to confuse the eye and the mind of the viewer.

Finestra sul mare (2001)
Finestra sul mare (2001)

The alienating sharpness of Amendola’s vision stems from a serenely “architectural” rigour, ruffled by subterranean vibrations; signals oscillating between the folds of his perfection, in waves spreading beneath the still and gelid surface of the painting like the audible beats of some harmony off key.
With Amendola, however, hallucination does not spring from a surrealist matrix. But rather from a more Italian – and Germanic – strain (noted on more than one occasion by critics such as Mario Lunetta, Domenico Guzzi, Sissi Aslan, Marcello Venturoli and Giacomo Porzano), but it is declined with a new lexicon, enriched by the experience of certain painting of the American image together with a familiarity with hyper-realism and a certain return to the Italian figurative of the 1960s and 1970s.

In this fertile culture Amendola’s does not seem exclusively prompted, by an urge to follow in the footsteps of De Chirico or, to go further back, to those of Arnold Böcklin, but above all by the implacable desire to create a parallel reality, a world where the reproduction of everyday life is tightly bound with dreams; thereby creating an assault on our capacity to recognize what we may interpret as “truth”.
Once again hallucination dominates these images and renders the apparently innocuous ‘everyday’ compositions so menacing and mysterious. It draws our eye beyond its habitual confines thanks to the skilled setting of highly effective traps - devices that short-circuit our perception of the real.

Notturno (2002)

Notturno (2002)
For instance, glancing at a picture like Window on the Sea (2001) it appears to be conceived as a serene view of a summer terrace with a distant prospect across the sea: on the whole this image would seem to offer tranquillity; we find however elements that strike a discordant note, which should raise suspicions in a more attentive viewer that something strange is going on.
We might start by wondering why the deck-chair in the picture casts no shadow: the painter knows all about shadows; he has studied architecture and knows it laws (as we can see from one of his tempera on cardboard, Two Tennis Shoes (2001). And yet the deck-chair casts no shadow. It appears to be superposed above the level of the terrace without actually belonging to it. Consequently this deck-chair may easily lead us to suppose the existence of an artificial reality which the artist only reveals through minute details, and by means of objects that look much more banal.

It is also true that other elements give an uncomfortable sense of suspension, like the flat sea with no waves, or the coastline that seems to be dumped on the horizon minutes before. But the real enigma of this sunny view on a summer’s day remains the deck-chair. So if Amendola’s terrace on the sea had been the scenario of a murder mystery (like the one in Antonioni’s Blow Up or Peter Greenaway’s The Draughman’s Contract) that deck-chair probably holds the key to a crime.

In this scene we cannot help thinking of the metaphysics of everyday objects (which so enthused De Chirico, Carrà and Morandi) where the most ordinary objects appear charged with secrets. And yet we should not overlook the fact that Amendola’s visual and conceptual luggage is further enriched (perhaps unconsciously but at the same time inflexible) by a leaning towards a subtle and refined atrocity, made still more forceful by the innocent surface of his images.
Again, we notice how this sort of arrangement recurs in a painting like White Armchair (2002) which is no longer concerned with a light-of-day mystery where the shadows have all but disappeared, but with tones of darkness, where the forms and objects are struck by instant flashes of lightning that freeze the scene in a glowing atmosphere where time and space seem to be abolished; where the armchair dialogues with the woman in the foreground, combining a new synthesis between the organic and artificial, between the female body (emerging from the black as if by some interior transformation into the same material) and the unreal sharpness of the furniture (shining with a gleaming sulphurous light) in contrast to sudden apparitions burning in the darkness of a room bereft of a plausible prospect and split by a caesura through which sea and sky can be made out in their all but abstract flatness. This heightens the uneasiness emanating from an interior without apparent logic, but finds its justification in the subterranean laws of nightmare.
Scarpe da tennis (2001)
Scarpe da tennis (2001)
Following this intense and significant path, the painting Nocturne (2002) is based on a mysterious encounter: the oneiric coupling between a sleeping woman and a house immersed in the bluish light of evening. Its iconic confusion abandons the spectator amid the meshes of contrived confusion. Quite deliberately the artist continues to leave his visual rebus unsolved. Perhaps the young woman is only lying on a terrace overlooked by the building in front, or else we ourselves are part of her dream.
Even more probable is that we are being transmitted from some sort of screen attached to her brain waves; or else the artist may have created an illusory perception where the walls of the room wherein the girl lies are dissolved to present us with a construction that broods upon her sleep. In this way, like a gifted film director, the painter has consciously planned the lighting and the visual elements of the work in order to leave the finale open. The same thing occurs with some of his mixed techniques on paper; works where the artist had decided to define and finish only a few details (for example a dress, an island or a few peppers) which at first seemed to originate from an entirely casual choice. But the composite fabric of the interlacing might reveal the arcane subplot of a project defined with particular accuracy; a hermetic visual scheme very carefully thought out, where in some indecipherable way the objects appear to come into flower out of the abstract, immaterial whiteness of the background.

In the course of this deception an eye, that has finally grasped what is going on, might try to read and interpret the entire exhibition following the secret path along which the painter has hinted solutions. These however he has no intention of openly revealing, thus obliging the spectator to abandon his indolent way of looking, and finally getting him to see.
So, with a practiced hand, Amendola has strewn his clues to help the observer find his own way out of the hallucination and reveal the mystery in order to escape from the labyrinth in which the artist has enclosed him. It is still possible to work his way back to the narrow path that leads to safety, emerge from the twists and turns the artist has built and, after a lengthy quest, finally intuit the mechanism of the illusion.

Lorenzo Canova
(Catalogue of the Exhibition at the “Il Labirinto” Gallery, Rome 2003)