Position paper: Towards an observer-oriented theory of shape comparison

P. Frosini - University of Bologna, Italy
ARCES, Bologna, Italy



Guido Moretti was born to be a sculptor. He lives in direct contact with reality in its most concrete form, based in the dimension of space. For him the value of objects should not be illusory, as in paintings, it must be made real. His creativity is only satisfied within a three-dimensional structure.
We must set off from here to understand this artist’s poetical quality. His sculptures pass through two successive phases, linked by the common denominator of a love of nature, but set apart by completely different methods and characteristics. In the first phase, which lasts about fifteen years, Moretti sees sculpture as an anchor of existential rescue, it is a means for finding oneself: in copying the concrete forms present in nature, and above all the human figure, following traditional methods, he tries to put his own doubts and fears into a concrete form, to bring them to light, to annihilate them in a personal catharsis, for his own benefit. It is art which mimics psychological analysis, therapeutic art, with the culture of psychoanalysis behind it.
This first phase ends with the emblematic work Homage to Freud: a sort of self-portrait mask initially moulded in plaster with successive layers, starting with the image of the child, covered over and absorbed by a skull, the symbol of the discovery of death, and again by the existential image of despair, the scream; at the end the sculptor makes a lateral slit in the external mask with his scalpel, enabling us to move progressively backwards through the essential stages of the formation of the human being, all in an extremely dense symbolic synthesis.
The therapeutic success of this art form is proven by Moretti’s progression to a second phase of sculpture, which could be defined as playful. The sculptor’s lively exuberance, no longer held back by psychological angst, is set free in a creative game of surprising methodical richness. The sculptures are no longer based on the culture of self-discovery, but more prevalently on the sculptor’s scientific knowledge of nature, moving from the analytical geometry learned and loved at school to the mathematics and physics studied at university. The creative process is based not on self-doubts, but on centuries of abstract theory, of mathematical explanations of nature, and the stimulus of concrete models of composite beauty seen, for example, in sea shells.
Thus develop stratifications, the first method of the new phase: layer after layer a mathematical figure grows upon itself; it is modulated harmoniously in space and seems to float in the light. Butterfly, Big Blue Vibration and Colour Vibration are a few examples of these aerial objects, which are a concrete translation of an extraordinary mental standpoint.
Moretti’s work concentrates on exploring possible methods of transferring flat figures to the third dimension.
A new solution comes in the form of rotations with which a sculpture is made on the basis of variable geometry. A geometric design is repeated several times on a plane in a concentric pattern, then pivots are used to form a mobile sculpture which anyone can modify with infinite variations.
The results are Maternity, Rectangles in Metamorphosis, Fertility Totem and many other mobile structures which allow the spectator to participate in the form’s creation. A centripetal harmony, owing to the pivots, characterises these objects that are bestowed with a powerful experimental fascination.
Another step forward resulting in a real leap in the quality of method, is Moretti’s use of orthogonal intersections. Two adjacent faces of a cube or a parallelepiped become the sculpture’s generating elements, male and female. The figures drawn on the two surfaces originate mainly from abstract mathematics (sinusoids, cosinusoids etc.), but also free-style designs (for example, the outline of the hands of the sculptor’s son, Raffaele) which represent the genetic male and female characteristics. The outline drawings are followed by the orthogonal synthesis of the two cuts in the volume, the mysteriously rich moment which brings unexpected new life to the shapes, as in nature. Moretti is no longer copying the appearance of nature, but rather its indecipherable internal creative process.
The genetic changes on the volume’s two surfaces, which are potentially infinite, are entrusted to the sculptor’s choice, a function which is performed at random in nature. The artist never knows what the final result of his intervention will be; but genetic manipulation is always accompanied by aesthetic taste which decides, once the operation is finished, whether the work of art should be kept or thrown away (somewhat like the fate of the unhappy creatures on the cliffs of Tarpea). Among the sculptures that have passed the test are Quark, Spatial Spiral and Spatial Dance of Circles.
But Moretti’s genetic ingenuity has yet more surprises in store. Like DNA, he tries using the figures of Lissajous, which comprise an orthogonal synthesis of two harmonious movements, as in a pendulum. In this case it is possible to trace in the final result a sort of genetic mapping or family tree going back three generations. It was actually whilst working on one of these harmonious intersections that the artist realised that even the waste materials could have an aesthetic relevance to the work as a whole. The result of this brainwave can be seen in a recent sculpture, Egypt.
Thinking he was doing just a normal orthogonal intersection, Moretti drew two identical cosinusoids, each framed by four triangles, on the two adjacent faces. The design seemed to be a very effective symbol of Egypt, with the River Nile self-reflected against the background of the Pyramids. He started the sculpting operation and realised to his amazement not only that the Nile was symbolised in six different ways, but also that the pieces cut out formed two perfect pyramids. It may be possible to investigate the abstract mathematical rules resulting in this great harmony, but the artist did not care for analysis: suffice it to say that physics bowed to the artist who had the aesthetic end in sight. Moretti thus shows a centaurean nature, a fusion of science and art which is so stimulating and relevant in the light of our contemporary civilisation, because it responds poetically to a need to humanise a world at risk of slipping more and more into technological alienation.
The artist’s volcanic temperament led him to discover mobility in a work of art with a variation of his orthogonal intersection, which he calls living form. The different sculptures made from a single volume (by separation he always emphasises, not by adding or removing as in traditional sculpture) can be either assembled separately or put together in ever-changing forms. The most recent development in this mobility, which is restructured using the rotation method, has a new experimental intersection grafted on it. Moretti designed a square and a triangle not on two adjacent faces but on two opposite faces of the cube: the result was New Generation Quark, with varied geometry. At the moment Moretti is working with his usual genetic alchemy on the grand symbols of humanity, for example the couple Yin (female) and Yang (male), and on the use of dry copper engraving for his abstract modules.
The theoretical challenges implicit in Moretti’s work naturally deserve much room for thought, but, this being art, what counts above all else is the results.

Giovanni Stipi
Desenzano del Garda, Aprile 1997