Giorgio Griffa was born in Turin in 1936; he started painting as a child under the guidance of traditional painters. In 1958, he graduated in law and started working as a lawyer. In 1960, felling the need for a new period of artistic training, he enrolled in the private school of Filippo Scroppo, an abstract artist from Turin who has been a member of the Movimento per l'Arte Concreta (MAC). For three years, he has attended the courses, even though the works he produced in that period were all characterized by a figurative style.
In the following years, he proceeded to progressively reduce the representative elements, without adopting a truly abstract style, until he produced non-representational works, the cycle entitled Quasi dipinto (Quasi Painting). In this cycle, he made the choice of unfinishedness that was to become a constant feature of his work.
He displayed these works in 1968 at the Galleria Martano in Turin. In 1969, he began exhibiting with the Galleria Sperone, also in Turin; in 1970, his works were featured at Ileana Sonnabend's galleries in New York and Paris. It was in that period that he was associated to the exponents of Arte Povera, whom he mentioned on the occasion of his exhibition in 2000 at the Galleria Salzano in Turin as follows: "The intelligence of the material was not used as a tool for new syntheses of form - which is, however, inevitable - but it became the protagonist of the work, with the artist's hand at its service. Similarly, since I am convinced of the intelligence of painting, I put my hand at the service of the colors that encounter the canvas, limiting my involvement to the simple gesture of placing the brush".
For about two years, from 1973 to 1975, he has painted almost exclusively horizontal lines: these consisted of a continuous line that was repeated - that is, by a series of brushstrokes placed one next to the other horizontally. In the following years, series of different signs started to coexist on the canvas. Griffa started the series called Connessioni o Contaminazioni (Connections or Contaminations), a modified version of the previous series entitled Segni primari (Primary Signs).
This was the period in which the artist's Minimalist reflections paved the way for new thoughts on painting's and sculpture's remarkable store of memory.
In reality, Griffa was not a Minimalist. Indeed, Paolo Fossati has clarified the difference between Griffa's work and Mimimalism. So in 1979 he painted a triptych, not by chance entitled Riflessione (Reflection), consisting of three large canvases dedicated to Matisse, Klee and Yves Klein respectively. This triptych, displayed in 1980 at the Galleria Martano in Turin (and then at Lorenzelli Arte in Milan), was the first step towards another series, which was eventually entitled (in 2000) Alter Ego. In this series, each work was dedicated to artists of different epochs. With long pauses, this series has continued for thirty years.
In the 1980s, there was a remarkable development of the cycle entitled Contaminazioni. The signs were often accompanied by areas of color of varying sizes. At the beginning of the 1990s, Griffa started the series Tre linee con arabesco (Three Lines with Arabesque), where each work, whether on canvas, a drawing, a watercolor, or an engraving, contains - among other signs - three lines and an arabesque. These works are numbered in the order in which they are created: the most recent is number 1,661. The numbering aims at establishing the position of the individual work within the series and, at the same time, to remind us of the fact that they belong to this series.
Later in the 1990s, Griffa started another series, where he used numbers. This was the series titled Numerazioni (Numbering). Here, in each picture, the numbers indicate the order in which various signs and colors were applied. The numbers refer to, on one hand, the order in which the pictorial event takes place and, on the other hand, the development of this event, with one sign after another in both time and space. It should, however, be noticed that there is no possibility of development or progress from one series to the other, but there is merely the presence of different aspects of coming into being. Thus, rather than following one another, the series overlap, intersect and coexist next to each other.
The series that Griffa produced in the 2000s confirm this aspect: their origins date back to twenty years ago, at the end of the 1970s. The series Alter Ego, with its reference to other artists, such as Piero della Francesca, Tintoretto, Josef Beuys or Mario Merz, originated from the triptych of 1979 titled Riflessione (Reflection), passed through various works of the 1980s and 1990s and clarified its identity with a group of works in the 2000s. In its turn, the cycle Sezione Aurea (Golden Section), which concerns this endless irrational number characterizing its mathematical aspect, avails of the transparencies of the canvas that were already a feature of Griffa's great work Dionisio (Dionysus) of 1980, which was exhibited at the Venice Biennal in the same year.
Between the 2009 and 2010 Griffa held solo shows at the Museum of Baotou (Baotou, Inner Mongolia), at the BaGuaShan Art Gallery (Taiwan) and at the Gehua Art Gallery (Pechino).
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome (MACRO) organized his personal exhibition (12.02.2011 - 13.03.2011) accompanied by a catalog: Giorgio Griffa: Golden Ratio, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, MACRO, Marsilio Editori, 2011.
The works by Giorgio Griffa are in numerous museums and private collections.
Griffa has also published various articles:
Non c'è rosa senza spine, 1975;
Cani Sciolti Antichisti, 1980;
Drugstore Parnassus, 1981;
In nascita di Cibera, 1989;
Il principio di indeterminazione, 1994;
Di Segno in Segno, with Martina Corgnati, 1995;
Come un dialogo, 1997;
Approdo a Gilania, 1998;
Intelligenza della materia, 2000;
Nelle orme dei Cantos, 2001;
Interview conducted by Flavio Barbaro, GAM Turin, 2003;
Nota sulla rappresentazione dello spazio, 2003;
Post scriptum, 2005;
Graceful (with F. Melquiot), 2007;
Sezione Aurea - 1,61803398, 2008.
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