PAUL RINALDI AND THE PURITY OF TENSION
By Adrian Saunders
It has long been a source of debate in artistic circles that painting as an art form has perhaps exhausted its potential for innovation. The looming question is where it can go now that so many experiments have been made and so many dialogues initiated with the viewer. This I feel is unduly pessimistic. To see Rinaldi's work leaves the viewer with a strong sense that the painter still has something vital to say. This exhibition, containing a selection of paintings, photographs and drawings in ink allows us to view afresh the rich and variegated urban tapestries of Cairo and elsewhere. Rinaldi allows one medium to feed another and invites us to acknowledge that there is much in the contexts he describes that we take for granted.
Rinaldi has an eye for those images that capture the essence of a time and a place; precision and the ability to pick on one detail combine to create an artistic idiom that is rich in suggestion. This is immediately obvious in the series of photographs on display here--an exploration of texture, light and atmosphere, replete with the remembered echoes of sound and time: the drip of water, the clatter of activity, the silent resignation of age. Furthermore, these pieces inquire into a number of opposing relationships, the newly made and the decayed, static and dynamic, integrity and erosion, the material and the spiritual, and then deconstruct the original image in terms of the formal structure of the photographs themselves. Depth, exposure, space, light, point of view and so on, allow the photograph to extend its range of expressive content, setting up a tension between these elements and the depicted subject itself.
In his painting, we are exposed to an individual voice that articulates a deeper response to these visual and intellectual stimuli. His work is particularly open to the influences of light, colour and texture on the absolute forms that go to make up a variety of constantly shifting urban landscapes. Consequently, he has evolved an abstract style that constantly reinterprets and reworks the environment in which he finds himself. Each piece is the product of a long evolution. Forms are painted, then painted out; colour alternates between tension and harmony; at times the under-painting is left exposed, at times it is concealed with brush strokes of great gestural elegance. This work is not static, but possesses a grave fluidity and in many ways returns to the austerity of a highly refined classicism. We move to a world of abstract rhythms, of sensitivity to colour and scale that seeks in subtle tones and with an economy of line to make a series of statements that are at once serene and pure, calm and a little melancholic. This is not an easy art and makes great demands on the viewer. Rinaldi's work communicates a Zen-like simplicity that invites a profound contemplation of form and tone in a stillness of its own making.