By Sebastiano Grasso
First comparison. The painter Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) has worked as customs officer in Paris for 22 years – from 1871 to 1893. Hence the nickname that will mark him forever: “Rousseau the Customs Officer”. Giuseppe Ayna (Milan, 1939) has worked as employee in Solferino Street in the newspaper distribution office (“Corriere della Sera” and “Gazzetta dello Sport”) for 22 years -from 1963 to 1985. Can he be called “Ayna the Diffusor”?
Second comparison. A painting not well accepted between critics, the Rousseau’s one, who preferred to live independently and to keep himself far away from the avantgarde artists’ meetings. As long as some intellectuals – including Guillaume Apollinaire – appreciated him and led the way for him. Time will give them reason.
Even Ayna kept himself far away from groups and conventicles. He attended the Castello Sforzesco’s Art high School and Brera Academy in Milan; then, in great secret, he went to Paris for a certain period to attend a private Academy’s courses: the Montparnasse’s Grand Chaumiere. He participated in some collective exhibitions, but he always kept himself apart for his reserved personality. And so he remained even when three intellectuals like Alberico Sala, Giovanni Testori and Fernanda Pivano thought to “discover” him. Particularly Testori – whom when he found a real artist didn’t surely save compliments – invited him to paint a number of pictures sufficient to make an exhibition. Ayna moaned something, but then he had almost fear and he had answered to the Arialda author’s many solicitations that he was thinking about it. Until the critic and writer got tired and no longer told him anything.
This invitation, which could be the “great occasion” for another one, for Ayna became the beginning of the Great Doubt. He wondered: “Am I up to the expectations? And if I would disappoint him?”.
Toward the 1985 end, Ayna leaved the “Corriere” to completely dedicate himself to painting. He was 46 years old and, after a long break, he was in the mood for beginning painting again. He slowly passed from the juvenile figuration to a sui generis abstractionism: evanescent subjects that peeked out entirely or only partially and which, sometimes, already hold the geometry’s idea (given more of all by the colors’ great fields). A pasty, almost glazed, painting distributed by cotton balls on canvas. Colors? “Nocturnal” reds, blues, blacks, greens, oranges, but able to release a very intense vitreous light. Venice was one of the most beloved Ayna’s theme. In the 1997 Milan’s exhibition, at Feltrinelli in Manzoni Street, it looked like that the Customs Point transmuted itself into a kind of camelias’ hedge. The Lagoon emanated a great deal of romanticism and a little bit of nostalgia. Finally we realize that Ayna prefers to suggest atmospheres rather than represent them. And, just to remain in Venice, once Zoran Music, seeing an Ayna’s Portrait (1995) in a friends’ house, stopped to look at it for a ten or so minutes, studying every details, and finally, after coming close in order to read the signature, said: “I don’t know him, but he’s an extraordinary painter”.
Since some time Ayna has dedicated himself to jazz and, when he creates his painting’s architecture he loves to be influenced by Miles, Ornette and Gillespie. You can just look at, now, Listening Davis, Listening Coleman (both of 2015) and Listening Dizzy G. (2016), which, with a fifteen large size paintings are exposed in St. Mark's Basilica Monumental Sacristy in Milan (until November 13. Mudima Catalogue with text by Gianluca Ranzi). Jazz fascinated tens of artists. It values for all the Piero Dorazio example, who loved drawing color sabers while the loudspeakers poured on him Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, besides the Ayna’s Miles Davis. “Both music and modern painting – the roman artist explained in The Eye Listens – represent nothing more than the elements they are made of: colors, lines, surfaces and spaces, matters, sounds, moods, movement over time, bright and dark, strong and slow, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, warm and cold, high and low. Music and painting are directed to senses rather than reason”. Painting becomes music without melody and the artist a real arranger.
The same happens with Giuseppe Ayna: sometimes, even, it seems that colors are born by hoarse notes (after a glass of red, 2016). Like those (notes) that Bubber Miley was able to extort by his trumpet, to which he had put the damper on.
• An exhibition that includes a fifteen paintings of the painter Giuseppe Ayna (in the photo) realized in the period between 2014 and 2016, open in Milan until November 13 in St. Mark's Basilica Monumental Sacristy.
• Giuseppe Ayna was born in Milan in 1939, he lives and works in Monza. He graduated at Castello Sforzesco’s Art high School, he has worked for many years at “Corriere della Sera”. In the 70s he started the exhibiting activity with many presences in thematic exhibits and national expositions. His paintings are preserved in public institutions and in Italian and Spanish museums.
SHY | Giovanni Testori encouraged him to show his works but he didn’t feel up to it.
LOVE | His Lagoon emanates a great deal of romanticism and a little bit of nostalgia.
Al pittore Giuseppe Ayna in ricordo del suo affettuoso interesse per la mio opera e in ricordo di alcune sue tele e sue foto che ammiro.
To the painter Giuseppe Ayna in memory of his affectionete interest for my work and in memory of some of his paintings and photos that I admire.
Caro Giuseppe Ayna, amico da tanti anni, artista da e per sempre, ti auguro successo, ma soprattuto di riusicre a stare alla larga dai medici. 6 marzo 1995
Dear Giuseppe Ayna, longtime friend, forever and ever artist, I whis you success, but above all to be able to stay faraway from doctors. March 6. 1995
@giuseppeayna C.F. JNAGPP39C03F205G