I think I was among the first to appreciate the fine invention which has led Fiorenzo Zaffina to assault walls, to dig out ruts and at one and the same time open disquieting and enigmatic wounds in them. From the time he matured that idea of his he has become a fixed guest in my exhibitions as, for example, at Rentrée, an exhibition connected to the Premio Marche held at Ancona in 1993. Although I wanted his presence even more when I supervised a successive exhibition entitled Officina Italia in 1997, held in various seats. The most convenient of these regarding Zaffina’s needs was Cesena where an industrial factory no longer in use had been made available for the occasion, the walls of which could therefore be ‘assaulted’ without worrying too much and with little respect. In this way Zaffina was free to wound the plaster work for a considerable length – one of those communicated wounds of his: as if a giant had with his nails savagely clawed that area, leaving a mighty and brutal trace. Or else on the contrary, it would be worth following a quite different approach, thinking of an intervention as if by a rhabdomancer who searches for the vein of water, albeit vertically, finding himself forced to zigzag with a broken and unforeseeable course, almost dominated by the logic that today one would say belongs to fractals. Which substantially speaking means that this operation follows a totally “open” logic and, in reality, one dominated by the irrational. Or yet again (if we want to remain within the field of interventions that are delicate and with a specific aim), one might think of a microsurgical operation, of one whose aim is the branching of veins, perhaps in order to remove them. In our case, naturally enough, from a micro dimension one ought to immediately move on to a macro dimension which is the only one known and carried out by Zaffina.

What is worth underlining, however, is the two-fold and dialectical nature of an action of this kind: one which cannot only be left at the first aspect of the violent aggression and lacerating wound. In no way does the artist want to stop at this negative phase: he wounds, scratches and incises because he is searching for something. He has the feeling (or inkling) that in its apparent anonymity and banality the wall hides secrets, stories and consistencies, therefore it is worth opening a road for their revelation. In some cases Zaffina really does act in such a way that from his incisions there flow out little beings, sprites or objects that belong to a domestic Lilliput, refound there where least we would have expected. In these cases a connection with the literary world of Ermanno Cavazzoni is to be established, author of the unforgettable Poem of the lunatics in which minute presences of the kind suddenly appear from the drips of taps. Although the artist does not always make recourse to these little “coups de théâtre”, to these tricks of the trade. On other occasions he simply entrusts the colour with the task of signalling/marking the move from one dimension to the other. Outside there is the opaqueness, the greyness of a normal plaster whose job it is precisely – or almost – to hide itself from view, to offer us a relaxing, neutral surface, lacking attraction. Inside, instead, in those obscure recesses, the reign of appearances is established, one crosses a threshold and one is immersed in the horrid, the sublime and the enchantment: a magical trip begins without knowing where it will end. Or one doesn’t know just what apparitions will present themselves to us from the bowels of the earth, of the home and of the human body.

by Renato Barilli