There is a Philip Guston painting, a hand, which stuck in my head. A very simple hand, a soft painted left hand entering the frame from the right. Its color is dubious. Even if you’ve only seen it in a reproduction – as I did myself – and of course you know that guessing actual colours from reproductions is always doubtful. Even so, you will keep thinking of that dirty pinkish brown as a dubious dirty pinkish brown. That’s not a mystery, though. That very hand is soft, moving (in both senses), quivering, willing to do something. What? That’s dubious. A hand usually does its job: it catches or bumps or waves or points out. Guston’s 1968 18 x 20 inches acrylic on canvas: a lonely brownish pinkish quivering hand. The handling of that hand is coarse and it’s sensitive at the same time. Where does that hand gesture towards? But is it a gesture? I mean, quite alone, with nothing to see in front nor around itself. I said quivering: well, that’s painting’s magic. You get it? Fine. You don’t? Sorry about that. Morandi’s bottles, yeah, that’s the kind of thing. But there is more to that hand. Indeed, Guston’s painted many hands, especially in the last period. A big deal of hands holding cigarettes. Among those hands I remember a second little hand, without cigarette, also painted in 1968 (incidentally, the year I was born). You are inclined to remember it as a little pink hand, but in fact it’s not. And every time you search for the image on a catalogue to refresh your memory, you get briefly baffled by the fact that it’s not a pink but a white-greyish hand (on a pink greyish background). This time the hand is clearly doing something: it traces a black line. But let me get to the point. And the point is the title: Paw. Well, and the two sensitive pinkish brownish grayish little paintings get somehow confused in my memory. And so sometimes I think about the hand and call it paw, and sometimes I call that hand hand. But paw, that’s so hard, isn’t it? I mean, a hand which furthermore gratifies our sense of humanism, a hand civilizing the world with a sign. Paw. The same one which holds a club, which pulls the trigger. A hand so soft, so aimable. And, I don’t know how, but at the end you somehow realize that a little quiet painting can do all that, can mean a great deal to you. A quivering little dubious thing, gesturing quietly towards something else.
Luca Bertolo – 01.05.15