Francesco Clemente

(b. 1952)

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(1952– )

Italian painter, born in Naples, one of the leading figures of the Transavantgarde. His work is less overtly expressionistic than that of Chia and Cucchi, being more thinly painted and as much dependent on its imagery as its handling for its force. A considerable amount of his work is in watercolour: he only produced his first large-scale oils, a series entitled The Fourteen Stations, in 1981–2, after he had already successfully exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1980. Most unusually for a contemporary painter, he has also worked in fresco, a technique which leaves no room for mistakes and changes of mind. He is also less tied to the legacy of European culture than the other Transavantgarde painters, having spent much of the 1970s in India and derived considerable inspiration from its art. While there he studied theosophy and his subsequent work has drawn on Hindu imagery. In 1981–2 he visited New York and in 1983 he established a studio there. In an interview he emphasized both his roots and his affinity with Asian culture. ‘As a Neapolitan I'm deeply suspicious of “thought” and of those who “think”. Naples is poisoned by the East, and in the East the image of creation is this primeval tree on which one bird eats while another looks on and starves.’ He has collaborated with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol and on books with the ‘beat’ poet Alan Ginsberg.

Further Reading

G. Politi, ‘Francesco Clemente interviewed’, Flash Art (April–May 1984)

Subjects: Art.

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