Piero Dorazio

Untitled, 1984
Signed and dated on the reverse
Oil on canvas
69 x 90 cm

In this superb painting by the Italian artist Piero Dorazio (1927-2005), we observe how the gestural and fluid application of oil on canvas has transformed the oval canvas into an atmospheric portal that crosses from one medium into the next, paint into textile as the strands of colour crisscross the surface to produce a visible net. Influenced by Giacomo Balla, a key proponent of futurism who depicted light, movement and speed in his paintings, Dorazio, through gestures, also moves the conversation past the surface into a more cerebral didactic, and the simple becomes incredibly complex.

The depth of the work, which has some of the trans-chromatic qualities of a silkscreen, is manifold: the diagonal brushstrokes on the red background are staggered so that, in effect, as one ends another begins and this produces an endless, flowing rhythm akin to that of a textile blowing in the wind. Equally mesmerizing is the transition from colour to colour that occurs at the end, or beginning as it were, of each lateral brushstroke, whose vertical filaments are also reminiscent of textile tassels.

While the profuse variety of colours would be jarring in another medium and by another hand, in Dorazio’s work the chromatic takes a backseat to the light that moves between the crisscrossing bands and the resulting effect is hypnotic and calming.

Cubist at first and then futurist, Dorazio focused on structure and rhythm, and used vivid colours and contrasts very early on. Movement – always controlled and related to play of light and colours – became the main characteristic of his art. He is known for his gestural, atmospheric paintings of grids crosshatched with fluid brushstrokes and pulsating in colour and texture. In this vibrant example, he continues his linear, crisscrossed approach using a design that varies in density and complexity but is consistently concerned with light, with luminous layers of paint vibrating at different levels. An architectural rigour is softened by intense shades of colour and the feeling transmitted is one of peace. As Dorazio confirmed in his writings, “For me, colour is an instrument, not a means of expression…”[1]

From his début as a painter in the 1940s, when he was still an architecture student, Dorazio established himself as a pioneer of Post-War abstractionism. He developed a poetic vision and visual language centred on a redefinition of the technique of painting by assigning a new meaning to light, colour, space, and structure. At the same time, in Europe – particularly between Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and France – a new generation of artists started exploring an innovative conception of art, by creating monochrome surfaces, weaves, and grids, as well as objects modulating, reflecting, or projecting light. Light and movement, structure and vibration, became the mutual connection and central elements in the research of these geographically distant artists.

As Dorazio further states, “If we project a ray of light onto a wall by passing it through a prism, we will see before us ‘Light’, in all its colours, the spectrum of ‘Light’. This is all about the physical appearance of colours, and these are subjects that are taught in school. There are, however, other ways of hearing and seeing colours for the effects they have on our mind and emotions. All sciences, from psychology to chemistry, use colours as symbols or evidence. But the most important characteristic of colours is that they stimulate our imagination and create emotions.”[2]


Registered in Archivio Piero Dorazio, Milan, no. 1984-004685-6BA3.


Private collection, Germany.


[1] Masters, Christopher, “Piero Dorazio”, The Guardian, Fri 27 May 2005.

[2] Piero Dorazio, in Rigando dritto. Piero Dorazio scritti 1945-2004, Cologno Monzese 2005, p. 338.

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