“In her studio on Via dei Bossi ... Dadamaino addresses a blank canvas but does not think of beginning a new painting. She is weary of the rhetoric of painting, of the now outworn repertoire of Art Informel ... She contemplates a different form of expression: sober and controlled, simultaneously crystalline and elusive. Hence the birth of the Volumes. With a pondered but resolute act, Dada cuts the surface of the canvas, not a small incision but a gaping hole, an expanding ellipse ... The place of painting is now a place of silence.”
—E. PONTIGGIA,‘Dadamaino’, 1990, in Elementi spaziali: Bonalumi, Castellani, Dadamaino, Scheggi, exh. cat., Galleria Tega, Milan, 2011, pp. 28-32
With its stark black surface punctuated by two vacuums, Dadamaino’s Volume (1959) is a monochromatic investigation into the properties of the canvas. The pierced fabric is pulled taut upon its frame, revealing the dimensional space that lies beneath its surface. Dadamaino explains the effect of this spatial interrogation, stating ‘behind the large holes I could see a wall full of light and shadow that vibrated’ (Dadamaino, quoted in http:/www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dadamaino-volume-of-displaced-modules-t13288 [accessed 2 September 2016]). The present work is an early example of her Volumes series, commenced in the late 1950s and typified by monochromatic canvases infiltrated with cavernous biomorphic and elliptical holes. Shortly before it was made, Dadamaino relinquished her figurative idioms, inspired by Lucio Fontana and her blossoming friendship with Piero Manzoni. Elaborating upon the slashed and perforated canvases of Fontana’s tagli and buchi, Dadamaino explains ‘I always hated matter and sought immateriality of course, Fontana played a decisive role in the history of my painting ... If Fontana had not pierced the canvas, probably I would not have dared to do so either’ (Dadamaino, quoted in ‘Volume of Displaced Modules’ http:/www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/dadamaino-volume-of-displaced-modules-t13288 [accessed 2 September 2016]). Distancing herself from the other abstract artists influenced by Fontana, such as Bonalumi and Castellani, Dadamaino did not aim to emphasize the materiality of her work, but rather diminished it by drawing attention to the surrounding negative space. Volume demonstrates a liberating and visceral exploration into the tangible and spectral qualities of the canvas.