A beautiful canvas embodying Mario Merz's fundamental elements: the spiral, the snail, the Fibonacci series, the incredible colours that he applied to his canvases. This has the colours of a vineyard in high summer, and emanates a sort of heat that we sensed right from the start. Mario Merz is one of our favourite Arte Povera artists. Although we also love the others, we have to acknowledge that his works penetrate us with the poetry and melancholy, the restlessness and freshness at the same time, that they manage to transmit.
This canvas, lit by a spotlight, reveals a vitality and harmony that seem to be captured by creation itself.
‘If I place the earthly woodland snail in my hand, the whole silent Western woodland joins with the magnificent Orient, so that, there, the spiral of the cosmos may begin’
(Mario Merz quoted in Mario Merz, exh. cat., Prato, 1990, p. 5).
The snail, which grows its own shell and thus creates its own house out of itself, is a potent metaphor for Mario Merz of the artist’s ability to also create significant structures from nothing. On noticing in 1970 that the spirals on a snail shell develop in accordance with the Fibonacci series of progression - a numerical sequence of numbers built on each step being the sum of the previous two: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 etc to infinity - Merz also recognized the snail as a natural exemplar of macrocosm and microcosm and what he called the ‘spiral of the cosmos’, meaning its constantly developing and changing condition of becoming.
Lumaca e spirale is one of a series of works on the subject of the snail and the spiral that Merz made in 1976 that have their origin in a video made in 1970. ‘I had once got hold of a snail’ Merz recalled of this work, and, ‘using a magnifying glass, I noticed that its shell had the spaces in spiral form, so I took a sheet of glass and placed a snail on top of it, and from the snail, I drew the spiral, once again using the Fibonacci sequence. The work with the snail is.... an attempt to create a work using Fibonacci numbers in a spiral that stood as an antithesis of the Mies van der Rohe architectural space (in Krefeld) and as a metaphorical attempt to ‘break the walls of the museum’. It is without the threats because the snail is free. The snail is very small and has a little house with a spiral of proportionate size. I continued to draw the spiral on the glass and then videotaped it.’ (Mario Merz quoted in Mario Merz, exh. cat. Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2005, p. 54).