‘The first principle that has regulated Scheggi’s artistic practice has been that of considering space as a “medium” by virtue of which the position of forms becomes possible... Scheggi has gradually specified his conception of space through the rigorous structuring of elementary geometric images introduced by overlapping canvases, spatial operations where the space is no longer understood as a real and logical place, but as a “field” whose essential characteristic is that of transforming the forms from pure concepts into “spatial concepts” that define the space, constituting themselves within it as coordinating elements of our existence’ (Germano Celant, quoted in F. Pola, Paolo Scheggi: The Humanistic Measurement of Space, exh. cat., London, 2014, p. 153).
Within the red square of Paolo Scheggi’s Intersuperficie curva dal rosso, a grid-like arrangement of circles has been cut. Through each of these, red curves are in evidence, hinting at other circles on an intermediary layer within the structure of Intersuperficie curva dal rosso. And behind these, another red surface is visible. Scheggi has created a work whose apparent simplicity of appearance, with the monochrome and the regular circles of the first surface, belies its conceptual intelligence.
Created in 1969, Intersuperficie curva dal rosso perfectly demonstrates the rigorous elegance that came to define the works that Scheggi created during the second half of that decade and which he continued to explore until his untimely death, only two years later. This form of Intersuperficie marked a change from the works that he had made during the early part of the 1960s: while the process was similar, with the surface of his pictures being penetrated in order to reveal layers underneath, the style of these apertures had evolved. Whereas in many of the earlier works, there was a sensuous, almost organic sweep to his structures, recalling the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth which had so impressed him when he had earlier visited the United Kingdom, now a more disciplined structure came to underpin his pictures. This appeared to have more to do with the pared-back rigour of Piet Mondrian, whose pictures he had also first encountered in Britain. However, Scheggi has entirely disrupted the picture plane, penetrating it. While sharing an interest in taking recourse to fundamental underlying structures of painting, as was the case in Mondrian’s works, the elemental core that Scheggi seeks is clearly very different to that of the Dutchman.
By the time Scheggi created Intersuperficie curva dal rosso, he had become a well-known international figure. His art had been shown in New York and in the Venice Biennale. He had also been able to collaborate in aspects of design as well as art, like many of his contemporaries in Milan. The three-dimensionality of his works had been extended and expanded into environments and even stage design. This was only too appropriate: works such as Intersuperficie curva dal rosso have a clear dynamism to them, introduced both through the sense of depth and through the seemingly shifting forms of the curves in the second layer. There is a sense of movement, even of play, in the glimpsed forms largely concealed behind the first surface, and also in the viewing process, as the viewer is essentially led into the picture.
During the course of the 1960s, Scheggi had worked alongside a number of artists in Milan who had attacked and dismantled the entire idea of the picture surface. Be it in Lucio Fontana’s holes, Piero Manzoni’s pleated Achromes, Enrico Castellani’s protruding nails or Agostino Bonalumi’s shaped canvases, the nature of flat paintings had been probed, challenged, disrupted and destroyed. Scheggi’s own works, with their tantalising glimpses of half-concealed orders, evident in the different radii of the implied circles seen through the nine regular holes of the ‘foreground’ in Intersuperficie curva dal rosso, allowed him to delve into the surface, opening new spaces and new potentialities. There is a deliberately frustrated process of revelation at work that teases the viewer. In this way, Scheggi manages both to highlight and overcome the limitations of figurative art. Four years before Intersuperficie curva dal rosso was created, the art historian and critic Germano Celant discussed his work in an essay written for an exhibition of Scheggi’s work. Celant wrote in terms that would remain true of Intersuperficie curva dal rosso:
‘A precise refusal of the aesthetic act as expressive finality, or at any rate as testimony and reportage, of the picture as the presentation of casual and unselected images, characterises Paolo Scheggi’s practice, which is identified with the same operative procedure entirely phenomenised and rendered visible in his monochrome intersurfaces. Having chosen, for their possibilities of combination according to simple arithmetic procedures, a series of elementary geometric figures, Scheggi cuts them out on surfaces, always square in size or multiples thereof, and superimposes the latter so that the forms are organised according to visual structures and the specific direction of viewing is regulated by light modalities [...] [T]he viewing takes place without iconological leaps, without ambiguous and vague literary references, but by way of simple, elementary explications’ (Germano Celant, quoted in F. Pola, Paolo Scheggi: The Humanistic Measurement of Space, exh. cat., London, 2014, pp. 120-26).