Rudi Mantofani's visual language is of deconstructive simplicity. Even within his earlier works, Mantofani constantly attempted to find new, pared-down metaphors of symbolic expression: a rock, a twisted string, a sliced fruit, often juxtaposed, Dali-esque, against vast, hauntingly barren landscapes. His works alternate between surrealism and abstraction, frequently conjoining the two disparate modes into a perspective entirely unique to the artist. Mantofani's works bring to mind the Rorschach test blob, cunningly constructed to simultaneously infer everything and nothing. Meaning, through the prism of Mantofani's artistic filter, is often allocated by the viewer's range of comprehension and emotional functioning, rather than the actual pictorial composition.
Green is the artist's homage to René Magritte's famous opus This is not a pipe. The correct, lesser known title of Magritte's work is The Treachery of Images, which in turn explicates much of what Green is about. Within Magritte's composition, the highly realistic illustration of a smoking-pipe bears the cryptic caption "Ceci n'est pas une pipe". True enough, it is not a real pipe. It is a drawing of a pipe on paper and cannot function as an actual pipe which can hold tobacco and be smoked. Similarly in Green; the word-wall itself is not actually green, but red. It signifies the green landscape behind, as well as a myriad of other implicit references which are open to the viewer's fluid interpretation. However the central object only prefigures the concept of the colour 'green' and fails fulfil this critical value in itself, being irrevocably not green.
It is unfair to assume that Mantofani is merely engaging in a futile exercise about visual conundrums. In fact the production of this work articulates his contribution towards the modernist theory of semiotics; a subject of much interrogation and inversion by a host of other artists from the Surrealists, the Dadaists and Marcel Duchamp, to contemporary peers such as Ed Ruscha. Originally conceived within the study of linguistics by philosopher Ferdinand de Saussure, one of the primary arguments within this school takes place over the artifice of the written word when it becomes translated into a visual sign, as occurs within Green. When the visual word does not correspond to its intrinsic value, therein occurs a duplicity, or an outright falsity of signifiers - visual idioms to which we have pre-ascribed meaning, and assume to be reliable. Existing in a contemporary era familiar with mass media, consumer advertising and street art, Mantofani has now evolved this agenda beyond both Magritte and Saussure's early 20th century comprehension. The rapid advances in cinematic technology enables the use of subliminal imagery and messages embedded within a visual frame, which may appear on-screen for only the fraction of a second. This is frequently employed by advertising companies and the media in social experiments to gain control of a viewer's conscious and subconscious cognition. By deploying and critiquing this device within a single, dictatorial phrase, Mantofani also raises awareness of the trickery of social media and how infrequently we question familiar signs and signifiers which we take for granted, assuming they are always reliable in associative content.
The flat, linear composition of Green reminds us of an advertising billboard, but it is inherently without a message or an advertised product. It only advertises itself, and its false value of 'green-ness', borrowing authenticity from the simulation of a verdant landscape behind. Yet the pictorial background itself appears farcical and too reminiscent of an artificial construct to be believable; like a stock advertising image for a themed product or tourism highlight. In Magritte's wake, Mantofani also employs the planar background as an unfamiliar space to evoke visual discomfort when paired with the central imagery. This provokes viewers into questioning why there is a monolithic brick wall displaced within a seemingly realistic pastoral countryside. By skirting the perimenters of optical verity, Mantofani sublimates the lack of cohesive logic between the interrelationship of the object and its surroundings to unsettling effect.