Oltremare a ovest (Ultramarine to the West) is one of the first of an important and ongoing series of works begun by Anselmo in 1979 that contrast granite blocks and ultramarine pigment in a poetic and to some extent painterly visual expression of the vast unseen elemental forces that shape our existence. In Oltremare a ovest a rectangular granite block - into which a compass needle has been set in a manner recalling Anselmo's earliest work with granite from the arte povera years of the late 1960s - is aligned along the line of magnetic north. Directly to the west of this magnetically situated stone, on the gallery wall at exactly the same height as the top of this stone, a thin horizontal line of ultramarine pigment, exactly the same length as that of the stone has been painted. With each form, aligned to the directional magnetic forces of the earth therefore, these two stone presences, one solid, dense, heavy granite, the other radiant, light, ethereal, deriving from painted lapis lazuli, and coming, as its name suggests, from 'beyond the sea' ('oltremare'), commune silently with one another and extend themselves beyond the confines of the gallery space.
For Anselmo, ultramarine is suggestive, through both its name and the resonant nature of its color-wavelength of the invisible, ethereal, unseen infinite beyond that is also ever-present within all matter. It is also, of course indicative of the radiant blue of the Mediterranean, and in this respect his ultramarine works also relate directly to an experience Anselmo had in 1965. As the artist Tacita Dean has recently written of this: 'On the 16th August 1965, Giovanni Anselmo had an epiphany on the slopes of the volcanic island of Stromboli. It was both defining and definitive, and therefore is often spoken about as the beginning.
Standing with his face to the sun for a photograph Anselmo realised he had no shadow. As the shutter clicked, he perceived that his shadow was actually being projected into the sky and rendered invisible, and that all that he normally recognised as evidence of himself on the surface of the earth was now connecting him to the greater infinity of space. And suddenly he felt a true and actual cosmic integration. He understood his part in the universe and, as an artist, he knew he could no longer represent it by standing a little way back and looking at it head-on, but would henceforth work from within, as an integrant in the invisible storm of connective energies that was raging above and below him on the tarry slopes of Stromboli.' (Tacita Dean, Giovanni Anselmo exh. cat, Bologna 2006, p.193)
Using the simplest and most elemental of means, Anselmo, in Oltremare a ovest once again reinvokes the profound and eternal relationship between the elemental and the infinite that he first experienced on the slopes of Stromboli. Here, integrating the comparatively fleeting physical and temporal presence of the viewer into his place on the volcano on this momentous occasion for him, the mysterious dialogue between the granite block and blue line interconnect the viewer with the invisible forces of nature and the endlessness of the universe.