'My work runs through iconography. It doesn't promote one iconography over another. I carry inside me the idea that it's better to be many than one, that many gods are better than just one god, many truths are better than one alone.' (quoted in Francesco Clemente in Belfast, exh. cat., Arts Council of Northern Ireland, 1984, unpaginated).
Untitled is a large and highly personal oil painting executed in New York in 1983. An esoteric and somewhat visionary portrait of the artist's wife Alba, Untitled, like many of Clemente's works of this period, explores the mysteries of consciousness and the self by presenting a series of dream-like and seemingly narrative images that powerfully convey a sense of the sitter's inner world.
The enigmatic borderline between the exterior world and the inner world of an individual has long been a source of fascination for Clemente. Consequently a perception of the body as a vessel that defines the borderline between an individual and the cosmos permeates much of his art. Also important for Clemente, and of particular relevance in this work, is the notion of the divided self or the twinned self - a concept he first learned from his mentor Alighiero Boetti during his travels with the older artist in Afghanistan in the 1970s. For Clemente, Alba Primiceri is the other half of his twinned self. The fact that he had first met the shaven-haired Alba one day before he left to go to Afghanistan with Boetti, would have impressed itself on Clemente as more than mere coincidence, and on meeting Alba again in Rome on his return to Italy from Afghanistan, the two remained inseparable.
As a photograph showing Untitled and the artist's two daughters Nina and Chiara in their father's studio testifies, Untitled can in many ways be seen as the companion painting to the large self-portrait painting entitled Name that appears in the central background of this photograph. In this work, the multiple self - the many selves that live within us all - are shown peering out from Clemente's eyes, nose mouth and ears.
Almost identical in it dimensions, Untitled depicts a tearful Alba crying two pools of tears - two pools in each of which a naked man bathes. It is unlikely that either of these works has a specific interpretation that can be explained by words or in another other way. Their strength relies on their transcending a fixed meaning and remaining an enigma. As Clemente has pointed out, for him this element of his art is vital. "The artist's job is to bring back the consciousness that nothing is really necessary, and that rational things, rational decisions and facts and events, are not any more necessary than imaginary things... it could be a step forward to realise that the rational picture of the world is also an imagination; it has the same reality as a myth. It is product of the mind; it is not more substantial than the mind." (ibid., pp. 61-2.)