"I am against the world of Andy Warhol." Jannis Kounellis
The flower is undeniably a pivotal motif in Jannis Kounellis' oeuvre. In 1967, after two years of a relative artistic silence, Kounellis realised a determining installation in which he stuck flower-shaped white canvas cut-outs on a white canvas and exhibited it framed with birdcages. The technique, which recalled Matisse's cut-outs and also Manzoni's achromes, was used by the artist in Rosa Nera (Black Rose) as an attempt to free painting from its traditional boundaries.
While his contemporary Mario Merz attempted to electrocute objects, Kounellis literally tried to activate the surface of the works by cutting into the canvas and by affixing the piece onto another canvas. In doing so, Kounellis brought together the inside and the outside of the structure and therefore revealed the bowels and the textural quality of the material.
Rosa Nera is a particularly eloquent example of this series in the way that it also conveys an emotional response to the artist's rigorous conceptual questioning. The Rosa Nera is a burning flower whose shape recalls burnt wood, coal or dark metal, all of which are very sensual materials favoured by Kounellis. The blackness of the rose carries a highly charged symbolism that closely links it with the artist's contemporaneous experiments in sculpture.
In the same way that he cut into canvas, Kounellis, in 1967, also cut into steel to fashion his celebrated Daisy of Fire. Both the Daisy of Fire and the Rosa Nera materialised in three dimensions the element of fire by turning the somehow delicate flower motif into a powerful 'black sun'.