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“The Shape of Gold”, Antonello Viola “Isola di Favignana 1 – Oro”, 2019-2021; “Isola di Favignana 2 – Oro”, 2019-2021

9 Apr 2021 - 6 May 2021

Antonello Viola


Isola di Favignana 1 – Oro, turquoise, azzurro reale chiaro e giallo di Napoli, 2019-2021
oil, pencil and gold leaf on glass plates, four elements 80 x 80 cm each


Isola di Favignana 2 – Oro, turquoise, helio green e giallo di Napoli, 2019-2021,

oil, pencil and gold leaf on glass plates, two elements 80 x 80 cm each


From 9 April to 6 May 2021, BUILDINGBOX presents an unpublished installation by Antonello Viola (Rome, 1966), the fourth artist of The Shape of Gold, the annual exhibition project curated by Melania Rossi, which investigates the use of gold in contemporary artistic research through the works of twelve artists invited to compete with the chosen theme. The installations are visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the window in via Monte di Pietà 23 in Milan.

For Antonello Viola, painting is a manifesto, the affirmation of a constitutive ideal.
There is no escape from painting, just as we can never get too far away from ourselves, so much so that the artist delimits the space dedicated to color by drawing a boundary, within which he then stratifies, subtracts, deletes and overwrites with oils and gold leaf. Viola thus achieves the formal composure that allows him to move freely in the temporal dimension. He crosses the line of time: his works can be years in the making, during which time the layers of oil paint and the gold backgrounds accumulate forming the skin of the work, which bears all the signs of the passing of time, decisions and second thoughts. In his works the figure seems to have evaporated and even the support for the painting loses weight.

In the course of his career, Viola came to abandon canvas, opting instead for Japanese paper and glass, in order to move away from the romanticism, the academicism that canvas brings with it. It was a move towards absolute painterly purity. The artist does not look for metaphors, he is not interested in giving an explanation or a narrative reading of his work. Nevertheless, we perceive a distinctive form of mysticism, achieved with rigor and method. Every change of mood, however slight, is made visible in the form of a scratch, a line, a hidden background. Making the invisible visible, giving space to pure interiority rather than an account of it, inevitably acquires a social dimension, a universal meaning.

For The Shape of Gold, Viola presents an installation consisting of two works of painting and gold leaf on glass, created specifically for BUILDINGBOX. Gold has been part of his palette for about ten years, and he has studied its chromatic and textural potential. The presence of gold backgrounds in different shades gives his works iconic connotations, referencing Medieval gold backgrounds and Byzantine icons, but with a contemporary, almost iconoclastic approach that addresses inner dynamics, personal memories and the perception of time.

Corruptible/stainless, material/spiritual, private/universal, are the opposites that emerge from Antonello Viola’s use of the king of metals.


Biographical notes


Antonello Viola (Rome, 1966) lives and works in Rome.

Through a process of accumulation, stratification and subtraction, Viola establishes a new relationship with space, a renewed dialogue between the interior dimension of the work and the environment that surrounds it. His works benefit from this assumption, combined with the artist’s technique, expressed with a language composed of material, fluidity and chromatic richness.

His latest productions are characterized by the use of various materials: Japanese paper, glass, gold leaf and oil pigments, all put in balance among single and multiple formats, presented in rigorous settings.


Antonello Viola has exhibited in public spaces in Italy and abroad and teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. He has participated in numerous collective exhibitions, including: Manifesta 13 – Real Utopias, 2020; Looking for Utopia, Novecento, Venice, 2019; Intangible Material, Suspended spacecraft, Rome, 2019; THE ARTIST / KNIGHT, Kasteel Van Gaasbeek, Brussels, 2017; Fragile Forever, Palazzo Incontro, Rome, 2012; Between heaven and earth, Marino Marini Museum, Florence, 2011; 54th Venice Biennale, 2011; Business / Painting, Ciac Castello Colonna, Genazzano Rome, 2010; Country System, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome, 2010; Farnesina Collection – Experimenta, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome, 2009. Among his most recent solo shows: Bach saved me too, Francesca Antonini Arte Contemporanea, Rome, 2020 and Antonello Viola. Aktuelle arbeiten, Galleria Alessandro Casciaro, Bozen, 2018.