Cesare Berlingeri was born in 1948 in Cittanova, in the province of Reggio Calabria. He lives and works in Taurianova (RC). He began painting when he was still very young in the Cittanova workshop of his teacher, Deleo, a retired professor from the Liege Academy. In 1964, he emigrated to Piedmont, where he worked for a church decorator. In 1968 he made several trips around Europe, met other artists and became better acquainted with the world of contemporary culture. In Rome, in the 1970s. he began working for the theatre and television as a set-designer and costume-designer with film director E.Vincenti. Theatre activities, which always involve him deeply as a painter, are a mainstay of his artistic career. Until 1974, he managed the Art sector of the CIF cultural service centres of Calabria.
He sought an expressive path of his own by experimenting different methods and ways of painting, using natural elements such as wind, rain and fire – a means of introducing randomness and materials such as lime, cement, waste paper and canvas.
The works of this period went on show at his first one-man exhibition at the AxA Gallery in Florence (1975). All are done in oil and are very materialistic. On them the artist created calligraphic signs using fire.
In 1976, for Rai 1 TV, he created circus sets and costumes, cooperating with a mime and visual research workshop and producing a pictorial-mime installation for a Calabrian square.
Always for Rai TV, the next year saw him engaged in a performance action of intervention on the urban landscape. With the involvement of the local population, he rebuilt the tragedy of a Calabrian town struck by a flood. Berlingeri traced out in the square spaces that recreate the places now destroyed, enabling the inhabitants to symbolically live in them again for the duration of the event. At the same time these shots were taken, Rai Tv televised C. Marlowe’s Faust starring Tino Buazzelli, for which Berlingeri designed the sets and costumes.
He began working on the Trasparenze (1978), which followed the Strappi cycle, reconfirming his constantly evolving-transforming study on canvas. The Trasparenze represent “research into canvas and its penetrability, on the visibility of what is beyond the fabric: an attempt not to make the visibility system stiff” C. Benincasa.
These works consist of ultra-light and superimposed linen canvases, meaning the superimposition of transparent surfaces that make reference the one to the other and do not hide the colour fragments and small folded fabrics they enclose. This cycle was presented in 1979 at the Soligo Gallery in Rome and at the City Gallery of Saint Vincent.
C. Vivaldi mentioned the artist in the Bolaffi catalogue (1980) as follows: ”I have pleasure in presenting a young artist from Calabria who, though living in a small town, fits perfectly into the mainstream of international culture. This is an artist with a sure future.”
In the early-Eighties, at the exhibition entitled Racconti colorati, at the “Interarte” gallery in Milan, he exhibited large linen canvases marked by geometric and calligraphic signs of great lyricism. In this period, he again presented the same concept as the Trasparenze, a method of unhidden superimposition, but this time through the use of watercolour.
In 1985, he presented the Fioriture cycle at the Soligo Gallery; these too were large canvases painted in oil and using industrial enamels, with wide gestures. Writing for the catalogue, F. Menna tells us how: “…the artist works in series, like that of the Fioriture which gives life to the present exhibition, or like the previous series of the “strappi” (tears) and “piegature” (folds): this means the individual works are part of a more articulated whole, where each conveys and receives something from the others”. He also participated in the exhibition entitled 5 mosaici per 5 artisti, together with Schifano, Mafonso, Parres and Festa, with whom, despite absolute differences, a great friendship and intellectual affinity developed.
In 1986 he was invited to a collective exhibition in Tokyo, Mostra sul disegno italiano and to the XI Quadriennale di Roma.
At the one-man exhibition, Specchio rotto specchio, he exhibited small and large works distinguished by bright colours, obtained using oil and pigment.
The Modern Art Gallery of Paternò (CT) hosted a one-man exhibition of his entitled Nero, Bianco, Rosso e Blu in 1989. The works on show were made using a broad range of techniques such as: natural pigments, enamels, acrylics and waxes. Most are diptychs and triptychs obtained by bringing together monochrome canvases, sometimes marked by charcoal and graphite, and sheets of iron.
Theatre cooperation intensified: in 1981, he made a large installation for La lunga notte di Medea; a set for Candido ovvero…., for the Venice Theatre Biennial (1982). For the Regional Theatre of Calabria, he designed, in 1987, the sets and costumes for Italian Opera Graffiti (seven melodramas). From 1989 to 1995, he lectured at the Academy of Dramatic Art of Calabria. During this period, he designed sets and costumes for the plays produced by the Academy, including: Le parole, le emozioni, i linguaggi (1989); Rose di ghiaccio, studi in dieci movimenti (1990); Intrighi d’amore (1991), for which he created “a large set-fold that opened and closes, constantly varying the space” (C. Berlingeri); Albergo di montagna, for the Prague Theatre International Festival (1994); La lunga notte di Medea, for the Taormina Art Festival (1995). In 1998, he was commissioned by the “Rossotiziano” company of Naples to design the sets and costumes for Variazioni (Majorana).
We can well appreciate how the theatre offered him the chance to experiment his painting techniques from a remark of his during an interview included in the catalogue of the exhibition Nero, Bianco, Rosso e Blu, “In the theatre, I was able to create large pictures that moved on the stage. I gave free rein to my desire to make the stage into a dynamic painting and to do this I also used the characters as indications of colour in movement”.
The folded paintings were exhibited in 1990, after a meeting with T. Trini who wrote: ”I remember that when I visited the Taurianova workshop, during the preparation of a large exhibition at Messina, Berlingeri was still debating the puzzlement of his supporters, most of whom were convinced that “those objects” were out of style. But I was straight away excited”. Opere Recenti, the exhibition to which Trini refers, was set up in the foyer of the Vittorio Emanuele Theatre, where a number of diptychs were exhibited together, for the first time, with the Piegature. These folded canvases, impregnated with pure pigment, drafted since 1976 in small sizes, were now recovered and developed. The Piegature idea comes from a memory of his childhood: a small mat black cloth wrapping which his mother used to wear around her neck as an amulet. But the actual folding of large paintings was first done in the theatre. While he was working on a stage set, he painted a starry night on a large backdrop. At the end of the play, when the time came to disassemble the set, he realised how, fold after fold, this large canvas became a package about eighty centimetres long.
The last few years have witnessed several one-man and collective exhibitions in which he has shown his new works, receiving somewhat varied critical reaction.
In 1994, he created a large wall installation for the Mudima Foundation of Milan entitled, Piegare la notte, consisting of about twenty folds of different sizes, shapes and colours.This was followed by the collective exhibition at the City Art Gallery of Gallarate entitled, Riflessione e ridefinizione della pittura astratta. The La Polena Gallery of Genoa dedicated a one-man exhibition to the artist entitled Viaggi.
In another one-man exhibition at the Mudima Foundation (1999), he not only exhibited the Piegature, but also a series of small paintings on lead. For the artist, lead is “dead matter, an absorbing material. A truly silent material”. Also on show were a series of large canvases marked with charcoal on which surfaced “figural elements, almost human signs, shadows of presences, cycles that converse” T.Trini.
In 2001, the New Art Gallery of Padua hosted Dipinti Piegati.
With regard to the Piegature, in one of his thoughts taken from his study diary, the artist says: "they are paintings that hold within them a sealed act, an act that points to the time of their future elevation as a birth certificate. Each fold possesses the entire endlessness of small perceptions. It makes me think of Leibniz’s intuition whereby a drop of water possesses within it an entire universe, in which the drops of water contain within them new universes and so on, endlessly".
In 2003, he staged a one-main exhibition at the Mole Vanvitelliana of Ancona, where for the basement he designed a suggestive installation entitled Viaggi, folded works these too, but in this case more volumetric and conceived to invade space.
T. Trini has edited a major monographic book on his works published by Skira.
The town where he was born paid tribute to him with a very singular retrospective that availed itself of historical, figurative works that the artist does not always love to show, like his drawings, which represent a diary of his life in images.
Padua City Council invited him to stage a one-man exhibition in Palazzo Moroni.
In 2004, he took part in a collective exhibition at the Arezzo National Museum entitled, Da Picasso a Botero.
A year later, the Calabria region promoted two large one-man exhibitions of his. The first was staged in the Castello Aragonese of Reggio Calabria, with a broad retrospective, and was entitled La pittura piegata. For one of the rooms, that of the tower, he made a large installation called Deposito di stelle, consisting of huge blue folds, stacked on wooden platforms, about which V. Baradel wrote: “Berlingeri’s night sky precipitates to the bottom of the castle tower. Its blue light becomes a solid colour that folds into the casket of the canvas. The starry heavens are those of Giotto in Assisi and Padua. The backdrop of the sky, always the same, folded and refolded, now lies on the ground, saved from the blindness of human beings and the gods and laid safely in the secret heart of the tower. The high and the low are as brothers when the stars drop to the lowest point”.
The second big exhibition in Calabria was the anthology Cesare Berlingeri, Materia 1975 – 2005 staged in the S. Giovanni Monumental Complex at Catanzaro. The Corpi are the last cycle of his works. And this is the title of his one-man exhibition held in 2006 at MUDIMAdrie, Antwerp. Bodies of air, covered by a smooth surface, generated from a matter “that acts like bread, meaning it breathes, inflates, grows like life, like the trees. And then the most beautiful thing is that three nails inserted here and there are all it takes to make this shape grow in a different way…” C. Berlingeri.In Padua, the Vecchiato New Art Galleries presents Vele per nessun mare (2007). The works on show are sculptures, aluminium folds painted with enamel paste. As for the previous iron and lead, on this metal too “transubstantiation” takes place through the very particular use of colour.www.cesareberlingeri.com