Across a white canvas, a diagonal succession of rounded openings reveals another layer of canvas, under which is glimpsed yet another... Paolo Scheggi created Intersuperficie curva bianca in 1966, at the height of his brief career. It was only a half dozen years earlier that Scheggi had come to Milan from his home in Tuscany, aged a mere twenty years old. He had almost immediately become involved with the group of artists who were re-shaping the landscape of art, and more particularly the landscape of the traditional oil and canvas foundations that had underpinned so much of Italian painting over the previous centuries. Like his contemporaries, Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi, he was re-configuring the basic constituent parts. This was an act that had also been pioneered by the older veteran, Lucio Fontana, when he had first pierced his picture surface in 1949. It is no coincidence that Fontana would open one of Scheggi’s early exhibitions in Bologna.
In Intersuperficie curva bianca, the presence of these multiple layers of canvas creates a very real sense of depth that is in vivid contrast to the illusionistic sense of space invoked in figurative painting. Scheggi has abandoned any use of the image that might gull the viewer’s eye into believing that there was a false sense of space, instead favouring a multi-layered configuration that avoids any such manipulation of the way we see. Apart from the holes and other layers, there are no distractions, no details that might be read or, crucially, misread. Instead, Scheggi has shown an intellectual and aesthetic rigour that recalls that of his contemporary Piero Manzoni with his Achromes. At the same time, that rigour is playfully disrupted by the different ways in which the layers visible underneath jostle together. There is a strict appearance of rhythm to the top ‘surface’, yet the others are off-set in a way that provides an engaging counterpoint. This also results in a complex play of light upon the various surfaces, with the shadows of the areas between each hole becoming all the more dynamic according to the light effects in the place in which the picture is shown. This produces a complex calligraphy that writes itself in shadows across the bold diagonal of the progressing apertures, adding a dynamic life to a canvas that belies its status as a monochrome.
Intersuperficie curva bianca was created at a time when Scheggi was enjoying increasing recognition. Despite still being in his mid-20s, he was given the encouragement of esteemed elders as well as his own contemporaries. It was also around this time that he married. Scheggi’s works remain relatively scarce due both to the labour-intensive manner of production and to his untimely death from a heart condition when he was only a little more than thirty years old.