Enrico Magnani is an Italian artist renowned for creating works that integrate art, science and spirituality. Having definitively arrived in the world of art after an eclectic journey that led him to be a scientific researcher in the field of nuclear fusion for a number of years, at a certain point in his career Magnani ceased to feel the need to continue along paths of knowledge on which speculation was purely rational. They weren’t enough to feed his restless mind.
After an initial figurative period, his original abstract works rapidly attracted international attention and, since 2010, they have been displayed in museums, foundations, private galleries and public institutions in Europe and the United States. He currently conducts seminars and training workshops on creativity in art and life by means of the constructive use of error and intuition.
As for the question of the points of contact between art and science, this artist reminds us, first and foremost, of beauty. Equations can be very beautiful, he explains, but their beauty is hard to convey, because, in general, we aren’t used to them. However, great men of science have sought to insist on the importance of the beauty of scientific facts. Among them is Paul Dirac, fascinated by the formulas of scientific theories whose beauty he said was an indicator of closeness to reality. When in doubt, choose the most beautiful one, he advised. Others have preferred intuition as a distinguished point of contact between these forms of knowledge, art and science, which have research, beauty and intuition in common. Properly applied, intuition is a highly powerful tool for expanding the domains of knowledge, because it contributes to the addition of new things to our existence.
Magnani began his artistic research into the four elements (earth, fire, water and air), of which the fifth alchemical essence is gold. He later became interested in the cosmos. While his first works were telluric, the current ones have been related since 2017 to outer space, the cosmos and its colossal inhabitants, including supernovae, which he has sought to depict artistically. Coincidence is always present in his work, as it is in the universe, he explains. A star that burns is much more orderly than one that explodes, and this makes the universe a sea of order and disorder. Cosmic bodies that explode on their own, supernovae, send materials to other stars in an eternal dance. If the universe comprises order and disorder, life itself also consists of programmes, things, events and facts, but their complexity prevents them from occurring exactly as we expect them to. Order and disorder, decreasing and increasing entropy and the cyclicity of the cosmos, aggregated in cosmic times, form stars and planets. These are the elements to which Enrico Magnani refers allegorically in his pieces. For example, the golden dots of his depiction of a supernova are stars born from the cataclysm. In search of casual balances, he then measures out the mixture of order and disorder that we find in his depiction of the explosion of the supernova and, in essence, the eternal dance regulated by physical laws described by equations which, he suggests, someone or something must have written. On occasions he thinks of something or someone that is transcendent. We could mention God, of course, but as someone whose thinking is highly flexible in this area, he primarily thinks of a non-human entity that he is unable to describe.
Disorder is something difficult for an artist to control, admits Magnani, who voluntarily introduces it into his work, in which he describes the presence of highly orderly parts and others that are not so orderly which take shape by virtue of being left free to the arbitrary nature of chance. When he works on his pieces, initially arranged horizontally and submerged in water, he can choose the colours to be used. These are, for example, fuchsia, gold and blue, but when he uses the jet of air or water to move the colours around the surfaces so as to establish a centrifugal force distant from the point of precipitation of the coloured particles, he is unable to decide exactly what will happen. He is unsure where each spot of colour will end up. He then submits to chance, although it may not be chance, he admits, but if he is unable to fully control the phenomenon, he regards it as chance; and although the external appearance can become quite geometric and regular, the way in which the materials come to integrate the pieces, what is inside them, not so much the structure but the material itself, the substance and the distribution, arrive along the path of trial and error. His discourse may seem strange, but he enables us to see, with the enthusiasm characteristic of passionate artists, that error, rather like intuition, generates ideas and adds new elements to our reality.
Enrico Magnani also talked to us about the beginning of his current adventure. He was looking for something that could convey the idea of fusion and the role of fire, something that could burn, but he was unable to find the right material. The direct use of fire was too banal. At a barbecue with some friends in a village near Nice, the roof of the structure suddenly began to burn. In the midst of the general panic, no one knew what to do or what was going on. Then they saw that it was a roof made of plastic material that had caught fire. After the fire was put out, the party continued and everything went smoothly in the end. The next day, on a walk around the area, Magnani found the burnt material. For a moment he felt the flame of intuition, leading him to suddenly stop and pick up the burnt object. He saw beautiful colours ranging from black to red and orange and very interesting shapes, sometimes morbid, sometimes rigid. It was exactly what he was looking for. Moreover, he could alter the material with fire. He attempted to work on it there and then with a lighter and realised it was ideal, that it was what he had been trying to find for over a year. So a mistake that wasn’t even his but someone else’s was to condition his work for at least nine years. If you can see it, insists the passionate scientific artist, error is a very powerful creative instrument. Pasolini said that when an error occurs, it should be kept in a display case as something valuable, because it will never return. An error is like intuition; when it arrives, if you don’t embrace it, if you don’t transform it into reality, it will leave, like the wind. This is, ultimately, ephemeral, the nature of chance and its use in the creation that adds something new to the world. You always have to be on the lookout if you want to make the most of it when it manifests itself.