Inside our time - Reviews

Giovanni Faccenda

Fifty years of painting of an artist consistent and severe

“You have to look what people are hiding, rummaging through the silences of their faces, discover the truth that hassle them at night as during the day. A serious painter can not paint this”.

Ottone Rosai, from a Dino Caponi’s letter, October 4th, 1943


Fifty years of painting of a wise man who chose to stay “normal” are also the artistic path - chronologically extended and substantially large - of a painter who has not had to resort to quirks and oddities, things so fashion today, to gain a precise and meaningful identity. Among the principal merits of Ferdinand Todesco, this - no small matter - it is certainly one of the first: the consistency and the seriousness with which he is constantly dedicated to the craft of painting dizzy deserve, in fact, the most convinced appreciation that anyone who looks or reviews now the rich variety of outcomes.

In the various cycles that have marked the evolution of his painting - train stations, scrap, nocturnals, wheat fields, even the latest home interiors (with reference to Hopper) - Todesco has been able to express more of a touching and existential reflection: about the humanity in general and the anxieties and trepidations, buried in the depths of the soul, which induce lots of people in a scorchig silence. Roads, railway stations, smoky interiors have thus become, in the tables painted by the author, a vibrant metaphor for the anxious reality that he has continued to investigate with great efficacy introspective, sectioning moments, individual or collective, in which life proves (in a whisper) the truth of feelings: latent anxieties, thoughtful loneliness, separation due to departures obviously painful as necessary. Until to find Todesco, his most expressive worsignificant and emblematic nonetheless - in the representation of a delay that smells of hopes and dreams, memory and nostalgia, sense, finally, of our ephemeral earthly journey. Among fleeting illusions, where, saving, continues to give us some certainty a wonder: painting.

Florence, September 2013



Ivano Mariotto

Art as an experience of truth

Top of mind a train station, tracks and electrical cables fleeing to an unlikely “over”; wagons parked, surrounded by the opaque glow night; a stop-goods prospectively set by the overpass; suburbs on the background of chimneys industrious; piles of scrap as extreme outcome of a productive activity rash, consumer-oriented rather than conscious use. So far, a proposal characterized by static fixity, transfigured by a material acrylic colour under the looming weight of magmatic skies.

Then, suddenly, the landscape comes alive. Attention is directed to the comings and goings of unwitting protagonists and to the burden of their secret stories. It’s time to cast an eye on the human figures (not just commuting habit, but also the immigrant frightened and closed in on itself, the drifter young with his head in his hands, the dreamer in search of fortune) stationed on the quay waiting for a meeting or a final coincidence. Driven there by unfathomable motives, these slender and elongated mannequins, suspended between heaven and earth, outline - a full palette - within small spaces, the forced coexistence of unsurpassed solitudes of the mass.

Finally, a sublime temptation crosses the mind of the artist: pierce the veil of appearances, and fix on canvas the face of so many poor souls, in order to fathom the soul in a discreet personal relationship “I - you.” By its nature, the face is the irreducible way according to which the other may be offered to look into his identity. Only people have a face. On closer inspection a “thing” never appears personally: has no identity because it is a being faceless; so it is normal practice violence on it, grab it and dispose of it at will. But it is a prerogative of art give a face, even to things; but who knows, in this attempt to give them an identity - among other things, happy contrast to today’s pervasive reduction of men to things - the artist is sometimes taken by the suspicion that the greatness of his creation pays the price of lies. In this way it is structured the “journey”, a metaphor for life. But this is first of all the artist’s journey, punctuated by the stages of his research.

If the trip is, by definition, the range that a human subject covers between a beginning and an end (the end of the trip or the end of the subject?), The attention of the painter, initially all taken from the fascination for the railroad, fixed in its immobility, stability, order and balance, then turns to the “subject” of the trip. “Who” is the one who is travelling? He is a traveller (in the proper sense), ... a wanderer, a nomad...? In this way the landscape is changed dramatically: movement, dynamism, fluctuations, instability emerge as narrative elements of a “world” that is so because “it has history and he is history”: the history of life, the history of human beings. It’s just so that we perceive: the inhabitants of a world in the frantic making, scanned and measured by “time”, our condemnation, but also the occasion and opportunity, when - so would the artist - he was tempted, against today dominant and hostile forces, to consider the station as a “container of lives in evolution.”

But we are not called simply to look at the situation from the outside, or to explain not get involved; Instead, we are invited to comprehend, to understand or at least, only, to question. The encounter with art is always an experience of truth. The painting, like any other form of art, opens an horizon of meanings in which we are encouraged to enter. In it you can read a “structure” that transcends the subjectivity of the author and that lends itself to a hermeneutic operation, always open to subsequent interpretations of meaning. Author and performer are both “in play” by the occurrence of an experience of truth, always renewed.

So I wonder if the story has a direction, if the sequence of events still makes sense (and a right way); and I try in the crowd a kind of “traveller” who, sure of himself, fixed his gaze to the goal (a goal ontologically guaranteed, freely chosen... ethically founded?); a goal that, once achieved, erase the fatigue of the journey and that eventually fulfilled for him what was wanted at the beginning. I wish this movement of going confident and ‘in a straight line’ to the goal - bright and happy heritage of an age just waned - was still a possible message today, but I am perplexed and doubtful in front of all this unstable humanity that comes on canvas before me.

Then in the pile I’m looking for the figure of a lone “traveller”, or of a subject, become aware of not being able to find peace in a safe haven, he agrees to surrender romantically to the stream of life, aware of the provisional nature of each goal and willing to be, as in an open sea, fully “sailor” or, in the case, “castaway”. I hesitate to think that travelling would be for him nothing more than an inevitable death trap, which could nip in the bud any nostalgia for the beyond. I see this in the street musician who, with his light charge and a lot of “wanderlust”, he turns his back.

Instead, it’s the “nomadic”, foreign or stateless, that in these paintings lies before me and interrogates me. For him expose himself to the unusual and the unexpected of the way is not already a deliberate choice, but a “destiny”: a fate that can call upon itself significance and ways of living, against which the inside and the outside , the exoteric and the esoteric, the conscious and the unconscious pierce “symbolically” in each other. No border stands before the nomad; the land he treads is an open field, with no reference points, no goals, no peace. The “symbol” is a mystery and mysteries do not interpret, do not let themselves be read (pace to psychoanalysts and semeiologists!); rather, you can only draw close to the mysteries, with extreme modesty. “Come on! Courage! Old heart! “, I am tempted to say to those who accept “in toto” the risk of living up to the loss of themselves, to madness. But then I regret my rash claim to not be in the game and I think that the “crisis” is still there for one and all: I see myself in the other, I mirror the fragility of my “I”, of each “I”, that as far as balance, undamaged, intact in the eyes of the world, is impacted by the telluric and pre-spiritual forces of a cosmic and unconscious “will”. I wonder, therefore, when we can ever be masters in our own house.

Then, I stop to think about this dark force that propels us on the tracks of some station of the globe and I imagine other lives. And whatever the answer, nostalgically direct to the past or timidly open to the future, I turn to consider fully the crisis of the subject, its disarticulation and its emptying, that weigh as boulders on the present time. At this point, the loss of certainties echoes the failure of the word and/ or the chaos of languages. Only the art, which is a evolved metaphor and non-discursive symbol of life and history, still manages to articulate for us the ineffable with his thunderous silence.

So I read “Pensieri su tela” of the artist.

November 11, 2014



Francesco Bletzo

World of things, the world of poetry: the reality as a story

A station in the evening. A woman walking in the night. A city in the rain, the headlights of passing cars, a face looking at us and seems to interrogate us.

These are the stories that Ferdinand Todesco tells us with his painting, but in spite of an apparent simplicity, it is always micro events to which the artist gives an emblematic statute. And the emblem, we think that of a noble family, of a municipality or a company has the ambition to capture, surround and suggest many realities.

During his long career, Todesco has painted deposits machines, train lines, the beauty of the stations, travellers’ departures, the city at night: pictorial themes, essentially urban, where the story seems deliberately shy away from the picturesque cliché.

And so in his paintings can suddenly ringing telephone, a speaker may indicate the next station, a television will broadcast evening news, the blonde girl will turn the corner, someone on the train will talk with the neighbour, or will fall asleep for a moment.

Yet this vision of reality is never shouted, not meant to be a complaint but is instead the human observation, always pervaded by a gaze’s mildness, by the delicacy of the story, and as a result, by a total lack of moralistic judgment.

“Things happen” - seems to say the artist, in silence and in a suspension of time that remember the dream, that lead us into an observatory of reality that has to do with childhood, with an untouched area. In fact, one of the artists whose Ferdinand Todesco refers is precisely Hopper, the famous American painter, the singer of the empty theatres, the sun-drenched bay windows, the night bars.

To tell this his-our world Todesco uses a technical register seemingly simplified, almost poor: it is a “pictorial matter” which recalls the rough and faded writing of the chalk, with a deliberate simplification of the human figure, which seems to mention the level of illustration than that of “high” painting. But in this process of subtraction is the refinement of his painting, which is being implemented with a look from the inside, in the -genus, in the genius, so in the spirit of things: without affix a critical-ethics and interpretive distance.

And perhaps this look pure, is a tutelary deity, a flame driving his investigation on the human, on its moments of solitude and silence. Here, the artist seems to suggest, the people and the stories do not necessarily fit into a plot that we can understand: sometimes Todesco’s painting are one frame of a narrative that we sense to be longer and perhaps more complex. What will the woman do off the train? In what home will come the passer? What happens in the light of that window lighted in the evening? What people will tell to each other, when they shut down the computer? Mom pedalling on the exercise bike in front of the television will prepare dinner?

However, though they are questions of existential character, these are not questions asked in anguish, because we all have gone through the emotional space of these seemingly mundane moments, in which it seems, in a moment of poetry, catalyze the secret meaning of things, and I would say finally also of life.

Verona 2014



Massimiliano Bertolazzi

A plaesant meeting

I’m sitting in the studio-workshop of Ferdinand Todesco. I just watched his “work” when he shows me two self-portraits.

“You’re the first one I’ll show them!”

Who knows Todesco know that he is a man of few words, reserved, almost shy.

The two paintings are there on the ground, huddled with other paintings. My eyes, however, are still full of other views; all “strong” subjects, never banal, although seemingly repetitive. There are depicted dialogues and thoughts that involve the viewer. And to think we all know the stations, trains arrive and depart, the anxiety of waiting, or the hustle and bustle; lights, advertising signs ... but after watching the Todesco’s “Thoughts on canvas” (Pensieri su tela) is difficult, if not impossible, to review all without suffering the contagion of his research.

Today there are paintings that allow us to look at them but they never affect the viewer, while others, such as those of Ferdinando Todesco, where the artist reinvented the subject and has the ability to offer it filtered, forcing us to enter into his world and to get bogged down in it.

The painting that escapes from the simple pleasure and does not chase the trends has the power of exclusivity. The Todesco’s pictorial dictionary is not just current but universal: consumerism, nuclear power, overbuilding, lack of dialogue inside and outside the family, commercialization, loneliness, integration... live again without the pretence of teaching but are intended as a document of the survey, analysis of the phenomena. Todesco observes, analyzes, urges but stands as a censor.

His studio is paved with paintings that hide the walls and the smell of colour intoxicates you: a procession of figures rising up, grow long, twisting each other in a dance sometimes slow, lonely, others times spasmodic where everything is touched by time and runs away.

The self-portraits, however, are still there in front of me, I look at them and they look at me.

I know that the painter awaits an opinion but I take my time.

I request him to tell me about the school master, the teacher of drawing and art history... about the beginning.

The discussion moves to the years of childhood, the smell of the countryside, to Arcole and Veronella to cart water that wets the dusty roads... and the ice cream maker who offers only a single portion of a single flavour in exchange for a fresh egg. And the fields, wheat, poppies, cornflowers and the thresher, the huge contraption red and dusty, and the sweat of the peasants with the inevitable scarf and hat... Then silence undermines the nostalgia.

“I confess - I say - that these two pictures scare me. It’s not me, but they are looking at me”.

The painter, not surprised, begins to talk about himself, about the present which runs away, about the temporary inability to program... but the painting, still painting that offers strength, courage, willingness to say, to appear.

Almost never - dear Ferdinand - happened to have in front of me pictures with this expressive power, which although different in form they are united by a single penetrating gaze which is wry, ironic, sarcastic, and benevolent together.

It is not the artist to offer his research but a reversal of roles. The viewer is searched, investigated, scrutinized. He no longer has the armour of the distance which authorizes him to judge. He feels “naked” with the eye of the painter-observer.

“Paint again - please - Ferdinand!”

June 2013



Anna Soricaro

Desert’s challenges

Text published by the Barletta’s Zerouno gallery

... Ferdinando Todesco prefer a representation that has as its theme the journey: the desire to escape and change that cannot be implemented with ease often drives the artist to draw characters and scenes near the railroad. Those who imagine him careful to scrutinize the details at the station is not wrong. Scrupulous observer by nature, he is inspired by any particular to outline threadlike figures in contexts that already appear faded, surrounded by the magical aura of the dream.

Intent to wonder where he’s going and where all those people come from, Todesco gently identifies a dreamy area when people greet each other, hold the bag, clutch a newspaper and stand in line. Anonymous people become the protagonist of an ideal world in which to dream without waking up. Master of art, Todesco uses the classical means of painting to leave an indelible mark of this hectic and inscrutable present. The greatness of the artist is to delineate different scenes with the same atmosphere, and more: hatching refined, choice of colors and the majesty of the thin protagonists which towering on the scene, make the treatment elegant, sophisticated and accurate.

Barletta, February 10, 2013



Flavia Soldato

Todesco recalls Giacometti, Hopper and Sironi

A flow of ever-changing moods lies in man, with a feeling of loss and pain. It’s the perpetual and constant motion of life that Ferdinando Todesco depicting in the metaphorical image of a train station, place of arrivals and departures in each direction.

Todesco describes the travel occasion as an intimate time for the identity reconstruction: the same identity that was broken up by a devastating society which induces the individual to close and isolate himself in a poor condition every day. In a metaphysical space - to get away and find the meaning of life is not vain - Todesco recognizes the Person in the passenger and puts in it his singular focus.

The artist transforms travellers into mannequins, with vague faces and elongated figures, such as Alberto Giacometti’s thread-like sculptures, extremely frail, but imbued with the innate and powerful energy that allows them to keep from falling. Still figures that are waiting to make a decision, suspended in a transitional uncertainty; other figures, portrayed from behind, become responsible for a choice and master of their destiny.

To live fully in freedom is the desire of the artist who in “Nocturnals” works expresses an overwhelming and melancholy vision and of the city. The traffic at traffic lights, the headlights of cars, smog, shop windows, advertising signs, everything is spread out over a single colour, the blue of Yves Klein, pure and immaterial, to express with more intimacy, in the deep night, the realism of Edward Hopper: the human loneliness.

Referring to the suburbs of Mario Sironi, which are full of atmosphere and still estranged, Todesco conveys a sense of immanence and alienation, a solemn introspective interpretation of the city, deprived of any reference nature. Consumerism floods and shapes the man in a robot intent to design, and the artist has the daunting task of protecting its membership, recalling the Cartesian philosophical concept of existence: the thought.

In the works entitled “Scraps” Todesco shows cars, contemporary elements in clusters of wrecks, cancelling their symbol of wealth and appearance in the revived beauty, beyond time and memory of the individual. Their host is marked by charcoal and bursts of colour; lighting, however, in the soft drafts of the background metropolitan, now fading. Todesco develops in these wrecks the value of history, just as it did Arman with his relics, which remain in the mind as well as their disuse.

Again the theme is the journey and the “Cornfields” is the journey of one’s life that Todesco says. Distant memories of serene landscapes, surrounded by an extensive brightness and a noticeable breeze where the voice of nature becomes a friend. With the accuracy and vibrancy of colours he evokes the memory and above all a time of endless unique moments, as experienced by seizing the value of their existence and braving the test of time and its been ephemeral. A place that lost Todesco revealed in an exclusive island, where the painting always loves to land; and hence the artist finally declares his ‘I’.

ArtetivuLab (2011)



Maria Pia Codato

The railroad, the travelers, the feelings in Todesco’s works

“Break away from the ordinary, escape to somewhere else, in complete freedom. This choice of the painter Ferdinand Todesco, which he loves, as a new Ulysses, exploration, research and knowledge”. The staging of his works is very original, it was opened today at 12 am in the entrance hall of the train station in Padua. The shows will run until January 23rd (from 11 am to 5 pm)

The art critic Paolo Rizzi was right when he said: “Todesco does not like to depict landscapes and romantic love in the moonlight; he deals with the subject of railway stations, streets in the night, debris, the suburbs, the freight yards. Rarely figures appear and where they appear to look like mannequins sore, cold. And there is even more: in the pictorial syntax prevail beams perspective, the strong outlines, lines of flight... After all, he emanates from the paintings a harmony which is made of shapes, but also of colours. In this sense Todesco seems immersed in the emotional and venetian climate”.

And it is the artist himself, who has his studio in San Bonifacio, Verona, and has been painting for forty years, to explain the evolution of his choices: “Over time, my focus has shifted from the railway which evokes the journey to the subjects of the trip: the people. I am fascinated by what is not seen in people. I wonder what is the spring that brought them to the station: the work, a project, a failure, an escape, a despair, the hope, a dream. I see and I paint a composite humanity, whose members are forced to close for the limited space, but distant, suspicious, weak and lonely indeed.

I don’t take pictures to travelers because I respect them, so I transform them into mannequins, elongated and vague figures, symbol of their identity not yet found”.

Then he goes deep: “I like to think that there is a time in life, a time when every person is metaphorically to the station: important decisions are, in my opinion, the stations from which you can re-start. The station, from this point of view, it is also a case of changing lives, feelings, dreams, commitments to conclude, victories and defeats”.

To share these reflections, to read the thoughts on Ferdinand Todesco’s canvas, you just have to go to the station.

From Padua’s gazette, January 13, 2009



Paolo Rizzi

Stations of our dreams

I think I have seen them many times. Rather, it seems to have entered into me, in my organic memory, as something essential. But if before they escaping as mere sensations, now Ferdinando Todesco’s paintings are here, tangible and alive. I could even touch them, I could spend my fingertips on that soft, liquefy, thick matter, even tempered in the delicate colour pigments.

Today it’s not easy to find an artist that comes close in this way to our Venetian atmosphere. Too much interference acting on the development of taste, too many mannerisms overlap each other. How many people are able to return “pure as children,” admitted that this could happen? Todesco knows what is utopian, but he also knows how essential it is “to live in complete freedom”. For him (his own words) “painting has always been an island which I always love to come back to land”.

But beware: Todesco does not like to depict landscapes and romantic love in the moonlight.

We mainly find in its themes (especially the last) the issue of railway stations, of streets in the night, of the wreckage, the suburbs, the freight yards.

Figures rarely appear, and where they appear to look like mannequins sore, cold. And there is even more: in the pictorial syntax prevail beams perspective, the strong outlines, lines of flight, a kind of movement to the afterlife. The lights themselves, especially nocturnal lights on the highways, lead us to a never fixed vision, and so full of electricity. There is nothing stable, contemplative.

After all, he emanates from the paintings a harmony which is made of shapes, but also of colours. In this sense Todesco seems immersed in the emotional and venetian climate. Perhaps those bundles and interlacing of lines are used to enclose the image, to bring it back into a dream world where everything fades, becomes blurred and soft, loose in the opaque lights.

Those piles of cars and scraps are fragments of a bitter experience full of calm symbols. After all, the whole Todesco’s painting turns to the symbol. In fact he says this about his train stations: “I like to think that there comes a time in life where every person is metaphorically in the station: important decisions are, in my opinion, the station of departure”. The track became “streets of detachment.” And yet, as Todesco says, there may be someone who sees in his paintings a “desire to escape”; but it is an escape to other worlds, cleaner than ours. The imagination helps us to realize our dreams, our longings.

Dicembre 2005



Vera Meneguzzo

Abstract or figurative painting?

We try again, with a resigned anxious not to meet her, we seek in the exhibitions that are springing up everywhere, in the studios of the artists, the paintings of street painters, the old art called “figurative”... almost to a need for reassurance that tells us that there is still a recognizable form, in this disordered life, a form ready to validate our greatness and littleness size of man.

Art out of time? Art bucking? Nonsense! We are still in the things, and we need to find ourselves in them, to see them, to touch, to smell the perfume or stench, now more than ever, not to be irreversibly sucked in by this electronic-computer-multimedia time.

And, as always, it is up to the artist to highlight the loss, report upheaval, reaffirm the value that cannot be replaced in our humanity, a humanity always put to the test.

It also plays Ferdinand Todesco, with a strong and delicate painting, in the versions of an acrylic earthy, broken here and there by a bunch of screaming colour. Pictures sometimes deserted by humans, sometimes populated by slender figurines, made with just a few strokes, almost small crutches to hold up dresses masquerade, immersed in a gray sunset light.

Ferdinand Todesco would like to say that he always has lived a simple and normal life between work and family.

But who can deny that the journey of Odysseus can take place even between the kitchen and the hallway of the house, between the study and the bedroom, inventing here the same adventure of the unknown?

And then the ship may also be called paint, bow pointed toward the exploration, research, knowledge. Setting sail even from pictures for everyone: trains stopped on the tracks, stations, travellers, or deposits of cars now defunct.

Cars like containers to be filled with projects and utopias.

Stations used as a horizon and as border, braided by cables and rails on plots of impermanence. Arrivals and departures between being and becoming, between stillness and motion. The man is seen from behind does not wait for his intended use.

But it is perhaps the end of the journey, the metaphor of the mounds of machines gutted, distorted, disfigured that Todesco paints emulsified form and colour? Or is it an ecological message against waste, the disposable, against the devaluation of memory? In the background looms almost always the city, ready to swallow, digest and expel other stories, other lives, other paths.

Our planet is a living organism that eliminates waste of consumer goods, the “déjà-vu”, obsolete objects.

But in those old cars, how many stories of encounters, expectations, asymmetries of life and death! And maybe in the fabric of seats punctured by spring, there is still the warmth of a kiss, on a shard of glass, a residue of smoke for nervous dialogues.

And the theme is always the journey that has no end or goal.

Objects travel in mind, resist over their disuse, for as long as it take the individual memory. We’ve soaked in the near and distant past of our lives.

Verona, January 14, 2001