You feel, when looking at Arturo Di Stefano’s paintings, as though you are walking through a city of memories. His facades and buildings are composed not only of stone but also of the ghostly patina imparted by physical presence. They carry, within their rough marks and erasures, the trace of those who once moved through them, leaving behind some imperceptible but lasting impression. The arches, stairs and doorways speak of time’s passage while also bearing mute witness to those who have passed through them, in particular those for whom the architecture, as for Di Stefano himself, once provided the settings and stages for their own creative journeys.
They may have moved on but the images they once made in these places have lasted: whether it is the threshold of Cezanne’s house, or the colonnades of Bologna once traversed by Morandi on his way to work (with its rhythmic stone forms echoing the carefully spaced objects on his studio table) or the dark stairwell illuminated with golden light beneath Van Gogh’s room in St Remy, or (perhaps most poignantly) the heavy black door of the house in Los Angeles behind which R.B.Kitaj secluded himself in his final years. Sometimes there is no clue to the presence that once animated these places, beyond knowing that they were for someone the essential locus of their creative life (‘New England Nocturne’, left).
When taken together the fabric (or ‘lasting’, whose other meaning is ‘a durable kind of cloth’) on which these collected memories are inscribed become for him the enduring material through which the past is recovered for the future.
Arturo Di Stefano: Lasting, Purdy Hicks Gallery London, until 19 May 2012