“The first, and perhaps the most illuminating thing to be said about the art of Alessandro Papetti is that it is profoundly Italian. No artist of course ever successfully conceals his national, traditional and psychological origins, though some are more prone to do so than others. One thinks of Van Gogh. But not Papetti. It is not his subject matter that evokes the homeland. In this he is truly international, and entirely his own era despite seeming reminiscences of styles of the past. These are resemblances only. What is Italian about Papetti is his masterly self-effacement in confrontation with the subject matter. As a person he never gets in the way of what the artist is doing. The art is there, and he is the innocent perpetrator of what his hand instructs him to do, he sees, to be sure, what he is doing, but when he is working none of what he sees is visible to the spectator. We see the art. He sees the creation. In this symbiosis dwells the joy – that is, the truth – of aesthetic gratification. For us!
We have said that Papetti is profoundly Italian. Consider the dizzying bravura of his brushwork. Nowhere north of the Alps has there ever been anything quite like it. One is put in mind of Boldini. Yes, but he does not work for the same purpose or effect as that superficial hireling of high society. He does not boost his own ego, remaining always humble in the presence of the visual. The labour of vision takes precedence over all else. Italianite also is Papetti’s focus on space, leading one to think of the first artist to demonstrate the power of art to create a self contained and self sustaining universe: Tintoretto. The frenetic movement, ghostly perspective and supernatural sense of space so characteristic of the Venetian master have clearly left their mark on the young Milanese painter without, however, overpowering his personal and original view. He has, in short, mastered the configuration of his inner world, and achievement which is essential to the ontological transfiguration that endows with talismanic permanence the transitory detritus of our perishable selves and our world.
It is important, then, in a work of art is the sense of order. Life is intrinsically chaotic. From the tension between art and life Papetti creates a visual and psychic balance. One might almost say that this is a death-defying act. Every authentic artist will understand what that means: the soul obeys the dictate of the creator. There is no other life for him. It is a psychological conundrum, and this is hauntingly visible in the figure studies and portraits that flow like pure conflict from Papetti’s challenge to reality. His triumph is not to make reality do his bidding – that would be suicidal – but to submit with humility and rage to the sovereign ordination of reality. It’s a noble response to the impossible, and all those who revere the sublimation of quotidian banality will regard it with amazement and admiration.”
James Lord, essay for the catalogue, one man exhibition Galerie Alain Blondel, Paris, 1997.