Giorgio Griffa mainly paints with water-based acrylic colours on unprimed and unstretched canvas. His canvases are then fixed directly to the wall with a series of small nails along the top edge. When not on display, his works are folded and piled up. In line with the idea that painting is an unfinished constant, a lot of his works display a deliberate point of suspension which has been described as if ‘he were stopping a thought midsentence’.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Eleven cycles

    U.N.A.L.I.N.E.A., 1981, 2000X200 cm (variable), photo: Giulio Caresio

    Eleven cycles

    Griffa’s painting has developed and branched out over the years, giving rise to a series of eleven cycles of painting, all featuring a start date, but none an end. As Griffa himself asserts, these cycles co-exist alongside each other, because they are not stages of progress or regression, but simply continuous variations of becoming.
    Some works belong to more than one cycle, as cycles are not a classification criterion, but different lines of work that cross and melt into each other.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Segni primari

    Policromo verticale, 1968, 240 x 360 cm

    Segni primari

    It started at the end of 1967. The repetition of the same mark partially covers the canvas, always the same and always different according to the imperfections of the hand.

    The painting captures the rhythms and variability of life by building societies of marks, all with the same characteristics, and each one different from the other.

    This cycle presents the constants of all his subsequent work: the unfinished and the choice of anonymous marks, which could belong to anyone’s hand, rather than the privileged hand of the artist.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Connessioni o contaminazioni

    Cinque segni, 1981, 34 x 27 cm

    Connessioni o contaminazioni

    In the second half of the 1970s, attention to the millennial memory of painting rather than that of the single painter resulted in Griffa’s need to open his work to wider implications.

    From a society of marks we go to the cohabitation of different societies organized according to the inner rhythms of the primary marks; all together celebrating that immense memory of painting.

    Over time, this cycle gradually began to explore movement, a sort of passage from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican world, up to the modernity of Einstein.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Alter ego

    Lavagna Beuys, 1982, 300 x 600 cm

    Alter ego

    The works in this cycle refer to the immense memory of painting. It started in 1979 with a triptych significantly entitled Riflessione, whose three large canvases are dedicated to Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Yves Klein.

    The series ranges from various works dedicated to Matisse, Paolo Uccello, Tintoretto, Piero della Francesca, Lacoonte,Daniel Buren, Brice Marden, Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, Sonia Delaunay, Giovanni Anselmo, Agnes Martin, and others.

    It’s an act of love. It is also the risk of betting against himself and the others.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Frammenti

    Venti frammenti, 1980, 250 x 350 cm (variabile)


    At the end of the 1970s Griffa began to make a series of works by cutting different canvases into small irregular painted fragments.

    The fragments are disseminated all around the space. The canvases are no longer the neutral support for the painting but an integral part of it. They become images and figures, together with the paint they contain.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Segno e campo

    Narciso, 1986, 300 x 190 cm

    Segno e campo

    In the 1980s, Griffa introduced a more specific memory of painting into his work addressing the issue of cohabitation of marks and color fields.

    In this cycle he creates a rhythm, alongside the becoming of the marks of moments of rest and variation in the becoming.

    Like black holes in the universe, the fields emanate enormous energy that influences the other marks.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Trasparenze

    Undermilkwood (Dylan Thomas), 1980, 200 x 650 cm


    This cycle has origins in the great Dioniso, an installation of 9 x 3 m, composed of 21 canvases exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 1980.

    The works are painted on various pieces of transparent canvas as to be over-layered irregularly on the wall.

    The transparencies of the overlapping fabric seek a changing in the dynamic order of the marks.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Tre linee con arabesco

    Tre linee con arabesco n. 319 (a zio Henri), 1992, 176 x 84 cm

    Tre linee con arabesco

    At the start of the 1990s, the question arises of building a new social structure in which the subjects are the works themselves, so that the cohabitation of the various sequences of marks is accompanied by the sequence of works.

    Tre linee con arabesco are chosen as a unifying criterion. Every work has to contain these signs and fix its identity according to its own internal becoming.

    Every work bears a number that indicates the position of that work within the cycle, the first being number 1, the second number 2, and so on.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Numerazioni

    Nove segni, 1998, 86 x 287 cm


    This cycle began in the second half of the 1990s.

    The numbers indicate the order in which the different marks or colours are laid on the canvas.

    Time joins space. Every sign comes before or after another, before and after both in place and in time.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Canone aureo

    Canone Aureo 398 (Agnes Martin), 2016, 150 x 190 cm

    Canone aureo

    In the early 2000s Griffa shifts his attention to the golden ratio, the ancient divine proportion.

    It’s a number that never ends. 1.61803398874989484820... proceeds forever, until the end of time.

    Twisting round in the unknown, it is an extraordinary metaphor of the task left up to figurative art, poetry and music since the times of Orpheus: to know the unknowable, say the unsayable.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Shaman

    Tomospok, 2019, 279 x 190 cm


    In the late 2010s, lettering opened another path. Shaman works contain incomprehensible words. Words become images. Painting was born in the remote times, when humanity began to be aware of the world, and to name things. Painting is the ancestor of writing.

    To get in touch with the unknown, the shaman murmured incomprehensible words. Words without identity for the part of the world to which we cannot give identity.

  • Archivio Giorgio Griffa - Dilemma

    Leggero Pesante, 2019, 140 x 95 cm


    The words painted in this cycle canvases explore some of the contradictions embedded in Griffa's work.

    Passive attention to what happens on the canvas is contradicted by the activity of placing signs. The anonymous signs are in conflict with a painting that does not want to be anonymous. The continuity of the path conflicts with the discontinuity set by proper philosophy and form of every single canvas. The unfinished is accomplished in finished works.

    There is a dilemma and a consequent choice, but contradictions coexist. They are solved through the action of painting.