Colour is not simply the colour of things which surround us, nor the colour of shapes. It is an evolutive situation - a reality which reacts on the human being with the same intensity as cold, heat or sound, for example. It is a basic perception which our cultural tradition prevents us from isolating from artistic colour and its esoteric or anecdotic notion. I wanted my work to be a phenomenological situation, where true colour would be liberated from all aesthetic and symbolic meaning and would therefore reach its maximum potential.

Carlos Cruz-Diez

Last May, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, I was in San Gimignano for the opening of the show by the French-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez at Galleria Continua. I didn't know this artist and his artistic practice, but I really fell in love with it. Carlos Cruz-Diez is one of the main protagonists of contemporary art, and his work and writings position him as the last great thinker of the 20th century in the field of colour.

"The Euphoria of Colour," as the title of the exhibition, presents the highlights of Carlos Cruz-Diez's artistic career, exploring the artist's colour theory through some of his most iconic works. Carlos Cruz-Diez's body of work, which is based on three color conditions (subtractive, additive, and reflected), is developed through eight lines of research: Couleur Additive, Physichromie, Induction Chromatique, Chromointerference, Transchromie, Chromosaturation, Chromoscope, and Couleur à l'Espace. Each of these lines responds to different colour behaviours.

The work that occupies the main room of the cinema-theatre headquarters of the gallery is a participatory experience and is part of the series Environnement Chromointerférent (Paris, 1974). Environnement Chromointerférent alters the space, thus transforming everything inside it. The first one, in 1974, had fewer colours than the more recent ones, but it already generated what I call a relationship between a constant and a variable. The variable was the moving pattern, and the constant was the shadow (that viewers) cast on the moving patterns. The interplay between variables and constants caused a feeling of instability similar to sitting on a train and thinking that "your train" is moving. But that is not so; the train next to yours is the one that moves. Chromointerference produces an ambiguity of perceptual instability as described by Cruz-Diez in 2011.

The projection was in constant motion, making the people and the objects "actors" in the experience. It was a truly immersive artwork created before this kind of art became as common as it is in the contemporary world. The goal of these iconic color environments is to create a situation in space involving the dematerialization, transfiguration, and ambiguity of color through movement.

In the other rooms of the gallery, there was a selection of three of the eight seminal series developed by the artist. The Physichromies (1959) are structures designed to reveal certain circumstances and conditions related to colour, mutating according to the movement of the viewer and the intensity of the light, and thus projecting the colour into the space to create an evolutionary situation of additive, reflective, and subtractive colour. Couleur Additive (1959) is based on colour radiation. When one plane of colour touches another, a darker vertical line appears at the point of contact. This virtual line brings in a third colour that is not in the medium. By isolating this optical phenomenon, Cruz-Diez obtains the so-called "Chromatic Event Modules," which are responsible, in a certain sense, for the continuous transformation of colour. Inductions Chromatiques (1963) are closely related to the phenomenon of afterimage or retinal persistence. In other words, the retina of the eye, having fixed a plane coloured in red for a certain period of time, retains, even after looking away, an image of the plane - in green; which is the induced colour or complementary colour. In other words, it stabilizes and makes visible a phenomenon that can only be captured momentarily and under very particular circumstances.

The exhibition itinerary ends in the gallery's garden with Environnement de Transchromie Circulaire (1965/2017), a circular, immersive, and shining structure in which the viewer is invited to rediscover their natural or urban environment. Created to be experienced outdoors, the work takes its external surroundings into account and transforms them by subtracting color, thanks to the transparent strips that blend together. The artist unfolds a singular conception of abstraction, which began in 1969 when he elaborated his first Projet pour un environnement de couleur soustractive.

I deeply appreciate the installation created for the exhibition in Piazza delle Erbe because it is important to remember that Carlos Cruz-Diez has worked in urban spaces through the creation of large participatory works by intervening on pedestrian crossings and walkways. This was a way to invite people to interact with his creations and experience the city by overcoming the daily routine. "One of the functions of art is to cause amazement. If you create objects and new situations on the street, you inspire amazement. The colours change depending on the time of day or where you are. There is always an element of surprise. In a sculpture, in a traditional painting, the discourse is unchanging. On the street, it changes constantly. As a result, kinetic art is really suitable for the urban dimension," says Carlos Cruz-Diez.