Catalogue introduction, Galleria Mentana, Florence, 1975
(…) Naturalism - like any aspect of the spirit or imaginary preference - has its own depth, its own "expressive range" from, on the one hand, portraying the subject in its pure and unique state, thus representing emotion, and on the other hand the desire to conceptualise almost to the extent of abstraction: between the faithfully objective and "realistic" presentation of purely visual information and its interpretation and identification as a mental image.
Just now Cozzi's progress is along the ridge that divides the two: he depicts yet tends to abstraction at the same time; within the natural image he presents a series of patterns, or structural frameworks which instantly reveal a kind of filtering of the "external vision" activated by organizational mechanisms which are of an intellectual nature. It is enhancing, not reductive; the stylistic representation is a formal liberation from purely instinctive and sensory pressures. (…)
Centro culturale Bafomet, Florence 1979
(…) I think that to understand the development of Cozzi's art one should bear in mind his varied experience, related in particular to his architectural studies, considered in the broadest sense possible. His concept of the landscape, for example, is drawn from its structural volume, additionally aided by aerial views and the critical and creative use of photography in general to capture it. This interpretation must have sharpened Cozzi's sensitivity and interest in distancing himself, and clearly lead to a stripped down morphology, in which the constructive and formal relationships and identities have been heightened. Visions and images such as those contained in, for example, the book "Grand Design" can stimulate more than a generic inclination to see things in a specific way. Indeed, it should be evident that - compared to the past - our relationship with reality takes place through multiple media and systems and the resulting visual output is therefore also multiplied, facilitated by new and different processes of transmission. Consequently Cozzi has not rejected the value of a dialogue with the subject since his paintings are not by any means devoid of a sense of emotion.
Varied and variegated, imaginary strips of land presented by Florentine artist Mauro Cozzi. A new naturalism suspended between representation and abstraction.
In "Eco d'arte moderna", n. 44, March-April 1983
There is something highly individual, even ancestral in portraying islands - there is an impulse that I believe not even the artist, Cozzi, is able to explain - a most intimate, Junghian impulse, which surpasses the single moment to recall the architypes in the history of mankind. The island as a symbol of the collective conscience - from time immemorial a theme of so many poets. Writers and artists: from Homer to Dante, Archilocus to Tasso, from Defoe to Foscolo, Verne to Stuparich and from Böcklin to De Chirico and Guidi. Ogygia, Thassos, the Fortunate Islands, Desperation Isle, Lincoln Island, Zante, Cres, the Toteninsel, San Giorgio. A long line of metaphorical conjecture is associated with the vision of an island, recalling the psychic subconscious that the philosopher speaks of: the unknown, mystery, solitude, meditation, shelter, adventure, even pride. A kind of biological urge generates the notion of life enclosed in the womb of the seas, like the embryo in its amniotic liquid; an analogical pulse evokes the image of the solitary moon in the dark night sky; last comes the geological impression of an erratic stretch of land, mysteriously apart - even its derivation remains unknown. The subject of man's passion or dislike, but never his indifference. The very concept of an island represents a contradictory fate: it is a place that has no visible duty of dependence, yet it needs others. And, bound within its sphere of air and water, its anomalous geometry exudes a resolute attitude - happily abandoned to the movement of the sun, buffeted by the winds, eroded by both waves and the salt of the sea.
All this comes to mind when observing Cozzi's islands too. Inspired, he says, by journeys throughout the southern Mediterranean: Lampedusa, Pantelleria, the Eolian islands which he visited as an intrigued and curious traveller. From here, that strip of land, as entrancing as an "idolum mentis" emerged without any specific point of reference: a figure balanced unsteadily between the subconscious and awareness in a young man who was isolated in the panorama of contemporary art. Alone and determined to be a painter despite the frequently aberrant experimentation which, however, he observed, making use of the most interesting elements.
The way in which Cozzi constructs his islands is devoid of any glib sensitivity or ascetic attempt to conceptualize; he adopts a new naturalism suspended between the figurative and the abstract. Figurative in its series of references and rhythms, abstract in its highly symbolic, "metaphorical" style: the island as a fantastic reflection of one's desire.
The composition almost forms a pattern and the chromatic scheme clearly stresses the rigorous series of references and inventive effects. Brush-strokes, textures, experiments with materials, interact with precision in vertical structures that appear layered, eternally suspended in an emblematic, heraldic blue of an imperturbably pure hue. Tectonic morphologies where flashes of memory, literary and archaeological references, subliminal impulses, mingle in a symphony wonderfully orchestrated by the artist's sensitivity and the architect's constructive logic. What emerges is a performance vibrating with light between the sparkling air and the shivering depths of the sea. To the watchful eye the scene is constantly changing, even in minute, but essential, details - especially in the shade of the light, where slight changes evoke the passing of time. Dawn, noon, dusk all seem to alternate in the luminous shifts - from the clear freshness of the mornings to the enveloping, penetrating brilliance of midday and the mild, veiled falling of the evening. Thus the identity of the subject, the single theme, splits apart but is recreated in a variety of situations by the compositional sensitivity and ability to reconstruct, which is the essence of art and which Cozzi clearly possesses.
(…) Thus after having tried out his artistic energy in different forms, Cozzi turned to landscape painting. Not the usual and familiar landscapes - despite himself, a Florentine who wan to avoid the picturesque and prefers a certain severity, always finds himself within the twin clutches of the Fifteenth century and Cezanne, just as it was for the Florentine pain1900's. Instead he turned to the luxurious yet elemental landscapes of the southern Mediterranean.
Cozzi has been concentrating and working on this theme for many years, modifying, developing, evolving without letting himself be distracted too much by the fuss of events in the, world of art, at the same time though, aware of the most worthwhile currents. That is not to say he assumes an attitude of supercilious rejection, but rather that he is free am independent enough to keep close to the pulse of the "fashionable" artistic trends, without making compromise towards them.
His theme was, and is, that of the relationship between natural emotion and the form that takes on the canvas; his concern was, and is, to concede as little as possible for the sake o effect and therefore to reduce the matter to the minimal level of formality, - to the limits of pure abstraction. In his work o the Seventies these demands took on the form of dry informality; in his work of the last few years the brushtroke is more flowing and occasionally light, the sharp ascetism has given way to slight softening and the landscape as such is barely defined, but vibrant in its use of a difficult range o colours - the green/blue, the ochre/violet, and the yellow, which shades into pink.(…)
In "Artista. Critica dell'arte in Toscana", 1994
(…) I do not know to what extent the recesses of personal affections influence one's figurative preferences, but I do know that my liking for Mauro Cozzi's painting increased towards the end of the 1970s when - previously divided into even bands of compact colours (light blue, blue, dark blue) amidst which silent empty chalk landscapes could be seen, like the blades of a venetian blind - his works began to loose their geometric precision and the blue stripes began to splinter, like the sea which corrodes (and then supports) the jagged coastline, and the landscapes became rugged and austere, like the wild crags of the Tuscan islands.
That slight informal element - though underlying it there was always a structural tension, innate to Mauro, and reinforced by his architectural studies - which was at first glimpsed in the horizontal slits, seemed at last to have invaded the blues, ruffling the mathematical regularity of the surroundings and the uniform background of the colour. Encouraged by the critics, Mauro himself had begun to call those profiles "the islands", and, thanks it would seem to Francesco Arcangeli, the informal began to shift towards natural references, increasingly recalling lands that emerged from the clear waters of a Mediterranean as yet unexplored - or perhaps visited only by a few ancient poets who sang its charms and beauty, the poignant echoes of which are still captured by modern artists. These are lands where man, if he ever visited them, has left few rare signs of his ephemeral passage. Here seasons of sun have split even the rocks, and the silence - equally interminable - is disturbed only by the buzz of a passing insect - like the dusty, scorched square that lies beyond the shutters of the room where the reporter in Antonioni's film is dying.
Perhaps it is the director's long takes, his silent and slow poetry - which Antonioni also reproduced in the stillness of a painted image, the Enchanted Mountains - that are recognizable in Mauro's mysterious islands. It is a form of figurative art that may recall, perhaps only in the technique, a remote familiarity with Saetti, but which now seems more in harmony with the paintings of Morlotti, with their densely spread pastes and colours, or with Mattioli's textures. It is a form of painting that I imagine Testori would have liked, given a sensitivity similar to that of a Lombard artist who survived the plague at the time of cardinal Federico Borromeo, which characterised his writings whether exegetic or theatrical or literary in general; a sensual and abundant sensitivity - such as Morlotti's or Moreni's solid clots of colour - yet inclined to be moved by silence, long slow timing, suspended emotion awaiting an event that will make the heart tremble. (...)
Catalogue introduction, Saletta Mentana, Florence 2008
A hum like crowds at the stadium, floating islands lying in the sun that once I associated with the rustic warmth of the colours of Sardinia, emerge as I climb upwards following the friendly voices and powerful colours. The suspended colours of earth and ridges, buildings and deserts are poised, fragmented around the walls of the studio, and continue into drowsy stretches of brilliant greens, silent notes in a slow movement.
Mauro Cozzi has continued to mature his experiences in architecture and painting. Subtly scrutinising where the wind blows freely, he presents his work with delicate cadences accompanied by a slight smile. One begins to imagine that he absorbs the atmosphere that fills the surrounding air, for, looking up in his studio in front of us is that impressive, familiar embrace, that maternal dome which captures the soul. One's glance returns to the studio, sweeping around the paintings, based simply on lightly sketched forms, sandy ridges where Cozzi interprets nature through architecture and discovers the curvaceous dome. Design and brush-stroke are one and the same, textural colour that reveals coherent thought. The craftsman's care can be seen in his paintings and is felt in the devotion with which he represents the earth as one who is familiar with frescoes, plaster and textures. These paintings lead gently to contemplation.
Paris, Stock, 2020
As well as the Museum of Franco Maria (Ricci) there is another, imaginary museum - my museum - where I have collected pieces of different styles and natures, each one of which moves me, each one reflecting our life together and our empirical approach to painting; for all these reasons this labyrinth also includes Mauro Cozzi.
It is an understatement to say I would have liked to spend part of this night in the company of one of his fantasized Mediterranean scenes, just as one of his paintings, The Red Island, has been my companion every night for over thirty years. We bought it when we were still young, on a complete impulse, without knowing its title, absolutely enchanted by the forms and colours, by the vibrations which must have seemed to both of us - without entirely realising and without even speaking of it - like a synthesis of our lives, or at least of that summer, not knowing if the sky was above or below, or even if it was sky at all. Quite simply we went to a bank and exchanged all our travelers cheques, and the gallery owner kindly also gave us the aluminum frame of the painting too - but it was still a crazy thing to do. We found the title on the back, together with the artist's address, many months after the painting had travelled over the Alps in our suitcase. His name was impeccably sketched in a minute row of geometric letters along the bottom of the painting.
Cozzi's painting is both neoclassical and, at the same time, entirely contemporary - from the group of green hills forming the horizon, shaped like baptistery domes, to the Wind on a Greek Island - an example of the "infini diminutif" beloved by Baudelaire. The island is minimal, the wind perceived in two light touches of lead-white on the sea surface. For reasons of symmetry I could imagine it located opposite The Evening Visit with the same combination of enigma and clarity; or for reflection, opposite the "memento mori" because if there is anything we should never forget it is the beauty of the world we will have to leave behind.
Vanity, and vanity of vanities, the study of the wind pleases me. And I see almost the same touches of white laid on the sea of The Red Island thirty-five years earlier. So little to achieve so much maybe, but it is also a miracle of persistence and delicacy. Mauro Cozzi's painting suggests that such vanity literally enables us to feel the mist, the breeze, the ephemeral moment, but beyond our fragility, an element of resistance too.