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Welcome to the fascinating psychodrama of Aldo”

Tim Green

Director Catto Gallery

The Mad Men are back.

Handsome men and elegant women, whispered conversations and secret assignations. It’s as if the admen of the award-winning TV series were stalking the very walls of the Catto Gallery.

In a way they are. Welcome to the fascinating psychodrama of Aldo.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see echoes of Mad Men in this artist’s work. Aldo began his working career as a storyboard illustrator in the advertising industry. And while it might not have been New York in the sixties the agency world certainly taught Aldo all about narrative economy. Get your message across quick – that’s the secret of good advertising.

But adland was also a technical education. Aldo’s technical interest in anatomy was nurtured here, giving him the ability to render the human form from any angle. This bestowed on Aldo wonderful artistic freedom. Like the jazz musician who knows his scales so well he doesn’t have to think about them, Aldo could go anywhere.

And his destination was – still is – the complexity of human relationships. Many of Aldo’s paintings centre on men and women, their compositional stillness clearly masking turbulent emotion. What is going on in between the three protagonists in ‘Moment in Piazza San Marco’, for example? I don’t think they’re discussing train timetables.

Sometimes, Aldo extends the drama by grouping a family of paintings under the same title. The aforementioned work may be the start point for the Moments series, which expresses all the suppressed passion and suspense of a film noir thriller.

Aldo doesn’t even need to show the faces of the participants to communicate the drama. Check out Moments XII. The solitary male, hands on hips, gazing through a window into the sunlight. It’s heavy with possibilities. As the artist himself says: “When a person is face-on, it’s a portrait, and the mystique is gone…but you can suggest so much in a gesture, in the way someone stands.”

Such paintings are also a showcase for Aldo’s formal pre-occupation with line. Look at the creases in those shirt sleeves. Any painter is going to scrutinise those and think, yeah that’s good stuff. Very good stuff.

In fact, the ‘painterly’ side of Aldo features more prominently in this show than is usual. The collection includes wonderfully harmonious landscapes such as Viridian Canopy and Rue Camille Sauvageau that illustrate another side of Aldo. He says of the building in the latter: “It had a weighty presence, partly due to the natural daylight on a narrow street lined with tall houses. That gave it soft muted shadows, and very subtle variations in hue.”

Eleswhere, we see Aldo’s ability to turn his expert brush to the still life (Orange Blue) and the nude (Bath).

But no matter what the genre, these paintings are unified by Aldo’s uncanny ability to suggest more than we can see. He says: “A lot of these paintings are moments in time, sometimes reflective, sometimes poignant. Some are revelations, confided secrets or stories.”

Come to the Catto for the latest gripping instalment.