Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian genius from Tuscany, is probably one of the most famous painters in the world. Everyone on this planet (planet Earth, for our readers outside the globe) knows at least one of his paintings: La Gioconda, a.k.a. Monna Lisa. The thing most people don’t know, he completed only 30 paintings in his life. Not a great number for maybe the best painter of all time! It’s a problem when you have so many thoughts your hands can’t follow your brain. An idea gets obsolete as soon as a new one comes in. Sometimes it’s just a matter of seconds.
There’s another famous Italian artist who even made of unfinished art his own style: Michelangelo Buonarroti. The huge amount of unfinished statues he left after his death makes scholars think Michelangelo did it intentionally. It’s not about not having the time to complete his work. Unfinished was actually finished.
Probably, due to Neo-Platonic influences in Michelangelo’s philosophical view, the reason for non finito lays in the attempt to fix into eternity the moment of creation through an eternal media as marble.
The spark, the momentum, the quantum leap of the creative act, the transformation of non-being into being by the mind of man through his hand . The birth of an idea that from the immaterial plane of a mental concept takes shape on the physical plane through the mental and physical processing of the artist-creator that unites, thanks to his sensitivity and his creative will, two different levels: the physical and the metaphysical, the world of the divine with the secular world, the celestial world with the Earth, the dream with reality.
Giorgio Vasari, the Italian painter, architect and founder of Art History, wrote a biography on Michelangelo in 1550. It was the first biography he wrote on an artist who was still living. But the artist was alive and angry: he didn’t like the book about him, mainly because it was all second-hand information. In fact Vasari never interviewed Michelangelo and met him just once in his early life. But he did write good things too. About unfinished art Vasari states: «many painters achieve in the first sketch of their work, as though guided by a sort of fire of inspiration a certain measure of boldness; but afterwards, in finishing it, the boldness vanishes». This perfectly fits Sir Joe’s theory on non finito or unfinished art!
Let’s see how Giorgio Vasari relates Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti to non finito philosophy, starting with Leonardo: «He began many projects but never finished any of them, feeling that his hand could not reach artistic perfection in the works he conceived». And here’s what he says of Michelangelo: «The works he envisioned were of such a nature that he found it impossible to express such grandiose and awesome conceptions with his hands, and he often abandoned his works, or rather ruined many of them,for fear that he might seem less than perfect».
There are many other examples of unfinished art philosophy in History, such as Benedetto da Maiano (a prominent Italian sculptor of the early Renaissance based in Florence), or even in music with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Puccini’s Turandot or John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Unfinished Music album series.
The last but not least, we have Sir Joe Works’ series of unfinished work. And there are so many that I could make a Sir Joe Unfinished Works website! Here goes something for Star Wars followers: a digital illustration of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I made it a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…! I was trying to mix the idea of saints portrayed on stained glass in old medieval cathedral windows with Pointillism and Digital Circlism theory and technique by artist Ben Heine. Plus I like how the non finito-unfinished style renders a kind of holographic effect, giving the idea of the moment the hologram appears. The moment of its creation. Like Michelangelo’s statues.