Enrico Castellani, was born in Castelmassa, in the province of Rovigo, on 4th August 1930. He studied painting and sculpture at the Académie des Beaux-Arts and architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure in Belgium until 1956.
In 1957 Enrico Castellani returned to Italy, where he became acquainted with Italian avant-garde artists Piero Manzoni, Lucio Fontana, Vincenzo Agnetti and Agostino Bonalumi in Milan and came into contact with Yves Klein and the group of German artists known as “ZERO”. In 1957-58 the legendary “ZERO” evening exhibitions of work by Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker were held in Düsseldorf that were to be so influential in Italy as well.
In 1958 Enrico Castellani joined the “Movimento Arte Nucleare” group to which Manzoni, Fontana, Picabia and Bonalumi also belonged. Castellani and Manzoni forged firm ties of friendship. In December 1959 the two artists opened Galleria Azimut in Milan. That same December also saw the launch of their journal, “Azimuth”. The aims of the Azimut artists were to ensure that art did not imitate; a work was to be entirely self-referential and possess reality and authenticity in its own right. Light and shade, space and structure should be contained in the work itself and not be elicited in viewers by means of sensory deception. In 1959 Castellani showed his “Superficie Nera” his first relief paintings. To make them, he worked over his canvases with a nail gun to produce a relief surface that induced light and shade effects through alternating depressions and raised areas. Castellani left the canvases monochrome, usually white.
In 1964 Enrico Castellan’s works were shown at the Venice Biennale in a separate room. In 1968 he took part in “Documenta 4” and he was also among the leaders of protests at the Milan Triennale and the Venice Biennale. With Enzo Mari, Castellani co-wrote ‘Un rifiuto possibile’ (‘a possible refusal ‘, published in 1969 in Almanacco Letterario Bompiani, Milan), an opinion piece in which the authors advocate vigorously for the autonomy of art and artists from commercial interests. Castellani and Mari refused to take part in group shows which in their view represented ‘a justification for shunning responsibility’, and they instead favored ‘solo shows in which we will take full responsibility, since we are committed to speaking out every time against the kinds of compromises and the boundaries that stand between research and production.’
Following a period of forced exile in Switzerland, in 1973 Castellani returned to Italy and settled in Celleno, a small hamlet in the province of Viterbo. Since then, Castellani has continued to play by his own rules. Day after day, he gives life to new relief paintings that make room for ‘infinite encounters, agonizing waits, tautological commensurations, existential suffering and utopian substantiations’, as he remains firmly anchored in the validity and timeliness of his inventive spirit.