Salvatore Emblema was concerned with color and light in painting and their mutual interaction with the painting support and impact on the viewer. To achieve that experience, he used pure color and reductive compositions. But just as important was the physicality and materiality of the paintings, resulting from his preference for using sackcloth and raw jute with a very open weave for his supports and raw pigment, soil and ash as his medium. Whether the pigment was applied as a stain to the jute or thick and impasto, the open woven structure of the supports allowed light to pass through the pigment and support and bounce back, illuminating the paintings from behind. Later, he started removing threads of jute to further open the support and allow more light to penetrate the painting.
His fascination with natural and earthy, non-conventional materials for art making partly stemmed from growing up on the slope of Vesuvius overlooking Pompeii. But, it also came from the influence of Jean DuBuffet in the early 1950s with his use of natural materials to create the well-known gritty and coarsely textured paintings. Emblema was also aware of Lucio Fontana and Alberto Burri, with both the materiality and literalness of their work and how they challenged painting and the conventional picture plane. Emblema met Mark Rothko while in New York on a Rockefeller grant in the mid-1950s. He was intrigued by Rothko’s interest in the metaphysical qualities of color and the idea of the viewer being enveloped by the painting through their unique perception and engagement with the canvas. This combination of early encounters and diverse influences culminated in Emblema’s decision to focus on the perception of transparency in painting as a lifelong endeavor, despite ever-changing and evolving art genre and fashionable trends in art.
Emblema had more than 57 solo exhibitions of his artwork since 1954 in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil and the US and his work included in numerous group exhibitions. His artwork is included in many international private collections and in permanent collections of many museums around the world including Musei Vaticani, Roma (Italy), Galleria degli Uffizi, Firenze (Italia), Metropolitan Museum, New York (U.S.), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (U.S.), Boijmans Museum, Rotterdam (NL), Ludwig Museum, Koblenz (DE), Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara (Italia), Università Normale, Pisa (Italia), Mac, Universidade de Sao Paulo do Brasil (BR), Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro (BR), Museo de la Secreteria de Hacienda y Credito Publico, Ciudad de Mexico (MEX) and Museo del 9cento Castel Sant’Elmo, Napoli (Italia).