I was almost thirty years old when Franco Grignani – my grandpa “Nonno Franco” – died in 1999, and when a bit later my grandma died too, I suggested creating a public database on the web of some of his major works. The Internet became free in Italy in 1999, so it was quite a novelty, and – for many reasons – nothing of that plan was achieved but, almost 20 years later, the web itself did it!
If you had searched for “Franco Grignani” with AltaVista in 2003, you would have had a chance to find a little more than one hundred results, while in 2020 Google offers from Italy more than 110.000; but, at the same time, the reference to his work on the web has started to be really scattered and sometimes not accurate. I needed to put some order …
For those who had the opportunity to meet him or just to be contemporary to him, he was «so ahead of his time», «a beacon», «a design monster to love at 100%», «an artist who possessed both soul and intelligence as well as modesty», «he taught us everything … to experiment and enjoy our freedom of expression» …
But, what is really stunning is that more and more young people who did not come across him directly are interested in his work, as it is still so current.
Some years ago, I would have supposed the opposite as, if it is true that Computer Graphics have improved the possibility of imitating him by young contemporary designers, at the same time maybe it has, naively, trivialized the true essence of his work.
I still have vivid memories of his rule and compass, his favorite Faber-Castell pencil, his Indian ink, his Schoeller carboards, and of me staring at him with his white apron over the unmissable tie while working for hours and hours with an indefatigable passion…
Really, even though he was very fast, he needed days to do what now you can achieve with your Mac in a few minutes.
I’ve always been astonished by the influence my grandfather has had in so many aspects of our contemporary ‘view of the world’; well, obviously, I’m quite biased, but I can see the work of Franco inside and behind so many contemporary works and statements almost every day. As he himself wrote in 1973, his images have influenced “the sign of our time”.
In the same way, his trained eye was used to see the beauty of geometry in the everyday world, even in the fence of my primary school:
Sometimes they ask me who my grandfather was: some addressed him as “the Architect”, others call him a graphic designer, a painter, a photographer, a visual artist, a forerunner of the ‘OpArt’ … all definitions that somehow ‘trap’ him in a limited manner. But even looking back on his work as a whole, it’s impossible to confine Grignani to a specific movement. The truth is, as he himself pointed out, that he never wanted to be part of any ‘flock’.
My grandmother used to say that Franco had a “dreamy look”, always immersed in wonderful new ideas.
He often told me about his father, how he had let him find his own way by telling him in dialect «vuoi pitturare? alora, pittura» («do u wanna paint? so, just paint!»)
So, may this blog inspire new generations…
Emiliano, February 4th, 2021
(113th anniversary of the birth of Franco Grignani and release date of the first ‘season’ of 30 posts of this blog)