This poster was a turning point in my life. It won the ICI (printing inks and colors) contest. The drawing was quite unusual for those times, since it is based on a very plain abstract symbol.
Throughtout my life and my work I have remained consistent with this quest for synthesis.
Armando Testa, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milano, 1985
A poster usually arouses curiosity, giving people a pleasant or unpleasant sensation according to the artistic qualities of the poster itself. Fluorescent color is aggressive towards our eyes and for this reason its use had to be very controlled and well-balanced in order not to become irritating.
In some cases, after many different experiments, I think I managed to create entirely fluorescent posters that perhaps also had some artistic value [ ... ].
Armando Testa, in “Serigrafia”, n. 19, Milan, October 1960
The word ‘synthesis’ for me is law: whether I am painting, writing or speaking. I will never tire of quoting Mies Van der Rohe’s celebrated phrase: “Less is more”.
There is only one circumstance in which I should like to betray the idea of synthesis: that of life, which is of too short a duration to express all the creativity of man.
Life is not only a brushstroke à la Kline, or a slash à la Fontana; but more a Pollock-like proliferation of tiny marks, the softly blended colours of Monet or a succession of waves in the manner of Hokusai.
The word we live in is a word of images that will grow more and more intense and which the public will play around with, associating them and bringing them back to life in many different ways.
This is the future of humanity which is being bombarded with images… and it will be a new game also because the man in the images will have rapid connections and exchanges.
Interview with Armando Testa, from the mid- eighties extract from “Il poeta della pubblicità” episode broadcast by RAI, TGR Il Settimanale on 24/03/2012
Armando Testa was born in Turin in 1917 and began work as an apprentice printer at the age of just fourteen, while attending the Scuola Tipografica Vigliardi Paravia where he was taught by the painter Ezio D’Errico, who would introduce him to modern and contemporary art. In 1937, just twenty years old, he won a national competition held by the magazine “Graphicus” for the design of a poster for ICI, a manufacturer of printing inks. Testa’s proposal, which was preferred over those of established commercial artists, was a very simple abstract pattern on a black ground which clearly reflected his interest in Bauhaus graphics. After the war, where he was engaged as a photographer, he went back to Turin and resumed his activity as a printer. He opened a small studio and started to work for important companies like Martini & Rossi, Carpano, Borsalino and Pirelli. In 1956 he founded the Studio Testa, an advertising agency that did not confine itself to graphic design but produced commercials for television too. Armando Testa sensed the possibilities of this new medium and accepted the challenge of investing in it, setting up a small film studio alongside the agency where he also experimented with avant-garde techniques of animation. Out of this would come in the fifties and sixties characters, images and campaigns that were destined to become points of reference in the world of advertising and icons of the collective imagination: from the figures of Caballero & Carmencita for Caff. Paulista to the sphere suspended above a hemisphere for the aperitif Punt e Mes, Pippo the blue hippopotamus for Lines diapers, the actor Mimmo Craig performing to a soundtrack of music by Grieg for Olio Sasso and the blonde Solvi Stubing for Birra Peroni. In 1958 he won the competition for the official poster of the Rome Olympics of 1960. His proposal would later be rejected but at the second edition of the competition, the next year, Armando Testa was proclaimed winner once again. In 1965 he was invited to take up the chair of Design and Typographic Composition at Turin Polytechnic, where he would teach until 1971. Subsequently, in 1968, he received the Gold Medal of the Ministry of Education for his contribution to Visual Art, while in 1975 the Federazione Italiana Pubblicità awarded him its own Gold Medal for the success he had achieved abroad. In 1978 the Studio Testa became Armando Testa S.p.A., with offices also abroad. It is still the most important advertising agency in Italy today. In the eighties he began to devote more of his time to painting. During these years Armando Testa put great effort in the ideation of designing posters and trademarks for cultural and social commitment institutions. Among his bestknown works of this period are those for Amnesty International, the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, the Teatro Regio in Turin, Expo Arte, the Turin International Book Fair and the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea. In 1987 the City of Turin bestowed its “Il Torinese dell’Anno 1986” award on him and in 1989 the Colorado State University in Fort Collins made him an honour laureate. Exhibitions devoted to his paintings and advertising work have been held by many museums and institutions in Italy and abroad, including the PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan (1984 and 2010), the Mole Antonelliana in Turin (1985), the Parsons School of Design in New York and Los Angeles (1987 and 1988), the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid (1989), Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (1993), the Israel Museum of Jerusalem (1993) the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (2001), Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples (2001) and the Italian Institute of Culture in London (2004) Sintesi 59, public sculpture inauguration for the city of Turin (2015), MART - Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (2017), Musei Reali – Sale Chiablese Torino (2018-2019). His works are also present in a number of important museum collections, such as the MoMA – Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione of the University of Parma and yet many others. Armando Testa died in Turin on March 20, 1992.