Solidarity, a serigraph on polished steel. I Templi Cambiano, inside the main installation. / FRANCIS SILVA FRANCIS SILVA

Michelangelo Pistoletto discovers the formula of creation at the CAC

The Italian artist is exhibiting Uno y Uno Igual a Tres, a retrospective of his 60-year career in which mirror pictures are the protagonists


"It might sound presumptuous, but it isn't, it's realistic. I have discovered the formula of creation," said Michelangelo Pistoletto. Behind him lie six decades of dedication to art, innumerable exhibitions around the world, three Venice Biennales and numerous awards. With a background like that, the Italian artist can guarantee that everything is governed by the following rule: one and one make three, and that is the title of his latest exhibition, a major retrospective which can be seen at the CAC Malaga until 5 December.

The first impact of this display hits you as soon as you cross the threshold. A three-metre-high Venus greets visitors with her back turned. You can't see her face, it is hidden behind four metres of rags, clothing discarded by the consumer society. Clothes in this case, but it could be the thousands of pieces of plastic that we throw into the sea. The highest and eternal symbol of beauty here opposes the ugliness of waste and the ephemeral nature of things that are used and thrown away. Two extremes which evoke the need to create a third element, the 'Third paradise' they call it: balance, sustainability. The formula is fulfilled: the union of one thing and another, generates a third.

This main idea (and its symbology) is repeated throughout the exhibition, a journey through a 60 year career which explains the artistic and intellectual evolution of this Italian creator. A self-portrait of a young Michelangelo Pistoletto in 1960 is the starting point. That was the beginning of the search for himself, to know who he is and what is around him, knowing "who I am and why I am". His image is painted on a silver background, with a shiny texture in which the viewer's reflection is glimpsed. A technique which has led to the use of mirrors as canvases.

The mirror pictures are the main protagonists of this display. "A real reproduction of what is real, of everything that exists. And not only that exists in this moment, but always and is in constant change. It is a phenomenological dimension of time," says Pistoletto.

The series White Walls exemplifies this perfectly. It begins with an enormous mirror divided in two. Then, the panels bend slightly, reflecting each other and giving rise to a third mirror. Remember: one and one make three. In the following works, the angle gets narrower and narrower. "And the more we close the mirrors, the more they multiply . Until we reach the final element with the mirror closed, and that is when existence disappears," says Pistoletto. The work, he says, gives "a way of understanding the Big Bang: from nothing comes everything, and from everything to nothing. It is "an artistic action that corresponds to the movement of the universe."

And Michelangelo Pistoletto turns again to his formula: the everything and the nothing (one and one) and in the centre "the functioning of things".

"Everything functions like this. Two elements create a third, the third joins with another and creates the next one... it happens in chemistry, in physics, in electronics, in the human mind," he says.

At the heart of the exhibition is a large installation, Porte Uffizi, which represents spacially the philosophy of Cittadellarte, the artistic laboratory and foundation which bear his name. Its objective is to take art to all sectors of society and defend the interconnection between them. Therefore, from the door of economics another opens to politics, from there to spirituality, law, art, sport... and back again to economics. Every space is represented by one piece, some of them adapted to the venue such as the Sfera di Giornali, covered in recent local newspapers from Malaga.

But Pistoletto invites many other reflections, too. In Solidarity, a serigraph on polished stainless steel, several people are shown in a line, holding hands. In the series Smartphone - giovane donna 6 movimenti A-F, the serigraph is a woman adopting different postures with her mobile, representing the lack of communication associated with the new technologies. Religion also comes into it, with three pieces placed in front of the mirror, emblems of Christianity, (a kneeling cushion), Islam (a mat) and Buddhism (a buddha), so that each individual judges themself in front of their reflection.

As Fernando Francés, the curator, said at the opening, Pistoletto presents "art as a way of having a better world one day". Interconnected, sustainable, and with dialogue. The piece Love Difference-Mar Mediterráneo is paradigmatic, a mirrored table in the shape of a sea surrounded by chairs acquired from different Mediterranean countries, countries which have to understand each other despite their differences.

This Italian artist strikes a chord of sensitivity. Not only does he bring a way of thinking, but also makes people feel. Fernando Francés said that the value of a conceptual artist who starts with "poor things", elements like rags, has the ability to reach "a very sublime aspect, very noble, such as the idea of saving the world".

Francés opened the exhibition with the mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre. And, seated between one and the other, between civil society and the political, Pistoletto said he felt like the 'third piece' that features in his works.