Giorgio Griffa was born in Turin in 1936; in 1958 he graduated in law and started to work as a lawyer. In 1960, feeling the need for a new period of artistic training, he enrolled for three years in the private school of Filippo Scroppo, a Torinese abstract artist who had been a member of the Movimento per l'arte concreta (MAC).
In the following years he proceeded to progressively reduce the representative elements, in which he made the choice of unfinishedness that was to become a constant feature of his work.
He displayed these works in 1968 at the Galleria Martano in Turin. In 1969 he started to exhibit with the Galleria Sperone, also in Turin, and in 1970 he had shows at Ileana Sonnabend's galleries in New York and Paris. It was in this period that he associated with the exponents of Arte Povera, whom he recalled on the occasion of his exhibition in 2000 at the Galleria Salzano in Turin as follows: 'The intelligence of the material wasn't used as a tool for new syntheses of form — which, however, was inevitable — but it became the protagonist of the work, with the artist's hand at its service. Similarly, since I'm convinced of the intelligence of painting, I put my hand at the service of the colours that encountered the canvas, limiting my involvement to the simple gesture of placing the brush.'
For about two years, from 1973 to 1975, he painted almost exclusively horizontal lines: these consisted of a continuous line that was repeated — that is, by a series of brush strokes placed next to each other horizontally. In the following years, series of different signs started to coexist on the canvas. Griffa began the cycle that he called Connessioni o contaminazioni (Connections or Contaminations), a modified version of the previous cycle entitled Segni primari (Primary Signs). With long pauses, this cycle continued for thirty years.
In the 1980s there was a notable development of the cycle entitled Contaminazioni. The signs were often accompanied by areas of colour of varying size, creating an indeterminate account amidst the memories of painting. At the beginning of the 1990s Griffa started the cycle Tre linee con arabesco (Three Lines with Arabesque) in which each work, whether it be on canvas, a drawing, a watercolour or an. engraving, contains — among the other signs — three lines and an arabesque.
Later in the 1990s Griffa began another cycle in which he made use of numbers. This was the cycle entitled Numerazioni (Numbering). Here, in each picture, the numbers indicate the order in which the various signs and colours composing it were applied. It should, however, be noted that there is no possibility of development or progress from one cycle to another, but there is merely the presence of different aspects of coming into being.
The cycles Griffa has produced in the 2000s confirm this aspect: In its turn, the cycle entitled Sezione aurea (Golden Section), which regards this endless irrational number characterizing its mathematical aspect, avails itself of the transparencies of the tarlatan canvas that were already a feature of Griffa's great work Dioniso (Dionysus) of 1980, which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in that year.
Griffa has also published various texts: Non c'è rosa senza spine, 1975; Cani Sciolti Antichisti, 1980; Drugstore Parnassus, 1981; In nascita di Cibera, 1989; II principio di indeterminazione, 1994; diSegno inSegno, with Martina Corgnati, 1995; Come un dialogo, 1997; Approdo a Gilania, 1998; Intelligenza della materia, 2000; Nelle orme dei Cantos, 2001; Interview conducted by Flavia Barbaro, GAM Turin, 2003; Nota sulla rappresentazione dello spazio, 2003; Post scriptum, 2005.