INSIDE THE IMAGE.
The invention of the camera obscura, direct ancestor of cinema and photography, has had a crucial influence on how reality is seen and represented, going as far as to radically modify, in our contemporary times, that concept of “metaphysics” that for centuries has sustained and nurtured the soul of Painting. To what conceivable “elsewhere” can lead a pictorial representation of the visible so faithful that it borders photographic representation? What metaphysics can be derived from it?
The phenomenon is far from novel, and well known is the path that from the 15th century to our days has led to the so-called “hyperrealism”. It is indeed during the 15th century’s early decades that optical instruments are first employed for the creation of painted canvasses. Suddenly, without any continuity, there occurred a shift from an idealised representation of reality, still firmly grounded on medieval canons, to a strongly realistic one, bearer of new values and new mysteries. Opening a path to a way of seeing the world not known before and fated to drastically change the entire history of art. It can, in a way, be stated that at that moment a new concept of metaphysics was born, destined, in the light of our modernity, to culminate into the most paroxysmal pictorial expression imaginable, as extreme and revolutionary as to modify the very concept of “painting”. Let us then go back to the questions that opened this discourse: to what possible metaphysics can this hyperreal art be traced? What values are revealed and what mysteries are created by a way of painting in which everything, even painting itself, is revealed with astounding faithfulness?
The answer, complex and far from definitive, occasionally even apparently contradictory, can be traced back to the nihilism that dominates our age. With the end of ideologies, with the extinction and exile of gods and heroes, with the subversion of the values that had sustained our culture for centuries, it is a different “elsewhere” that art must necessarily address. Those without hope have quickly converted to the horror and to the circus game of provocation at any cost (unaware of the terrible gratuitousness and hoariness of the choice), while those who hold strong and lively hope, so many painters and sculptors motivated by an unshakable faith in Beauty and its values, have consciously chosen the route of an extreme realism, of a novel idealism, the route of a new, cynical but heart-felt, often glacial, but always startling metaphysics, at the same time possible and impossible, up to the limits of the foreseeable human capability (and in complete opposition to the historic concept of American “hyperrealism”). A completely self-referential theatre of representation that investigates Beauty through itself, and that, as in a baroque staging, unfolds to astonish, to dazzle, to amaze, and there, in that timeless lag provided by the meeting with the unexpected, to insinuate the sense of a new mystery, to generate an unnamed emotion that captivates and entrances: new revelations, new mysteries, a new metaphysics of the cynically self-referential, bearer of a new, extreme, revolutionary concept of “painting”.
In effect, elaborating on what has already been written during other enquiries on the phenomenon, “Realism”, understood as a mere representation of reality, does not exist in painting. Nor could it exist, because painting, as understood in its century-old tradition, is essentially, to quote Leonardo, a “mental action” that, taking its start with reality, carries us to “another” dimension, (even differently) metaphysical indeed, outside all time and all space. The entire history of art is an example of this. From the Palaeolithic Veneri, of which the sexual features caricature the preannounced desire and the need of fertility and abundance which was vital for them, until today, each era of human history has been characterized by a vision of reality, creature of instinct and culture, always far away from a mere illustrative realism. It is no surprise that the painted image becomes, through the paint, a symbol-sign, icon that brings concepts and significance whit it, and is never the sterile representation of itself.
Painting history, or the so called history of representation, is tightly bound to that phenomenon that nowadays is called “fashion”, expression and synthesis, in a contemporary view point, which those instincts need and of those ideas that are the base of all artistic creations. If we consider Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rubens or Picasso we understand that throughout the history of the visible reality has mainly remained the same, with its shapes and colours, but its representation, always recognizable, has changed, following, from time to time, the development and variation of the instincts and of the ideas, in a word following the dictates of fashion.
The issue of Hyperrealism is different. It was born in the US at the beginning of the 1960’s, in opposition to the total stylistic freedom of the Action Painting and of the abstract expressionists, Hyperrealism (defined as such only in 1972 on the occasion of his official consecration in Kassel during Documenta 5), in opposition, has the aim of cancelling the point of view of the painter in the painted image. If the abstract artist destroys the icon in order to impose his own absolute way of viewing the world, the hyperrealist aims to represent it with high precision and accuracy in order to render it more real than the same reality deep into his more complex “optical trickeries”. And so, again this time, in a non-realistic way.
In Italy, the phenomenon of this “cynical” realism (being absolutely self-referential) has assumed paramount importance. Far from the cold and almost mechanical ideology of American Hyperrealism, and at the same time imbued with the great western painting tradition, the Italian “hyperrealism” has developed with unique traits and peculiarities which are well represented here by the selected authors and works. It is not a painting grounded on the metaphysics of the “elsewhere”; it is, rather, deeply inquisitive of itself, of its own soul, of its own “inside”, and as such related only to its own soul and its own idea.
In Italy the concept of “Cynical Hyperrealism” is inevitably associated to the name of Luciano Ventrone. The painter’s approach to reality seems, together with some of the more original and eccentric, very Italian in respect to the “warmth of colour”, in the clear and constant reference to Baroque and in his freedom from the “pop” component so typical of this type of painting, most of all that from an American background. The visual deceit, seen as anamorphosis or trompe l’oeil, finds, in Ventrone, a contemporary master exponent. So unique e so profound in the visual and technical invention that he marks a point of no return in the whole history of pictorial representation of the so-called “dead nature”; a lesson, that of Ventrone, that most hyperrealist painters look at, giving birth to an authentic artistic movement that identifies in himself the exceptional leader. In this painting the emotional abstraction concept is brought to its extreme consequences in which the basic origin of Hyperrealism was. Here the pictorial representation becomes the intermediary for an ideal absolute abstraction.
While in Ventrone the ultra-real abstraction is made concrete with ideal coldness and detachment, in Michele Taricco, another historical as well as distant protagonist of this genre, it is the warmth of the becoming that takes the leading role. His glance, while attentive to the silences of the past, does not forego remaining an attentive observer of its own time. Unlike the others, when he makes up each time images linked to reality, he leans towards a self-referential invention of the visible in a poetically lyrical key, at times almost deliberately descriptive; in managing his own extraordinary technical mastery, he is never self-congratulatory, he accepts the challenge of a constant and never affected research: the impossible pursuit of an elusive truth, seen with the enquiring eyes of a tireless observer, able to enclose within the magic square of a canvas the expression of sensations and colours, moods and silences, suspensions and glories of great and irresistible magic.
Very few Italian painters (and artists) can boast an ethic attitude and an analytical and combined rigour so masterly as Andrea Boyer’s. His passion for photography (seen as a writing of the light, and never as a simple expression exercise) and his technical knowledge of photography have enabled him to develop a type of “painting” that does not have many imitators, both on a conceptual level and on a technical one. Boyer’s hyperrealism is always and only apparent. The painter asks himself “What is the need for painting when photography already exist?” when he is blamed for being too realist. And he is right, because only few can love, as he does, and know that Muse, so domineering, and unavoidable protagonist, which is 20th century Art. It is from the absolute mastery of that technique and from the mastery of his potentiality that Boyer gets the desire to challenge the visible behind his objective borders. Here is when drawing and painting offer the photographer his way of escape from the visible, and give him the change to project the same images and the same object into one universe, a more and more mental universe. The extreme chiaroscuro, together with the black and white colours, and the brighter lights and the dark shades, is the mental more than real instruments through which he brings a visible reality into a dimension in which thought becomes shape, time becomes space. Mysticism? Neopositivism? Or even a kind of Neo-Illuminism in the era of the darker relativism?
David De Biasio, whose descent from Ventroni’s teaching is hinted at by the stern approach and the unconditional faith in the alienating and alienated invention of the “still life”, carries to a limpidly lyrical plane the celestial lesson of his teacher. Pure creator of images in which the poetry of the objects and the beauty of the compositions, harmoniously defined and made enchanted by the extremely sensitive chromatic choices, dominate, by creating it, all sudden wonder. De Biasio, who has lived a long time in the United States and has experienced first hand the “pop” climate of a certain historic (and therefore affected) “hyperrealism”, reacts to contemporary nihilism, and to the resultant visual aphasia induced by it, by way of slow and quiet painting, violent in its whispering harmony, magic in its suspension: he appears to guide steadily the brush in a search for that imperceptible silence of the soul that only an unshakable faith in Beauty and in the power of painting can achieve. De Biasio’s “inside” is the obsessive, almost autistic one of the “simple” basic shapes of nature, mineral and vegetal. An introspective enquiry attentive to the secret heart that only painting can unveil within the inanimate, and often invisible, world that surrounds us.
Marica Fasoli is a painter who possesses an utmost seductive power and an equally tenacious aptitude for abstraction. Her still lives depart drastically from the usual conception of the genre, penetrating the enchanting, soft, and airy world of draperies. Divesting the bodies of all apparent materiality and physicality, Fasoli does not negate their sensuality: in a play more surreal than metaphysical, reminding Magritte in the theatricality of ambiguity, we are led into a world rich in feelings and emotions and always packed with evoked sensualities. The self-referential nature of the search “inside” the image and painting is emphasised by the extreme and extremely effective choices, such as that of denying her shirts of the corporality that supports them and gives them life. Here too one can see a total mastery of the pictorial “doing”, with the happy invention of spaces without time and without borders, as in a sort of theatre within the theatre, but with no actors nor characters other than those evoked, created and recreated, by the imagination of the viewer. The very choice of a neutral palette, chromatically at the limit of neutrality, serves to unveil unexpected sensualities, lively vibrations, silences captured from moments without history.
The young Paolo Tagliaferro transforms his fresh glance into evocative images of never lost paradises. The assumption of a maniacal faithfulness to the visible in his canvasses mutates into a playful entertainment for the eyes, far from all anxiety and evident expressionism. The world of childhood is freely evoked: the colour is dazzling, the light is rendered with surprising effects, and the formal counterpoints, from the exaggeratedly photographic detail to the abstract play of reflections, are realised with the courageous audacity of a pure youthful open-mindedness. Unlike many of his colleagues, in fact, Tagliaferro displays a serene and disenchanted expressivity, playful indeed, free of those anxieties and introversions so typical of much of today’s painting, cheerful and serene, somehow “pop”, but not equally light, rather amazing in its evocative entertainment between pictorial severity and mirth expressed by immersion into images that anyone of us carries in one’s own forgotten memory.
Galleria Gagliardi - 2009: Collective exhibition "Dentro"; artisti: Taricco, Boyer, Fasoli, De Biasio, Tagliaferro; critical text by Alberto Agazzani