Tuesday, January 24, 2012

PALE BLUE EYES


This post deals with my three weeks in bed. Leaving out the obvious pain, they were three weeks of weakness, routine and tremendous boredom.
Fortunately I have good friends who came for visits every now and then. Fortunately the press abounds with fashion magazines!
After a while I realized I didn’t have to worry about my headache too much, cos what I mainly needed to look at was the overflowing quantity of photos and pictures. I didn’t need to concentrate my brain too much or squint my eyes in order to enjoy the colourful and often glittering page.
In the Italian language we have an expression that more or less sounds like “not all the bad things come for harming you” (the English translation should be “every cloud has a silver lining”). I would stoically love to agree with it.
I don’t wanna try to pretend I usually don’t read this kind of press, which some people could call frivolous. I sometimes buy magazines like Elle, Marie Claire but not so regularly. These three weeks made me a great expert though, now I can even recognize each journal from its graphic character.
I’m glad I spent my time like this, because I wouldn’t otherwise have met the great art of Tim Walker. I honestly never bumped into his works before and it was with pleasure that I kind of closed a circle. 
During these days I developed a particular attention to ads. I got most fascinated by a Chanel’s perfume publicity and, last but not least, the Moet & Chandon beautiful one with a stunning Scarlet Johansson, smiling on a stairs and surrounded by heaps and heaps of champagne glasses.
All these brought me back to Tim Walker, their surrealistic author, who loves to snoops around magical realities.
His enchanted worlds have lots in common with Alice in Wonderland, where places don’t follow a rational logic of proportion or pre-established hierarchies.

The London based artist was one of Richard Avedon assistants for years in New York. But much more British are Walker’s influences. Cecil Beaton’s style is in fact a superb form of inspiration for the artist. They both express a meticulous cure on details, which have to be a bit dandy and a bit unique. Either the daisy in Marilyn’s hand (by Beaton) or Scarlet Johansson’s red lips are irreplaceable.
The circle is closed, cos again Walker is the author of the photo-short story “Like a doll”, diamond point of Italian Vogue's January 2012 edition.
A blonde, pale blue eyes lolita, in between being spoiled and tremendously sad and lonely, spends her days with a giant moving doll. Probably three times bigger than the girl, the Shirley Temple-like doll seems to dictate to her dominated friend. The latter cleans up the house, makes cups of tea, which are constantly broken by the doll’s (willy-nilly) clumsiness. The crying Lolita also reads her fairy tales before going to sleep.
What surprises the most is the girl’s inescapable sadness, even when the doll is not around. Their relationship has to be ambiguous. Take the last two photos for instance, both of them great examples of a sublime aesthetic composition. In the first one, it’s futile for Lolita to try to hide her self. If what she looks for is salvation, she won’t be able to reach it, always followed or preceded by the doll’s eyes and body. But in the last photo, the girl wants some comfort from her companion, she picks up the end of the doll’s dress and uses it to dry her tears. Love and hate, fear and trust.
As to remind how things and situations can be deeply understood only by a clear opposition.
This ambiguous couple has got something very cinematographic, I think about Hitchcock for example. There is literature as well, for which my mind goes to Hoffman and his Sandman. And there's a music masterpiece too, born from Lou Reed's melancholia.


Tim Walker creates a magical circle of empathy, where the viewer can’t help but experiences repulsion and attraction all in once.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A CHILDHOOD WE CAN ALWAYS GO BACK TO (THANKS TO ART)


During the last Christmas vacation I watched “Il vento fa il suo giro”, movie by the Italian director Giorgio Diritti. The chosen location is the region Piemonte. A beautiful, solitary landscape, sometimes hard to deal with for the intricate relationship human-nature, but fruitful and cultivated with affectionate sacrifices by the inhabitants.
And again, it’s Piemonte the region where the artist (painter and sculptor) Valerio Berruti comes from (I'm obviously not a website's expert, but I do suggest to check his one out. It's extremely well done). He was born in Piemonte and there he lives in a stunning and breathtaking deconsecrated church, which he bought and restored.
By now, when I think about Piemonte, I imagine its immense potentiality for artistic inspirations and it nearly seems to me to breath the pure and not polluted air of these lands. A wine’s territory where the people’s low concentration possibly stimulates a fruitful and sometime even poetic reflection.
Let’s go back to Berruti. This guy is class 1977, already well-known by the critic (he studied art critique himself) with few experiences abroad too in his portfolio.

His land is not directly represented in his works though. The main, I’m temped to say absolute, theme is childhood. The series of portraits of children, alone by themselves, with their families or in couples, are numerous. Berruti seems to pay tribute to the twins dynasty (Diane Arbus, Stanley Kubrick, just to quickly cite the biggest references) and to inherit its perturbing allure too.
I’m very impressed by the “innocent” simplicity of Berruti’s works (when I write the word innocent I always have in mind Hegel’s believe that “not even a rock can be innocent”, imagine a child. Anyway, it’s not my intention to enter the topic). He often paints in fresco on jute. Few lines and just a bit of colour are enough to leave a strong impression on viewer’s mind.
The aesthetic delicacy is nearly embarrassing. Embarrassing because I feel a sort of guilty in adding comments to this pureness I’d like to have remained in contemplation of.
Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the expression on kids faces, the way they line up their mouths, but the childhood is far away from being the time for playing and laughing. These children seem to be already suspicious, thoughtful about what will happen next. Are they already disenchanted? If so, it would be extremely sad, but acceptably realistic.
Sometimes the artist doesn’t close the line he is drawing as for describing a radical openness, the one that connects everybody’s life to the uncertainty of the doubt. Kids don’t want to grow up as well as people of all ages have difficulties in dealing with their supposed responsibilities. The childhood is indeed the place of potentialities, where all can happen, up to each of us choosing our own personal direction. Then frustrations are likely to come if in retrospect we look back in ager, thinking about what we should have done differently.
I do like the open line Berruti chooses. I like the discourse that can be developed from a structure of materiality that each of us easily share. Everybody has been a child. In so doing, Berruti evokes the Kantian universal-subjective, which is the undeniable common ground for any art experience.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WILDT EXHIBITION IS IN TOWN



WILDT.
Soul and forms from Michelangelo to Klimt.



Adolfo Wildt (Milan, 1868-1931) is the forgotten genius of Italian twentieth-century. For a long time, despite recognitions and fame that he reached in life- for evident merits he was given of the sculpture chair at the prestigious Accademia di Brera and was also nominated Accademico d’Italia- critics appreciation was always controversial. Only now people start to considerate him among the main twentieth-century sculptors.
Not a member of the avant-garde world and anti-conformist, capable of melting in his art a classic and anti-classic style together, Wildt is a unique case in his being each time all and without a place. The past is not a linear flux of passed things anymore, but, as Baudelaire teaches, a new time, decadence and modernity together, a vast land of crystallized meanings- Egypt and Greece, Gothic and Renaissance- that survive one next to the other, available to the use and the risk of interpretation.
Wildt’s incredible technical excellence and his extraordinary versatility were criticized both by conservators and supporters of the modern. They didn’t see him sharing their same line, either due to his still Symbolistic contents and his formal choices that were characterized by gothic and Expressionistic echoes, parts neither of the Mediterranean tradition or the regime art.
They used to question his fidelity to the figure, the monumental vocation, his on-going dialogue with the main sculptors and painters of the past, and the sculpture choice as a technique’s glorification.
Not less controversial was his use of marble as the traditionally favourite material, which he knew how to shape with surprising effects reaching the image’s highest purification.
Wildt’s fortune has been affected by these aspects for a long time. Nowadays we are touched by a fascination that only a great exhibition can finally give back.
Starting from the unique group of works preserved in Forlì, due to Paulucci di Calboli family’s patronage (a family that was a protagonist of both the histories of town and nation) and thanks to Archivio Scheiwiller’s availability (Scheiwiller was the great publisher that inherited a lot of Wildt works and materials through relatives connections) to put together Wildt extraordinary masterpieces and to re-construct the most complete path of his either sculpture and graphic production is now possible.
The idea that rules this exhibition is not just the one of a solo project, but also the idea of a path that (like the case of the recent Canova exhibition always in Forlì) deeply connects Wildt works to the ones of past’s artists (as Fidia, Cosmè Tura, Antonello da Messina, Dürer, Pisanello, Bramante, Michelangelo, Bramantino, Bronzino, Bambaia, Cellini, Bernini, Canova) and modernists as well (Previati, Dudreville, Mazzucotelli, Rodin, Klimt, De Chirico, Morandi, Casorati, Martini, Messina, Fontana, Melotti). Wildt did compare him self with them in an intense and original way, passing through different artistic fields and moments.
His favourite themes, like the myth and the mask ones, allowed him to hold a dialogue also with music (Wagner) and his contemporary literature, from D’Annunzio (who was his collector) to Pirandello and Bontempelli. Wildt has been able to create an Olympus of perturbing modern idols, for instance he did colossal portraits of Mussolini, Vittorio Emanuele III, Pio XI, Margherita Sarfatti, Toscanini and much more other heroes of that time.
Wildt’s will is to take gestures, faces, human figures to an essential nudity, capturing the soul of it in order to allow the thought to reach a composed and mature harmony between the line and the form.

This is a personal translation of the exhibition brochure. For more information visit Wildt exhibition website

Monday, January 16, 2012

THE STILLNESS OF WAITING



I know that light very well. So hard to explain with words, so easy to recognize with native eyes as mine.
I’m talking about the Italian light, the one that colours a seaside sunshine as well as a flat airstrip.
Please accept my apoligies, if levelling a romantic landscape with an airport location could seem unfairly unpoetical, but this is my personal perception. So many time I have left Italy flying somewhere and I’ve landed back noticing the same light, one that makes you warm and thinking about all you can do with it. That light allows a population to enjoy a sunny morning, although the day would be busy at work, it helps in healthy food farming and, without exaggerations, creates a smile on people’s faces cos, let’s be objective, that sunny light improves life quality.
Unfortunately, Italy is not just the country of delicious food and relaxing vacations in the blue sea of Sardinia. Italy is a paradox itself. The sunny light is very likely clouded by what seems to be a pretty radical darkness and so, it is easy to find an impressive injustice’s demostration next to the cult of a beauty that is no more a moral guide (if it had never been so).

Again, I saw that light in Centro di Permanenza Temporanea (Centre of Temporary Permanence). It’s a five minutes movie by Adrian Paci. The artist’s nationality is Albanian but he has been living in Italy since years, when he arrived in Milan in order to study art, helped by a scholarship.
Initially only the airstrip is filmed. Some engine’s noises in the background and the stairs to go on board the plane.
There are just the stairs at the very beginning, people arrive a bit later and they populate it standing one after the other.
They are all immigrants, a human category mostly not so well seen by the main Italian authorities. It’s useless saying how fast prejudices grow in one’s stupidity that lacks of concrete experiences.
People who decided or even were obliged to leave their country, instead of having found a fair and civilized place to live in, are forced to face uncertainty if not blind refusals.
As on the stairs, these people live a life in between (in the best case).
Adrian Paci has chosen real men and women and he mainly filmed their eyes and facial expressions. Some of them are serious, obviously thinking about their present instability that shapes nothing but doubts. Some are a sort of smiling, as they probably want to exorcize a future with an apotropaic attitude.
They are all waiting.
The sadness of all this is represented by the plane they are waiting for. Taking a plane implies your moving to another place, possibly going back home or to a new destination, better than the previous one.
This is the italian situation at the present time. A weak and broken country which for so many years hasn’t been able to keep and stimulate human activities and creativities. Not even the native ones.
Italy as the country of paradox par excellence, where it’s so easy to be suspicious with each other. Italy as the place where the diversity is contemplated as a negative factor and replaced by a deadly stillness that nothing has to do with a life giving light.
Fortunately the wind has changed a bit lately and it would be nice to convert these final sentences into question marks answered in a negative way.