Un mondo fantastico – Raffaele Gavarro

Painting a Fantastic World

What do we talk about, when we talk about painting today? Above all how do we talk about it? We often continue referring to a history of art which is centuries old, which is almost completely coincident to  this special language. We use overtures and terminologies which, according to the case in hand, come from  more or less recent history, finding convenient legitimacy for the new picture. Nothing wrong with that. After all, that is what we were taught at university. Looking for coincidences, analogies, contiguities, or, more generally, vague inspirations, allows us to give a chronological continuity and allows for an evolutionary coherence to our reasoning on Art. If I follow this rule I should, therefore, be talking to you about the surreal atmospheres if not the metaphysical ones of Claudio Spoletini’s paintings.  I should also be somehow associating his photos, which are closely related to these paintings, to this same condition. I don’t know about you, but to me this seems totally insufficient. A sort of comfortable shortcut which leaves things as they are, inside a sort of well-ordered library in which things are archived according to the size of the book and the colour of its cover. Therefore, I would say abandon this approach. Also because, in Spoletini’s specific work, with painting and photography which follow each other along their iconographic roads, we risk creating some excessive simplification of sense by limiting ourselves to highlighting their metaphysical-surreal dimensions.

A few years ago I wrote about Spoletini’s photographs, giving the name Photoplay to those insertions, at once both likely and improbable, of old toys within completely real landscapes. In 1998 Photoshop had just come out and was very popular and Spoletini enjoyed simulating it by creating small sets using cardboard, colours, soil and many other things, positioned in such a way that with a wide-angle lens they became visually coherent. An irony which naturally found further reinforcement of sense through the use of toys. With this I would like to underline how Spoletini was well into the dynamics of visual language, of innovations, like limits which inevitably show, above all in his initial works. This is essential in order to better understand his painting too. Our way of seeing and our representational capacity are so radically changed in comparison  with the past, that we can encounter more than just a few difficulties in trying to find alignments, even only of sense, with the past, if we don’t keep in mind the milieu in which we are operating. It is therefore clear that if the photos referred to a capacity of composition and elaboration of the image which is completely new, then surely something analogous was happening (and is happening)  in painting. Spoletini paints flat surfaces, monochrome but as if they were lit from the back, with a completely unnatural sense of perspective and often split onto more than one level, in the sense that they appear more coherent to what is visible on a screen than to a realistic type of representation. Painting, therefore, takes into account the visual condition of our everyday life and reacts in consequence. This is something completely natural and which has always happened in History. All of the present images, their pervasiveness and their documentary capillarity of reality, just as of the imaginary, end up forming a differentiated but no less coherent level, to be perceived and enjoyed in a condition of autonomy and is as credible as what goes on at a real-reality level.

It is this level of digital images, electronics, enjoyable on screen, that Claudio Spoletini’s painting refers to. Naturally you can’t but notice the ironic short-circuit brought about by the iconographic constant of old factories where we find toys from long ago, this contradicts the visual provenance of this type of representation. The story told by Spoletini in these paintings, also told in his photos which run parallel to them, is not so much one of metaphysical-surreal persistence but more one of the paradox of freedom to elaborate and to paint a world which is fantastical, not nostalgic and sentimental; his own world which breaks away completely from both real-reality and from the media. Painting creates the conditions for an interstitial space where the image finds a vocation which is different to that which is present in the everyday flow. This is what pushes painting along in the new millennium, and this is what our reflection must concentrate on. The factories which are repeated in the paintings, following the monochromatic constant,  are as real as they are invented. They are not important, they do not represent a documentation of the old industrial era, even when they are buildings which are easily recognized, like the “Lingotto” inTurin, the direct reference to reality is contradicted by the presence of those toys which alter its realistic objectivity. What has the coloured toy train which runs along the landscape behind the factory of “Lingotto” got to do with anything? Nothing, it is there to move our previous imaginative sense of the factory into a completely different ambit, a fantastical one. Yet these uninhabited factories, with their smoking chimneys, traversed by toys which are completely at odds with them, also take on an emblematic,  almost symbolic, value. In their childlike innocence and monochrome innocuousness, they are, without a doubt, the emblem of a lost age, one which, above all, does not seem to have left any trace in our neo-technological reality. Frozen in drawn profiles, in country or urban landscapes bereft of any precise identity, they are like churches, places of worship from a remote past, they preserve, inside them, the spiritual essence of our condition of modern man. We must not and cannot forget that, just like other cultural inheritances from the past which characterize our western identity, the factories represented – and still represent nowadays, even if they are relocated  to remote regions – the concrete form of the building of modernity in its visible solidity and use of products. Seen from this perspective the toys take on a less ironic and more urgent role as witnesses of this process which is invisible to us, but not in any way less real and necessary. The final surprise then is that by painting a fantastical world we find ourselves reflecting on apparently marginal aspects of our everyday life. This is a habit of painting and of all Art, it is not bad to define it as both inevitable and necessary.

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