Westward – Lidia Reghini di Pontremoli

Westward Tales

To attempt to describe Claudio Spoletini’s style by speaking of photographic hyperrealism or images that mirror reality would be to limit the understanding of its scope.

The plastic and perspective pre-eminence of certain themes and a lucid and conscientious awareness of the world are clear indications of the skill and individuality of his handicraft.

Dissecting reality and exploring its innermost inconsistencies, Spoletini follows his sometimes obsessive visions and creates a fantastic bestiary, an ironical discourse on the world’s destiny.

Allegorical subjects from distant worlds break through the planes of his unambiguous perspectives: the artist has chosen to enhance the juxtaposition of apparently incongruous realities, enjoying the astonishment aroused by each new marvel, and taking a gothic pleasure in inventing each picture as a  wunderkammer, a chamber of horrors, but also of wonder and delight.

While attempting to synchronize an entire system of symbols on a single visual plane, the author needs to confirm the “organic” essence of painting by depicting the carnal icons of a declining world. Here everything has a soul: even apparently inanimate objects are endowed with feeling, can take pleasure in a desecrating confrontation with the symbols of Aztec civilization (Gods of Futility).

Spoletini’s lucid technique outdoes photographic verisimilitude: an intense awareness of his skills helps him to keep his distance from an excessively “poetical” interpretation of reality.

In this absolutely surreal atmosphere the artist does not attempt to reconcile the juxtaposition of dissimilar elements; he tries rather to trace between the different planes the physical entity of an existence frozen in an instant of time. Reality is a collection of spectacular events that can be expanded in time and space, a state of perennial exaltation that can be ascertained and measured with exactness only from a number of different simultaneous points of view.

The precise “cinematographic” cut using a wide frame (The Fjord Maiden) indicates the need for the artist to test his strength against the traditional values of narrative construction. For this reason nothing is left to chance, to improvisation or to the simple photographic reproduction of reality. Everything is mathematically defined and preordained. And yet this extreme approach does nothing to deprive the act of creation of its spontaneity and effectiveness.

Working within the ropes of a painter’s “ring”, exploiting the possibilities of his technique, Spoletini focuses on a cluster of details and then widens the field to include background areas. While in a photographic frame different planes have different priorities, this kind of painting has no predetermined scale of values, since both the elements in the foreground and those defining the background carry the same representative value: not striving to report but rather to explain to the observer the sense and logic of a certain event.

For this reason the artist prefers the continuous narration of a single story, that can be developed along a sequence of panels, just as two distinct moments of the same action can be represented separately, as in the day/night effect of Lawrence’s Return to the Desert.

Following an essentially narrative structure, Spoletini focalizes on the treatment of specific “topos”; and so creates the mythical Westward Tales, in the primordial geographic setting of America, the natural background for casual events.

Images of urban neglect or of America’s extended spaces: from Texas to Arkansas to Mexico, here it is possible to reproduce the visual contrast between the ruins of ancient civilizations and the mechanical contraptions of the fun fairs (Gods of Futility)

Real landscapes are used as a screen on which to project a series of images full of allusive symbolism. Thus, in pictures like Still Life with Presidents, though the message proffered is full of light, with every detail minutely portrayed, its symbolic value can only be revealed by careful scrutiny, showing the traits of various presidents, such as Regan, beside a panel on which Johnson’s name appears in bold print; and a bush is an etymological reference to the present President of the United States.

In other pictures beside this, the visible subject is treated as an assertive principle: in the Westward tale all is declared, all is confessed. This method emphasizes differences in culture, in attitude and in form.

Westward Tale gives mythical significance to a lucid reality that does not exclude an ironic attitude toward its own inconsistencies. The pictures portray America as a desert of conscience.

We perceive on a multitude of sets the movement of solitary spectral figures in a world that is uninhabitable for men; a serene and apocalyptic world in which everything has attained its final completion.


Lidia Reghini di Pontremoli
(April 1992)

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