Monday, February 28, 2011

Automatic painting

The Citadel (2011)

The influence of expressionist and abstract expressionist art is evident in my personal interpretation of the various genres. I often begin my paintings with random and impulsive marks which I coax into recognisable forms so that figurative elements materialise as a kind of ‘found’ art. A tool in the loosening of gesture and, thus, of my link to nature, is the Surrealists’ 'automatic' painting technique. With fifteen years of dedicated practice, I have become firmly convinced that significant images proceed from an inner intensity. Gestures like pouring or splattering of paint enable me to convey notions of flux and impermanence inherent in physical phenomena. My compositions moved gradually from a commitment to the rational structures of nature towards the freer brushwork and spatial organisation through colour. I often depart from a sketchy representation of the surrounding environment; its visual data are just a pretext for me to start a painting. These simply ignite a whole process that leads to something which is relatively and intrinsically diverse from its original source. I consider my renderings of pure and unconditional expression as my best examples of painting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Site-specific work

Containing blue (2011)

The ‘specific art object’ for the most part in the historical context undisputedly occupied a traditional gallery space or museum. The concern with materials or non-materials – particularly relatively formless materials – has the effect of inducing reflection upon the ‘containers’ which confer form upon them. Principal among these is the gallery space - the official arena in which normally all exhibits displayed are attributed with the status of an art object. But once the gallery itself became highlighted as constitutive of the work, rather than a neutral factor undeserving of attention, the possibility arose of making art which questions further the conventions of spectatorship. The possibility of installing or showing the work outside the gallery generated discussions upon the conditions of encounters with artworks. This was the origin of Land Art and site-specific sculpture.

In site-specificity, the work of art appears to merge physically into its setting and appears embedded in the place where observers encounter it. Site-specific artworks are impermanent, installed in particular locations for a limited duration. These become the emblem of transience and the ephemerality of all phenomena. Because of their impermanence, moreover, site-specific artworks are frequently ‘preserved’ only in photographs. This fact is important, for it suggests the allegorical potential of photography. The appreciation of the transience of things becomes itself a concern about the rescue of ephemeral constituents for eternity. As an allegorical art, then, photography is capable of representing our desire to fix the transitory in a stable and stabilising image.

Most of my site-specific installations are created and documented on seashores. These are ideal places which, when devoid of human activity, can reward the solitary visitors with a sublime visual experience that merges the earthly with the divine. The sea and the sky, with the horizon acting as their intermediate, appear to question the Earth’s substance. My actions are simple interventions with the use of simple objects. While acknowledging that the ‘absolute beauty’ is already manifested in the surroundings, the installations are meant to complement the ‘cosmic’ harmony that materialises in the unified oneness of the sky and the sea. Apart from the utilisation of natural objects found on site, common commercial artefacts are often included in my visual language – open containers, the purpose of which is to contain liquids or objects within their limited capacity. These recipients are placed facing the sea, which becomes a suggestive backdrop representing the infinite and the divine constituents of Nature. Due to their impermanence, the works are documented through photography. In most cases, the editing of photographic works is kept to the minimum in order to avoid extra embellishments. While showing an affinity with Land Art and Conceptual Art, the nature of my work remains predominantly symbolic… and allegorical, in the same way as its documentation.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Big Red (2000) - Private collection - France.

One of the works completed during my studies in Perugia. This formed part of a series of paintings on canvas and engravings done during the period 1998-2001.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The interdisciplinary artist

There was a time when the traditional artist was either a painter or a sculptor, with some exceptions of course, such as the case of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Each established artist had his own ‘bottega’, where together with his assistants, he carried out his commissioned works. The art crisis brought about by the Counter-Reformation, which developed during the post-Renaissance period, obliged artists to find new patrons apart from the generous noble representatives of the Catholic Church. It was then when the attention shifted towards a new and prosperous market - that offered by the increasingly wealthy bourgeois class. This brought about the idea of specialisation in the various genres, including still-life paintings and the illustration of mundane scenes. Later on, during the Industrial Revolution, the art materials and paints became more accessible on the market, hence facilitating the individual productivity of the artists.

It was however the invention of photography in the 1880s which brought about a significant and dramatic change in the art domain. The capacity of photography to achieve the lifelike realism sought by painters was a key factor in shifting the interest from figurative art towards abstraction. And with photography challenging the realism achievable in fine art, artists struck back with the photographic style of the Surrealists, particularly Salvador Dali. Later, Andy Warhol would use colour photography as the basis of his silkscreen work. The ever-increasing relevance of the technological factor in everyday life was also decisive in the affirmation of computer- and video-generated artworks. Artists started to explore the relationship between images, language, actions and sounds, and stage bodies in their videos.

Another important breakthrough was the advent of the ‘ready-made’, the term coined in 1915 to describe objects appropriated by the artist acquiring the status of artworks. With his appropriation of everyday objects as ‘ready-mades’, Marcel Duchamp was revolutionary in introducing the notion of choice as an artistic gesture in itself, pre-dating conceptual art by half a century. Later, conceptual artists like Sol Lewitt would leave their designs and projects vague so that the team of assistants who carried a work out –sometimes taking weeks – were allowed to participate in the creative process.

In brief I tried to explain how throughout the twentieth century, the art domain changed drastically in terms of development of ideas and practices. Nowadays, we are exposed to an open battlefield or arena in which what we may consider breathtakingly beautiful could be tested by what we may define as simply bizarre. Artists were and still remain capable of exciting, but they are also equipped with the tools to challenge and sometimes, offend. So does it really matter whether an artist is either a painter or a sculptor? Not really. The contemporary artist is the one who scrutinises and digests whatever develops around him and presents his perceptions and beliefs with his own visual language/s. The technique and the medium used are important in the realisation of any work of art, but these shall always remain subordinate to the idea or the concept behind the whole process. Then come of course other factors into play such as the emotions imparted and the overall structure of the work concerned. The contemporary artist can work on his own or otherwise may opt to work in collaboration with other colleagues. Some even delegate the actual implementation of their project/s or ideas to craftsmen or assistants. An artist is either an idealist or a pragmatist. He either aspires for a utopian state of being, or else questions the various existential, political and social ideologies. The artist, whether he likes it or not, lives in a continual correlation to the public, to society, and he cannot withdraw from its laws and its reforms. Anyone maintaining a sophisticated stance above or outside of things is also taking sides, for such indifference and aloofness is automatically a support of the class currently in power. Moreover, a great number of artists quite consciously support the bourgeois system, since it is within that system that their work sells.

And finally, the contemporary artist is required to be multi-lingual. Though his work revolves around the same common denominator - his beliefs and personal research - the media and languages he exercises to express himself or make a statement need to be multiple. He may not necessarily be a painter or a sculptor, considering that the painter/ illustrator uses exclusively paint to express himself whereas the sculptor is concerned with bringing forms to life exclusively in 3D. In my opinion interdisciplinarity is the operative word that defines the contemporary visual artist. The application of new media has the function of stimulating interest and increasing motivation on the part of the artist in his quest of new forms of expression. The creative person considers art as a never-ending journey of self-discovery that needs to be pursued even if it takes him down to less familiar paths. Paradoxically, he shall persist with his endeavours despite the fact that no ultimate truth shall ever be unlocked.