THE ILLUSION OF THE VISIBLE, ITALIAN HYPERREALISM (from “Art Dossier”, September 2010, Giunti Editore) By Alberto Agazzani

The invention of the camera obscura, direct ancestor of cinema and photography, has had a fundamental influence on view and representation of reality, eventually changing our modern interpretation of the concept of metaphysics, which has fed the soul of Painting over the last centuries. To which possible “elsewhere” can such a pictorial representation of the visible lead, a representation that is so faithful to the reality that almost resembles the photographic representation? What metaphysics can be generated from that? This phenomenon is everything but new. Indeed, the path that, starting from the XVth century, has lead to the so-called “Hyper-realism” is well known. It was during the first decades of 1400 that, for the first time in history, new optical instruments were used in the making of paintings. Suddenly, without any gradualness, an ideal representation of reality, still strongly anchored to the canons of medieval art, was replaced by a strongly realistic one, bringing new values and mysteries and introducing a brand new way to see the world, which would completely revolutionize the whole history of art. It is possible, in a certain way, to assume that a new concept of metaphysics was born, which was going to result in the most paroxysmal pictorial expression that could be imagined, so revolutionary and extreme that changed the concept of Painting itself. This brings us to the questions that introduced this topic: to which possible metaphysics does this hyper-realistic art refer? Which values does it reveal and which mysteries does a painting, in which everything, even itself, is revealed through an astonishing reality, create? The complex, and everything but definitive and sometimes even apparently contradictorily, answer to this question can be found in the nihilism that dominates our era. After the end of the ideologies, after the extinction and exile of the last heroes and the subversion of all the values, upon which our culture was founded, art needs to refer to a new elsewhereThe ones that lost their hope have soon converted to the horror and the circus play of at-all-costs provocation (without realizing the terribly gratuitous and old character of their choice), while the ones that kept on hoping have consciously chosen to espouse a new exasperated realism, a new idealism, which led to a new metaphysics, cynical but passionate, often glacial but always surprising, possible and in the same time impossible, till the limits of the predictable human abilities (and in total antithesis with the concept of American Hyper-realism). A theatre of completely self-referencial representation that quests after the Beauty through itself and it reveals itself astonishing, dazzling, surprising like a Baroque mise-en-scéne. And there, in that place without time, arisen through the marriage with the unexpected, it creates the sense of a new mystery, a nameless emotion that ravishes and enchants: new mysteries, a new metaphysics of the cynical self-reference, a metaphysics that brings a new, extreme, revolutionary concept of painting. Actually, as it has already been written in other studies on the topic, Realism, as a mere representation of reality, does not exist. Neither could it exist, since painting, as it is traditionally meant, is purely a – quoting Leonardo da Vinci – “mental fact” that, starting from reality, brings us into an another dimension, which has no time and space. The whole history of art itself is a good example of this phenomenon. From the Palaeolithic Venus figurines, whose caricaturization of the sexual attributes mirrored the desire and the need of fertility and abundance, until nowadays every era of the human being has been characterized by a vision of reality originated by a mix of instinct and culture and always far from a mere illustrative realism. It is not a case if the image becomes, through painting, a sign-symbol, an icon that brings with it other concepts and meanings, it is never a sterile representation of itself. History of painting, i.e. history of representation, is bound strictly to the phenomenon that in today’s society we would call “vogue”: expression and synthesis of all the instinctive needs and the beliefs on which every art creation is based. It’s sufficient to think about Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rubens or Picasso: during the history the visible reality has always been the same, but its representation has constantly changed following the changes of instincts and ideas, in brief following the dictates of the current “vogue”. The history of Hyper-realism is somewhat different. It originated in USA in the first ‘60s, as oppositions to the total stylistic freedom of the Action Painting and the abstract expressionists; the aim of Hyper-realism (the name was coined only in 1972, on the occasion of its official presentation in Kassel during the Documenta 5) is the elimination of the artist’s point of view in the painted image. If the abstract artist destroys the reality in order to impose his own view of the world, the hyperrealist artist imposes to himself to represent the reality with precision and fidelity, in order to make it more realistic than reality itself, catching even the most complex optical illusions. Thus, it is still a non-realistic representation. In Italy, this cynical (since completely self-referential) realism plays a capital role. Far from the cold and almost mechanic ideology of American pop and at the same time impregnated with the great western pictorial tradition, Italian Hyper-realism has developed unique and peculiar characteristics: not a painting that is anchored to the metaphysics of the elsewhere, it is in fact deeply inspired by itself, by its own soul, its inside, and as such it can only refer to its own soul, its own idea. In Italy is the concept of “cynical realism” inevitably related, at least until the fist half of the 90s (when its expression was still mainly pictorial), with the name of Luciano Ventrone. The painter’s approach to reality, among the most original and eccentric ones and very “Italian” with his warm colours, had a strong Baroque component, so far from the pop influence on this pictorial genre, especially on the American side. Among the most important Italian painters that bring the concept of mimesis to the extreme, with very personal and “Italian” characterizations, and delineate a downright new and still not fully explored vein, there are true international recognized masters, such as Roberto Bernardi, Giuseppe Carta, Alessandra Ariatti, Cristiano Pintaldi, Luigi Benedicenti and Enrico Ghinato; followed by extraordinary emerging painters, like Fabio Aguzzi, the drawer Andrea Boyer, Salvatore Mammoliti, Francesco Capello, Michele Taricco, Giuseppe Gigli, Elio Torrieri, Enrico Guarino, Enrico Ghinato and so on until the newest generation, represented by Daniela Montanari, Mauro Maugliani, Claudia Bianchi, Andrea Barin, Marzio Tamer, Gianluca Corona and the very young emerging talents like Marica Fasoli, David De Biasio, Paolo Tagliaferro, Emanuele Dascanio e Riccardo Negri, the last generation of original hyper-realists.The triumph of mimesis over the “continuous invention”.

Alberto Agazzani, journalist, art and music critic, curator.

The young artist Tagliaferro transforms his fresh look in suggestive images of never lost paradises. The assumption of an obsessive fidelity to the visible turns in his paintings into a playful amusement for the eyes, far away from any manifest anxiety and expressionism. The world of childhood is freely evocated: the colours are dazzling, the light is conveyed through stunning effects and formal counterpoints, ranging from the obsessive photographic details to the abstract play of reflections, result of the bold audacity of a pure juvenile daring. Unlike many colleagues of him, Tagliaferro expresses a calm and disenchanted expressivity, free from all the upheavals and introversions that characterize so many nowadays’ paintings, cheerful and calm, in a certain sense pop, but not as frivolous, it is in fact astonishing in its evocative amusement, between pictorial severity and the joy of immerging in a world of images which every one of us brings in his own forgotten memories.

Massimo Centini, art critic

Paolo Tagliaferro dedicates a lot of time to his works: he enters into the detail with an extremely deep accuracy that allows him to achieve astonishing results, in which reality finds its apotheosis. Sustained by a long dated love for Caravaggio, the artist is confortable with the dynamic relation between light and shadow, giving shape to pictorial works that own an outstanding poetic worthiness. In his work the hyper-realistic background finds great affirmation, reaching remarkable high quality levels.