from november, 28th 2014 to february 22nd 2015
Vania Comoretti | Progressione
by Viana Conti
Visages|Paysages: Juste des Images
Representing the Unrepresentable
by Viana Conti
The pictorial and graphic efforts of Vania Comoretti, born in 1975 in Udine, where she still lives, focus on what is a rigorous and just as extreme mapping and cataloguing-based reinvention of what is human and its physiognomic expressiveness. Such expressiveness emerges in the subject’s reaction times, at the limit of the perceptible, to minimum impulses, both voluntary and involuntary, coming from the exterior and from its psychic interiority, as well as from the smallest electric signals of the neuronal network. With regard to the portrait and focalisation of a glance, how is it possible, considering the various triptychs of the Progressione cycle (watercolour, Indian ink and pastel on paper, 2012-2014), not to think of the Young Man looking at Lorenzo Lotto, photograph on emulsified canvas (1967) by Giulio Paolini. It is inevitable for the subject to look back at the artist depicting him, albeit through an initial photographic shot. And so, paraphrasing the title by Giulio Paolini, we can consider the model as a Young Woman looking at Vania Comoretti, and justly so by starting from that place and from that time of observation during which there is an exchange of glances, a reversal of position, and a mirroring of one into the other, and not without consequences.
Contrary to the evidence, the work by this artist does not portray reality or the pretext of a proper image, but juste une image, quoting none other than Jean-Luc Godard, renowned exponent of the Nouvelle Vague of the French-Swiss cinema scene. And all this means that the portraits by Vania Comoretti, so symbolically and expressively exaggerated, are nothing other than the illusion of reality. Through the tools of painting and drawing, the artist reconstructs the physiological reality of a body, in its phenomenological future, to exhibit its expressive changeability in the communicative act of pleasure or pain, of sharing or aversion, or of indifference or interest, with regard to a real or virtual interlocutor. Speaking about morphogenetic exaggeration, in a physiognomic vein, what becomes pertinent is also in fact her reference to Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, an eighteenth-century German sculptor who studied at the Vienna Academy, known for his series Heads with character representing 64 grimaces of a subject who surprisingly looks like him, since he is the one in front of the mirror. Grimaces that are close as a theme but distant as a style from the expressionist grimaces of the contemporary Austrian painter Arnulf Rainer.
What Vania Comoretti offers is a cold pathos that generates a just as detached empathetic current, stimulating a vision whose roots and rhizomes run deep into the invisibleness of the interior world. Along with the central theme of the exhibition, consisting of the expressive progression of faces, there are also, in compositions or single pieces, her close-ups of non-verbal language of the spontaneous or iconographically coded and symbolic gestural expressiveness of the hands (Sign cycle, 2014, with references to chirology, chironomy, chiromancy, but also to gestures and postures in sacred or profane painting by Van Dyck, Van Cleve, Rubens, Cambiaso, Maestro of Resia, Unknown Flemish Painter, Reni, Cairo and Pagani) or her studies of that membrane of the eyeball, reinvented with maniacal approximation in the pigmentation, blood supply and vascularisation, known as the iris, of relatives and those close to her, with the intention of tracing a map of genetic ties and a possible genealogical framework.
Thanks to an analysis of the facial expressions that she depicts, the artist subliminally recomposes the tesserae of her possible self-portrait, for which she holds and possesses the interpretative key. Generously inundating the paper support with watercolour or Indian ink to create an underlying skin pigmentation, and continuing to draw point depressions or skin reliefs, with smooth or striated surfaces, the artist works on the idea of texture and stochastic reticulation, on which the frequency of the points creating the structure of the scale of half tones is modulated, with a graphic-pictorial ability that affirms the corporeity of an image while also revealing its imaginary inconsistency.
But why, if we take a closer look, that we find again, in her unreachable graphic and chromatic hatching technique, that process of analysis behind the restoration or conservation of the damaged areas of a work of art? Restoration, it should be recalled, understood as a critical and not only technical discipline. The answer is simple and automatic: because this artist also received a diploma in pictorial restoration at the Venice Academy of Fine Arts. This also explains her predilection for the part over the whole, and for details over the complete set. It explains her obsessive attention to detail that can be found in Flemish, Renaissance and mainly Central European art. However, along with her choice of stylistic features so deeply rooted in the history of art, one cannot ignore the effects of a contemporary forma mentis that induces her to share an approach to pictorial image of existentially and psychoanalytically tormented artists such as Bacon, Freud, Jenny Saville (the latter a member of the Young British Artists) or the documentary-conceptual photographic image of exponents of the School of Düsseldorf like, among others, Berndt and Hilla Becher, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Demand and Andreas Gursky.
The metonymic matching exhibited here, of triptychs or polyptychs, creates the striking rotational effect of the face and the glance. In her scenario of fragments, the artist detects internal and external, cultural and environmental, as well as psychological and communicational conditions that make the skin a sensible and impressionable film similar to that used in photography. The isolated or contextualized constants that focus on corporeity (front or three-quarter view of the face or profiles, hands, eyes and irises) alternate with the variability of the expressions, the movements, and the lighting technology (direct or indirect lights, from the top, from the bottom, from behind). Each visage/paysage can be interpreted, independent from the resemblance with the model and his/her (albeit light) anatomic imperfections, like the exaggerated saturation of a sign-signal, luministic, chromatic or structural framework.
The entirety of this concise survey of the body can be characterised as an indirect modality of self-mirroring, put into effect through that concatenation of filters, of which the shot or series of photographic shots on the model represents the initial moment of a process whose end result is the coalescing of a modality of seeing, of a coordinated exercise between mind, hand, memory and the imaginary. Recognisable paradoxes in her portrait work include the inescapable lingering of the fullness of a body around its exaggerated recreation into fragments, the representation of the non-said, the narrative of the subject’s silence in front of the camera, the reversal of photography of pictorialism into pictorial quality of photographism, and the survey of the abyssal depth of the surface (Alois Riegl). To represent a subject is, in some way, to show it to hide it (using, sometimes, a distorted objective), or to grab it to lose it in its secret through the filter of the glance, the effects of the hatching model (dense, rarefied, criss-crossed) utilised by the artist, and the entanglement of signs. If representation is present in her work it is not so much that of the figure but that of the execution time. The protagonist becomes how daylight falls on the face, and the approaching of night’s shadow. The body reconstructed by Vania Comoretti, detail by detail, is not the body without organs by Deleuze and Guattari, but a body so highly organised to have more possible realistic conditions than reality, without becoming hyper-real, or if anything hyper-phantasmic, because they are derived, through the action of mimesis, from the copy of a copy, of which the original was placed some distance away. While the lines of this artist trace the outlines of forms, her folds disclose the lights and shadows of being.