Paesaggi | Landscapes is Paolo Parisi’s latest show, curated by Lorenzo Bruni, for Enrico Astuni Gallery at Bologna Arte Fiera 2013. The exhibition space has been designed so that this eclectic range of artwork—using a variety of media and techniques from different periods in the artist’s career—engage in a vibrant visual dialogue. This highlights how Parisi has always strived to express the essential in his abstract/monochromatic paintings, stretching conceptual boundaries and introducing novel experiential dimensions.
The works on view are: “Under the bridge (Serchio)” and “Under the bridge (Magra)” 2013, photographs of blue skies in which elaborate traits of silver permanent marker concretize the details of maps where the rivers flow into the sea, “Unitè d’abitation” (2011/2013), monochromatic oil paintings whose forms derive from a progressive series of overlapping layers that grow thicker layer by layer; “U.s.a.i.s.o.” (1996/2013) consists of sculptural elements obtained by layering sheets of cardboard with plaster, recalling architectural models in which the most outstanding element is the window/opening. What these works have in common is that they allow one to directly observe the effort not only to discover, but also to construct, reality. This is why, for example, the dialogue between the internal and the external (psychological, physical, architectural, imaginative, collective) is not presented as a given, but rather as a problem to be solved by the gesture that connects them. It is in fact this gesture, this act of drawing, of spreading colored matter or making repetitive cuts in cardboard that allows the aspects of design and experience not only to co-exist, but to actually regenerate one another.
The works that comprise this new project, as the title suggests, specifically challenge the concept of representation. The viewer wonders what is meant by the term “landscape” and how to go beyond the dualities of culture/nature, memory/desire, realistic/abstract and the limitations they impose on the concept. The artist solves the problem not by supplying passive images of reality, but rather by offering devices that force the viewer to question the mental and physical codes and coordinates one employs to orient oneself in the world at any given moment. It should not surprise us, therefore, to find that the space itself has become a “sensitizing” element, thanks to the lowered ceiling, drawing attention to the relationship between the observer and the observed. This lowered horizontal plane of white cloth that serves as a ceiling – allowing light to filter through, giving an ethereal feeling to the place, while at the same time making us more acutely aware that we are within the confines of an architectural construct – increasing the dialectic between natural and artificial, randomness and rationalization.
This idea of representing not so much an image of reality as an awareness of the presence of the spectator at that particular moment in relationship with the physical and mental worlds has always been the crux of the artist’s research. This has led him to create both pictorial works starting from the altimetrical maps of the landscape as well as to create installations or environmental interventions. Along these lines, we recall the work entitled “Il problema della condivisione dello spazio disponibile in architettura e rispetto al colore della pittura. …e il pulviscolo atmosferico” (The problem of sharing available space in architecture and with respect to color in painting …and atmospheric dust), created for Art First 2012 in Bologna. A series of red Plexiglas panels were suspended over a bench made of layers of cardboard, altering the perception of the Cavour Shopping Gallery so that, rather than a transit zone, the infusion of red light transformed it into a possible rest stop. An installation of the same name as the one mentioned above was set up in 2011 for a workshop/exhibition called Madeinfilandia, in the province of Arezzo. This made the temporary community of artists visible in the Tuscan countryside by reactivating an old smokestack, but having it emit colored smoke. Another 2011 project, “Observatorium (Unitè d’habitàtion)”, produced in Castelbasso with the support of local businesses, consisted in a steel and Plexiglas model of a design for an actual housing unit to be set up in the countryside. The interior could be seen through a colored filter, which would at once alter the image and hasten its evolution towards becoming an actual presence.
Paolo Parisi seeks to create a “sharable and conscious mechanism of [his] vision”. With his Paesaggi | Landscapes exhibition he has achieved this goal, not only through the works mentioned above and the alterations implemented to the exhibition space, but also with new image-oriented works and his capacity to create a particular orientation (mental and physical). The spectator is induced to re-think his or her techniques and means of getting through the world. Indicative of this perspective is the piece set at the entrance of the booth, entitled “Vis à vis (datura)” created specifically for Bologna. It depicts a datura flower, famous for its hallucinogenic properties, and because its pistils generally point downward rather than skyward, printed directly onto a map of the Bologna area. This work alters the concept of graphic edition which then takes on a new form and a new meaning in a piece called “Vis à Vis (Datura)” (2011) depicting the same flower, but this time against a sky-blue background, and hung high up, near the white square of ceiling. The new series, “Untitled (postcards)” (2012/2013), is made of photographs of landscapes traversed by the artist, onto which monochrome rectangles have been applied. These colored shapes, corresponding in size to exhibition invitations that the artist has received over the last few years, emphasize certain parts more than others, creating unexpected visions and compositions. These three pieces radically investigate the statute of the image in order to better interact with the problems inherent to archiving and to the relationship between individual and collective sentiment, placing themselves somewhere between Lucio Fontana’s famous exploration of “teatrini” and Mario Schifano’s series of painted television screens.
It is this need to reflect on how a landscape is represented versus how it is presented, to attempt to transform any tendency to catalogue the world into an opportunity to discover a new concept of reality, that is at the heart of the plan to project the video “Untitled / postcards (Film).” The video’s narrative is based on a new combination of images from the “Untitled (postcards)” series. By projecting them onto the façade of the Astuni Gallery, as part of Bologna’s Museum Night, a new relationship will be established between the exhibition space and the surrounding urban landscape. This will be the first step in developing a video project, independent of the images that spawned the idea, which will focus more on the relationship between container and contents and between how we remember, observe and imagine our world.
With the Paesaggi | Landscapes project, Paolo Parisi goes beyond the investigation of the codes and raison d’être of modernism in abstract and monochrome painting in order to create a short-circuit between observed space, perceived space, and traversed space, reflecting on how the spectator analyzes, imagines, and attempts to make “the other, separate from self” share and participate in that space.
© 2013, Lorenzo Bruni and Enrico Astuni Gallery, Bologna