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AQUA AURA
For a depth psychology

Interview by Francesca Caputo - ESPOARTE no. 80

For many years Aqua Aura (alias Raffaele Piseddu) has devoted his research to exploring, from the point of view of depth psychology, the sense of fear and fragility generated by the reality in which we live; anxieties compensated by a leaning towards the absolute. In his work, the space-time axis between presence and absence, truth and falsehood, completely vanishes. The use of visual expedients creates alternative levels of perception, almost as if forging a new space as the projection of an inner state, an onirical-metaphysical landscape or a line of reasoning on the countless possible realities and the infinite capacity of the human mind, starting with the imagination. In recent months he presented, with curation by Alessandro Trabucco, the projects Frozen Frames (at the W8 Gallery of Contemporary Art in Reggio Emilia) and Hidden (at the Vanna Casati Gallery in Bergamo) and took part in the collective exhibition Photoma at the Bianca Maria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter Gallery in Milan. I spoke with the artist shortly before his departure to Lapland ...




FRANCESCA CAPUTO: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE PSEUDONYM ‘AQUA AURA’?

Aqua Aura: I was looking for an emblem that would contain the story of a mutation, the conclusion of a previous form of existence and the birth of a view of art that would be emancipated from my personal history and my earlier production. I believe I have found that in the name Aqua Aura. Aqua Aura is quartz that has been subjected to a thermal bath in gold vapour, altering some of its characteristics to simulate the appearance of a precious stone.




F.C.: HOW DID YOU COME TO DISCOVER YOUR LANGUAGE IN PHOTOGRAPHY?

A. A.: After a phase of reflection lasting around ten years I moved away from the sphere of contemporary art in which I had been active in the ‘90s, and continued to study a certain type of demand, though now without the noise of the environment and the frenzy of the ‘work in progress’. I travelled extensively, focussing on the contexts of professional photography. During this process, a series of circumstances led me to reflect on the broadness of the possibilities of art, which lives in its terrible and ecstatic evidence. Following this direction, I looked again at the baggage of images accumulated over the years and understood that, through fusion and superimposition, new images could be created, as the synthesis of places and individuals summed up in cruel perfection or dramatic indecision. This immediately gave birth to the portraits of the Portraits Survivants series and, shortly afterwards, the mental landscapes of Frozen Frames.




F.C.: TELL US ABOUT THE WORKING METHODS OF YOUR LAST SERIES.

A. A.: Both the pseudo-landscapes and the portraits are the result of a selection, and the subsequent fusion into a new pattern, of previously created or assembled images of details. After a phase of rudimentary superimpositions I moved on to a more digital processing and the final definition of the colour, shade and contrast profile. The choice of a sequence, which forms a well characterised series, is the passage I consider as fundamental and in which I perfect certain visual and style-oriented choices.




F.C.: IN WHAT DOES THE SERIES ‘FROZEN FRAMES’ HAVE ITS ROOTS AND HOW DID IT DEVELOP?

A. A.: In the beginning it was an attempt to create a sort of perfect landscape, basically false and yet plausible in that it is extracted from impressions of reality - a reformulation that erases the objective data and adopts the criteria of visionarie. The choice of desolate, cold, inhospitable landscapes increases the sense of mystical sublimation. Perhaps this is what I was seeking - a perception of the absolute, even though it may be partly hallucinatory. At a certain point, this visionary substratum seemed to me to be the most important detail. So I introduced elements – such as a concrete chasm in a glacier – that would confound the apparent awareness of facing something recognisable, amplifying the sensation of suspension that was already present in the first works of the series. In pursuit of a perfection that could be possible in synthesis, I merely moved the centre of gravity to a more onirical ground.




F.C.: THE DESOLATION OF THE SIDEREAL, EVANESCENT LANDSCAPES IN ‘FROZEN FRAMES’ IS AMPLIFIED BY THE ABSENCE OF MAN, PERCEIVED AT TIMES ONLY IN FRAGMENTS OF ARCHITECTURE.

A. A.: It is possible to trace two types of interpretation, both of which are equally valid. In the first, it is like being within the imagination of one of the possible futures, a primordial world inside a new glaciation, in which all that remains of man and his culture are relics, misplaced traces of a dead civilisation. On the other hand, in the interpretation that emerges from the impressions of visitors, the common denominator seems to be that these landscapes are places of the mind or the soul, depending on personal inclination. In the language of film-making, the spaces I invent cannot be considered as representations of ‘exteriors’ but, rather, frames of countless interiors. It is man himself who, in imagining this space, contains it, not vice versa.




F.C.: WHAT DOES THE IDEA OF PLACE, SPACE, MEAN TO YOU?

A. A.: In strictly linguistic terms, today photography itself seems to be moving in this direction. An aesthetic approach, which was first applied to the documentation of reality, now focuses on the delirious absence of reality. My personal ‘delirium’ is to release the very idea of place from the quest for perfection and rarefaction. In the end, creating these false photographs is always like painting a picture – in them it is the geometries, the relationship between the invisible weights and balances, that ‘make’ the actual image.




F.C.: THIS LEANING TOWARDS THE ABSOLUTE, THE TRASCENDENT, SEEMS TO ME TO BE A VERY PRESENT ELEMENT IN YOUR WORK...

A. A.: I try to construct a personal metaphysics that projects outwards, towards the viewer, in order to meet his gaze. In the series Frozen Frames I have concentrated on the use of an outdated form of thought – the perception of the sublime. The bewilderment we feel in the face of an absolute that surpasses our own intentions, that disregards our very existence.

This exhausting and perhaps futile effort to construct a sense of the sublime in our modern times is a desire that thrills and fascinates me.




F.C.: HOW DID YOU DESIGN THE ‘HIDDEN’ EXHIBITION?

A. A.: The choice of title, Hidden, came about as the subjective interpretation and coinciding of several factors that led up to this event. ‘Hidden’ is what I was for a long time. ‘Hidden’ is the gallery space created from the connective tissue of the city (the Vanna Casati Gallery in Bergamo, ed.), thrust deeply within an ancient courtyard. ‘Hidden’ is also half of the exhibition, arranged on a not easily-accessible lower ground floor. And, lastly, ‘hidden’ are some of the works exhibited, in order to keep them from immediate and direct contact with the eye of the viewer.




F.C.: WHAT WILL BE YOUR NEXT PROJECTS?

A. A.: Besides following the developments of the exhibitions underway and carrying on with the works planned for both series, I am also developing a new series, Empty Spaces, which originally was based on Frozen Frames and then took its own direction. During the year I am planning to hold a personal exhibition in Turin. Lastly, I have begun to develop the publicising of my work abroad, especially in London and Switzerland, and have established several contacts in the past few months. We will see what happens.

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