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Boudoir

Boudoir
The intimacy of the eye
by Alessandro Trabucco

The boudoir is a private room or suite hidden well away from prying eyes, a secluded, padded world that isolates from the outside an intimate space and the relationships and modalities which exist or develop within it. The boudoir is by definition a cosy, warm and relaxing place that inspires tranquillity and confidence, an environment within which one truly feels free to be completely oneself, unfettered by moralistic rules or personal inhibitions. Along with the senses of smell and touch, sight is the sense that is most rewarded, as it allows us to enjoy most fully the enveloping and sensual atmosphere of the boudoir.
The evolution of the princely ‘private study’ of the Renaissance and the ‘cabinet’ of the 17th Century, the boudoir made its appearance in the 18th Century as the ‘feminine version’ of these places of ‘contemplation’ and gradually came to be used as a private place dedicated also to romantic and licentious encounters.

On the occasion of this personal exhibition by Aqua Aura, the Paolo Tonin gallery is transformed into a sort of modern 21st-Century boudoir which receives and introduces visitors into the private creative world of the artist. At first glance it appears as a universe of bodies watching us from the walls dressed in cascades of shimmering and seductive red lamé which, together with the bodies, envelops the entire gallery. This first impression, however, conceals within it in a second part of the exhibition; in a subtle play of concealment, in fact, the most rarefied and metaphysical part of this experiment is kept from us.

The visual research of Aqua Aura, expressed through the specific language of photography, thus follows two directions, which are apparently parallel and yet communicating, both from a conceptual and a technical point of view. These two directions may essentially be described by using two classical terms that are also re-proposed today by various artists in painting: portrait and landscape.
The use of digital post-production to obtain results capable of simulating a reality that is inexistent but whose visual veracity is perceived by the observer as plausible, or at least possible, is an initial element common to both worlds - or, perhaps, of a single world, presented by Aqua Aura in the two series respectively entitled Portraits Survivants and Frozen Frames. A sort of ‘extended reality’, not in the literally technological sense referring to applications that contribute to ‘extending’ the audiovisual possibilities of digital devices such as smartphones or computers, but rather with a meaning that is closer to the construction of a new visual entity, which exists only in the electric circuits of mental creation and in electronic processing and digital printing. It is ‘extended’ inasmuch as it is near to paroxysm and the loss of all restraints.
Another point in common, more conceptual than formal, is represented by the strong sense of desolation, solitude and waiting that characterises both series of images.
In the portraits the central figure is shown immobile in front of the lens, and if he or she is performing some specific action it loses all dynamic connotation as it is ‘frozen’ by the occurrence of the photo.
The “pseudo-landscapes” (as the artist defines them), meanwhile, represent desert and glacial environments, ecosystems apparently unspoilt and uninhabited but containing traces here and there of human passage, wrecks or remains of buildings destroyed by some past (but also, perhaps, future) cataclysm.
But what does all this have in common with the concept of the boudoir, that reserved environment isolated from the outside by walls and a tightly closed door? It is the sense of sight, the same mentioned at the beginning, as the organ that is privileged and, therefore, more greatly stimulated by the perception of certain details, which represents the point of connection and true spatial and conceptual unity.
In the case of Aqua Aura, however, something unforeseen occurs - the difference in style between the two iconographic researches undergoes a further clear contrast thanks to a simple display expedient: curtains in red lamé thread hung as a sort of membrane partially concealing just one of the two series featured in the exhibition - the most surprising. The other, which is made of embarrassing corporeality, fatigue and shame,e is somewhat evident and has the task of purifying and jolting our vision.
This sort of ‘visual short-circuit’ is accentuated by the same apparent inconsistency represented by the artist’s choice of partially ‘concealing’ the glacial landscapes from view while allowing the portraits to be viewed freely.
These portraits are revealed in all their crude reality, with faces distorted by deep inner disasters, bodies that do not hide the ravages of relentless time which alters them and emphasises all their degradation.
The faces are basically theatrical masks applied to the faces of people acting as models, identities hidden and recreated through a stratagem that loses its characteristic of artificiality as it reconstructs a new and realistic physiognomy, inseparable from the body that supports it.
What should be hidden, since it is too blatantly manifest in all its physical decay, is displayed here without any visual filter, without no censorship or discretion; the characters that Aqua Aura photographs look the observer straight in the eye and hide nothing of their state of decline; their disfigured faces reveal untold anguish, at times screaming out profound despair, others hopeless disillusionment, experienced in the depths of the soul and revealed on the surface of the body which thus becomes a mirror reflecting an inner state of suffering that is no longer possible to hide.
At the same time, the artist carries out a strange operation of concealment with his sidereal landscapes, mental and ‘aseptic’ visions, artificial constructions made from different parts, unrelated but assembled into new hypothetical and simulated realities that contain none of the visual disturbances seen in the portraits, which are capable of destabilising the emotions of those who observe them. Thus Aqua Aura establishes an original relationship between the art work and the viewer by forcing the latter to approach some of the works individually and enter into a sort of voyeuristic relationship of absolute visual intimacy, while being able to view freely other works which, on the other hand, should be kept on the sidelines due to their inappropriate, overly brazen character, unhesitatingly presenting themselves as a reflection of a malaise that is not merely personal but a distinguishing feature of a more widespread and insidious collective existential disorder.
Aqua Aura makes no concession to the eye, no attempt to gild the pill for the sake of softening the strong visual impact of the portraits, and shamelessly displays bodies and faces in complete decay. The only interest is in revealing the truth, the drama that is taking place, an event that is happening with no possibility of stopping its inevitable course.
The eye may perhaps find refuge in uninhabited areas depicted with impeccably clean execution, places that, in their veiled virtuality, appear to be suspended in an indefinite time and governed by their own laws.
This is an exhibition that is ‘packaged’ as a kind of Matryoshka, like a container that encloses two expressive worlds, one inside the other. These worlds are not identical in form but somewhat similar, while their linguistic autonomy is gradually revealed as the viewer discovers their details by venturing into the weave of a path that does not fail to arouse urgent questions and profound reflections on contemporary reality, interpreted by the artist as a hybrid in constant metamorphic transformation and no longer as a monolithic and objective external representation detached from the human will.

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