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AQUA AURA boudoir - Juliet



Essay by Francesca Caputo - Juliet art magazine no. 168

Like a stream of consciousness in images, the work of Aqua Aura creates interference with its nonsensical absence of reality, and its watered-down sentiment of our time.

He uses digital processing, applied to the photographic language in the post-production phase, selecting, fusing and assembling different images or details of images to create a new space. And in this space a still recognizable cross-section of external reality acquires its own autonomy - it is the projection of an inner state, through the exploration of depth psychology.

The technique creates alternative levels of perception, intermittent and inter-semiotic, presenting the work to the viewer’s eye on the basis of interference and interaction, reflection and expression, action and revelation, presence and absence, truth and illusion.

In his work the artist implements a visual galaxy that appears ambiguous but is actually extremely keen and precise. On the surface, and from a formal-aesthetic perspective, the two series ‘Portraits Survivants’ and ‘Frozen Frames’ would seem to be the product of two completely different, even antithetical, personalities. Yet both are part of the same sentiment, subtending an atmosphere of suspension, desolation, disintegration, creating in both cases visual hybrids extracted from the flow of reality to produce a lifelike impression.

The Budoir project, presented at the Tonin Gallery in Turin under the curators hip of Alessandro Trabucco, is a collection of some of these photographic compositions, characterized by a type of display geared to activating – through a singular exhibiting technique of concealing and un-covering – the subtle relationships and contests of strength existing between the works.

The walls of the gallery are covered with sparkling red lamé thread curtains. This element emphasizes the Portraits Survivants by placing them in the foreground while, at the same time, the Frozen Frames are enclosed, as in a casket, in a private, secret, hidden (hence ‘Boudoir’) space, removed from the immediate and direct sight of the viewer. The only way to see these works, in fact, is to enter into an act of relational intimacy by drawing aside the lamé curtain.

The modulation of the spatial and temporal rhythm established by the works within their different settings initiates a process of visualization on different levels.

In the arrangement of the exhibition, therefore, the Portraits Survivants – created in the studio using a still-life technique – appear as the protagonists, flauntingly exhibited and over-emphasized. As is clear from the title of the series, these are portraits of survivors. Here, however, the disaster is of a completely inner nature, etched in flesh marked and ravaged by disillusionment and anxiety. These faces are masks that merge with the identity of the photographed subjects, with their bodies. They are sad, desolate, distorted faces, twisted and deformed like our liquid present, to use Bauman’s expression.

The image cuts, upward shots, colour saturation and strong light and shade contrasts give the subjects a magnificently proud bearing. Like apparitions they emerge from the deepest darkness (that archetypal home of our fears) – a darkness that seems to have descended on our consciousness. In the openly Caravaggesque, theatrical light, which reverberates, uninterruptedly, in the lamé curtains on the walls, they shine explicitly and exactly, heightening the drama they bear with the utmost dignity.

With gaunt, crude and basic intensity the artist displays suffering rather than censoring it, making no compromises. He believes in the need to project outwards the most hidden sphere of human torment. And this he does by overstepping the boundaries of the permissible, the spheres of the unseemly and the unsightly, transforming images into mental spaces and creating visual paradoxes steeped in dream like incongruity.

The result is an untenable scenario that undermines all certainties. By breaking the rules established by the aesthetics of appearance, reassuring and pre-digested, he places the viewer at the centre of a symbolic tension on the point of erupting.

It takes courage to see ourselves reflected in the eyes of these survivors, light years removed from the expectations instilled by alleged perfection and beauty, with which the artist forces us to come face to face. And faced with the complexity of our existence in the world, we are assailed by stark reality with all its drama and its contradictions.

By manipulating the images he prompts us to reflect on the current state of things, weaving together different stories to reinterpret the parable of co-existence. If today it is the empty and superficial worthlessness of the myth of appearance, through a reversal process Aqua Aura sheds light on our most genuine existential attribute, with all its baggage of scars and fragility.

Entering the exhibition we are forewarned of this theatre of horrors by (not surprisingly) a figure who shrinks back with such urgency that his hands are multiplied in his leap backwards. It is us, the ‘other’, from which this figure defends itself, fearing the superstructures of which the contemporary eye is the bearer. This is the work in which one perceives most intensely the artist’s use of the great expressive force of 17th-Century painting and the tribute to his great masters, from Caravaggio to Ribera.

Through the dystrophic and alienating element of Portraits Survivants, Aqua Aura gives back meaning to the striated, polyphonic, many-voiced essence of our experiential roots, against all that pollutes and disregards the natural human component of tragedy.

Following the sequence in which the exhibition is arranged, the Frozen Frames reverberate in contrast and inaccessibility. Without distance there is no knowledge, the artist seems to be telling us. These are pseudo-landscapes, frames containing innumerable interiors which, through digital processing and the merging of different settings or details, challenge the false impression of looking at something real and recognizable.

Rarefied, sidereal, inhospitable landscapes are translated into sinuous and flexible images accentuating dilated and enigmatic distances, emphasized in the stark contrasts of black and white, from which radiate, unexpected, the softs hades of blue, purple and green. These chromatic shifts are merely changes of wavelength creating multiple visions that are by no means reassuring or pacified.

Depending on the viewer’s own personal inclination, the images may be seen as projections of an inner state, primordial places or omens of the future, dreamlike/ metaphysical landscapes or a statement on the endless possibilities of the human mind, beginning with the imagination.

These are all possible options that project the viewer onto a meditative, mental path in a trans-metaphysical atmosphere, anchoring past, present and future in eternal coexistence. Human experiences and fears are then frozen into moments suspended between time and space, fragments of non-sense into which the authenticity of the photographs breaks down. By working on the landscape, the social conditioning of vision is deeply delved into and an unstable space of syncopated rhythm is presented.

In the corpus of works presented by Aqua Aura the tangible architecture of everyday life becomes fluctuating material that conceals through minute changes the perfect structure of unknown things, which we can no longer see and understand. The artist reactivates the spontaneous and irrational attention which, in our modern times, has become sedated and debilitated, and restores importance to detail (the punctum that Roland Barthes talks about in ‘La Chambre Claire: Note Sur la Photographie’), to the marginal part of an image that touches sensitivity and stimulates memory, emotion and understanding.

By giving form to the psychic space, the viewer is transformed into a witness of deeply lived experiences. By creating a relationship of emotional empathy, we are led into marvel, and we question what is really real, unmasking and going beyond induced visions.

Doubt, in all its forms, is the true gateway of this art, which, by forcing us to reflect on the mechanisms of perception and memory, becomes a metaphor for the most excellent filing system, the human mind.

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