– Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Gaya Gallery, Bali
Indonesia (22 May – 14 June 2004)
– Text by Valerio Deho' and Valentina Sansone
One of the paradoxes of contemporary artistic currents lies in the fact that they rapidly become the norm and likewise are rapidly abandoned. In the art from the nineties on the basis was taken from a concept imported from other, more decisively. commercial sectors. Every year a collection, a change. In this comparison with economically superior systems founded on different principles, even important events in the artistic field have ended up being subjected to an acceleration that does not belong. On the other hand, those who are aware of the time required by art, the need for reflection and continual conceptualisation in producing a new idea, have tried to make the 'new' something 'classical', a foundation for other experiences and deeper investigation. If an idea is important it cannot be contained by a single season or even a little longer; if it is really important then it remains so always or at least for a generation.
In the second half of the eighties when the question of the rapport between painting, the media, video, photography and mostly television came to the fore, instead of giving emphasis to the work of individuals, it ended up making enormous generalisations and producing a series of exhibitions with artists that had very little in common. 'Very little' means that it is not enough to take a photograph, as Degas and more recently Bacon did, to argue that if an artist used this as a starting point for a painting then the painter was a media artist. It is necessary to take into account the reason why the artist did this and the objective the artist wished to achieve.
Vermeer and Canaletto both used the camera obscura, but this does not give rise to a change in opinion concerning their painting. The case is different however if drawing on a photograph or video directly influences the poetics expressed by the artist. The comparison is made then on the fact that one tries to bring out the rapport between the activity of painting and the speed of the electronic means. There is also another comparison at the level of reality. From the 1600s on, painting of still life and ;portraits created a very close rapport with reality; it was a competition in which truth was the prize to be won. Today it is photography that inherited this task in the second half of the nineteenth century while from the sixties television and video became the exponents of.mass media production.
In order to approach reality, it was inevitable that artists aware of this possibility, such as Filippo Sciascia, would adopt the image constructed from pixels, in other words the electronic image thus creating a personal vision of media art called video<> painting. Sciascia, although barely thirty years old, has always worked on the rapport between image representation and subject. His attention has been focused on the creation of a credibility in painting founded on the capacity for a video image to be translated into this. Of course this capacity for translation is an invention of his and certainly not something codified but we can say that it becomes the human option, the awareness that the codification of reality takes place by means of an electronic instrument, the video camera, and it is this that determines also the canons of contemporary perception.
It is what the School of Toronto has been saying since the fifties and what Kerchove is continuing to develop today, if the television video prevails for a least three generations the perception itself of reality will be conditioned by technology. Technology, furthermore, is never neutral even 'f used with the best of intentions. Sciascia never left a theoretical analysis of these questions and tried to get an answer as an artist. He intuitively knew that the problem of pixels concerns the involvement of the spectator because the pixel is not a continuous entity but discrete. It takes millions of pixels to produce an image, the re-composition takes place in our brains; it is not an optical process. This causes some stress for the observer; indeed it is not by chance that television provokes dependencies such as smoking and drinking. Beginning with this consideration then the artist has emphasised the process in his recent works in which the process is enlarged by pictorial technique. It is like saying that the mechanism of the video image remains the same but is brought out by painting. In this way its power is removed because it is deprived of two fundamental components, the time seen and subliminal perception.
The first is easy to understand. The television pixel is a pixel that "form" (literally shot inside the cathode ray tube) moving image. The screen's never still and even a slow sequence is composed of million of scans per minute. Everything seems calm but in the reality the "subatomic" movement of the pixels never stops. In the painting instead the lack of motion is an essential fact; even if in some works Sciascia mentions series of images, tranquillity, reflection and meditation around the work still reign. The television is constantly updating, it has no memory. Art, on the contrary, lives in the temporality of what is seen, but sometimes it also lives through repetitions, memories, and possesses an analytical dimension of its own that video does not have. It is equivalent to saying that the reality of the painting is a construction that cannot live the mobility of what exists, its irremediable evanescence. The entity that is art, its realism, have something to do with the permanence of what is lived, with the stability of a vision that reconstitutes the analysis, that restores the eternity of a face in summary form, of a moment in time that we are not able to stop.
Subliminal perception operates at a physical threshold of perception that certain stimuli manage to break through without reaching the conscious mind. For example, it is possible to do advertising, and it has been done, that reaches the visual centers and stimulates behavior in a way that the persons involved do not even realize what is happening. One can understand how, in the case of painting, all this is the opposite. It is the artist, in this case, who intentionally raises the threshold of perception, understanding how the rapport of video and painting must be founded on a kind of positive antagonism.
Filippo Sciascia has activated the spectator to participate in his poetics, the person observing the work who must find a focus on the subject. So it is a declaration of involvement of the spectator who participates in the work and defines it. Moreover, we know already from Boccioni and Duchamp in the 1900s how much the person standing before a work of art has become a participant in the artistic process. In this case the spectator is entrusted with the task of bringing out the subliminal nature of the video image, becoming, through a conscious effort, the person who literally finishes the work. The painting without a focus that forces the eyes to strain in order to place the optic lens in the correct position to see, is something different. It is the artist's desire that definition comes only through the observer.
Thus the totalitarian and therefore absolute power of the video camera in these works by Filippo Sciascia becomes the basis for an effect of reality rooted instead in painting. The realism that acts as a connotation of the video medium transfers its sense to painting that acts however according to its own precepts and objectives. Thus the media nature contained in the paintings of the artist is a step forward in the rapport between video and painting. It is not just a question, as in the case of Pintaldi, simply of assimilating each image into a ghostly void of megapixels. It is not a sociological criticism of the medium with emphasis on the invasive nature of technology. Instead it is a question of assimilating a basic fact in the video, something I define as "reality effect", and its translation into the language of art that in turn creates its own reality. To complete the triangle the observer places himself at the center of two realities and is invited to produce his own truth, which is only partial but secure. One could say that in this process of training the aesthetic conscience, the painting then becomes the entire process of discovery. Painting remains the only protagonist in the sense that without it nothing can be given any meaning. Art is on the side of man, there is no humanism without it. It certainly does not seem the case that the oil on canvas of Sciascia should produce an infinite number of mostly human faces, that of a woman, that becomes a subject for infinite enquiry, an eternal movement of concentration, of openness to reflective and reflexive meditation. A glance at something that looks back, that returns the feeling of being alive.
by Valerio Deho'
At a first glance, Filippo Sciascia's paintings looks like a film's final scene.
Video still on the protagonist's close up, then the detail: the eye fixes the video cam and regulates the rhythm with his eyelashes movement. The end.
Sciascia's works really reminds an old film by Polanski. Through the video cam, you had the illusion to come through the subject's mind , a young Catherine Deneuve going mad. On the artist's recent canvases and in the videos, in facts, the video cam represents the means to look, over the image, subject's thoughts, and an eye, the head, they become the center of the work and the hole in which you need to dive, in order to make the memories and dreams surface. There is a consequential relationship between the video image and the painted forms, coming directly from the DVD; this kind of relationship is based on the viewer's role of the video cam, what it symbolizes: it is a clear eye analyzing and interacting with subjects. Looking at the object, our neurons transforms in few seconds what we are looking at from a simple data, perceptible through our senses, in electricity, starting an exclusive visual process.
The mean is technical and exact, as the human eye-, it gives the stimulus which, going to the brain, let us work out and codify reality through a personal reading code.
Only successively, through the video still, subjects are painted, they become video paintings. The technique, between ancient and modern, tradition and innovation, between a photos album and video, represent an original way in this search listing, documenting and reminding, starting from biology and coming just before perception theories.
The artist analyzes the viewer's role revealing the relativity of his position, and shows the analogies with man and the machine: there's no more only one subject, but it becomes a necessary binomial. The subject exists because of its viewer, an eye looking at it. Work's identity suddenly is mixed up with the viewer's one, this is the result of the research. Bordering with Realism, Filippo Sciascia's painting surprises: once he obtains high definition images, reproductions of reality, then intense blue and red colors cover them disguising them, slowing down reality perception and favoring a process giving alterated images back, as observed from an artificial dimension.
The subject chosen for his recent video-painting project - Kadek , 2003 - is a young woman from Bali Island; the video and video-paintings focus on her face, and on her head. The head is the center of our senses, here the brain stays, it is the place of the visual and cerebral stimulus, where neurons and grey matter, nerves and cells take place; but the head, caput, is also origin, the beginning of our senses and, as Sciascia writes: "point
of observation of ourselves and of the others, and there we try to understand life itself, stopping or set thoughts free, and mixing images with it through the eyes, painting itself, the face the head the thought".
by Valentina Sansone