Christians, divine effigies, had a dubious relationship with the image.
The mediologist Regis Debray reminds us that the Bible clearly associates
sight with sin and he highlights the following passage from the
Book of Genesis: The woman saw that the trees
fruit was good to eat, pleasant to look at.... The image
is Evil itself. The damned cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Bible
elevates to a paradigm of Evil, are related to the image as aesthetical
pleasures are consummated there, primarily of the gaze.
For this reason, Alessandro Bavaris voyage is one directed towards
the origins of the image. But it is not the journey of an archaeologist
as Bavaris art is conjugated in the present tense the infinite
present of great utopias. Sodom and
Gomorrah are not consumed by the gaze:
they are constructed by the gaze. Places of the mind.
The progeny of Canaan was the first to enter the land of Sodom and Gomorrah,
beyond Gaza. They are the damned children: Noah, upon being seen drunk
on wine by his son Cam, condemns his son to become the least of
his brothers servants. The Valley of the Jordan where they
live was all irrigated...like the Lords Garden, like the land
of Egypt. The artist sees joyful cities where Creation has not stopped,
where everything is movement and ferment.
An invitation to the journey
Access to the places from which the deafening clamor of sin reaches
God involves the passing of a threshold, of a Gate
that is marked by Bavari with the presence of an anti-monument. Beside
it he places the elements of the entire oeuvre as clues that the gaze
collects to orient itself or out of simple curiosity or mania.
The Veil, the Fragment, the Superhuman are the elements of a poetics that
is mannerist by vocation: the Veil places things in the uncertain light
of an irreductible ambiguity; the Fragment is a quotation, it is the linguistic
withdrawal that takes away from order to give to chaos; the Superhuman
is the leap in scale that leads individuals and objects to create unheard-of
and stimulating proportions (to the artist and to the eye).
The Statue, the Gates anti-monument, returns in both Simposia,
together shattering surface and symbol: the Statue is an effigy, therefore
an image (in Hebrew image is selem. It comes from
salmu in Akkadian, which means statue, effigy), a doubling
of the real, a doubling of dreams.
Sodom and Gomorrah are the places of style, with landscape and men in
blissful symbiosis, as they create a tableaux vivant. Herein lies
the mannerist practice of an art that protects (itself) from life, and
refuses lifes ethics in order to seek refuge in glittering metaphor.
It is man that says: I am the Image. I am the Work of Art.
Here the New Flesh is engendered. Beyond the human, all too human of Abraham
and Lot. In these cities, aesthetical domains of grafting, the gaze quenches
its thirst: vain creatures are reflected on mirror picture frames which
cast back beauty, calm, voluptuosness. It is an invitation to the journey
in the fashion of Baudelaire. It is a journey of the eyes.
The destruction of the cities of the impious is Divine Justice. Only one
man is saved, Lot: he has not joined in the unnatural practices of the
Sodomites. He remained an outsider, he remained pure. But above
all he is the son of those who have not been given the terrible promise
of damnation. He is not the least of servants.
Therefore virtue consists in not seeing: for example, beauty. In
Lots Progeny, Man takes the graces
of a young woman out of viewbut he can in no way deny beauty, which
lifts itself above the characteristic misery of all censors with small
and graceful wings.
The angels know that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is looming,
and Lot hurries to try to save his family from Divine Punishment. His
wife, who hesitates fatally and turns her head while fleeing, is turned
into a pillar of salt, becoming the negative model of a doubting individual
who does not know Faiths blind and deaf embrace.
Bavaris work can be divided into three categories by theme: Environments,
Situations and Portraits.What links each painting to the others is the
ambivalence of the images, based in reflecting layers and fooling the
eye. As Freud argued, everything subject to taboo has the nature of ambivalence:
see the way in which the artist has reinterpreted the genres of painting
(portraiture, landscape); upon coming into contact with each fragment
you will experience the vertigo of the double meaning. Not to say that
it is impossible to reconcile this with a subject ignorant of taboo: the
serene contemplation of pleasure that emanates from pictures such as Portrait
of a woman watching an initiation rite also shows the anguish
in every life.
It can be said that Bavaris exploration of form and symbolism leads
him into the territory of mannerist poetics: under the shinning surface
dark things nest, and the harmony of the visible contains in itself the
seed of disharmony. This oscillation, which is precisely an ambivalence,
creates a constellation of opposite signs: life and death, joy and sorrow,
hope and resignation.
An imaginary, created in such a way, derives from a deep understanding
of all historical crisis: we know that the inhabitants of Sodom
and Gomorrah are a damned progeny, destined in any case to disappear,
as they are the children and great grandchildren of Canaan. Therefore,
the menace that threatens them, coloring the sky, ineluctably has those
features which make the chosen tone of Bavaris work come close to
the modes of the tragic genre.
On the other hand, from a compositional point of view, the space within
each piece is extraordinarily open; the subjects represented within it
as well as the spectators gaze can move about freely. But this triumph
of infinite perspectives, these urban deserts which follow one another
until you can no longer see them, maintain illusions patina and
fragility. And they are forcefully negated by domestic interiors, a list
of objects compiled in a sculptural vein, which are forever creating changeable
and controversial combinations. What is found in these houses, in these
faces, cannot be fully expressed in words: a dynamic tension can be perceived,
but the rules of its movement are internal to the pictures themselves.
We are led to wonder where this language comes from, capable of creating
cities and transmitting to our time the message of balance and lightness
of an imaginary civilization, a civilization that takes shape and narrates
itself. There is no place, one would almost want to say, to which these
visions can be referred. There is the Artist and the Machine. Bret Easton
Ellis wrote: With this you can set the planets into motion. Forge
existences. Photography is just the beginning.
Film critic and journalist
Follow the correspondence between
Alessandro Bavari and Luca Bandirali