“Mankind is the measure to all things” these Greek sophist’s words from the past could also belong to the present time of Oscar Piovosi, self-taught artist from San Polo (Reggio Emilia), whose pictorial sense is completely, or almost totally, focused on mankind. In its disguise, its duplicity, its parody. As Pirandello suggests, man is one, none, and hundred thousands. Actually, on Piovosi’s colourful palette, there’s not much intellectualism, or anything forcedly and falsely cultural: he creates painting while he relishes in the very act of painting. This is the starting point for the faithful love to figurative order, the illustrator’s attention to detail, the attraction for the existent, in its shimmering mutability; the descriptive ability is not the perseverance of the amateur but the attention given to those individuals that reality brings into his painting, and then become part of the intensity of recollections, thus transfigured but never betrayed. The use of colour, from an expressionist palette of strong tones and clear contrasts, may contribute to enliven the illustration with unsettling meanings. This occurs particularly in his series to clowns. Spectators have dubbed him “Clown painter”: he is not ashamed of the label, as his art is oriented to the people (besides himself). However it remains reductive, as most labels are. It is true that clowns belong to the past and also to the present in Piovosi’s art, what is more, they have made their way back after a twenty years’ gap: Piovosi is not the “Clown painter” in the sense that he is not only that. It is enough to recall recent paintings such as “Maschere a Venezia” (2007) or “Maschere sul pontile “ (2007) or “Il leone di Venezia” to understand how faces, among the colours’ triumph and the strong contrast effects, are beautiful to see and to watch, inviting the spectator to look at them deeply, observe them beyond the mask. Why? What is there to find? To realise that life is an endless masking game, a castle of appearances, a tragic and even a bit ridiculous game… an invitation to cry or maybe to…laugh? Nothing comes through from the distant steadiness of these disguised faces asking silent questions to the observer. Watching is enough, regardless of all interpretation efforts. In fact, the artist has always been sensitive to painting as tradition, as illustration and picture cult, rather than to all the new “isms” that characterize this art. The only breaking element is the chromatic range, especially in the carnival masks and clowns gallery, where it becomes a visionary tone, strengthened by the contrast with black outlines.
“Today one can dare anything, and, furthermore, nobody is surprised”: these are Gauguin’s words, said more than a century ago but shockingly contemporary. Everything has already been used and abused, thus the real transgression is not in pretending to change everything, but in trying to remain true to oneself, to one’s own values. Indeed, Piovosi considers painting as an almost sacred value to which he is faithful like the officiant of the rite. This, together with his respect towards an art that he takes as meticulous artisan work, only approachable from an apprentice’s perspective, are the reasons to include other illustrations besides human subjects in his recent and past repertoire, specially landscapes and still life.
His landscapes represent familiar places and thus his gaze is veiled by his memory’s sublimation and nostalgia. Glimpses of solitary and pure nature, where the risk of an excessively illustrative and sentimentalist creation is evaded thanks to the use of a rare support: hand made paper. This achievement is the result of his friendship and collaboration with the Cavriago artist Andrea Acerbi, many times portrayed by Piovosi (es. ”Andrea il Grosso” 2008). It offers a porous and irregular surface to the stroke on which to expand, lines becoming soft and unacademic, with an effect of researched accuracy. It can be seen in “Canossa sullo sfondo dell’Enza” *(2008) or “L’Enza a Guardasone” (2008). The artist goes beyond his thematic grounds with his still life series “Uva e vasi” **(1986); “Lambrusco e melograno” ***(1986); “Melograni e cachi”*** *(2009), all in simple composing harmony, with a suffused moderate palette. However, what ineluctably attracts the poetic gaze of this artist is the human shape. Then, hand and stroke move accordingly. Nevertheless, his is not a decreased man in a heroic glorious dress. Piovosi’s man is a routine hero: his portraits, emerging as visions on a disengaged and indistinct background, they all have a name: they are “Nadia” (2009), “Andrea” (2009), “Giorgio” (2009), “Carlomagno” (2009)… Their features come from the artist’s research, originating in his inner empathy with each one of them. They rarely smile, yet in their immersed and somehow sorrowful profoundness, they are never somber, due to a soft chromatism bended with chiaroscuro effects, and to a gaze that becomes the cornerstone of the depiction. This is an enormous task for an artist who humbly defines himself as “clown painter”.
Beatrice Menozzi, 2009