Non-places in Piovosi’s art
It could be possible in some cases to compare Oscar Piovosi’s art to “genre painting” which depicts scenes or fragments of everyday life, as anecdotes, with anonymous characters and rigorous detail fidelity. In a rhetorical paradox, we could even interpret this as an artistic vision based on transparency, or through a generic point view. However, contrary to intuitive suggestions, this would lead us into an evaluation mistake, as this classification of the style would be arbitrary and incongruous with the general intentions of this skilful artist.
In Oscar Piovosi’s work, the relationship between figure and background is permanent and usually unalterable. Subjects seem to be divorced from the context (off-screen) as in the sequences shot by another artist from his area – the director Michelangelo Antonioni – for whom the presence of actors (and even the mise-en-scène) is often determined by the absence of their belonging to an authentic place, hence protagonists of an alienation from the customary, suspended in an uncertain dimension: the so called non-places. There are two preferred environments selected by Piovosi: the non-places – in contrast with the anthropological places, thus all those places that lack identity and are neither relational nor historical places, as the structures that allow for the fast circulation of people and goods (highways, stations, airports, junctions, etc), and the solitary systems in the phenomenological concept of “Lebenswelt”, those unstable places of the human soul, of that world where existential sharing is fulfilled. Piovosi blocks his message in the ambiguity and the mystery, suggesting random characters, casual gestures and attitudes in an unknown environment, divorced from any historical or geographical context.
One one hand, therefore, we find the non-places focused on the present, typical of our times, marked by absolute precariousness (not only in the work environment), by transience and temporary passage and by solitary individualism – as means of transportation, huge malls, outlets, refugee camps, waiting rooms, lifts, etc- and on the other hand we witness a metaphysical dimension– as in the concision of a Haiku composition that describes the reality by immortalizing details in the present instant- where the artist suggests astonishment, wonder, disorientation, surprise, uneasiness, as in an attraction-repulsion game. In this context, the origins and destinations of subjects are unknown. Piovosi allows an emptiness full of suggestions, as a trace to be completed by the observer. In “Far away, far away”, a father with his son on his shoulders is portrayed from the back, in a three quarters angle to show a shade of recognisable wonder in the anonymity of both subjects crossing the unfocused visual field –lacking a well-defined background- from right to left towards an unspecified and absent focal point. The observer, reading the canvas from right to left – even after being aware of an irresistible attraction towards the left, must overcome an irregular upstream resistance, an imbalance that must be restored in order for equilibrium to prevail.
The very feelings of asymmetry, instability, surprise and astonishment are elaborated in a series of paintings that portray random groups of subjects – placed in a foreground, without depth of field, (almost a telephoto focal length), through an interaction of movements and tensions directed from the top down – while they point at something not specific, with their gazes to the sky, as attracted by an unintentional swaying phenomenon. The observer involuntarily takes part in a metaphysical instant (looking up at the sky) without a geographical reference, sharing an unlikely layout where gestures and manners are familiar, and everything remains suspended in the emptiness of an absence, almost as a suspension of judgement, or era, as advanced by the Platonic school, which consisted in basing one’s approval on the fact that an ideal truth matched each sensitive phenomenon or arbitrary thought, rather than on phenomenon (which were indisputable).
In another occasion, three African subjects sit on a pier, observing the horizon, portrayed from a lateral asymmetry, shown in the irregular weight distribution and in the dynamic vector from left to right in the visual field. The absence of the subjects’ view to the right side of the painting results in an indiscernible feeling of a slow but persistent suspended time. The observer cannot define the motivational process nor can he participate to the search for balance: the unknown point of view that the three Africans are contemplating suggests an illusory depth to the painting, a sense of permanent and empty wait, the immanence that does not reach beyond the sphere of another reality, thus does not exist as separated and independent from another reality, but only linked to it in a mutual co-existence relationship.
The relationship between signifier and signified happens in a space where none of the figures guarantee their contact. The awareness of the lack of spatial depth in many of the artist’s works, and specially his techniques on perspective, attract the observer’s gaze and take it to the illusory depth of the painting, therefore increasing the weight of one of the areas.
Piovosi’s subjects represent not only the physical occupancy within the frame, but also their own internal occupation: the sense of space and time, the emotional perspective on things is highly determined by the metaphysic paradigm of non-place, where the observer – confronted with seemingly common spaces- reinterprets them as new and different, in a state of duplicity, outwardness and affinity. We are participants in places of language and thought that go from stereotype to metaphysic space: where are we? Who are we? Who is narrating the story? Who sees things? We are in a dreamlike space, in a world where we can see only theoretically, however being allowed to use exclusively what remains visible from a precise point.
Oscar Piovosi takes us to the paradox of the knowledge without subject, the observation without observer and observing without a set point of view, a “here and now” totally detached from life and from Lebenswelt. As Husserl used to say, we need to go back to Lebenswelt as the essential ground for all our procedures of world knowledge”
Stefano Maria Baratti
Italy Art and Commerce New York