Beyond Natural Appearances By Leonardo Conti

It is always interesting to stand before young poetics for how far it can seem from one’s own specific area of study or research. Continually re-treading the familiar path of one’s own personal knowledge is a serious form of unknowing shortsightedness on the part of the observer, listener and reader.

The contemporary aims to break down barriers of both form and content. The contraposition between iconism and aniconism, intended as an ideological borderland, may now be considered an archaic topic of discussion. It is sufficient to have visited one of the last editions of the Biennale di Venezia to realize this, where the multitude of languages seems to follow the same progression as the web, just as when we enter a word chosen at random into a search engine. Unfortunately, as in the web, there are more pitfalls than pleasant surprises. The contemporary, due to a sterility of ideas, is now perhaps learning that it is not enough to be free to do, more or less, whatever one wants. Creating a work of art today (maybe more than at any other time) is an extremely serious undertaking. It is about producing thought, that thought which is subject to the concept of culture, which in its turn produces models of behaviour, necessary for the development of human society. I believe that every artist and every writer or poet or musician, when deciding to “create” should face this direction or risk remaining silent for a long period. When my dear friend Mario Mutinelli asked me to write a brief presentation of the works of Maurizio Boscheri he knew I would not have refused. When Maurizio Boscheri, an intelligent artist, showed me his most recent works, he knew I would have said exactly what I thought, as there are few things worse than lying in front of a work of art. What is there of interest in Boscheri’s animals?

“These animals are so perfect, they could be photographs”, is an easy trap to fall into when one is still a little inexpert. If the reason behind his paintings was just faithful representation, Boscheri would have sent his curriculum to the National Geographic instead of bringing these paintings to me. Looking with careful attention at a number of paintings the eye manages to free itself slowly but surely from the animals in the foreground which even tend to become irritating in their banal, infantile affability. Often, around the close up images, something happens; something that has nothing to do with an animal documentary. Luminous halos appear like lamps seen through mist on the airbrushed backgrounds, almost as if the image was nothing more than an artificially lit stage set. It is an exterior that looms and transforms the apparent and appeasing initial perception into uneasiness. Paintings such as the Selva Negra or The Red Eyes Company exude the kind of disturbing aseptic sensation of a laboratory. The whole scene is meticulously detailed as though according to a marketing strategy directive. In line with that strategy, as an introduction to a catalogue of the images, one might read a comment of this kind: “… the animals rest on light surfaces, hinted at as intertwined branches, adorned with fantastically shaped leaves and bejeweled with pearl like berries, dew drops and a crystal breeze, almost as though covered by a regal cloak. Agile and graceful cats, multicoloured birds, small frogs and primordial insects move with cautious unselfconsciousness in dimensions almost completely without traditional reference to perspective, where every element of the real world is transformed to another place. The green leafy boughs, which envelop the multicoloured plumage of the parrots, become embroidered feathers of rare animals; the straw and flowers, where butterflies alight, like shooting stars in trails of golden ribbons. Even the darkest nights reveal silver cobweb threads, stretched to their limit, and small garlands of flowers set like pearls in rays of light set the darkness on fire … ” – an exercise in style for a promotional campaign. It is the cold but astute eye that can capture nature in pose, for other aims and ends. It seems to me that through the contrast of the backgrounds, Boscheri wants to unveil and unmask the artificiality of that which creates distance from nature rather than drawing nearer.

Another unmistakable characteristic is the use of curious biomorphic arrangements of dots, mostly circular or serpentine, spreading out in many branches and waves. There is an affinity between these shapes and some primary cellular structures; however, Boscheri restores them to a visible primordial language, as seen in the caves of the Aboriginal Australians, made up of similar multicoloured groups of dots. Their metaphorical interpretation may be varied and contradictory, ranging from the persistence of the vital energy of nature to the origins of human language, destined to change the perception and the structure of these pieces of artificial nature. With regards to such alternatives, I prefer the second, which describes the artistic progression of Boscheri’s poetics. I have found confirmation of this interpretation in some modified elements of the paintings such as the branch in the aforementioned The Red Eyes Company or the body of the Iguana, which seem destined to lose themselves in the rise and fall of the coloured dots. Could it be, however, a human language, both modern and ancient, retaking possession of images, from which nature can leave and reenter in a different and pictoral ecosystem? It seems to me that this is the most interesting direction that Boscheri’s research takes, aimed at trying to find a way of returning to nature. The simultaneous presence of this language and these images of animals hopes for a new fusion between mankind and nature, in which nature, finally, can free itself from the confines of exploitation, from where we have banished it. With this fusion the artist may be able to offer us a new concept of ecological existence, in which man is not only man, immersed in a concrete habitat far from everything else but able to become, through understanding, man-fox, man-frog, man-tiger, man-dog, because he has made himself dog, finally, made himself tiger, made himself frog, made himself fox to shatter the shrine and extinguish the light of whichever artificial day.

Leonardo Conti – Italy