Scholarly language tends to shift the focus of everything onto itself, while poetry would like to understand the smallest details of things. Science achieves its purpose when it demonstrates the most profound fundamentals while art does the same when it evokes the absolute. Within such a context, photography, that can do nothing else but display, is art par excellence. Everything that photography has achieved through chemistry and optics becomes insignificant compared to its power to create an uncontaminated universe. Photography is absorption, reception, acceptance and refusal to link things with common places. It is the place of the “never again”. And in this, and in no other way, once and for all, what is will never happen again. A work of art is something made by man and that tries, however, to show itself as an object of nature. A technical work expands thought within our environment. For us, everything familiar and everything mysterious in a work of art exists in the same manner as a tree or a rock. The photographer is an emblematic artist who lets the universe express itself without giving up all the power of expressiveness. It’s important to have faith in artifices that make it possible to manipulate the original photographic image, with the positive conviction that the most photographic part of a photograph is also the most artistic. What remains is the fact that it’s useless to conceal what the various manipulations and schemes have given to the photograph. The freedom of art not to neglect what may be possible finds itself having to deal with this twofold constraint. Photography discovered such flexible and sensual resources that their exploration is the best part of its contemporary research. But these visual analyses acquire their reason for existing when they come between a new presence and the freshness of an apparition. When retinal beauties obligingly fit the analysis, they decompose and disappear. One recognises the vanity of the pedant explanations of the golden rule. And too many images are flooded by such excessive descriptions, like a crossing in a desert stream. In photography, registration and manipulation intermingle. But art and decoration are incompatible. The desire for harmony is common to both, just like rhythm, but they differ with regard to the more intimate and decisive part of forms: the tension that permeates the rhythm. Decoration is part of this world and is integrated with it; the work of art is constituted in a world apart. That’s why it’s independent, and derives its existence from its inner equilibrium. The limits of art and decoration have varied throughout history. In the early arts, art and decoration were not presented as they are today. Certain great artists (such as Matisse) took full advantage of their contiguousness. But their separation is permanent. They have a wonderful existence in physical space, but do not fit in the same aesthetic space. Each reality can be harmonious, but not all of reality is alive. Jazz provides us with a good example: regular, forceful and balanced rhythm is not sufficient - you also need “swing”. It’s this imperceptible difference that makes everything new again, come alive and reinvents the melody. Just like breathing and heartbeats allow us to live, they also remind us of our death. Man is free as long as he is mortal. And aesthetics is the centre of the human condition, because it is asked to recognise the different forms of tension that give life to the works, and not just their decorative harmonies. Tension that is manifested particularly in photography is the tension between matter and light. In fact, photography is the art where these two aspects of reality emerge no longer through imitation and pretence, but directly, through contact. Between the power of recording the smallest deviations, features and particles of matter, its lightest roughness, and the power of reflecting light, to enter its transparency, is where a fundamental tension is established from which the photographer-creator must never become separated. And here the most beautiful works are those that raise this tension a notch higher. On one hand, the intensity and the duration, the reality of things seen from a particular perspective, a reality closed on itself. “Opacity closed, for no reason, on itself” (Heidegger). Mass that is found in all the non-essential things of the matter’s surface and cracks, and that is also dense and impenetrable in each of its pieces, in each of its fragments. On the other hand, the impalpable vibration of light comes from the depths of the universe, suspending memory in the photographic vestige. All pieces of matter tend to migrate slowly toward each other. Their most profound penchant is to agglomerate. The photographer can choose them at the moment in which they solidify into a continuous bas-relief and he can also choose them when they swim, dispersed, like particles in the light. Light is rising and explosion, it hastens from a distant point, from the depths of the sky. It is of little consequence that it rebounds so often between times: it’s never late, it intensifies and disperses in its dilution, but always precipitates somewhere else. Photography’s tour de force is to channel it, to immobilise it in an instant. Matter wants to endure, light wants to save itself. Their encounter is the first subject of each photograph. The equilibrium to be sought each time is between an opaque and dense piece of matter, that light tends to dissolve through dilution, and a light of passage that spurts, gushes and rises into sight combined with matter. A hidden conflict, always with a bouncing “swing”, nurtures photographic quality. Other tensions, between shadow and light, between fulls, empties and fading in and out, do the same. But the conflict between matter and light is the nature of photography.
Jean Claude Lemagny, Matter and Light, 2002
What do we look for in a photograph? We have seen photographers deliberately fall into temptation for too long. No one induces them, but they love betraying and transgressing the ontological statute and the means’ resources. In this photo collection, instead, we did not encounter any temptation, not even the one of taking away or stealing or mixing up the so-called “matter” belonging to the artistic expression. Still, we have looked for that temptation for a long time. In these images, if anything, we have found out how it is possible to reject another temptation, the one of “dematerializing” by moving away from the contact, especially when the desire for taking a critical and creative journey based on the experience of conceptual art is extremely strong. Without tracing, though, any will to make “disappear the object, as Lippard and Chandler used to say – to the detriment of the idea and concept, or immaterial and ephemeral materials”, we have asked ourselves the reason behind this fear or prejudice. Undoubtedly, we are before a new interest towards the form or, even better, the formal evolution of the artistic and photographic project. But in Attilio Scimone’s work, we keep, rightly so, only the tendency to transform every material of the idea of conceptual art, which at first intrigued us, also for some sharp annotations by the famous critc J.C.Lemagny – including the creative course and the experiences lived between ideas and objects – into energy or mental process. So, do we still ask ourselves about it? Actually, (and how long for shall we have to remind ourselves about it?) we are always in the presence of photographs, or rather of evidences of a relationship/dialogue between the look (which can be directed at a real fact like a dream or idea) and its representation. Here images are not meant to give back what we cannot see, and not even to attribute a new identity to things calling them by names which are different from the ones we use everyday: graffiti remain as such, just like withered flowers, the wefts of a gauze, the hands of a woman, light, shadow. Here, the author tries to evoke the irreducibility of these objects (and of tinged thoughts), calling them out of clichés where our history, or our presumed culture, generally and generically envelops them, and shall envelop them, defining them as plans, wefts, still lifes, fittings, art-trash and much more; and always at best. What does this evocation of irreducibility consist of? It consists of the only artistic element which we have always known and occasionally recognized - a tension in the way the image has been reconstructed, represented, or perhaps, “registered”. We see the image in the way the artist’s thought has conceived it, placing it on medium and created, in a different environment, perhaps together with other eyes, another way of seeing, rediscovering and contemplation. This attitude, or the acknowledgement of irreducibility of what we are looking at, allows us to verify and understand the reached vitality and autonomy of “each” image, which is put for us on a meeting point where it will explain itself to us, not anymore its artistic quotient, but the desire for entering into communion. The communion, in its turn, originates from confrontation and will to dialogue: are we perhaps invited to look at the content, the container, to weight its depth, material quality, its phenomenological and semantic value? Or, just to use long words, are we perhaps invited to catch its meaning and signifier? I hope it will be the author himself telling us to stop and inviting us to a serious dialogue, the one that supplants the word and looks for its sign and symbol. We are, then, invited to think that at the beginning of any image there is always a vision, which still forms fortunately or thanks to God, and that our technical ability – in the case of Scimone a sublime craftsmanship – wants and tries to give back. We are not alone in this search, we have actually never been alone, even if, very often, we have not heard the sound of work of our fellow adventurers. But, together or alone, in an unlimited time, we have only thought of looking for a form, which we can also call visual solution, perhaps leaving others out, destroying some of them, understanding that the root of each representation remains, precisely, irreducible. Many have tried penetrating this concept/experience. We can think of Morandi’s pictorial pretexts (already compared to our Scimone by the scholars of his work): simple walls, furniture, bottles, inundated by natural light which diminished them, examined them in details, to put them in a metaphysical dimension, and therefore, irreducible. We can think of Ghirri’s photographic inventions, or rather those contacts, discoveries, collected on a wall or on an ashtray, connected and consubstantial to everyday life and simplicity and, for this reason, irreducible. Our friend now carries on and in such a prospective, commanding and obeying the optical bank, where things are on a fixed plan and the visibility is the one we have traced; it continues proceeding with new or tested techniques to put the irreducibility of the artistic moment beside the uniqueness of its presence. He continues to recapture the beginning of our reflection, favouring the object-pretext of his vision without taking it away from the technical experience and, therefore, returning it filled with further meanings. Just like in the operation of the sculptor, every trace of the stone-cutter seems that it is going to damage the intimate beauty of the subject, but that stone-cutter will be the intermediary between the matter and a new light. The irreducibility is the perceived experience, here photographically displayed, in every vision, uncovered, artistic participation thanks to which we can see the idea and its proceeding to and in the matter, the one we touch with our fingertips, which we stir in our heart. But amongst the many possibilities of imposing one’s own will towards light like towards the matter, the eye and the heart, one can also meet the limen, the threshold beyond which one cannot go because the result of the search must be “respected”, the point of balance been reached must be communicated, where “it appears that even in the middle of the dream, there is something else, a kind of dreadful or sublime fragment of reality”. That is how Gogol reflected upon the portray, “I ask myself if the art or artist has ever done anything else besides isolating, revealing, animating, giving strength and accentuating the individuality (irreducibility) of the single object, perceived in the abundance of the visible world” (T.Mann)
Pippo Pappalardo, 2013