By Whatsupin@rt – 2012
Art-Photography or Photography-Art? Difficult to answer. Piero Leonardi’s research draws a permeable border between one and the other dimension, often contaminating them.
His photographic gaze is the means through which he acts with radical cuts within reality, recovering a visual handwriting, where signs fix the trace of something invisible and become non-natural signs in an abstract and conceptual reading.
In the project Calligrafie Visive four research paths come together – Color on the Rock, Purgatory, Graphics, Underworld – which share transversal elements and indicate the priorities of Piero Leonardi’s photographic language, understood as visual handwriting. Here the elements become “other”, disconnect, lose their original connotation and are charged with symbolic values, which refer to a “beyond” often surreal in nature.
The poetic perspective of Piero Leonardi retraces the passing of time and rereads memory backwards: in the sign engraved in the material, in the emptiness of space, in the single element, in the residual organic forms. Sand, air, rock, elements and signs of erosion are the “poor” and “minimal” materials of his observation, on which Piero Leonardi cuts, dissects, focuses the action of light and shadow, their rhythm. His shots oscillate ambiguously between definite and indefinite, material and immaterial, they refer to ethereal and metaphysical evocations, they create atmospheres of suspension and waiting for presence-absence, they make an archaic weave of time turn and unravel, in the sedimented nudity of darkness, grey, white, void; they reveal sudden flashes of light that chisel the moment in the shadow. Such conceptual richness, at the basis of Piero Leonardi’s “visual calligraphy”, makes the project an original occasion of study and comparison in the field of contemporary art.
A project in which Piero Leonardi’s photography does not resort to post-production, with the intention of transmitting the immediate perception that is activated between photographer and object-subject at the moment of the shot.
Color on the rock
The artist “discovers” the marble quarries of the Apuan Alps. His attention is focused on the folds and crevices of the rock to capture, or rather, “dig out” that interiority which is still intact, preserved for millennia in the memory of the material. “If they let you in” – he says – “it means that they want to be discovered, understood, scrutinized. I decided to please them, entering more and more into their intimacy: paintings within paintings, or sculptures. A game of Chinese boxes made of natural art”.
The artist-photographer enters the geological forms of the rock, through an exploration of the surface and sudden cores in the depths. Simple signs, veils, dripped traces, spots of color, cracks and graffiti, linear or chromatic geometries constitute the informal and abstract alphabet, sometimes connoted by allusive and pareidolic meanings, at the base of Color on the Rock’s research.
The Purgatory collection was born from the ethereal and evocative landscape of the hills and winter valleys of Castelluccio di Norcia. Looking at the artist’s photographs, one feels a sense of disorientation. Where is the high and the low? Clouds or patches of light? Air or snow? Sky or earth? The natural signs lose their consistency and become instruments of a disorienting process of dislocation, where “the thing” separates from its anchoring points. If photography in its ontological essence, according to some, acts through cuts within reality, in Leonardi’s work the action is even more radical, until it reaches a form of rewriting of reality, where signs fix the trace of something invisible and are transformed into non-natural signs.
In Underworld Leonardi deliberately chooses to move, as if to engage a challenge with a worn-out subject, within a landscape – that of the Antelope Canyon – exploited by a mass tourist photography, easily involved by the suggestive chromatic characteristic of the underground context. Here the artist plunges in depth, chiseling in direct contact a plastic writing that distorts the anatomy of the rock: sliding, weaving, brushstrokes of light and matter are charged with “other” values. Or, again, Leonardi captures the impalpable relationship between light and form in unexpected and fleeting games of revelations. His images metamorphose at the moment of the shot and are charged with a strongly allusive and surreal value: traces of light suddenly break the shadow and lead Leonardi to abandon himself to dreamlike fantasies.
In the balance between visual writing and plastic investigation, in a new spatial extension, are the shots of Graphics. Minimal objects of the landscape, isolated within wide non-colour fields, reconstruct a visual syntax that is the result of an autonomous mental operation, through which Leonardi develops a photo-not-photo, an informal language on the borderline between abstractionism and spatialism, between poor art and surreality. The intervention of the artist amplifies the minimal detail, unhooking it from the inert world of things to insert it in an ideal sphere, where it acquires a reversible and interchangeable value. Leonardi develops his conceptual investigation: the artist’s operation becomes exclusionary, goes through a process of reduction that arrives at the focalization of primary structures.
Rhythmic dilatations, material surfaces, monochromatic purity, dimensional deviations, imprints and sculptures kinetically drawn by lights and shadows – such as unprecedented mobiles – create an osmosis between reality and sur-reality, recapture that “other” dimension, as secret, where time, space and form are synthesized in an abstract suspension.