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Of absence

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This last intervention intends to introduce those contemporary painters who have tried to give representation to today’s human existence, highlighting the denial of identity given by the socio-cultural, socio-economic and socio-media situation. Where the excess of information, instead of giving a voice, has silenced and annihilated the intelligences, the humanity and the collective instances, swallowed up in the deafening din of the avalanche of images, words and communications, determining in the end a paradoxical absence caused by the excess of presence . The subjects and the technical-pictorial execution, in these painters, reveal this dramatic absence with determination. This area – not programmed, not decided a priori, but given by a widespread generational feeling without prior theorization – can only be read in a social direction. Totally deviates from self-reference on the artistic language, therefore not a mere game or exercise of style, but a lively and carnal need for denunciation and denial of this social and existential state. So much more true because it is widespread and spontaneous, even if it also risks falling back into the meat grinder of the social media’s spectacle that everything grinds into a dehumanizing banality, transforming concrete and real needs into fragments of entertainment.

This path of mine is a pale attempt to subtract this human and artistic phenomenon from the oblivion of the burning media speed. A phenomenon made up of lives and research by different painters for education and geography and of which I try to make memory.

In the last speech (https://www.danilosantinelli.it/danilos-blog/4-of-minority-feeling/) I tried to trace a path of historical-artistic precedents that led to the intensification of this phenomenon starting from from the mid-nineties of the twentieth century, reaching up to the end of the forties of that same century. The generation of those born between the sixties and seventies is the one who embodied this feeling, but among them are listed some artists born in the fifties that I wanted to include in this most recent phenomenon.

Specific from now on that the list of authors, which I am going to draw up, is not to be considered complete, in it appear those painters of whom I managed to find news, given that since the phenomenon is still in effect and in transformation the artists that make it up are numerically higher than those I will report. Some are known and have found favor with the market, others unknown both to the general public and to the same market. I will try to make up for any shortcomings with future interventions.

I point out how this phenomenon, despite being recent, is already experiencing changes in the commercial direction, that is, a normalization has already begun which quickly strips it of the original and initial instances.

I say, finally, that with regard to the inclusion of some artists I have questioned myself for a long time, but some of them, while presenting aesthetic similarities, seem to be directed more towards a direction of reflection on art rather than on society and therefore towards that process of abstraction already described (https://www.danilosantinelli.it/danilos-blog/2-the-process-of-abstraction-in-the-contemporary-age/).

Igor Kamyanov’s research (1954) is marked by evanescences and absences obtained through very delicate chromatic mixtures and contents, which give the paintings an almost monochromatic and blurred appearance, as if to express a difficulty in the representation of landscape subjects that become elusive, or as if , instead of the physical object, its memory is represented, letting us feel its frailty. In the predominantly naked figure paintings, this delicacy and chromatic transience adds up to a hasty sign typical of the studio, multiplying the feeling of impossibility to stop the subject, of which only pale elements remain to show its absence of identity. Those nudes are therefore not those given persons, they are instead anyone of us who is observing them, they turn to us, they are treating us.

Bernard de Wolff (1955) was a pupil of Eugène Leroy – whom I discussed in the previous intervention – from whose painting he was deeply influenced, his pictorial mixtures bear a clear trace. Also de Wolf moves between landscape and figure subjects, also preferring the nude. Although in his painting everything tends to disappear in the material-chromatic magma, he does not present the dramatic tones of other authors of this same area, and certainly his mixture does not prove as cruel as that of Leroy. Appearance due to the richness of his palette which gives his paintings, in particular natural landscapes, an almost impressionist appearance. In the works of figure it seems to push more in a direction of harshness, where the magma material explodes the figures depriving them, even in this case, of a physiognomic identity.

The painting of the New Zealander Euan Macleod (1956) is of an expressionist brutality that sees him particularly on the figures subjected to almost epic events. Water is a recurring theme, men ply it on board small and fragile rowing boats, at the mercy of the elements, close to defeat. Continuously compared with forces superior to them that render them helpless, they are those forces that consume them, decompose them, often making them assume bent postures, as if exhausted by effort or about to give in and fall.

Also in Donald Teskey (1956) the water is particularly important in his marine views in which the waves continually break against the landscape, eroding it, consuming it with the aggressive material used by the American artist. A material that prefers dark and cold colors to embody the glaciality of a living condition. His landscapes become a metaphor for the spirit of the times, ceasing to be mere marine or rural presences.

The urban landscapes of Alessandro Papetti (1958) are always seen running, as if they were crossed at high speed. An aspect that assigns them fragility and evanescence. These road views become a metaphor for a wider frenzy, which concerns man, his technologies, his history, his transience. Everything seems to get lost and disappear. Instead, his figure paintings appear to be much firmer, blocked by an upper hand of the form that struggles to lose an academic structure.

Catherine Woskow (1958) focuses on the figure and in particular on the faces, which are liquefied by a dripping pictorial material, to underline once again the disappearance of identity, which for her too is not individual but collective. More recently, the painter has embarked on a path that returns to the positions of an informal space matrix.

In the nineties Vladimir Migachev (1959), following previous pictorial experiences, arrives at a landscape painting that becomes a thermometer of the historical condition we are going through. Also in Migachev the powerful pictorial mixture is furrowed by drippings that dramatize it, characterized by a leaden chromaticity rich in brown, an expression of desolation and decadence. Metaphor of a spirit that pervades the world today.

That of Fabien Claude (1960) is a painting of darkness, where skulls or busts stand out against black backdrops as phantasmic emergencies of death. The faces are reduced to skulls and the busts, when they appear, are shapeless and liquefied, they are intuitive but not actually present. The aggressive material deforms the pale skull-faces, also dissolving them. The crucified figures are a recurring theme, topped by stormy skies just mentioned, everything becomes the temporary presence of a tortured matter that has more the character of human rather than religious tragedy.

Only a part of the works of Fulvio Leoncini (1960) can be traced back to the area of ​​our interest. The Tuscan painter moves on different production lines, despite having a minimal common denominator in the material he suffered and certainly heir to informal experiences, full of signs that scratch the surfaces and attack them. When he faces the human figure he is also scarred, intervening also on photographic materials, transposed on the pictorial surface, which he then denies with brutal interventions, changing them into bodies and faces wounded, decomposed and moldy by corrosive agents.

Christophe Hohler (1961) paints bodies with frantic and violent material movements. The figures are placed in front of us, they show themselves without modesty or shame, sometimes erect, in other cases reclined under the weight of suffering, often screaming, they seem to oppose forces that are not shown. The pictorial matter reveals this struggle through the signs that appear on the bodies, as wounds brought back in this incessant clash with life and the existent. His figures try desperately to reacquire a presence and an identity, rebelliously rebelling against the forces that want to deny them.

In the painting of Henry Jackson (1961) the figures are made up of a set of chromatic spots, tending to merge with the others scattered on the pictorial surface. The difficulty of identification is amplified by the presence of violent and schizophrenic signs of graphite or wax materials, which instead of drawing them tend instead to cancel them. The chromatic richness of the palette further enhances the violent aspect of his paintings that attack the observer disorienting him.

The painting of Ibrahim Brimo (1962) is thick and dark, rich in blacks with light, white or colored spots, which suddenly explode on the surface giving shape to crude and ungrammatical figures, rendered dramatic by a dirty and polluted material lying on the surface in a manner uneven, also apparently incorrect, but in reality coherent in the pictorial narration of the human drama. In other cases there is instead the use of the only white that brings out, from the blacks of the background, faces with more “realistic” physiognomic appearances, but whose eye sockets and mouths are given by the same axes of the bottom, so that darkness interpenetrates making them spectral.

Daniel Bodner (1963) is known above all for his city views crossed by anonymous passers-by, without faces and always shown at a certain distance, often from above. People who do not communicate with each other, suddenly illuminated by patches of light or who, on the contrary, remain excluded. The anonymity and lack of dialogue highlight an extended and resigned solitude.

The subjects of the painting by Alex Kanevsky (1963) are realistic figures and environments decomposed and denied, rendered with a wide use of cold tones, where from time to time explode violent reds, greens or blues that highlight the glacial nudes. The bodies and environments are fragmented by discontinuous backgrounds of color that give shape to places in ruins, representations and metaphors of a ruined reality. The figures are often moving, women washing or bathing, traditional themes of art, but caught in a fleeting temporality. By representation and subject that of Kanevsky certainly constitutes itself as an academic style painting that has met the most favors of the market.

Andy Denzler (1965) paints realistic implant works which he then makes evanescent by means of their partial cancellations. On the canvas appear fuzzy horizontal streaks that alternate with others in focus, giving the impression of a lack of television and more generally visual harmony. This lack of focus, or partial erasure, thus becomes a metaphor for the absences generated by this historical period, although its painting is too repetitive, more focused on the easy formula that needs the market than on vital and research needs.

Søren Tougaard (1965) paints landscapes full of fog that muffle noises and temporality, everything slows down, forcing us to pause and scrutinize the presence that become sporadic. The observer is also forced to a reflexive slowness, everything appears distant and distant, difficult to see and understand if not partially. Between us and the landscape Tougaard creates a misty filter that seems to conceal it, moving away from that reality and making it impalpable and indistinguishable.

Lars Elling (1966) employs a traditional representation on themes of family memories, where the identities of the characters are hidden or denied: by masks, by substitutions, by the absence of physiognomic traits or by real material fury on the faces. Family everyday life thus acquires alienating and surreal nightmare aspects, paintings that become metaphors of a difficult childhood, studded with tragic events.

The landscapes of Theresa Handy (1966) are inhabited by human presences that the painter puts away from our vantage point. The images are also crossed by soft drips and spots that cause visual disturbance and amplify the feeling of distance. We are again led to a slowness of vision, but that in his case has the taste of memory, we do not know if we are observing some real memories of the painter, or if it intends instead to tell us that the world has now assumed the substance of memories. His pictorial work done on a digital photographic basis seems to lead us more in the second direction.

Here only a part of the production of Tor-Arne Moen (1966) interests us and is that which goes in the direction of denial of identity. The works in this series reproduce vintage photographic images of family groups, children or girls. The absence implemented by the Norwegian painter seems therefore to go more in a historical direction, where that past, realistically represented, is only partially returned, since some areas of the painting are erased by rapid brushstrokes with dynamic horizontal patterns or drips of color, with a particular fury on faces.

Lesley Oldaker (1966) paints crowded urban views of people depicted as black silhouettes, dripping and lacking the last stretch of the lower limbs, their going becomes so uncertain and vain. In that multitude no kind of communication is triggered. Homogeneous and dark crowd that smacks of anonymous mass in its unidirectional gait, in some cases the figures seem to go elsewhere or break away from the main group. His paintings are monochrome or played on only two shades, where groups of people are always assigned black, making them even more distressing in their identical lack of identity. Reflection of a society without direction, purpose, interaction or identity.

The works of Akihito Takuma (1966) are continually crossed by vertical streaks that make urban or rural landscapes, and the rarest figures, evanescent and liquefied, in a continuous balance between the figurative and its disappearance, but also between presence and the absence of subjects, and, by the inevitable association, between the existence of real objects that the artist portrays and their extinction. Existences that in some cases give way to paintings that become abstract, where the Japanese artist probes the limits of this boundary and union.

The paintings of Kenneth Blom (1967) present cold and acid colors that portray human figures in relation to internal or external environments. The regular and geometric shapes dominate the presence of fragile figures, an aspect that becomes even more evident in the interiors or in the city views with the repetitive and modular forms of buildings and windows. The large city spaces, then, seem to swallow the human presence that becomes tiny, getting lost in space. In some cases the characters are reduced to a silhouette, in others their appearance is attacked by a corrosive material, but it can also happen that there is the presence of silhouette and a corroded figure and in that case the silhouette enters the game of geometrization, contrasting with the other evanescent and fragile figures.

The painting of Cecily Brown (1969) is chaotic, the figures do not always emerge immediately from the tangle of the pictorial mixture characterized by an excessive chromaticity, so as to multiply the bewilderment of the spectator and at the same time assigning to the work decorative aspects that have decreed success. Sexuality, a recurring theme in the works of Brown, is hidden by the chromatic and material excess which, at the same time, embodies its nature, but which must be denied for shame in society.

The absences in the painting of Edwige Fouvry (1970) are made evident by the large empty areas, both in the works of figure and in those of landscape. His painting is filamentous, rich in signs and overlapping pictorial gestures, which, where the empty area of ​​the painting begins, thin out like unstitched fibers of a fabric. His work therefore seems to be aimed at trying to re-tie those threads, as if they were memories of the partial nature of which we want to reconstitute the memory. This partial nature also concerns the figure works, which are often not clear or even absent, the faces are not complete, not totally remembered, his paintings thus acquire a nature made of uncertainties with disturbing tones.

Alberto Zamboni (1971) draws inspiration for his works from literary suggestions. A painting therefore imaginative that apparently has no footholds with reality, but instead the material aspect and the subjects represented – city views with figures that cross them – lead back to the real that the Bolognese painter shows us evanescent and subjected to fog, where the characters they have a reduced size compared to the pictorial surface. Here, too, one has the feeling of fading or remembrance, everything appears to be far away or to be increasingly distanced.

Tina Sgrò’s (1972) painting essentially follows two production lines: urban views of streets and suburbs; interiors of living rooms with heavy retro furnishings. Both, in any case, are characterized by a dynamic painting, rich in rapid brushstrokes that seem to move the pictorial material and the subjects represented. The urban views are full of cold and dirty colors that amplify squalor and desolation, while the interiors are mainly painted with warm colors, making those living rooms cozy and intimate. One has the impression that on the one hand there is a comparison of the artist with a cold outside world and not at all reassuring and, on the other, the security of environments in which to retreat into one’s memories. An ambivalence that can also be read in the direction of a concrete world made up of icy absences and interiors full of a disappearing past.

The painting of Ronan Barrot (1973) is heavy and violent, its dense and dirty material from shape to figures and crude landscapes of an expressionism pushed and full of malaise. The subjects are attacked and raped, in a physical and energetic comparison with the painting that makes his fight scenes even more brutal and his omens of death – with the presence of skulls – even more disturbing. The skulls, the figures, the natural presences seem compressed and crushed under the weight of that material, which instead of giving them shape seems to strike them and strike them, disfigured by the strokes of color inflicted by the painter.

Ayman Halabi (1973) is a Syrian, an aspect that cannot be ignored and from which, he first, cannot ignore. He means painting as a social act, a reading of his own time. His subjects are unfinished and corroded figures, painted with shades of grays, blacks and browns to highlight their decomposition. Even in the most recent and colorful paintings, the colors remain dirty, even corroded or contaminated by overlapping signs or colors. Identity becomes ghostly, a ghostly shadow of a time made of brutal and dramatic events.

The subjects of Kim Dorland (1974) are the expression of a generational imagination made up of kids on skateboards, hockey games, walks in the woods, but on which there is a material and chromatic exuberance with psychedelic tones. In some cases the hallucinated formal and chromatic presences seem to assume almost munchian aspects, in particular in the paintings where moons or suns and aquatic reflections appear, in these cases the sinuous materic-chromatic elements have the same degree of distortion.

Here we refer to the only series of paintings entitled Waiting by Brett Amory (1975), in which the painter portrays everyday scenes from his neighborhood, especially night-time views of people in front of shops. The lights bring out the architectural boxes from the darkness that surrounds them, making them look like apparitions, and even the figures that stand in front of them acquire a transitory and phantasmic nature. The plans of the imagined and the real merge, giving way to sudden appearances.

Tim Kent (1975) paints fragments of architectural structures that tend to interpenetrate with the surrounding environment, but which often dominate it with violent and strident tones. The subdued colors of the rooms are thus dominated and almost violated by sudden structural lines of psychedelic colors in the exterior, while in the interiors sudden chromatic explosions seem to cancel the environment and the characters that inhabit them, confusing the visual planes in a continuous contrast between matter and rigid forms, between rational and irrational, between natural and unnatural. A reality made up of chaotic co-presences, corroded by the pictorial mixture, which seems to allude to the stunning multiplicity of human and social planes poised between real and virtual.

The canvases by Antony Micallef (1975) portray faces disfigured by a heavy material mixture, revealing the intention of an investigation into identity that does not stop at individuality, referring instead to the social, to a human and historical condition.

Even George Androutsos (1976) is dedicated to portraiture, but his are drawings drawn with a rapid and schizophrenic sign to which he brings powerful erasures that devastate the physiognomy of the subjects. Identities denied that become metaphors of a social and historical collectivity that the Greek artist strives to denounce.

For pictorial characters even the now established market star Adrian Ghenie (1977) belongs to this area. In his paintings appears a heavy and broken material that mutilates environments and figures, where everything becomes violent and shouted with anger. Ghenie often portrays historical characters and in that case the pictorial act becomes a tool of judgment.

That of Daniel Pitin (1977) is a world made up of theatrical or cinematographic scenes, of realities that conceal other realities and where the hidden identities are not only those of the characters, but concern the entire universe represented by him. Even in his painting, the decadence of an era that has become illegible, cannot be codified except in fragments. His is a traditional and realistic painting, with which he wants to reveal the secrets of the obscure events he paints and where the world itself appears as a dark story crushed by the weight of its intrigues.

Maya Bloch (1978) paints many group scenes, people around a table having dinner or drinking, seemingly convivial scenes. In his case, the characters do not lack the physiognomic traits that are distorted and changed, assuming a damaged appearance that gives off a musty smell. It seems to observe social masks in decay, which looking at us include us in the group. They rarely converse or look at each other, but they always observe us, calling us into that social fiction made up of false decomposing masks.

Alexander Kabin (1978) represents peripheral places, railway or city views rendered with a grainy and richly dripping painting, dominated by light and cold shades, where the white evoke an absolute silence and a grueling slowness made of glacial desolations. When he paints armchairs or sofas they too are empty and abandoned, while in representations of war scenes the matter seems even more grainy and unmade, in the case of paintings with figures, finally, these tend to penetrate the surrounding making themselves visible in fragments or transparencies.

Helen Shulkin (1978) is instead interested in post-urban life, in the mutations of city spaces in relation to new architectural structures. His paintings are dominated by voids – where suddenly the structural lines of airports, stations, industrial yards explode – and by variations of glacial blues that multiply the coldness of steel and glass of structures. In the case of drawings it often intervenes on light blue cards, whose chromatic coolness of the background becomes the environment in which architectural stumps emerge. Visions, those of the Shulkin, which add gaps, coldness and fragmentation, returning the idea of ​​a decomposed and desolate space that can become a social and existential metaphor.

Aurora Del Rio (1982) investigates the body through a painting made of fluid and evanescent presences that put her identity in crisis. Figures that manifest wider crises that do not concern only individuals. His palette consists predominantly of strident reds and blues, but which can turn into shades of purple by mixing these two main colors. This chromatic acidity makes the figures even more violent, like sudden aurora borealis or disturbing fatuous fires. This chromatic aspect seems to accelerate temporality, manifesting those bodies as sudden and momentary apparitions.

As already said this list is not to be considered complete, therefore in future interventions it is my intention to introduce both those painters who, born in the eighties of the twentieth century, have continued this way, and all those artists that I have not reported here for lack of data . I will limit myself for now to a list of names of those I will deal with later, but that also in this case should not be considered complete: Adam James Riches, Alex Merritt, Chelsea James, Chiha Gregory, Gabriela Bodin, Gale Antokal, Janice Nowinski, Jennifer Pochinski , Julien Spianti, Linda Christensen, Lorenzo Ermini, Michel Martinez Vela, Olivier Rouault, Timothy Wilson, Tonia Erbino, Ulrika Lindblom, Ursula O’farrell.

Many will have noticed the absence of a well-known Italian painter, Nicola Samorì (1977), which I did not include considering his pictorial research more oriented to a reflection on art, which can certainly become a wider metaphor, but which, as I already wrote , is not the subject of my investigation.

Finally I say that my research, due to pictorial and thematic characteristics, can be traced back to this area.

– Danilo Santinelli



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