dimanche 8 septembre 2013

Venice's dream

Massimo Vitali
(born in 1944 in Como in Italy)

Venezia San Marco
2008 // print with Diasec mount 72 x 86 cm // Courtesy of the artist and Bonni Benrubi gallery, New York/
Patient is the word that best describes Massimo Vitali. Patiently, he hunts for a place where he can position himself and watch the effects of a crowd. Patiently, he lies in wait for the right moment which will make his waiting unique, that moment when "the world falls into position" in his camera lens. Patiently, like Claude Monet, he scrutinises, dissects, observes : not just the light and its effects on the basilica of St. Mark but also the comings and goings of tourists who, like a flock of pigeons, congregate in Venice's most famous square.
Such effects of a crowd or of a crowd's excessive colonisation of a space have caught the attention of this photographer, who makes no hesitation in comparing them to penguin colonies. Vitali enjoys the contrast between the tourist clichés of emptiness and saturation — St. Mark's square is emblematic of the city, and here is juxtaposed against the image of the Eiffel Tower on scaffolding erected when work was carried out on the Clock Tower.
Agnès Varda
(born in 1928)

Autoportrait à Venise devant une peinture de G. Bellini
1962 // Gelatin silver print an Baryte Warmtane // 100 x 150 cm // Courtesy of the artist

Just like Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), who in 1506 considered Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430-1516) to be « the best of all painters », here Agnès Varda pays tribute to his brother Gentile Bellini (c. 1428/1429-1507). In this self-portrait, she infiltrates a group of men who originally figured in the lower right-hand part of Gentile Bellini's painting, Miracle of the Relic of the Cross on San Lorenzo Bridge (1496-1500) Venice, Accademia Gallery, by posing in front of the painting in profile. Her position in relation to the other figures, the light on her face, her highly decorative jacket and her hairstyle all ensure that she is perfectly integrated into the work. This appropriation of the work of a Venetian artist by this directory so well-known for her New Wave films, is the result of what she herself describes as a « passion for portraits ».
This passion can be found in her films and in all the self-portraits that she has produced, because for her with so many different faces, the questions that are raised relate to the image that endures, to what people reveal of themselves and of their posterity. In this work, she also adds a touch of humour as she considers the problem of relations between men and women — in Bellini's work there are only men in this group —, and between these strict dignitaries, so easily recognisable and whose faces are known to us thanks to this painting, and the work of a 20th century female artist.

Born in Venice in 1690 died in Venice In 1768

La Punta della Dogana
1740 - 1745 // Oil on canvas // 27,6 x 37,3 cm
La Piazzeta, vers le môle
1740 - 1745 // Oil on canvas // 27,9 x 37,3 cm // Courtesy of Jean-Luc Baroni

« I will never return to Venice » ... Unbelievable ... ») so says the hero of Philippe Beaussant's (born 1930) nove! Le Rendez-vous de Venise (2003). It seems unbelievable that anyone who has ever visited Venice would not want to return. The impact of this city is such that, without the absolute certainty of being able to see the city again, travellers often felt the need to leave with a souvenir evoking the emotions they experienced there, purchasing one or more paintings capturing the best views of the city. The tradition of the veduta, which first appeared in the 17th century, became increasingly popular during the next century, particularly paintings by a painter whose name alone is reminiscent of the city.
That could have been the end of the story, but it was not to be. These paintings have gone on to become icons of the artist's native city. Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto (1697-1768), belongs to a Venetian dynasty which is proud of its origins and its creator. As painter of theatre scenery Canaletto learned ail about proportion and visual effects), and how to lay out a painting to draw the spectator's eye. Various contemporaries attest to his use of a camera obscura, evidence of his determination to leave spectators with the impression that the scenes he depicted were real and completely accurate. Yet in reality, Canaletto is an illusionist who plays with the proportions and positions of buildings, a magician who combines multiple perspectives to give the impression that his city is even more beautiful than it already is — quite a challenge.

Jean-François Rauzier
(born in 1952)

2012 // C-print 180 x 300 cm // courtesy of the artist
So many travellers, writers and poets have tried to describe as best they could the special qualities of Venice. In 1483, Félix Schmidt known as Félix Fabri (c. 1440-1502) a Dominican monk in the monastery of Ulm wrote that this city « has the ocean for roads, the straits of the sea for ramparts ». These timeless features have apparently touched a chord in the perception that Jean-François Rauzier has of Venice. Water, the fundamental element in Venice, covers the foreground while the rest of the composition is a presentation of city façades that the artist has photographed separately then assembled in a dreamlike juxtaposition.
The sky is hidden, so the image gives the perception of a space that is totally saturated, almost oppressively so, a reminder of the number of tourists that constantly invade the city. To achieve this result, Jean-François Rauzier used his concept of "Hyperphotos" created in 2002, where he combines the real and the artificial, the infinitely small and the infinitely large to enhance the perception of La Serenissima while still insisting on its visual identity. Although this view of Venice is a completely reconstituted image, the Venetian architecture can be recognised at first glance. The play of colour on the façades and the curves of the arches are enhanced by the presence of the Rialto bridge, which, in the middle of all these rectangular constructions, relieves the density in this collage of hundreds of views.