When in the first half of the 19th century photography entered the world of science, and then art, there was a kind of revolution – not only in culture but in aesthetic philosophy and in ways of depicting both the real and the imaginary. The development of cameras and the means of rendering images ever closer to what was photographed was extremely rapid, and if indeed art chose to move towards the abstract and the conceptual the merit, or as some would have it the fault, belonged in large part to photography. “Following the advent of photography, painting lost its historical documentary role” (M. Lupatelli).
The celebratory and documentary function was thus taken on by photography. Kings and popes stood for the camera in classical poses just as they would once have posed before the portrait painter. City-scapes and people’s changing habits were made famous by photographic images whose reproduction in newspapers and on film disseminated knowledge and awareness, making the world a smaller place. The artist, that is to say the painter or the sculptor, had no choice but to interact with what was happening around him, creating images expressing the experience of the changes to reality being made by progress. The abstractism of Kandinsky and Klee, the cubism of Braque and Picasso, the provocations of Duchamp and Arp, the quest for new myths from individuals and celebrities in Warhol and from things and objects in Rauschemberg – all stand as clear examples of making art which was a rejection of the pure representation appropriated by photography.
Avant-garde art gave figurative form to the fantastic, to rage, to hope, to the desire for freedom. It celebrated the invisible universe that the artist alone was able to feel and lay bare. This required empathy as well as observation, and synesthesia allowed the perception of what the five senses could neither read nor codify. In that period the photographer was a reporter, illustrating and augmenting the written word. At times his work replaced it and became an icon, as in the case of Nadar’s portraits or Cartier’s snapshots. Views of nature evolved into shots of the countryside moulded by agriculture, city streets were given fresh perspectives by Fontana and Roiter. In the 1970s the photograph became a poster and replaced the picture. The advertising image thus took on psychological values and had psychotic consequences. Rather than being stolen it was kidnapped – subliminal, scandalous and gossip-mongering, exciting not because of values inherent to catharsis but above all because it was answerable to highly influential hidden commercial powers. The photographer was and is supposed to be able to frame a shot, correctly juxtapose aperture, shutter and depth of field, and in a few seconds find a balance between full and empty and chromatic mass and the neutral zone. Today a photograph can be taken with a mobile phone that simulates the action of the old watch-the-birdie man who lifted the mirror and drew aside the cloth so that the light could make its impression on the film.
What this exhibition offers is the sense of astonishment that only an artist’s genius can create. Silvio Balestra has the sensitivity of he who lives and breathes art. A lover of ancient and Renaissance painting, he has a discerning eye for modern works with an ancient nobility, the poetry of he who would depict what only poets can describe. Perhaps this is why he spends time in Umbria and works with painter Elvio Marchionni, with whom he studies perception of the figure, neo-Renaissance art and the synthetic construction of the image with time (Chronos) and the symbols of ancient beauty (Aphrodite). There are clear signs of the study and development that Balestra has carried out on Man Ray’s 1922 production, but his photography is neither representative nor figurative in the iconological sense. He uses the photographic medium in its etymological derivation – the medium is light with no filters or parameters, and Balestra’s work describes its form and gives it figurative shape.
He studies the mechanical physics of light as it makes an impression on film. Light becomes a brush and gives figurative form to emotion, sensation and sentiment. When I saw his work I had the perception that what I was actually seeing was the image of an interior universe, a sort of mirror that reflected what the anatomical eye cannot perceive without synesthesia. Silvio Balestra’s photography is abstract, then, but his abstractism is not antithetical to mimesis, it is pure emanation of its creator’s interior life. In these works light enters the artist’s mind, illuminates his memories and makes experience memory. What the artist offers is the timeless ineffable moment that cannot be expressed in words. It is the flash which strikes us when we find ourselves able to feel emotions despite everything and everyone, it is the curve that describes a thought which becomes an idea and then action, it is that strange shape – unrecognisable to our common, trivially physical and physiological senses but unmistakable to those of us still able to risk our hearts and minds. It is in the union between emotion and rationality that the work of this “abstract photographer” is founded. He uses pure light as though it were pure colour, tearing through the black which acts as a border between the gloomy, negative compact background and the infinite space of the interior universe.
His language thus uses elemental forms devoid of recognisable elements – the eye scans the dark black of the night and is illuminated by a light taken by the artist from arcane, eternal harmonies.
In Balestra’s work black-and-white is dualism, counterposition and equilibrium, yin and yang. He manages to construct a remarkable harmony on his film, as if he had captured the invisible and the ineffable and enabled them to materialise and become part of the perceptible. A luminous line, a surface that becomes space, to be penetrated and explored. But his work is clothed in dynamism, in which line and form are in a state of becoming. The artist is able to arrest the moment – not for itself or simply out of rhetoric, but to enable the observer to empathise and enhance the moments to come. To Silvio Balestra time is an ever-present, irremovable entity. What colours it and slows its rush is fixing the emotion, the very movement of a thought or an idea, like the music of a soundless voice. His art is not surrealism, he invents no fantastic other-worldly or metaphysical places. What he offers is the vision of a concept that can have no word – as he himself says: “The artist is an entity engaging in wordless dialogue.”
Silvio Balestra gives figurative form to what par excellence cannot have a figure, he enters the very essence of the soul and lays bare its structure to the point of inventing a new way of rendering the work which is also a representation of the concept.
The titles of his works are gateways to the mystery of his creations: Dark silences, Escape routes, Fading scene, Oneiric oases, Light cells, Crossing the boundary, Breaths of wind, Birth of an emotion, Presences. In no way random or obvious, they are codes enabling us to read the route rather than the image, because the image stays like an instant stolen from the window of a moving train, a train which Balestra knows will never return to the station it departed from. But before the journey’s end this artist wants us to rediscover what is behind our feelings, and we would do well to let his light illuminate, at least a little, the darkness of our nights.
Lecturer in the Semeiology of Non-verbal Languages and History of Art
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND THE UNIVERSITY
Dal catalogo “Esposizione triennale di arti visive a Roma 2014 – Last Paradise” a cura di Daniele Radini Tedeschi
La sua arte a colto appieno il segno della contemporaneità, tanto da crare opere originate non dal mero frutto manuale ma dalla pura creazione della mente.
Quella di Balestra è una “pittura digitale ” resa del tutto innovativa attraverso l’ ausilio e l’ uso di applicazioni software come il foglio di calcolo Excel .
La sua arte è stata presentata in diverse mostre collettive e personali , in fiere d’arte , oin Italia e all’ estero, ricevendo numerosi ed importanti premi.
Creatività, concettualità, contemporaneità sono gli elementi cardini di un lavoro che si incentra sulla luce, una luce colta nella sua pienezza naturale che gioca con gli inversi ; il maggior numero di lavori di Balestra si incardina prevalentemente sugli equilibri instabili di bianco e nero , di luce e ombra,superando l’ astrattismo e il figurativismoe dialogando in tensione con lo spettatore.
Lo spazio e il tempo si annullano per divenire meravigliosa forma illusoria ,sottile e leggiadra che arriva immediatamente alla mente e ai sensi.
Le sue opere sono intrise di forte dinamismo,attinto con probabilità dai fratelli Bragaglia,Maestri del Fotodinamismo futurista. La lezione di Anton Giulio Bragaglia che voleva apportare una rivoluzione nel campo fotografico, perv purificare,nobilitare ed elevare ad arte tale disciplina superando l’ immobilità per coglierne la dinamicità, è stata assolutamente colta , ne sono dunque esempio a distanza di decenni ,i lavori di Silvio Balestra.
A partire dal ciclo Antitesi la cui eseenza è scandita dalla presenza-assenza, gli oggetti immateriali presentati al suo interno sono generati da un’ abbagliante luce speranzosa, netta è dunque la separazione cromatica dei non colori, capaci anche di fondersi in uno sfocato grigiore, una tonalità di cui fare a meno nella vita. Nulla è stabile tutto deve ancora crearsi ,ed è la sensibilità individuale e l’ individuale soggettività a materializzare il tutto.
In Beats l’ artista sviluppa accennate manipolazioni geometriche come vibranti apparizioni che emergono con forza esplosiva dal nero assoluto.
Il connubio bianco-nero è senza paragone, crea un universo dove poter spaziare liberamente nell’ infinito e dove forme armoniche si costituiscono in centripeti andamenti, come in Moving.
Il ciclo Confronti ha la capacità di ipnotizzare, riuscendo a fondere lo spettatore con l’opera in un viaggio in esterno e interno da realizzarsi in esteriorità ed interiorità sensoriale e percettiva.
Scritture e Alfabeti pone in evidenza linguaggi sconosciuti che appartengono all’ intimità dell’ essere umano , capaci di realizzarsi mediante scritture e di concretizzarsi con il bagliore della luce, come un invito a ritrovare dentro di noiun linguaggiom composto da essenze plurime che si differenzieranno a seconda dell’ individuo.
In Progresss porta con sè la bellezza insita dell’ evoluzione e del cambiamento, alle forme morbide e immateriali si contrappongono concettuali scale della mente , tutto è costruibile e sviluppabile mentalmente piu’ che fisicamente con salite ideali in cui il punto di arrivo è un profondo mistero.
Silvio Balestra guarda nei suoi lavori non solo a forme geometriche ispirate ma anche al paessaggio , ne è esempio il ciclo Natura in cui immortala quello che rimane di sfreccianti alberi, la verticalità disarmante richiama probabilmente alle opere ” Bosco e Oele” di Piet Mondrian e ai “Pioppi di Lombardia” di Angelo del Bon.