The worn white of the grand senators, goddesses, and temple fragments of the Campidoglio + the Forum, Roma are some of the most evocative and beautifully rendered sculptures of the world. This place feeds into our romantic view of history –of mad emperors, and colossal buildings, the Vesta temple (vestal virgins), in tatters but still standing, iconic, it’s walls reconstructed into something enduringly impenetrable.
White here and everywhere in our pictorial vision of a “historic narrative” means a sort of yielding nothingness, imbued with a passivity and beauty that is incomparable…..
And in the work of Italian artist Stefano Bonazzi, white is transformed into a place of imagined imprisonment, a hyperbaric chamber, a lost civilization and of course, a mythology. Take for example, the White Sky series, a collection of strange blanched landscapes and places, populated by people who seem lost in a reverie, yet also perhaps imprisoned by an invisible master.
The artist notes that in part he was inspired by a haunting passage from Haurki Murakami’s After Dark “ the sleep of a girl in a completely white room furnished with a single television streaming images twenty-four hours a day. This images fascinate and terrify at the same time and this state is reflected in the series.”
A contemporary streamlined aesthetic is merged with mythological iconography, and each vignette is intended as “a sort of limbo, the people are disoriented, and often blind, perhaps seeking peace – all within a white cold place of half dreams -half reality.”
Many of the pictures show archetypal figures, masked or turned inwards, concealing identity or feeling and the viewer is left with the marks of body language or posture, costume and the interaction with the environment, and it is this “physicality” as Bonazzi describes it, that structures the picture plane.
“Every woman present in the White Sky series can be considered a kind of deity, however, this is a fragile divinity…”
The Nightmare series is of course a picturing of bad dreams “focused on a single subject immersed in his personal nightmare.” We have always been fascinated by the origins and meaning of dreams, and so, this collection intrigues, enchants and disturbs, the claustrophobic sensibility is offset by a murkiness, mirroring the vagueness of dreams. Bonazzi achieves this in part, by designing fragments with a graphic tablet for an illustrative look.
And so, we go from light to dark, each series unveiling an enigmatic world. These places include Bonazzi’s monochromatic series The Woods, described best as fairytale meets modern horror –the artist explains his connection to fairy tales ~
“ I love fairy tales, they are perhaps a way to describe the death to children. Often the oldest fairy tales are very cruel and disturbing, and these motifs recur in various groups of works including Silent Places and Nonsense, details include the colored houses, baroque costumes, wolves, and forests …”
RB: Your precise images are fantastic and haunting and replete with goddesses, hybrids, and other protagonists. These subjects are seemingly alone even in the company of others, so often masked –perhaps symbolizing their dark side, those demons within, or still others seem to be in levitation in the most beatific of dream worlds. Why these motifs?
SB: I think that everyone wears a mask, at some time. This is true even when people say they are transparent –they still will have a hidden emotional life. However, this is not always negative, rather I would say that people wear masks to not only hide or obscure dark things, but more often their fragility. This is one of the most fascinating and distinguishing aspects of the human being.
RB: Can you tell me a bit about your technique and production process.
SB: I work mainly in post-production. I use my own photos, the work of other photographers and even stock photos. The initial photo shoot is just a raw material to work with, like clay to a sculptor. My final collage of images includes at least 15-20 photographs as well as 3-D elements, textures or fragments of ruined films. I unite all these elements in a Photoshop file and paint it, just like a painter with a blank canvas. This will take around 10 hours.
RB: I understand that your interest in contemporary art began with an epiphany of sorts, a transformative emotional experience that triggered a feeling of extreme vulnerability –while visiting a Ugo Rondinone show. How did you go from this to producing digital artwork?
SB: I use digital art for therapeutic purposes. When I feel sad or disappointed by the real world, I open Photoshop and start to build other worlds.
As for Rondinone, at 18, I happened by chance to be in the middle of the art installation and if I remember correctly the work was called “A Spider.” It was like being suddenly naked in a crowd, something like an “absolute experience.” Drained and disoriented, I began to cry like a baby. Even today I can not explain exactly what over took my emotions, but I decided to pursue art.”
Learn More about Bonazzi @ www.stefanobonazzi.it