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Aqua Aura

Having completed his studies at Liceo Artistico (a high school with an arts-based curriculum), the artist graduated in painting from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, Milan, with a degree project and thesis titled Anselm Kiefer. L’altro Barocco: uno sguardo sull’espressionismo tedesco contemporaneo (“Anselm Kiefer. The other Baroque: a perspective on contemporary German expressionism”). In 2009, following a long break during which he purposely distanced himself from the frenetic code of contemporary art, he returned to concretely working and experimenting as an artist, and was reborn in the shape of Aqua Aura.
During his years away from the art world, he travelled a lot and expanded his personal store of imagery, which led him to reflect upon the infinite possibilities of art. Always on a quest to find the sublime in our era, he makes works which require specific, direct involvement on the part of the spectator.
His training as an artist has continued over time, in the most disparate forms: by experiencing the vast open spaces of nature, or by travelling and visiting art museums and scientific research labs, and enriching his research into the study of astrophysics, particle physics, biogenetics, philosophy and the psychology of perception. In particular, he established a relationship of collaboration and exchange with the Fondazione AriSLA (Italian Research Foundation for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis); this allowed him to deepen his knowledge of the creation and development of scientific images. In recent years, his artistic language has mainly embraced the field of photography and digital art. He has exhibited his works in many institutions, galleries and museums internationally, in cities such as Berlin, Istanbul, Barcelona, Maastricht, and Helsinki; he has also taken part in numerous art fairs in Italy and across Europe.
The most recent developments in his work have taken him beyond photography to new languages: having made a series of short films, documentaries and video art works, he has now created installation projects and video-sculptures. While at first glance these works might seem perfect from an aesthetic point of view, far removed from the human being reality, in actual fact, upon closer analysis, they appear to be what belongs to him most intimately, to his being and to his past. An ongoing merging and layering of the images accumulated in previous years, creating new landscapes and new worlds.
He regularly appears as a speaker at conferences and seminars on contemporary art and on scientific research in general. He holds lessons on photography and contemporary art at private schools and foundations. After living and working between Milan and Akureyri (Iceland), he settled in Milan permanently in 2016.

Aqua Aura

Having completed his studies at Liceo Artistico (a high school with an arts-based curriculum), the artist graduated in painting from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, Milan, with a degree project and thesis titled Anselm Kiefer. L’altro Barocco: uno sguardo sull’espressionismo tedesco contemporaneo (“Anselm Kiefer. The other Baroque: a perspective on contemporary German expressionism”). In 2009, following a long break during which he purposely distanced himself from the frenetic code of contemporary art, he returned to concretely working and experimenting as an artist, and was reborn in the shape of Aqua Aura.
During his years away from the art world, he travelled a lot and expanded his personal store of imagery, which led him to reflect upon the infinite possibilities of art. Always on a quest to find the sublime in our era, he makes works which require specific, direct involvement on the part of the spectator.
His training as an artist has continued over time, in the most disparate forms: by experiencing the vast open spaces of nature, or by travelling and visiting art museums and scientific research labs, and enriching his research into the study of astrophysics, particle physics, biogenetics, philosophy and the psychology of perception. In particular, he established a relationship of collaboration and exchange with the Fondazione AriSLA (Italian Research Foundation for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis); this allowed him to deepen his knowledge of the creation and development of scientific images. In recent years, his artistic language has mainly embraced the field of photography and digital art. He has exhibited his works in many institutions, galleries and museums internationally, in cities such as Berlin, Istanbul, Barcelona, Maastricht, and Helsinki; he has also taken part in numerous art fairs in Italy and across Europe.
The most recent developments in his work have taken him beyond photography to new languages: having made a series of short films, documentaries and video art works, he has now created installation projects and video-sculptures. While at first glance these works might seem perfect from an aesthetic point of view, far removed from the human being reality, in actual fact, upon closer analysis, they appear to be what belongs to him most intimately, to his being and to his past. An ongoing merging and layering of the images accumulated in previous years, creating new landscapes and new worlds.
He regularly appears as a speaker at conferences and seminars on contemporary art and on scientific research in general. He holds lessons on photography and contemporary art at private schools and foundations. After living and working between Milan and Akureyri (Iceland), he settled in Milan permanently in 2016.

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Interview with Aqua Aura

Aqua Aura could be defined as the result of a long and complex series of reflections and experiences, of great artistic fallings in love and unusual travels around the world, of passionate historical and fictional readings, as well as studied music listenings. This heterogeneous whole of ingredients, well mixed, is actually the element that, with the utmost fidelity, can give a first impression on who hides behind this pseudonym, evocative other than very significant referring to the identity and the history it relates.

Active since 2010, with several personal and collective exhibitions, he has been exhibiting in this period for the first time abroad, with a personal exhibition called Vacant Scenery, set up at the Kajaste Gallery in Oulu, Finland. There are some works of the Frozen Frames series and, for the very first time, those of the series called VOID.

Q: Who is Aqua Aura? Why this name?

AA: It is an embodied ghost. A fellow who, as certain characters of some American films, has had a NDE (Near-Death Experience) and, once he is back to life, he realises that nothing is like before although everything is like before. Christian Boltanski maintained that “if someone decides to be an artist, it is for no longer existing, for vanishing”. In other words, an artist is someone who represents and who becomes the others or something else from himself (the universal) and, in doing this, he has no longer a face but the image or the images of such an otherness. At a certain point, for a work I were making, I had to take an interest in mineralogy and geology. The aqua aura seemed immediately a strange kind of stone. It is a forgery done by the man on a simple quartz. After a process of exposing to gold boiling steam, the quartz takes a beautiful intense blue colour, it disguises itself as precious stone. I loved the idea that a forgery could generate such a convincing illusion. I loved the essentiality of its name when I pronounced it, almost a palindrome, whose vowels are perfectly specular, a perfect rhythmic in its sequence of A, only the difference of consonants seemed just set to deteriorate a possible literary perfection. I loved the idea that, behind that name, I both simultaneously, a black, a white, an athlete, a cripple, nobody. Images only.

Q: When did you start to understand that it was through the visual arts that you could express at your best your inner world?

AA: I was seventeen. My grandfather had a sort of garage in his garden and I had set up a workshop there. I had begun to suffer of insomnia and I was painting a lot. In the evenings I painted lots of confused pictures. In my workshop there always was my dog in that times. When I went outside, he followed me. Sometimes we remained sit beside the fish tank, sometimes else we looked at the sky. Some nights there were plenty of stars. It was really beautiful.

Q: In your cycle of images called Frozen Frames you represent a world of ice, apparently uninhabited, as if it were annihilated by a cataclysm that brought it back to a new glacial era.

AA: We can say that FROZEN FRAMES was born from the premise of a reporter’s journey. It is clear that, for the type of images it proposes, such a premise is declined through an insane status of the imagination. I think you know Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, or, the modern Prometheus. Imagine, just for an instant, at the end of the book, when the creature and his creator meet each other for the last time and after the Doctor’s death, the “monster” goes away on the ice in a sloop with his father’s body, screaming that he will search the death, the oblivion, in that frozen nothing that the North Pole is. Imagine that, together with him, a photographer or, better, an artist joins with the aim to document that journey of perdition in the search for a self-cancellation in a so desolate land to seem the world behind the world’s end. I attempted, in some way, to follow the creature towards his perdition in the white nothing. I attempted to turn myself into a journey photographer in an insane journey to a new world as, in other terms, Edward Curtis did, when he photographed for the last time the American frontier and its last inhabitants. I attempted and I have been attempting to construct the features of a non-existent elsewhere, if not in the “visionarity” of the mind, in the continuous superimposition and the fusion of the shots of my personal journey. Sometimes, I set remains of a no longer existing civilisation. In some way I am close the the frontier painters in the American Nineteenth Century, with their huge landscapes made of astonishment and amazement.

Q: Please, tell us about your new series VOID, that you show for the very first time, outside Italy, in Finland, in a context that we could consider ideal, given the contents it expresses.

AA: If, in some way, Frozen Frames catches aspects of a contemporary visionary, VOID stands at its exact opposite, as a research of an outdated art, a sort of mystical vision of the image, almost religious. This last series chooses the minimum terms of its components through the essentiality of its geometry. In this sense, the choice of the sphere as supporting formal theme, but even the square or the cube, the real protagonists of the composition. They are creations that look for the maximum balance in a sort of absolute immobility, the one of a metaphysic little theatre. The sense of the landscape is still present but the represented landscape – caves of ice, spheres of ice, panoramas of snow and clouds – become the surround of the composition, closed into pure forms. They tell about a motionless and silent balance existing among the objects and the scenery. The landscape is shut up in its containers and isolated from the material world, as closed into its halo and wrapped up in its own silent energy. The choice of “framing” the images into frames of gold or silver or copper leafs, carries on the journey to this direction. The images are wrapped up in a pure and indefinable light, almost mystic, as they are shut up in a nearly aseptic form. This practice is a discovery about which the painters of our Middle Ages were already aware. In their representations, in fact, Christ was wrapped up in his “almond” of light. Bosch shut up his characters and landscapes in cruets of transparent glass. Such worlds could be observed, but their being strangers to the world was total.

Q: Do you have historical periods or artists you look at with greater attention and that have influenced your artistic research?

AA: Yes, I do. I would say, in one hand all those phenomena and artists that express a sort of language or research of
a crossing and out-of-time metaphysic, in the other hand all those artists who have, as their creative logic, the expressive urgency. This convergence of a metaphysic glance at work and its expressive urgency is a matter I am very interested in. They remind me of James Lee Byars, James Casabere, James Turrell, the Italians Gino de Dominicis and Marco Tirelli. Each of them displays a metaphysics of the work, a rarefaction of the glance. From the other side I see Joel Peter Witkin as well as the first expressionist, Mathias Grunewald. But also the romantic sculpture. The highest example of this convergence of a metaphysical research of things with its expressive power could be perhaps the anti-classic painters of the Italian Sixteenth Century. Bronzino, who was the first, in his portraits, to create multi-dimensional little theatres that were afterwards the metaphysics of De Chirico. Pontormo, who says that the everyday reality and the mind reality are two different and separated things. From each of them, their individual particularities,I draw to construct my works. They can be: the research of a sidereal perfection, the purity, the sense of dream, the foreshortening of the framing, a scream.

Q: What do you think about the current social and economic situation, especially referring to the specific world of the art and its market?

AA: In this specific moment I cannot see any market, at least in Italy. Referring to the social and economic situation… talking about such things is always a little dangerous, the risk to fall into the political agnosticism and the demagogy is always round the corner. There are many writers, thinkers, journalists and economists who can tell you about our times much better than me. I still remember Pasolini, who had understood many things, and many of his analysis are still valid in our time. I could go on citing Bradbury, Jean Clair, Bauman, Fitoussi. But if you want a general impression, mine is that we live in a decadent age. It seems to me that the rules that led the western style wore out, but the new rules, just appeared, we have not understood them or, maybe, we understand them and they frighten us more than the previous ones. Thinking to this reminds me what my teacher of art in my secondary school told us about the post-Napoleonic France (the one of Napoleon the Third), about how it came out the defeat of Sedan against the Prussians and in her tales the word “decline” came out often. Perhaps our Country, in this moment, reminds me the words of my teacher then, with the difference that there is no impressionistic revolution waiting for us round the corner and not even the avant-garde flourishing to make us enthusiastic.

Originally published in OR NOT MAGAZINE digital, 2013

 

 

HIDDEN by Alessandro Trabucco

Art does not reproduce the visible, rather it makes visible.
Paul Klee

Written by the great Swiss artist Paul Klee, one of the most prominent figures in the most revolutionary decade of the 20th Century, this meaningful statement is taken from Creative Confession, a short essay published almost a century ago, and is emblematic of a historical period of extraordinary and unrepeatable creative ferment.
These few years were characterised by enormous upheavals in all fields of human creativity, from painting to musical research (consider, for example, the astounding effect that Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ had on the audiences at its first performance in 1913, or the innovative theories of Schonberg’s dodecaphony, just a few years later) and the precocious language innovations involving a basically still young artistic field such as that of photography and put into practice by bold experimenters including Man Ray, Christian Schad and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.

This timeless phrase applies perfectly and especially to photography which, ever since its birth in around the mid 19th Century, has always been accused of being too closely identified with a servile duplication of reality.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, however, this prejudice was repudiated by the innovative capacity of the above mentioned artists (who cannot strictly be defined as pure photographers), and subsequently, in the last twenty years of the same century, with the technological development of digital photography, by which such accusations were once and for all rendered groundless.

When we look at a photograph now, it is no longer necessarily true that what we are seeing actually exists or has existed in reality or another time. In other words, photography no longer fulfils the task of objectively documenting a place or an event.
Photographic composition, in which it is possible, nevertheless, to recognise a cross-section of outer reality and
not merely the shadow or brilliant silhouette of a real object directly fixed by the artist onto emulsified paper in the darkroom (e.g. Man Ray’s rayograms, a technique that bypassed the stage of shooting the image onto light-sensitive film), is visually independent from that which it expresses. In other words, it “does not reproduce the visible, but it makes visible” an image that previously only existed in the mind of its creator.
And this is precisely what happens with the Aqua Aura images – icy landscapes, white deserts, desolate lands deprived of any living thing (human, animal or vegetable) or, in some cases, characterised by merely metaphorical presences (represented by an object or a remnant of manual activity), animated by an existence of their own, a ‘real’ inner life of their own. This presence in the world, however, is the fruit of an invention of the mind, an actual manipulation that first takes place in the unfathomable realm of the human imagination and is then ‘physically’ elaborated in the electronic virtuality of the digital artificial world.

The images, therefore, originate from a series of suggestions provoked by external reality, the actual procedure followed by Aqua Aura and, initially, the established procedure of landscape photography, which searches the globe far and wide in pursuit of a personal interpretation of the natural spectacle before our eyes, realising an indefinite (i.e. unquantifiable) number of shots. In the work of Aqua Aura these shots subsequently undergo considerable changes; a careful selection of the images leads to the creation of real visual hybrids, individual representations assembled on the computer and composed of parts taken from different shots to form a brand new and, above all, inexistent reality.
This is exactly what Paul Klee affirms: to “make it visible” that which previously did “not exist” and that now can finally take shape thanks to the demiurgical power of the artist, who infuses vital energy into a new ‘creature’ by igniting its own inner creative spark.
The exhibition, which covers two floors of the gallery (ground and basement), is arranged in a sequence designed
to accompany the visitor in the discovery of the evocative landscapes created by Aqua Aura, following an itinerary that reveals one by one the characteristic features of each image, and especially the overall atmospheres evoked by them.
The sensation of the sublime, which inspires the vision of the glacial environments with their stark contrasts of bril- liant white and pitch black, and the vapours that recall distant places in space and time, natural events that charm the gaze of the viewer and lead it into silent, still, romantic visions.
The attention is then further captivated by the presence of a modular display element that is apparently unrelated to the context, which introduces, especially with regard to the works exhibited on the basement floor, a destabilising and alternative aspect in an exclusively static and contemplative vision.

Aqua Aura uses this special object to create a ‘voyeuristic’ setting, compelling the viewer to come into closer con- tact with the individual images by hanging in front of them a sparkling red string curtain that prevents an easy and full view – a concealing action which has the precise purpose of establishing a sort of visual intimacy, a close, perso- nal encounter, with the viewer.

The dreamlike aspect that characterises these photographs is a clear, tangible sign of the formal genesis that takes place mentally; to landscapes with a romantic atmosphere the artist adds architectural elements or alienating pre- sences that considerably increase the effect of visual disorientation.

Exhibitions List:

Solo exhibitions:

2018
“Aqualand” – Costantini Contemporary – Milan (Italy)
“Millennial Project” Civic Museums – Synagogue Reggio Emilia (Italy). Curator Chiara Serri

2017
“Millennial Project” Civic Museums – Synagogue Reggio Emilia (Italy). Curator Chiara Serri
“Somewhere out there” Palazzo Cuttica – Sale d’Arte – Alessandria Civic Museums, Alessandria (Italy). Curator Matteo Galbiati
“Scintillation” – Luisa Catucci Gallery, Berlin (Germany). Curator: Luisa Catucci
“Somewhere out there” – Museo civico di Palazzo Cuttica, Alessandria (IT). Curated by Matteo Galbiati.
“Millennial Project” – Sinagoga di Reggio Emilia (IT). Curated by Chiara Serri.

2016
”Neo Genesi” – XXS Art Gallery, Palermo (Italy). In collaboration with Costantini Art Gallery, Milan (Italy). ”Dreamscape” – FESTIVAL FOTOGRAFIA EUROPEA, CSArt/ARTClub in collaboration with VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy). Curator: Chiara Serri.
”The Graft” – Palazzo del Parco, Diano Marina (Italy). In collaboration with Diano Marina Culture Bureau and Civiero Art Gallery.
”Scintillation” – Riccardo Costantini Contemporary, Turin (Italy). Curator: Michele Bramante.

2015
”The Graft” – Galleria Kajaste, Helsinki (Finland). Curator: Gaia Serena Simionati.
”The Hidden Project” – Solo Show in two venues, Gàleria H2O and Istituto Italiano de Cultura, Barcelona (Spain). Curator: Ph.D. Carolina Valentina Lio.
”Illusion-Inclusion” – Costantini Art Gallery, Milan (Italy). Curators: Stefano Costantini and Emanuela Pitti. Event of MILANO FOTOFESTIVAL 2015.
”Birthplace” – Villa Fratelli Cervi/PPI & Partners, Reggio Emilia (Italy). Solo Show organized by Galleria VV8 Artecon- temporanea. Event of FOTOGRAFIA EUROPEA 2015.
”Aqua Aura – Luca Gilli” – Double Show, Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy). Event of FOTOGRA- FIA EUROPEA 2015.

2014
”Ephémera: the one that lives one day only” – Vision Quest/Contemporary Photography, Genoa (Italy). Curator: Alessandro Trabucco.
”No Man’s Land” – R&P Legal, Milan (Italy). Curators: Simona Bartolena and Galleria Bianca Maria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter, Milan.
”Void” – Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy). Curators: Alberto Soncini and Aqua Aura.
”Vacant Scenery” – Galleria Kajaste, Oulu (Finland).

2013
”Frozen Frames” – Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy). Curator: Alessandro Trabucco.
”Hidden” – Studio Vanna Casati, Bergamo (Italy). Curator: Alessandro Trabucco. ”Boudoir” – Galleria Paolo Tonin, Turin (Italy). Curator: Alessandro Trabucco.

Group Exhibitions:

2018
“Natura Mirabilis” – Luisa Catucci Gallery – Berlin (Germany). Curator Luisa Catucci

2016
”No Place Space” – Museum Galleria Civica di Suzzara (Mantua – Italy). Curator: Umberto Cavenago.
”All dreams continue in the beyond” – Cell 63 Art Gallery, Berlin (Germany). Curator: Luisa Catucci.
”10 Years of FOTOGRAFIA EUROPEA” – Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy).
”Welcome to the Jungle” – Spazio Tadini Foundation, Milan (Italy). Curator: Annalisa D’Amelio.

2015
”Aqua Aura – Luca Gilli – Luca Serra – Alberto Zamboni” – Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy). “WUNDERKAMMER – Art-Stays 13”, International Festival of Contemporary Art. Ptuij (Slovenia).

2014
”The Dark Side of Beauty” – Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Turin (Italy). Curator: Francesca Canfora.
”La forma attraverso” – Casinò Municipale, Stresa (Italy). Curator: Ph.D. Marzia Capannolo. ”Antiritratto” – Studio Maria Cilena Arte Contemporanea, Milan (Italy). Curator: Alessandro Trabucco.

2013
”Photoma”, photographs by Aqua Aura, Christiane Draffehen, Matthias Langer Galleria Bianca Maria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter, Milan (Italy).
“ART STAYS 11”, International Festival of Contemporary Art. Ptuij (Slovenja).
“ART SITE”, arte attuale al Castello di Buronzo” – Castello di Buronzo, Vercelli (Italy). Curator: Domenico Maria Papa.
“Fotosintesi”. Garage Bonci – Officina dell’Arte Contemporanea, Pietrasanta (Italy).
“Nero” – Galleria Bianca Maria Rizzi & Matthias Ritter, Milan (Italy). Curator: Emanuele Beluffi.

Prizes:

2015

PREMIO ARTEAM CUP 2015 – Venice (Italy).
Winner – Special Prize “Selection” by Galleria L’Ariete, Bologna. Winner – Special Prize “Image” by Espoarte Art-Magazine.

2013

Winner PREMIO ORA INTERNATIONAL 2013 – Treviso (Italy), New York (USA).
Finalist II PREMIO Bonatto Minella 2013 – Curator: Karin Reisovà. President of Jury: Vittorio Sgarbi. Villa Vallero and Casa Toesca, Rivarolo Canavese, Turin (Italy).

2012

Finalist PREMIO FRANCESCO FABBRI per le Arti Contemporanee 2012 – curator Carlo Sala. Villa Brandolini, Pieve di Soligo – Treviso (Italy).

Art Fairs:

2018

MIA Milan Image Art FAir – Stand Luisa Catucci Gallery, Berlin (Germany).

2017

“Art Verona 2017” – Stand Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy).
SCOPE BASEL  – Stand Luisa Catucci Gallery, Berlin (Germany).
MIA Milan Image Art FAir – Stand Galleria Riccardo Costantini Contemporary, Turin (Italy).
BOLOGNA FIERA – Stand Galleria Stefano Costantini Contemporary, Milan (Italy).
2016
“Berliner Liste – Fair for Contemporary Art in Berlin” – Cell 63 Art Gallery, Berlin (Germany).
“MIA Milan Image Art Fair – Solo Show” – Stand Galleria Riccardo Costantini Contemporary, Turin  (Italy).
“MIA Milan Image Art Fair – Solo Show” – Stand Costantini Art Gallery, Milan. (Italy).
“OFF-COURSE Young Contemporary Art Brussels” – Stand Galleria Riccardo Costantini Contemporary, Turin (Italy).
“Bologna Arte Fiera” – Stand Costantini Art Gallery, Milan (Italy).

2015
“MIA Milan Image Art Fair – Solo Show” – Stand Galleria Riccardo Costantini Contemporary, Turin (Italy).
2014
“MIA Milan Image Art Fair – Solo Show” – Stand Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy).
2013
“Art Verona 2013” – Stand Galleria VV8 Artecontemporanea, Reggio Emilia (Italy).

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