Exhibitions, Italy, 10 August 2012 - 30 August 2012
Considering the constant flow of images, a distinctive mark of the media influenced society, the human eye finds it hard to catch pictures of reality that can settle in our memory for more than a handful of seconds. Contemporary men and women are subdued by a fictional world crowded with visual representations, capable of imitating reality and finally replacing it. The modern viewer withstands the non-stopping picture and image circus by means of one basic eye skill, that of catching key fundamental traits. It is called visual economy: a few features of a face and some outlines are enough to recognize a media celebrity, or a mass-produced commodity.
Stefano Bullo's paintings draw from the images that submerge our everyday life. He collects media events, as if he were obsessed by the determination to fix a historic instant and convert a quick second into eternity. Celebrities as well as almost famous people, all pertaining to our imagination through the media world are portrayed in his works, and so are sketches drawn from newspapers or the Internet depicting current events. He often paints images we would like to forget or that we know only from second-hand information, such as scenes of urban guerrillas or illegal immigration, giving sound reasons for our lack of first-hand knowledge. The choice of such themes leads the young painter to illustrate two types of subjects, both well established in Western tradition, the portrait and the landscape. As a matter of fact, they prove to be an archetypical key to an in-depth insight on people and places, as well as on compositional techniques used to describe our surrounding reality. Thus the language of media imagery flares up powerfully and prompts us to think about erstwhile issues on posing in photography. As a result, Bullo's portraits become a psychological rendering of the typical human values of contemporary society, through which we usually typify, classify and assess our everyday environment.
In Stefano Bullo's paintings, though, these facts do not force themselves on the viewer, but allude gently, setting up an objective identification process. By exerting a careful procedure of diminished definiteness, in his portraits and ensemble scenes he tries to attain the necessary but sufficient form, through which the viewer can securely identify the subject. The illustrative skill of the young Venetian artist, both in portraits and in large paintings, endorses the viewer's familiarity and proximity to the subjects depicted. The scenes are rendered sketchily, but are boldly coloured, and appear like the images on a plasma display panel. His brushstrokes are full and confident and outline the subjects' essential features, while the backdrops summarize the fundamental space references by means of just a few colours, which also apply to incessant reinterpretations connected to the depicted subject itself. The images generated are iconic, but at the same time out of focus, as if they had been worn out in the mass recycle process typical of our society. They remind us of Sigmar Polke's xerotypes, a foremost German Pop-Artist who experimented the aesthetic results that could be obtained by dragging pictures cut out from newspapers and magazines on a working photocopier. The result is a similar sense of alteration of the scenes and people portrayed, which in the case of the young Venetian artist is balanced by the choice of familiar shapes and colours. His understated painting technique, that succeeds in making complex visions simple, is the result of a construction aiming to define what is added and what is subtracted from the original picture source. As in fashion magazines post-production, no detail is accidental, but it contributes to express a precise feeling or setting, towards which the viewer is lead unaware. The harmony expressed in Bullo's paintings might seem to be at variance with the iconoclastic procedure used to achieve it, if we consider Young British Artist Douglas Gordon havoc on celebrities' posters. While the well-known British artist attacks the media society icons with a blowtorch, unmasking the teenage-like attitude on which the star system thrives on, Bullo employs turpentine to cancel the pictorial marks and disfigure his characters' faces. In both cases the result is very similar, even if the starting point is different. As far as Gordon is concerned, we can realize a violent devastation of iconic personalities, while the young Venetian painter seems to pursue the same aim with light strokes that seem to sink in time oblivion, the real lethal antidote to the vanity fair. In Bullo's sketches, image deconstruction gives way to its opposite, but achieving the same result. His pastel sketches reverse his painting method and mark the paper only to obtain the bare outlines apt to trigger the identification process.
As fleeting images snatched out of memory, in Stefano Bullo's paintings the residual visions of the media world are shown as latent as they are in anyone's mind. In his works he processes the reality he portrays and, thanks to this reassessment, he highlights the artificiality of our vision of the world and the way it mirrors itself in the underlying power structure.
by Diego Mantoan
Added 01 August 2012