The invention of the camera obscura, direct ancestor of cinema and photography, has had a fundamental influence on view and representation of reality, eventually changing our modern interpretation of the concept of metaphysics, which has fed the soul of Painting over the last centuries. To which possible “elsewhere” can such a pictorial representation of the visible lead, a representation that is so faithful to the reality that almost resembles the photographic representation? What metaphysics can be generated from that?
This phenomenon is everything but new. Indeed, the path that, starting from the XVth century, has lead to the so-called “Hyper-realism” is well known. It was during the first decades of 1400 that, for the first time in history, new optical instruments were used in the making of paintings. Suddenly, without any gradualness, an ideal representation of reality, still strongly anchored to the canons of medieval art, was replaced by a strongly realistic one, bringing new values and mysteries and introducing a brand new way to see the world, which would completely revolutionize the whole history of art. It is possible, in a certain way, to assume that a new concept of metaphysics was born, which was going to result in the most paroxysmal pictorial expression that could be imagined, so revolutionary and extreme that changed the concept of Painting itself.
This brings us to the questions that introduced this topic: to which possible metaphysics does this hyper-realistic art refer? Which values does it reveal and which mysteries does a painting, in which everything, even itself, is revealed through an astonishing reality, create?
The complex, and everything but definitive and sometimes even apparently contradictorily, answer to this question can be found in the nihilism that dominates our era. After the end of the ideologies, after the extinction and exile of the last heroes and the subversion of all the values, upon which our culture was founded, art needs to refer to a new elsewhere.
The ones that lost their hope have soon converted to the horror and the circus play of at-all-costs provocation (without realizing the terribly gratuitous and old character of their choice), while the ones that kept on hoping have consciously chosen to espouse a new exasperated realism, a new idealism, which led to a new metaphysics, cynical but passionate, often glacial but always surprising, possible and in the same time impossible, till the limits of the predictable human abilities (and in total antithesis with the concept of American Hyper-realism). A theatre of completely self-referencial representation that quests after the Beauty through itself and it reveals itself astonishing, dazzling, surprising like a Baroque mise-en-scéne. And there, in that place without time, arisen through the marriage with the unexpected, it creates the sense of a new mystery, a nameless emotion that ravishes and enchants: new mysteries, a new metaphysics of the cynical self-reference, a metaphysics that brings a new, extreme, revolutionary concept of painting.
Actually, as it has already been written in other studies on the topic, Realism, as a mere representation of reality, does not exist. Neither could it exist, since painting, as it is traditionally meant, is purely a - quoting Leonardo da Vinci - “mental fact” that, starting from reality, brings us into an another dimension, which has no time and space. The whole history of art itself is a good example of this phenomenon. From the Palaeolithic Venus figurines, whose caricaturization of the sexual attributes mirrored the desire and the need of fertility and abundance, until nowadays every era of the human being has been characterized by a vision of reality originated by a mix of instinct and culture and always far from a mere illustrative realism. It is not a case if the image becomes, through painting, a sign-symbol, an icon that brings with it other concepts and meanings, it is never a sterile representation of itself. History of painting, i.e. history of representation, is bound strictly to the phenomenon that in today’s society we would call “vogue”: expression and synthesis of all the instinctive needs and the beliefs on which every art creation is based. It’s sufficient to think about Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rubens or Picasso: during the history the visible reality has always been the same, but its representation has constantly changed following the changes of instincts and ideas, in brief following the dictates of the current “vogue”.
The history of Hyper-realism is somewhat different. It originated in USA in the first ‘60s, as oppositions to the total stylistic freedom of the Action Painting and the abstract expressionists; the aim of Hyper-realism (the name was coined only in 1972, on the occasion of its official presentation in Kassel during the Documenta 5) is the elimination of the artist’s point of view in the painted image. If the abstract artist destroys the reality in order to impose his own view of the world, the hyperrealist artist imposes to himself to represent the reality with precision and fidelity, in order to make it more realistic than reality itself, catching even the most complex optical illusions. Thus, it is still a non-realistic representation.
In Italy, this cynical (since completely self-referential) realism plays a capital role. Far from the cold and almost mechanic ideology of American pop and at the same time impregnated with the great western pictorial tradition, Italian Hyper-realism has developed unique and peculiar characteristics: not a painting that is anchored to the metaphysics of the elsewhere, it is in fact deeply inspired by itself, by its own soul, its inside, and as such it can only refer to its own soul, its own idea.
In Italy is the concept of “cynical realism” inevitably related, at least until the fist half of the 90s (when its expression was still mainly pictorial), with the name of Luciano Ventrone. The painter’s approach to reality, among the most original and eccentric ones and very “Italian” with his warm colours, had a strong Baroque component, so far from the pop influence on this pictorial genre, especially on the American side.
Among the most important Italian painters that bring the concept of mimesis to the extreme, with very personal and “Italian” characterizations, and delineate a downright new and still not fully explored vein, there are true international recognized masters, such as Roberto Bernardi, Giuseppe Carta, Alessandra Ariatti, Cristiano Pintaldi, Luigi Benedicenti and Enrico Ghinato; followed by extraordinary emerging painters, like Fabio Aguzzi, the drawer Andrea Boyer, Salvatore Mammoliti, Francesco Capello, Michele Taricco, Giuseppe Gigli, Elio Torrieri, Enrico Guarino, Enrico Ghinato and so on until the newest generation, represented by Daniela Montanari, Mauro Maugliani, Claudia Bianchi, Andrea Barin, Marzio Tamer, Gianluca Corona and the very young emerging talents like Marica Fasoli, David De Biasio, Paolo Tagliaferro, Emanuele Dascanio e Riccardo Negri, the last generation of original hyper-realists.
Alberto Agazzani, 2010
Not as strict icons but true visions are offered to us by Daniela Montanari. Her past professional and cultural experience in architecture, restoration and planning becomes a added value metabolized in her figurative passion, which examines the constructive research of the female figure renewing the type of romantic pop-portrait. Daniela accomplishes the rare and difficult dynamic balance between the fine attention to detail and the structuring and focus of synthetic organic unity of vision and figure. (…) All the work is appreciated "inside" the image of women. The compositions tell us about the intimate magic of immense female worlds captured in their clear and specific westerness (…). There is no rhetoric in her language because there is no theorem or imitation or second communication purposes, but only passionate research and refined technique that aims to regenerate the imaginary painting in the portrait. (…)
Giacomo Maria Prati, 2009
(...) Daniela Montanari is definitively part of the hyperrealism movement. Her painting, careful, precise and sharp, delights in a maniacal search for imperfection. The facial details, the wrinkles and lines; the textural details, such as the reproduction of the fabrics and the dyes; constitutes an attempt to explore the capacity of brush and paint to compete with images of mechanical origin, like the photograph, and hence explores the very surface of reality, through the ability to reinvent, using mimetic subtlety, the codes of the reign of the visible. (...)
Vittorio Sgarbi, 2006
(...) Portrayed with their large and small imperfections, the protagonists, in colored pencils and oil, of the artist are friends and relatives: children, adolescents, women, the elderly. They come directly from life of everyday and represent the exact opposite of stereotyped characters of glamour and glossy billboards, commercials, fashion shows. They are not self-confident, successful, without blemish and without sin. On the contrary, faces, thanks to gradual transitions of light that highlight the features and increase the intensity of expression, become a mirror of inner restlessness. The artist focuses almost exclusively on the faces, studying them in detail, with attention to detail worthy of an amanuensis. Her painting is soft and dissolving, which lies on the canvas gently and softly. A painting of great intensity, velvety, with precise and delicate touches, where the barb is almost prohibited and the color can not be other than small and bright. (...) Montanari digs through wrinkles and faces, the smiles and the subjects wonders, to find traces that events and passions have left on the field. (...)
Maurizio Sciaccaluga, 2005
(…) The subjects chosen by the artist are part of her sentimental sphere of her real life, projected and reflected in wrinkles and blemishes of the gigantic faces, showing much of herself on huge canvases.
Imperfections yes, but they are real "eye drops" for us to view. Faces that, in their raw truth, disturbing and fascinating at the same time, attract us because authentic. (...). They are pictures that require weeks of work, sacrifice and discipline, and this justifies, as well as the preciousness of the work, the limited production of the artist. (…)
Alessandro Trabucco, 2005
(…) The artist seems to dig in the figure, which sometimes also manifests dark sides, faintly identifiable, and highlights the subjects sense of fear to get into the scene. The shadow appears to have kept a value almost magical at the same time taking on an aura of negativity and arcane. It becomes, like other elements, one of those signs of belonging conclusively that also embody inner excavations, showing the need to leave traces of lived in every creature. (…)
Michele Fuoco, 2005
(…) The hyper-realistic portrait is her "positive" obsession. She depicts in the foreground young faces or faces marked by time, partially shaded. The fixed stare, almost glassy, stops a moment and makes that motionless eye particularly disturbing, while the softness of the lips and anatomical details give a breath of life. Approachable to sculptural experience of highly international success of the Australian sculptor Ron Mueck, virtuous capable of transforming raw silicon into real skin, or like Piccinini’s recent work : hyperrealism of denunciation for the artist admired for his Boy five meters high, an ambiguous and creepy game that of the sculptor, psychological introspection and communication for Montanari and uniqueness in the medium of painting: the colored pencils. (…) The manual ability is essential, and the representation of the subjects is so close to reality as it transmits, at times, a feeling of irritation derived mainly from exasperated gigantism of the faces depicted. (…)
Giusy Caroppo, 2004
(…) The search for the young artist does not go in the direction of hyperrealism, which is already sufficiently explored. She steps further towards the discovery of a new way of doing figuration, not simply adhering to the truth, but in truth itself. It's physiognomy translated on canvas, where the deepest selves, although invisible from the outside, comes out because it leaves clear and indelible footprints right on the skin. The artistic work of Montanari begins with a feverish work of photographs aimed at capturing the smallest detail imprinted on the epidermis of the chosen subjects, or their clothing. (…) Then the rest is all in her hand and in the stubbornness of revealing remote character traits of her subjects, to furnish a true complete cognitive map. (…)
Sabrina Arosio, 2004
Daniela Montanari portrays friends and family with a meticulousness and attention to detail worthy of an amanuensis. Hours of photo session prelude to a meticulous and demanding work and due to size, almost one month to paint. Careful studies of light are the basis of these faces that emerge from the black backgrounds with dazzling clarity, made in infinitesimal details by imperfection of the skin to the hair, painted one by one with thin brushes, or scratching the canvas. (…)
Alessandra Redaelli, 2004