The funeral portraits of Filippo Severati

It is said that there is nothing more flattering for artists than to see their works stolen from the museum in which they are exhibited. If someone is willing to risk jail for a painting, it is ultimately a tribute — however questionable — to the painter’s skills, and an index of high market value.

Yet there is an artist who, if he were alive today, would certainly not appreciate the fact that thieves have stolen almost a hundred his portraits. Because in his case the works in question weren’t displayed in the halls of a museum, but among the rows of gravestones of a cemetery, and there they should have remained so that everyone could see them.

The monumental cemetery of Campo Verano in Rome, with its 83 hectares of surface, strikes the viewer for the sumptuousness of some chapels, and appears as a rather surreal place. Pharaonic mausoleums, exquisitely crafted statues, buildings as big as houses. This is not a simple cemetery, it resembles a metaphysical city; it just shows to what extent men are willing to go in order to keep the memory of their loved ones alive (as well as the hope, or illusion, that death might not be definitive).

Scrolling through the gravestones, along with some weather-worn photos, some particularly refined portraits catch the eye.
These are the peculiar lava paintings by Filippo Severati.

Born in Rome on April 4, 1819, Filippo followed in the footsteps of his father who was a painter, and from the early age of 6 he began to dedicate himself to miniatures, making it his actual job from 11 years onwards. Meanwhile, having enrolled at the Accademia di S. Luca, he won numerous awards and earned several merit mentions; under the aegis of Tommaso Minardi he produced engravings and drawings, and over the years he specialized in portraiture.

It was around 1850 that Severati began using enamel on a lava or porcelain base. This technique was already known for its property of making the colors almost completely unalterable and for the durability of completed works, due to the numerous cooking phases.

In 1859 he patented his fire painting on enamelled lava procedure, which was renewed and improved over previous techniques (you can find a detailed description of the process in this article in Italian); in 1873 he won the medal of progress at the Vienna Exhibition.

1863 was the the turning point, as Severati painted a self-portrait for his own family tomb: he can still be admired posing, palette in hand, while next to him stands a portrait of his parents placed on an easel — a true picture inside the picture.

After that first tomb painting, funeral portraits soon became his only occupation. Thanks to the refinement of his technique, the clipei (effigies of the deceased) made by Severati were able to last a long time keeping intact the brilliance and liveliness of the backgrounds.

This was the real novelty introduced by Severati: he was able to “reproduce in the open air the typology and formal characteristics of the nineteenth-century portrait intended for the interiors of bourgeois houses(1) M. Cardinals – M.B. De Ruggieri – C. Falcucci, “Among the most useful and wonderful discoveries of this century…”. The paintings of F. S. al Verano, in Percorsi della memoria. Il Quadriportico del Verano, a cura di L. Cardilli – N. Cardano, Roma 1998, pp. 165-170. Quoted in Treccani. . Instead of hanging it at home, the family could place a portrait of the deceased directly on the tombstone, even if in small format. And some of these clipei are still striking for their vitality and the touching rendering of the features of the deceased, immortalized by the lava painting process.

Severati died in 1892. Forgotten for almost a century, it was rediscovered by photographer Claudio Pisani, who in 1983 published in the Italian magazine Frigidaire an article of praise accompanied by several photos he had taken at Campo Verano.

Today Filippo Severati remains a relatively obscure figure, but among the experts his talent as a painter is well recognized; so much so that the thieves mentioned at the beginning vandalized many graves by removing about ninety of his portraits from the tombstones of the Roman cemetery.

(I would like to thank Nicola for scanning the magazine. Some photos in the article are mine, others were found online.)

 

Note   [ + ]

1. M. Cardinals – M.B. De Ruggieri – C. Falcucci, “Among the most useful and wonderful discoveries of this century…”. The paintings of F. S. al Verano, in Percorsi della memoria. Il Quadriportico del Verano, a cura di L. Cardilli – N. Cardano, Roma 1998, pp. 165-170. Quoted in Treccani.

Bizzarro Bazar Web Series: Episode 2

In the 2nd episode of the Bizzarro Bazar Web Series: pharmacy mummies and products of the human body used in medicine; a mysterious artist; a theater built from the carcass of a whale. [Remember to turn English subtitles on.]

If you like this episode be sure to subscribe to the channel, and most of all spread the word. Enjoy!

Written & Hosted by Ivan Cenzi
Directed by Francesco Erba
Produced by Ivan Cenzi, Francesco Erba, Theatrum Mundi & Onda Videoproduzioni

Links, curiosities & mixed wonders – 9

Let’s start with some quick updates.

Just three days left till the end of the Bizzarro Bazar Contest. I received so many fantastic entries, which you will discover next week when the winners are announced. So if you’re among the procrastinators, hurry up and don’t forget to review the guidelines: this blog has to be explicitly mentioned/portrayed within your work.

On October 1st I will be at Teatro Bonci in Cesena for the CICAP Fest 2017 [CICAP is a skeptical educational organization.]
As this year’s edition will focus on fake news, hoaxes and post-truth, I was asked to bring along some wonders from my wunderkammer — particularly a bunch of objects that lie between truth and lies, between reality and imagination. And, just to be a bit of a rebel, I will talk about creative hoaxes and fruitful conspiracies.

As we are mentioning my collection, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for one of the last arrivals: this extraordinary work of art.

I hear you say “Well, what’s so special about it?“. Oh, you really don’t understand modern art, do you?
This picture, dated 2008, was painted by the famous artist Jomo.

Here’s Jomo:

Here’s Jomo as a bronze statuette, acquired along with the painting.

Exactly, you guessed it: from now on I will be able to pull  the good old Pierre Brassau prank on my house guests.
I was also glad the auction proceeds for the gorilla painting went to the Toronto Zoo personnel, who daily look after these wonderful primates. By the way, the Toronto Zoo is an active member of the North American Gorilla Species Survival Plan and also works in Africa to save endangered gorillas (who I was surprised to find are facing extinction because of our cellphones).

And now let’s start with our usual selection of goodies:

She’d given me rendez-vous in a graveyard / At midnight – and I went: / Wind was howling, dark was the sky / The crosses stood white before the churchyard; / And to this pale young girl I asked: / – Why did you give me rendez-vous in a graveyard? / – I am dead, she answered, and you do not know: / Would you lay down beside me in this grave? / Many years ago I loved you, alive, / For many a year the merciless tomb sealed me off… / Cold is the ground, my beloved youth! / I am dead, she answered, and you do not know.

  • This is a poem by Igino Ugo Tarchetti, one of the leading figures in the Scapigliatura, the most bizarre, gothic and “maudit” of all Italian literary movements. (My new upcoming book for the Bizzarro Bazar Collection will also deal, although marginally, with the Scapigliati.)

  • And let’s move onto shrikes, these adorable little birds of the order of the Passeriformes.
    Adorable, yet carnivore: their family name, Laniidae, comes from the Latin word for “butcher” and as a matter of fact, being so small, they need to resort to a rather cruel ploy. After attacking a prey (insects but also small vertebrates), a shrike proceeds to impale it on thorns, small branches, brambles or barbed wire, in order to immobilize it and then comfortably tear it to pieces, little by little, while often still alive — making Vlad Tepes look like a newbie.

  • Talking about animals, whales (like many other mammals) mourn their dead. Here’s a National Geographic article on cetacean grief.
  • Let’s change the subject and talk a bit about sex toys. Sexpert Ayzad compiled the definitive list of erotic novelties you should definitely NOT buy: these ultra-kitsch, completely demented and even disturbing accessories are so many that he had to break them into three articles, one, two and three. Buckle up for a descent into the most schizoid and abnormal part of sexual consumerism (obviously some pics are NSFW).
  • Up next, culture fetishists: people who describe themselves as “sapiosexuals”, sexually attracted by intelligence and erudition, are every nerd’s dream, every introverted bookworm’s mirage.
    But, as this article suggests, choosing an intelligent partner is not really such a new idea: it has been a part of evolution strategies for millions of years. Therefore those who label themselves as sapiosexual on social networks just seem pretentious and eventually end up looking stupid. Thus chasing away anyone with even a modicum of intelligence. Ah, the irony.

  • Meanwhile The LondoNerD, the Italian blog on London’s secrets, has discovered a small, eccentric museum dedicated to Sir Richard Francis Burton, the adventurer whose life would be enough to fill a dozen Indiana Jones movies. [Sorry, the post is in Italian only]

Someone fixed giraffes, at last.

Henry Tonks and the Faceless Boys

I have wrote in the past about how plastic surgery was originally born during the Great War as reconstructive surgery. If a soldier missing an arm or a leg was indeed a familiar figure, the introduction of new weapons during the world conflict led to the appearance of a kind of wounds precedently almost unheard of: the gueules cassées, “disfigured faces”.
Helmets were able to protect the head from granade splinters, but not the face; therefore field hospitals began to receive an unimaginable number of soldier whose faces had been blown away in large portions by the explosions.
It was an injury rarely discussed in the press, where the more iconic and patriotic image of the veteran amputee was considered more suitable, but the numbers speak for themselves: within English troops alone, 41.000 amputations were carried out, as opposed to the 60.500 men who suffered head or eye injury.
One had a higher probability of finding himself without a face rather than without legs.

Practically on every front, experimental procedures were adopted to reconstruct faces destroyed by shrapnel or burned by mustard gas.
In January 1916, at the military hospital in Aldershot, England, pioneer surgeon Harold Gillies encountered doctor Henry Tonks, who was serving as a temporary lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Henry Tonks was a doctor and an artist: besides being part of the Royal College of Surgeons, he also taught drawing and anatomy at the Slade Academy.

Soldiers were sent back from the front in desperate conditions, and  Tonks had the feeling that he could not handle, from a professional and humane point of view, such a catastrophe. As he himself confessed in a letter: “I have decided that I am not any use as a doctor“. And in another letter he recounted: “the wounds are horrible, and I for one will be against wars in the future, you have no right to ask men to endure such suffering. It would not matter if the wounds did well but they are practically all septic“.
And as the war progressed, things did not improve. After the Somme offensive, on July the 1st 1916, more than 2.000 patients flooded the hospital: “men without half their faces; men burned and maimed to the condition of animal“.

Thus, when Gillies asked Tonks to document his reconstructive operations by portraying the patients’ faces before and after surgery, Tonks happily accepted, as he was certainly more at ease in the artistic dimension.
To draw portraits could seem redundant, as photographs of the disfigured soldiers were already being taken, but both doctors were convinced that the cold-hearted objectiveness of film could be misleading in respect to the tactile and expressive qualities of a painting.

Thanks to his collaboration with Gillies, Henry Tonks produced a seried of facial wound portraits which still today stands unsurpassed for its emotional impact, scientific interest and subtlety of representation.
Sure, these pastel portraits had first of all a didactic intent, and the author himself did not wish them to be seen by the general public. And yet these works show a complexity that transcends their function of medical illustrations.

To understand how Tonks worked on his subjects, we have an extraordinary fortune: in some cases, the archives still have both his pastel portraits and the medical photographs. We can therefore watch, side by side, two images of the same patient, one recorded on film and the other one composed by the charcoal and colors of the artist.

Comparing Tonks’ drawings with the photographic shots, what emerges is the abstraction operated by the artist, which is meant to remove any hint at the patient’s suffering or interiority. These are accurate works, detached and at the same time compassionate, focusing mainly on the open wound, depicted with an almost “tactile” precision through the stratification of color (a consequence of the artist’s surgical training).
And yet the uncanny quality of these drawings lies in their absolutely modern ambiguity.
What could by all means be a portrait of a normal male face — ordinary traits, well-groomed hair, a knotted tie — becomes somehow “sabotaged” by the presence of the wound. It is as if our gaze, wondering over the painting’s surface, could register all these common details, just to be short-circuited the moment it meets the scandal of the injury. An inconceivable monstrosity, which appears impossible to integrate with the rest of the image.
It is then inevitable for us to fall back to the eyes of the portrayed subject, to his gaze fixed upon us, and to wonder about its impenetrable meaning.

Another peculiarity is the use of pastel, a medium considered “feminine” in respect to more virile, lively oil color or tempera; a choice that in this case allows for the lacerations of the flesh to be rendered in a softer and more tolerable way. What’s more, thanks to the lighter tone of these colors, Tonks provides his subjects with a delicate beauty and tenderness that no photograph could have ever captured.
These portraits seem as vulnerable as the mutilated youth they represent.

Suzannah Biernoff, in her wonderful essay Flesh Poems: Henry Tonks and the Art of Surgery (from which I stole most of the information for this post — you can read it in Visual Culture in Britain, n. 11, 2010) defines Henry Tonks’ works as “anti-portraits, in the sense that they stage the fragility and mutability of subjectivity rather than consolidating the self portrayed“.

Henry Tonks’ studies are set apart from classic medical illustration by virtue of this research of a particular beauty. They do not recoil from the horror they intend to portray, but cover it with a veil of elusive sensuality, in which a face becomes the sign of the uncertainty of existence, and a symbol of the cruelty Man inflicts upon himself.

The mysterious artist Pierre Brassau

In 1964 the Gallerie Christinae in Göteborg, Sweden, held an exhibition of young avantgarde painters.
Among the works of these promising artists from Italy, Austria, Denmark, England and Sweden, were also four abstract paintings by the french Pierre Brassau. His name was completely unknown to the art scene, but his talents looked undisputable: this young man, although still a beginner, really seemed qualified to become the next Jackson Pollock — so much so that since the opening, his paintings stole the attention from all other featured works.

Journalists and art critics were almost unanimous in considering Pierre Brassau the true revelation of Gallerie Christinae’s exhibit. Rolf Anderberg, a critic for the Posten, was particularly impressed and penned an article, published the next day, in which he affirmed: “Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer“.

As should be expected, in spite of the general enthusiasm, there was also the usual skeptic. One critic, making a stand, defiantly declared: “only an ape could have done this“.
There will  always be somebody who must go against the mainstream. And, even if it’s hard to admit, in doing so he sometimes can be right.
Pierre Brassau, in reality, was actually a monkey. More precisely a four-year-old African chimpanzee living in the Borås Zoo.

Showing primate’s works in a modern art exhibition was Åke “Dacke” Axelsso’s idea, as he was at the time a journalist for the daily paper Göteborgs-Tidningen. The concept was not actually new: some years before, Congo the chimp  had become a celebrity because of his paintings, which fascinated Picasso, Miro and Dali (in 2005 Congo’s works were auctioned for 14.400 punds, while in the same sale a Warhol painting and a Renoir sculpture were withdrawn).
Thus Åke decided to challenge critics in this provocative way: behind the humor of the prank was not (just) the will to ridicule the art establishment, but rather the intention of raising a question that would become more and more urgent in the following years: how can we judge an abstract art piece, if it does not contain any figurative element — or if it even denies that any specific competence is needed to produce art?

Åke had convinced the zoo keeper, who was then 17 years old, to provide a chimp named Peter with brushes and canvas. In the beginning Peter had smeared the paint everywhere, except on the canvas, and even ate it: he had a particularly sweet tooth, it is said, for cobalt blue — a color which will indeed be prominently featured in his later work. Encouraged by the journalist, the primate started to really paint, and to enjoy this creative activity. Åke then selected his four best paintings to be shown at the exhibit.

Even when the true identity of mysterious Pierre Brassau was revealed, many critics stuck by their assessment, claiming the monkey’s paintings were better than all the others at the gallery. What else could they say?
The happiest person, in this little scandal, was probably Bertil Eklöt, a private collector who had bought a painting by the chimpanzee for $90 (about $7-800 today). Perhaps he just wanted to own a curious piece: but now that painting could be worth a fortune, as Pierre Brassau’s story has become a classic anecdote in art history. And one that still raises the question on whether works of art are, as Rilke put it, “of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism“.


The first international press article on Brassau appeared on Time magazine. Other info taken from this post by Museum of Hoaxes.

(Thanks, Giacomo!)

Xia Xiaowan

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L’opera di Xia Xiaowan, pittore pechinese nato nel 1959, ha sempre sfidato le convenzioni artistiche. Autore eclettico, i suoi quadri spaziano dal surrealismo al simbolismo, spesso descrivendo corpi grotteschi, deformi e fluidi; ma il filone più interessante della sua carriera è quello che si interroga sulla portata filosofica della prospettiva: come cambia il mondo a seconda del punto di vista che scegliamo per osservarlo? Quali segreti inaspettati possiamo scoprire nella realtà, e in noi stessi, modificando (simbolicamente) l’angolazione del nostro sguardo?

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Così Xiaowan nella sua serie Looking Up ha scelto di ritrarre situazioni più o meno comuni (un incontro di boxe, una partita a dama cinese, una ragazza che accompagna per strada un anziano, e così via) riprese però da una prospettiva inusuale: il punto di vista è infatti quello, “impossibile” e irrealistico, di un osservatore posto un paio di metri sotto alla scena, che guardi il tutto attraverso un “terreno” trasparente.

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Poi, all’inizio del millennio, riflettendo sull’avvento delle nuove tecnologie e sulla contaminazione dei linguaggi artistici, Xiaowan ha cominciato a domandarsi se la pittura non stesse diventando vecchia rispetto agli altri mezzi espressivi. Rimasta uguale a se stessa da secoli, la tela di colpo è sembrata troppo piatta e univoca all’artista cinese. Xiaowan ha deciso quindi, ancora una volta, di cercare una nuova prospettiva, un modo inedito di guardare alla sua opera.

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Dipingendo su lastre di vetro multiple e assemblandole l’una di fronte all’altra, Xiaowan è capace di donare ai suoi dipinti una dimensione e una profondità uniche. A metà strada fra la pittura, l’ologramma e la scultura, il quadro che abbiamo di fronte agli occhi sembra respirare e modificarsi a seconda di come ci muoviamo.

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Certo, è di moda oggi parlare di “3D”: ma le opere di Xiaowan non utilizzano la profondità un maniera tutto sommato banale, per creare facili effetti prospettici come quelli dei quadri in rilievo che si trovano ormai in ogni mercatino (originariamente inventati dal britannico Patrick Hughes, vedi questo video). Al contrario, i suoi dipinti sono fumosi, eterei, la carne dei suoi personaggi si dissolve in vaghi riflessi irreali, senza più contorni. Si tratta di vorticose figure di sogno – o di incubo – sospese in uno spazio senza tempo, in movimenti apparenti e ingannevoli. È la nostra stessa coscienza spaziale ad essere messa alla prova, mentre la corteccia visiva cerca di donare profondità a questi corpi che altro non sono se non echi congelati.

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Nonostante il successo e la curiosità internazionale suscitata da queste opere, Xiaowan è tornato oggi a dipingere ad olio su tela, evidentemente soddisfatto dell’esperimento.

Paul Cadden

(Articolo a cura della nostra guestblogger Marialuisa)

La meraviglia che si prova di fronte ad alcune opere di Paul Cadden è difficile da spiegare, osservare ogni ruga dei suoi personaggi, le espressioni e gli sguardi, la tensione che sentiamo nell’immagine come se noi stessi ne facessimo parte.

Belle foto? No. Bei quadri in grafite, questo è l’elemento che sicuramente ci stupisce, una realtà perfetta rimasta impressa da una matita, composta da minuscoli tratti impercettibili. Difficile pensare che sono disegni, che non è un attimo impresso su una foto.

Il motivo che ha spinto Paul Cadden a creare quadri iperrealisti piuttosto che di altro genere è il fatto di essere profondamente affascinato dalla continua distorsione della realtà che ci circonda.

La facilità con cui i media, ma anche le stesse persone riescono a manipolare la percezione della realtà di masse intere, la propensione a distorcere un fatto per avere ragione in una semplice discussione, tutto questo lo spinge a creare quadri in cui la realtà sembra un fatto così immobile ma anche vero, tale da essere incontestabile e interpretabile da chiunque a modo suo senza filtri.

L’iperrealismo permette di aggiungere dettagli non reali nella foto iniziale per darci la possibilità di avere la sensazione di poter vedere molti più oggetti, molti più dettagli di quanti non riesca a cogliere il nostro occhio in una foto o nella realtà stessa.

Appiattire i soggetti, eliminando ogni tipo di colore attraverso la grafite, permette al nostro occhio di rilassarsi e guardare tutto senza disturbi: quello che l’artista cerca di fare è proiettarci in una realtà ripulita da oggetti estranei, sensazioni disturbanti – è tutto lì, alla nostra portata, tutto valutabile, tutto immobile eppure in tensione.

Paul Cadden attraverso le sue opere ci porta a osservare i suoi soggetti ma anche lo stesso mondo in cui viviamo, stralci di società, con occhio imperturbabile e finalmente oggettivo.

Dal suo stesso sito vorrei riportare una frase che ben rappresenta il suo pensiero riguardo alla realtà al di fuori delle sue opere.

Noam Chomsky: “In ogni luogo, dalla cultura popolare ai sistemi di propaganda, c’è una costante pressione per far sì che le persone si sentano deboli e confuse, che il loro unico ruolo sia quello di rettificare decisioni e consumare”.

Questo è il link al suo sito.

Placentofagia

Qualche tempo fa, Nicole Kidman dichiarò di aver mangiato la placenta dopo il suo ultimo parto. (Dichiarò anche di bere la propria urina per mantenersi giovane, ma quella è un’altra storia). Follie da VIP, direte. E invece pare che la moda stia prendendo piede.

La placenta, si sa, è quell’organo tipico dei mammiferi che serve a scambiare il nutrimento fra il corpo della madre e il feto, “avvicinando” le due circolazioni sanguigne tanto da far passare le sostanze nutritive e l’ossigeno attraverso una membrana chiamata barriera placentale, che divide la parte di placenta che appartiene alla mamma (placenta decidua) da quella del feto (corion). La placenta si distacca e viene espulsa durante il secondamento, la fase immediatamente successiva al parto; si tratta dell’unico organo umano che viene “perso” una volta terminata la sua funzione.

Quasi tutti i mammiferi mangiano la propria placenta dopo il parto: si tratta infatti di un organo ricco di sostanze nutritive e, sembrerebbe, contiene ossitocina e prostaglandine che aiutano l’utero a ritornare alle dimensioni normali ed alleviano lo stress del parto. Anche gli erbivori, come capre o cavalli, stranamente sembrano apprezzare questo strappo alla loro dieta vegetariana. Pochi mammiferi fanno eccezione e non praticano la placentofagia: il cammello, ad esempio, le balene e le foche. Anche i marsupiali non la mangiano, ma anche se volessero, non potrebbero – la loro placenta non viene espulsa ma riassorbita.

Se per quanto riguarda gli animali è intuitivo comprendere lo sfruttamento di una risorsa tanto nutritiva alla fine di un processo estenuante come il parto, diverso è il discorso per gli umani. Noi siamo normalmente ben nutriti, e non avremmo realmente bisogno di questo “tiramisù” naturale. Perché allora si sta diffondendo la moda della placentofagia?

La motivazione di questa pratica, almeno a sentire i sostenitori, sarebbe il tentativo di evitare o lenire la depressione post-partum. Più precisamente, la placenta avrebbe il potere di far sparire i sintomi del cosiddetto baby blues (quel senso di leggera depressione e irritabilità che il 70% delle neomamme dice di provare per qualche giorno dopo il parto), evitando quindi che degenerino in una depressione più seria. Sfortunatamente, nessuna ricerca scientifica ha mai suffragato queste teorie. Non c’è alcun motivo medico per mangiare la placenta. Ma le mode della medicina alternativa, si sa, di questo non si curano granché.

E così ecco spuntare decine di video su YouTube, e siti che propongono ricette culinarie a base di placenta: c’è chi la salta in padella con le cipolle e il pomodoro, chi preferisce farne un ragù per la lasagna o gli spaghetti, chi la disidrata e ne ricava una sorta di “dado in polvere” per insaporire le vivande quotidiane. Se siete persone più esclusive, potete sempre prepararvi un bel cocktail di placenta da sorseggiare a bordo piscina. Ecco un breve ricettario (in inglese) tratto dal sito per mamme Mothers 35 Plus.

Consci che l’idea di mangiare la propria placenta può non solleticare tutti i nostri lettori, vi suggeriamo un ultimo utilizzo, certamente più artistico, che sta pure prendendo piede. Si tratta delle cosiddette placenta prints, ovvero “stampe di placenta”. Il metodo è semplicissimo: piazzate la placenta fresca, ancora ricoperta di sangue, su un tavolo; premeteci sopra un foglio da disegno, in modo che il sangue imprima la figura sulla carta. Potete anche spargere un po’ di inchiostro sulla placenta prima di passarci sopra il foglio, così da ottenere risultati più duraturi. E voilà, ecco che avrete un bel quadretto a ricordo del vostro travaglio, da incorniciare e appendere nell’angolo più in vista del vostro salotto.

Valerio Carrubba

Valerio Carrubba è nato nel 1975 a Siracusa. Le sue opere sono davvero uniche, e per più di una ragione.

Si tratta di dipinti surreali che ritraggono i soggetti sezionati e “aperti” come nelle tavole anatomiche, “cadaveri viventi” che espongono la propria natura fisica e l’interno dei corpi con iperrealismo di dettagli.

Ma la peculiare tecnica pittorica di Carrubba consiste nel dipingere ogni quadro due volte. Dapprima crea quello che molti degli spettatori più comuni definirebbero “il quadro vero”, vale a dire il disegno più definito, più pittorico, più dettagliato. Dopodiché l’artista vi dipinge sopra una seconda stesura, più “automatica”, che va a nascondere la versione precedente. Così facendo, crea un fantasma invisibile ai nostri occhi, nega e nasconde l’anima prima della sua opera, che rimane evidente solamente nella stratificazione dei colori (esaltata dall’utilizzo dell’acciaio inox come supporto).

“Ed è proprio la morte del “quadro vero”, ovvero sommamente, irrimediabilmente, ritualmente falso che Carrubba celebra; dipingendolo e poi, nella quiete del suo studio, uccidendolo e mostrandocene l’ectoplasma.” (Luigi Spagnol)

A simboleggiare questa morte del linguaggio espressivo, e la duplicità delle sue opere, i suoi quadri hanno tutti titoli palindromi (leggibili sia da destra che da sinistra).

Il pittore cieco

Esref Armagan è uno straordinario e controverso pittore. I suoi dipinti potrebbero sembrare abbastanza “normali”, naif e semplici, nonostante l’uso sensibile del colore, se non fossimo a conoscenza di un piccolo dettaglio: Esref è cieco dalla nascita, e non ha mai avuto occhi per vedere o percepire la luce.

Esref è nato povero e non ha avuto alcuna educazione. Ha iniziato la sua carriera facendo ritratti: chiedeva a un parente o a un amico di sottolineare con una penna il volto su una fotografia, poi con i suoi polpastrelli “leggeva” le linee tracciate sulla foto e le replicava sul foglio da disegno. Ma la sua abilità, con il tempo, si è spinta molto oltre.


Ha sviluppato una tecnica inusuale per i suoi dipinti: dopo averli disegnati, li colora usando le dita con uno strato di pittura ad olio, poi è costretto ad aspettare da due a tre giorni perché il colore si secchi; infine può continuare il suo quadro. Questa è una tecnica non ortodossa, dovuta al fatto che Esref è cieco e opera senza il controllo esterno di altri collaboratori. La principale qualità dei suoi lavori, al di là della brillantezza dei colori o la composizione artistica, sta nell’incredibile fedeltà con cui Esref replica la tridimensionalità. Gli oggetti più lontani sono disegnati più piccoli, e con una incredibile precisione di prospettiva. In un uomo nato senza occhi, questo è un talento che nessuno penserebbe di trovare.

Alcuni neurofisiologi e psicologi americani si sono interessati al caso, e hanno portato l’artista turco a disegnare i contorni del battistero della Basilica di Brunelleschi a Firenze (ritenuto uno dei luoghi in cui l’idea di prospettiva è storicamente nata). Il filmato presentato qui di seguito è in bilico fra la plausibilità e l’agiografia mediatica; alcuni infatti hanno avanzato dubbi sulle effettive competenze di questo pittore, che potrebbe essere segretamente “guidato” da qualcuno nei suoi exploit artistici. Sembrerebbe però che le risonanze al cervello del pittore abbiano indicato un’attività della corteccia cerebrale nelle zone normalmente “morte” in altre persone cieche.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3AgO6H0H98]

Quindi, bufala o miracolo? Esref, ormai avvezzo alle mostre internazionali, continua ad affermare che gli piacerebbe essere ricordato per il suo lavoro, piuttosto che per il suo handicap. “Non capisco come qualcuno possa considerarmi cieco, perché le mie dita vedono più di quanto veda una persona che possiede gli occhi”.

Scoperto via Oddity Central.