| Aldo Palazzolo, self-taught Sicilian photographer begins researching the link between mime and photography circa 1975 while working freelance at J. Lecoq’s school of mime, Paris. The results of this study are then shown in an exhibit entitled: ‘Mime and photography as a non verbal language’.
Palazzolo’s travel instinct then lead him to perform a journey over many years to the world’s most important museums, eventually giving birth to the exhibit ‘Fragments of Marble’, an inquiry into the erotic gesture of ancient and modern sculpture. The use of natural light, the rediscovery of a gesture and a new interpretation of these works give rise to images of a rare beauty exalting the plasticity and carnality of marble . A refined and punctual black and white print add fascination and ambiguity to a material which in appearance seems cold and distant.
The end of the cycle dedicated to a reflection on the history of art coincides with what has always been Palazzolo’s primary interest: the contemplation and reflection of man: his obsessive interest in the portrait which continues to this day has brought him into contact with persons the likes of Borges, Nureyev, Béjart, Andreotti, Sinopoli, Cucchi, Paladino, Kounellis, Restany, Pistoletto, Zorio, Cesar, Michelucci, Scully, Glass and many other protagonists in the world of art, culture and performance. Friends and acquaintances who have stimulated his interest and reflection have also come under his inquisitive and penetrating eye.
Palazzolo photographs his subjects frontally with a gaze which boomerangs his own. His portraits charged with an existential and emotional tension capture the subject revealing his/her mortal being.
‘He who works with man works with death, he who works with death works against death’
Once again, beyond the knowledgeable print, we are surprised by the quality and beauty of the light. Light imprisons all, both revealing and destroying , annulling and capturing time. A suspended time which seems infinite, mythical, unsuccessful in revealing our hundred thousand masks. In this suspension of time, in the languor of the gaze, in the absence of moral judgement, the sublime madness of the photographic portrait reveals itself.
When Palazzolo ‘pulls the trigger’ of his camera, he obliterates his subject-object, reconstructing it in a frontal view, eternal. Unlike time, light does not die: it vanquishes all. A successful portrait lasts forever.
Palazzolo has dedicated the last ten years researching the alchemical process of the elements he uses to express himself: the dark room, the film, the developer, the fixer (fixative), time and light. What happens when one uses year old developers? How does light express itself in such cases? The result of this research: unique images created by chance and intention, produced by the short circuit sparked by the photographer/operator while working in the dark room in search of an original image. It is an inquiry into the enigmatic origins of creativity where chemical products are allowed to express themselves all the while being pushed to their utmost limits.
Aldo Palazzolo is the founder and director of ‘Charade’, a magazine of art and international culture.
Critics worldwide have written about Aldo Palazzolo’s work. Museums as well as public and private collections are custodian of his images.
Photographs by Aldo Palazzolo are for sale. For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Portraits without backgrounds, taken in a frontal "distance", obsessive,
trembling and immense. They do not pose but look insistently at an insensible world, deprived of wisdom and secret commotion.
His subjects, self-aware, stare into an invisible transparent space. These light thirsty portraits which have crossed obscurity and the void, appear to savor a regained tranquility.
Aldo Palazzolo's portraits are poetic inventions of what seems like an encounter between friends, demonstrating a sense of pleasure, desire, contact and self-awareness. They reflect a special moment, training us to become consciously aware of another’s gaze.
The artist’s mobility is surprising, allowing life to flow beyond the pose. The pose usually imprisons the portrait, Aldo Palazzolo has freed it. The persons photographed, having lost their inhibition, go beyond prohibited demarcations. They are ambiguously present and seem to be dreaming deep emotions. Their gaze, in a playful manner incessantly beckons our own the way ero’s gaze beckoned ant eros.
Aldo Palazzolo is a portrait photographer even when he works with the nude. He
is not interested in an anonymous model but in the tension between the face and the body once the subject becomes an accomplice in the photographic process. The fascinating aspect of these ruthless but always dignified renderings of his subjects (placed defenseless in front of a bare wall) is the tension between the body's own expression and the physiognomic expression of the face. The subject’s gaze, which is directed at the photographer and therefore at the spectator is captured with the body frontally exposed to our curious eyes. As viewers, our eyes wander from the expression (the eyes) to the sexual organ (man or woman) and vice versa.
We can tell the photographer elicits a sense of security in his subjects by the way the persons photographed have accepted to be identified with their bodies. Michel Tournier while speaking of the ephemeral equilibrium in photographing the face in a nude reminds us of the time-honored dualistic portrayal of the body in both painting and philosophy. The superior part from the waist above is deemed noble while the inferior part from the waist below is viewed as animalistic, carnal, a place where instincts must be repressed.
Palazzolo leads us as if in a ritual into an act of reconciliation and acceptance of mind and body whereas photographing the nude has traditionally meant idealizing and fetishizing the body, dividing and proposing its parts for contemplation.
These implacable images never treat the body as a product. They are documents
attesting to the mystery of the other, fundamental in their intent to reach a new pagan freedom from which we have become so violently distanced through the Judeo-Christian tradition and a bourgeois education.
(Curator of the Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna-GAM)
THE THIRD EYE’S VIEW ON ART HISTORY
Portrayal of the erotic gesture in classical and neo-classical sculpture
"The impossibility of defining something is a good symptom of turbulence", from 'La Camera Lucida', Roland Barthes. Barthes places this simple reflection at the heart of a paragon of two common but fundamental definitions proposed by him on the nature of photography :'studium' (when the photographic image serves as a source of generic interest, knowledge, information and contestation) and 'punctum' (when the image can have the ability to impress, incite one to ask questions, going beyond established confines, generating new tensions).
This undefined dimension of thought, in certain cases when "A real photograph is a secret about a secret"(Diane Arbus) can be linked with the ambiguity of the photographic image. Not a photograph’s didactic, informative aspect but that capable of determining reflection, of leaving an imprint. Within this undefined space there are two moments which determine Aldo Palazzolo's photography: in these statues of bodies - taken over a period of three years in museums across Europe - the hand (the gesture) is always present, the face (the stare) is always absent.
In these ambiguous nudes, we find a hand which covers, discovers, moves a
drapery, touches, holds an object, offers, caresses another hand: but mysteriously we never know to whom it belongs as the face is absent. And having deprived the body of
its face through a precise photographic angle emphasizes the only viewing capability belongs to the photographer and the spectator. It's certainly not by chance Aldo Palazzolo entitled his enquiry 'The Third Eye’s View on Art History', obviously referring to the camera: but especially to time itself and the viewer’s gaze. He avoids the use of extremes such as black and white preferring a changing range of grays, softening the appearance of marble, which in certain cases takes on a flesh like quality.
Palazzolo’s rendering of both Greek sculpture and 18th century works is characterized by a similar ambiguity. Despite the practice varying craftsmanship and techniques throughout time, the artist’s personal vision has sunk these bodies of diverse historic origin into an identical temporal dimension of slothful contemplation. His approach to sculpture is very different from that of Paolo Monti (very lucid and sensitive to material and the signs of history and time) or that of Antonio Mulas (who gave us a pitilessly expressionistic reading of Saint Paul's statue). Here, time is not a physical entity, it is historical, mental. There is neither passionate interpretation nor scientific revelation involved. We are in the presence of a mythical dimension, one of a pagan religiosity in equilibrium with the past and present. These works are a lazy reflection on nudity and eroticism which follow the thread of memory and time to its origins.
In George Bataille's famous collection of writings entitled 'Eroticism', he defines eroticism as 'the affirmation of life even in death'. Death is certainly present in
Palazzolo's images: not merely because statues symbolize the absence of life but due to his images' capacity to return to something embedded in the past. Vital in so far as final.
As the fascinating link between photography and death as well as the undeniable connection between Eros and death have already been endlessly discussed, it would be interesting to reflect on the way eroticism of vision is explicit in photography
and whether photography actually possesses such a vision, even beyond the
chosen subject. In the case of Palazzolo's images, the task is facilitated by the objects of
research being statues of nude bodies, caught in gestures of modesty and shyness. Frozen in seductive positions enriched by the presence of significant and allusive objects such as fruit, flutes and goblets.
Palazzolo came to this enquiry after having worked on the bound and bandaged
bodies of the mentally ill in mental institutions and studying the gestures of mime. Two
apparently distant moments, in reality linked: in one, we have an almost ancient condemnation, mental fatigue symbolized by physical bonding; in the other, again we see the registering of something ancient and perhaps unchanged in time: the expressive force of gesture and non verbal language. Both have signs of something archaic, pagan and mythical within which flows an ancient sense of death. That death, always living which meanders through every fold of Sicilian culture.
Of light, time and the alchemy of beauty
I believe it is of great use and interest to reflect on light and time especially for one who manipulates these elements in both work and creative expression. I deal with beauty on a 'sensitive' level but I have always been fascinated by the mystery of creativity and its interaction with the physical process involved in attaining and expressing that beauty in visual form. I have always had to deal with diaphragms and time: the proper light (both qualitative and quantitative), the exact time. But what is time and what is light?
It was written FIAT LUX: and then there was light. Man becomes aware of himself in the world through vision: the eye acting as a radar which guides him in his evolution uses light, his closest ally: however, every ally has a dual nature. We know that the birth and death of a cell is effected by light. Birth brings us into the light, death returns us to darkness.
And what role does time play? Once I heard Borges say: "Time is not aware of itself”: Time is a convention used to measure the accumulation of experience or memory. Is not a lifetime the interval we are exposed to light between birth and death?
With the discovery of photography, we were able to capture the light reflecting
off an object by breaking time into infinitesimal parts. In the case of humans, according to Roland Barthes, this is "the moment in which I as a subject see myself transformed into an object". In less poetic language: I place someone in front of a camera and expose the film for let's say one thirtieth of a second. During this infinitesimal amount of time the luminous emanation from our subject has transferred itself to the film. This ability to be in two places at once still blows my mind. We have found a way to trap light on film and resurrect it in the form of an image.
No exact image of a person existed before the advent of photography. What is
light for a photographer? It's true we have been able to trap a moment of light on a slab
but until we have developed the slab and printed the image on paper with the help of a developing liquid we have no image. This developer works on both the negative and the photographic paper burning some parts, transforming others into light and shadow.
Light therefore for a photographer is a liquid. Light as electromagnetic waves,
therefore water, sea, liquid: liquid light. Light which in the form of a liquid catches
fire and is transformed into an image. We have moved from an abstract concept to a concrete object, photography.
If I carefully observe a photographic image, I realize that it shows me the work that both time and light have performed on each and every one of us.
A few years ago I began questioning how time affects the developer (light). How
would the use of old developers affect an image? What if I let light act on the developer after fixing part of an image? How does a light wave affect liquid light? But most of all, what remains of my subject after going through this entire process, largely left up to chance? The results of this fascinating experiment always surprise me, leaving me to marvel at the reds, pinks, browns and strange greens, which emanate from a black and white image.
Does a non-reproducible image in photography make sense? I'm not a critic but
why not give light the possibility to express itself through a short circuit produced by chance? Did not Man Ray (to use a name) produce so many masterpieces through creative chance? What are and who establishes the limits of a creative language? Perhaps the answer lies in a work's ability to surprise or fascinate a viewer.
As a child, I always experienced a sense of awe when facing the Greek theatre,
the Anadiomene Venus, while standing in front of a painting by Antonello di Messina and Caravaggio. I wondered, what was I compared to these giants? This gave rise to my artistic escape. An escape with prospects of reaching an ever evasive self.
What sense is there to life other than experimenting, searching, gathering
knowledge, going beyond? As no one ever explained to me how to photograph I never got trapped into working with predictable, easily reproducible forms.
J. Donne once said "Discover what you can't do and do it!". Well, I have always worked this way unconsciously. Whenever I feel I have caught beauty in a form, something almost always pushes me to search for an even more beautiful or intriguing expression of an image. Perhaps it all depends on discipline: beauty only reveals itself when it is actively being searched and perhaps only time gives us the possibility to see that revealed beauty. In my work, experimenting with light and time, I strive for an ever simple, sober, empty image. Because, only that which is empty can be filled.
Fill the empty glass
Empty the full glass
Never leave it empty
Never leave it full
(an ancient popular saying)