Publicity and pornography have made the conversion of the subject into object (decorative or sexual) to acquire degrading connotations, but the commodification of the human body is linked to the history of art, has been its leitmotiv for centuries.
If in the history of painting we review the evolution on the treatment of the naked or the intimate framing that spurs the spectator-voyeur libido, we can study how the parameters of shyness change with the passage of time as well as the very concept of intimacy.
Alejandro Casanova has been portraying people from around him and himself in the domestic space for years. To one of these series he called it Naked object, as pointing to that need of objectifying ourselves, to take distance of our bodies, to understand what happens to us under the skin.
The involuntary gesture, the body language when it is only a body, the silence that makes tense the atmosphere, the boredom, the torment of the flesh … are themes that have been linking narrations without script, as if Alejandro was based on the edition of idle times, discarded frames.
Q- In the series that you now present in HellGallery, “Image thief”, draw from photos that flow in the network, in forums where the theft of alien images is almost their reason for being. By slowing down in each by the artistic treatment you give them, we guess your determination to recover the mystery of nudity and intimacy, after being banalized by the morbidness that exacerbates anonymity in the new media.
It is true that access to the privacy of others has taken a strange aspect for some time now, in last 15 years. On the one hand the egotist narcissism that is given itself to the desirous audience, and on the other, the fast, free and accessible circulation of information.
As you said these factors, and sure that many others, have banalized to the extreme the idea of body, intimacy and even about artifice. The stream of stolen images is so wide and savage, that a consumer can gobble without limits and unfiltered. But not only intimacy, any kind of human behavior has its place within this hotchpotch, from the most tender love to the greatest darkness of the human soul, and all this from triviality.
Q- Painted in watercolor, and in a format that recalls the polaroid’s homemade immediacy, they seem to transmit that network liquidity and the unreal patina of what is done when we believe that no one is watching us, or when what should have been hidden is profaned.
As I mentioned in the previous question, the flow of images is enormous, but in general they maintain the dirty aesthetics of immediacy, of the mobile phone photo, that misty image, often lacking in light and with impossible planes. That is the aesthetic that interests me and which I take from the painter’s leisurely gaze.
Q- In previous works, despite the apparent naturalness assumed by the figures, you prepared the scenery in detail. On this occasion, I imagine that this previous step of stage director has no place. Are you trying to reproduce an accurate expression to the found image? Or also here you “re-photographs” mentally each image: suppress, add, reframe…?
The project starts from a long and arduous search of images, not everything is “paintable”, you really don’t get through to any print. Even then if I didn’t perform any manipulation of the original image the work would be of no interest to me. Obviously I reframe, modify and prioritize. In itself the act of painting introduces these variables, is part of the creative process.
Q- From Pierre Bonnard to Eric Fischl, Hopper and Lucian Freud … Each in his own way spoke of the impenetrability of being, loneliness even in company, estrangement from the family environment, eroticism … Looking at the whole of your work I would say that all of them are among your referents. Is it so?
In the early phases of my formation Freud was the bastion of the figure, maintaining the recognizable aesthetic of the subject that anchored to your neophyte baggage, and on the other hand was introduced in the narratives of modernity. He couldn’t not be a referent! Both Lucian and Bacon are fundamental to any figurative painter in training stage. But also the Spanish painters of the nineteenth and twentieth century and their treatment of color, flesh and brush: Pinazo, Sorolla, Fortuny or Moreno Carbonero.
Fischl introduced me in the treatment of daily life and the photographic base, from an impeccable treatment and aesthetics to his series “The Krefeld Project”, that impressed me deeply as a painter. But many more, like Balthus’s restless and perverse look (I recommend reading his memoirs), Euan Uglow’s object figures. There is so much good painting to enjoy and to appropriate that it could be hours.
Q- Tradition to which you now add this new chapter, that of the intimacy that we steal one another. Thomas Aquinas said that, understood as the sacred essence of being, intimacy needs a real human relationship to exist. Can we say then that the word itself takes a chance of being obsolete, not only because our privacy is swallowed up by the big tentacular brother that is the web, but because the dominant individualism and alienation shun it calling for, on the contrary, exhibitionism?
My faith in humanity is infinite. Our catastrophism is characteristic of our fear. Who knows if “giving us” to each other even in the most intimate moments leads to a society devoid of superficiality or to thieve it leads us to the ostracism in a rebound effect. Anyway we will have time to see it and if we are intelligent to enjoy it.
Alejandro Casanova exhibition “Image Thief”
can be seen in Hell Gallery, Barcelona, 4th to 13th May 2017
Organized by Agency3 Gallery and Hell Gallery