«When their eyes are fixed upon those of the viewer, they intrigue us in the challenge of meeting them; if they glance elsewhere, they make us curious about their trajectory; if they are lowered, in denial of themselves, we would like to fathom their thoughts. And it is the eyes that hold us first, in these large, immense paintings, in which it seems one is able to lose oneself, to float. The rest comes later […]. Who am I looking at? […] And where exactly do I find myself?»
– Alessandra Redaelli
The portrait, since the very beginning, was considered as an icon and simulacrum, sometimes sacred and sometimes bourgeois, and was born to fill the void that time generates with its inexorable passing. This format has always been a tool of memory, capable of winning the oblivion, seizing a present moment and giving a future to something inevitably destined to become past.
The mirror is complementary to it, aimed instead at reminding us every day of the passing of time just as it flows.
In the mirror we look a present that, second after second, becomes past. This living temporality of the mirror inevitably attracts us more easily than the portrait painted by a stranger.
However, there are extraordinary cases in which it happens to mirror oneself in a portrait, that does not even represent one’s face. This happens if we perceive its vitality but, above all, its presence.
There is a beautiful expression used by the art critic Alberto Agazzani to define what it feels like to look at one of Silvio Porzionato’s portraits: «a moment of conscious awareness».
Silvio Porzionato is one of those extraordinary cases.
What suddenly happens in front of his works is the magic of identification and awe.
The Turin artist prefers oil painting on large canvases and by using photographs of friends and real people, creates statuary close-ups so vivid and powerful that seem to be animated.
If you think that his artworks have noticed your presence, perhaps you are not wrong. His portraits are not static: they return the gaze, betray intentions and have the strength to overcome the private dimension typical of the portrait to become icons of the human race, a mirror for the contemporary individual.
The subjects of Porzionato are magnetic figures, neither historical nor invented. They are real people that the artist has chosen with care, by instinct, by intimate curiosity, for an emotion or a flash on their face or a feature that made them unique. The talent of the painter lies in his ability to impress the canvas with the same magnetism and to return it vividly to the viewer.
The eyes and faces in his works have an attitude that conveys us the same feeling that mirrors or real people leave us when we meet their gaze: the feeling of being seen, of being judged, of not being alone.
The doubt is licit: are those intentions that we perceive painted in the canvas? Or are they all the result of an impression of our eyes and our mind as spectators? The limit is very subtle, and here lies the emotional power of these works.
When observing a work by the Turin painter we make also a great exercise of introspection: we are driven to look inside ourselves with that same intention that we read in the eyes and attribute to the painted subjects. Their smile, their gaze, is what we first address to ourselves. We look at each other with the eyes of the work.
Every canvas by Silvio Porzionato is contemporary (not just because of its date, of course), it is present: in it every observer can find himself, can think about time, can investigate the soul.
It is always interesting (if not fundamental) to be able to observe the artists moving in their spaces, surrounded by their work tools. For a virtual studio visit of Silvio Porzionato we cannot but choose this shot: the painter is not sitting in front of an easel but standing on a skateboard, between photographic shoots for the upcoming canvas, artworks upside-down, artworks hung on the wall, various tools, pieces of design furniture, immersed in an atmosphere made of large white spaces and drips of color.
In this photo we can find, in an unexpected synthesis, the essence and substance of Porzionato’s art.
Silvio Porzionato moves in balance: between hyperrealism and invention, between photography and painting, between portraiture and action painting. He speeds among all those above mentioned definitions, finding his own trajectory and letting a strong contemporary and personal imprint arise.
BACKSTAGE: THE TRUTH INSIDE THE MIRROR
«Silvio Porzionato belongs to that circle of realist painters who are not interested in reality, understood as a mimetic representation of reality»
– Alberto Agazzani
All etymological interpretations unanimously identify a common origin in the concepts of person and mask. The word person is linked to the Latin verb “personare”, “to resound through”, from which today’s “impersonare” is derived. This was how the actors of classical theater were referred to as those who “spoke through” the mask, an instrument to make the voice resound louder. In the same way in the Etruscan “φersu”, and in the Indian “φersuna” we find the Greek πρόσωπον (prósōpon) which indicated both the face of the individual and the mask of the actor and therefore the character represented.
The mask has in fact a dual nature: if on one hand it hides, on the other it allows the emergence of the personality; if on one hand it is an instrument for the spectator, on the other it is for those who impersonate; if on one hand it is objectivity, on the other it is subjectivity.
As a result of what has been said so far about the nature of Porzionato’s portraits, it will not be surprising to know that the artist himself has told how his production is inspired by theater, not for the desire of fiction but for vision and unveiling.
His models are people, but also masks and actually those of Porzionato turn out to be put on stage theatrically, in which the subjects are actors, in an ambiguity that captures us.
They are posing, yet they do not pretend: thus, the spectator undergoes to the most classic of the mechanisms of the theater, that is, the suspension of disbelief.
«Dressed up, made up, ready to put themselves on show for themselves and for us, Porzionato’s women search in the mirror, and therefore in our eyes, for the confirmation of their existence, the acceptance of their beings as they are. Splendid and above all so true in this spasmodic need to understand oneself.» – Alessandra Redaelli
With the eye of the photographer, Silvio Porzionato immortalizes looks, moods and details in thousands of photographs and then chooses the perfect image and reworks it on the canvas with energetic brushstrokes. In doing so, he «redeems them from contingency», as perfectly explains Alessandra Redaelli.
His painting is rather dense and material but, while you look at it, you do not feel the heaviness. The value lies in the choice of color, not at all gloomy, which raises and lightens the vision. The use of full and bright colors elevates and accentuates both the theatrical and introspective moments, thus eliminating that veil of decadence that usually makes us feel detached from a portrait.
We are not observing with eyes of sorrow and reproach, we are not observing the faces of past people but the faces of people of the present in whose gaze there is nothing inexorable.
The choice of the person, as well as the choice of the headgear, hairstyle, direction of the gaze, indicates the great care of the artistic research of Porzionato who since the backstage strives to search not only for the perfect light or shot, but for the person.
His color sensitivity is also present in monochromes and emerges from the complex pictorial stratification of the canvas.
Bodies and faces are defined in details, not with the mannerist intent of bringing out the painter’s capacity for verisimilitude but to highlight his ability to bring out from the subject a living and independent personality.
The colors contrast with each other and, overlapping, almost “scar” the face portrayed – it is needed to load the reality of fiction but at the same time, to tear the face from the two-dimensionality. Here then is the whirlwind of visual disturbances and drippings, the use of the spatula and splashes of paint. All this it is not intended to hurt but to enhance the perfection and softness of the facial features, which Porzionato caresses with the tip of the brush to give them definition and dignity.
«Each story has its own color through which he interprets passion, melancholy, pride, joy or sadness. There is everything in the works of Silvio Porzionato, the intensity of the human soul finely perceived and depicted with wisdom through an elegant and passionate painting at the same time, where beauty and intensity come together in a rare completeness and proper only to great artists.»
– Giorgia Sarti, curator of Art Journey.
Silvio Porzionato was born in Moncalieri (TO) in 1971. After graduating from art school, he was head designer, for a decade, of an important company in Turin. After some time, as Porzionato has declared, he felt the call of «silence of the land of Roero» and decided to start a new life in the silence of the countryside, closely to nature and art. Porzionato immediately proved to be a revelation in the national art scene: after only one year he was selected for Mondadori Art Prize, in 2010 he won the critics’ prize in Saluzzo Arte and then he made a permanent work for the Museum of Urban Art in Turin. In 2011 he was selected for the 54th Biennale di Venezia exhibiting both in the Regional Pavilion of Piemonte and in the Italian Pavilion in Turin. In 2013 he created three large installations entitled Codice Temporale for MACS (Museum of Contemporary Art in Sicily) in Catania. For the exhibition, the artist made 112 portraits of faces of people, as a narration and mimesis of the passing of time through the changing of the somatic traits of each individual. A visual path in which the viewer is pushed to reflect himself, as in front of a large mirror which opens to his past and his future, in an alienating continuum from childhood to old age. In 2016, after the first group exhibitions and US experiences, with the solo show It’s Life at the Artspace8 Gallery he bursts overseas on the figurative scene of the city of Chicago (USA). Since then, his works have been exhibited all over the world and are shown in the most important art galleries, from Hong Kong to London, Paris, Bogotá, New York, Miami, Chicago and Istanbul. He has taken part in some of the most important art fairs in the US – especially in Art Miami – as well as in the art fairs in the UK, Korea, Colombia, Turkey and Peru. He lives and works in Pancalieri, near Turin.