For years now Gianni Caravaggio’s work has insistently been posing a single question: what is the essence of an image? Posing this question at the end of postmodernity means freeing oneself from any fears of comparisons with the past, shedding all neo-isms, post-isms, and trans-isms to expose oneself to an original gesture, to an initial gesture. On the whole, to make a truly radical gesture today means that the question of essence is set out in an open comparison with tradition, in the awareness of the impossibility of any return to the past and of the necessity of moving forward. In order to carry out this gesture—because it is a question of doing, of a practice—it is necessary to elevate oneself to the height of the question of art in a moment in which art seems to be disappearing in a system of general equivalence and in an attitude of n’importe quoi. It is necessary to adjust one’s gaze to the problem raised by art as a creator of images and not just simply a producer or post-producer of images. It is still starting from art, at least in my view, that we can truly comprehend the question of image. Thus, this question of the essence of the image is nothing less that the necessity of dealing with the question freshly from the beginning, from creation, that it is the question of art tout court.
In the work Gianni Caravaggio has been carrying out for over decade now, this search does not so much coincide with the attempt to arrive at a final point, as with the experience of an exposure to the nude reality of the artistic gesture, of the gesture of creating images. There is no desire to make a definitive, final statement. To the contrary, there is a need to return to the beginning, the opening of a possible scenario: an origin that is neither lost nor utopian, but always present, in the here and now, in my gesture and in your gaze. In the end, the question is not even exclusively about the attention given to essence, but the quest for the essentiality of gesture that becomes the work, an image-work. The essential gesture that discloses the dimension of the essence and exposes itself to the nudity of life, to its lack of easy ways out, to its need for answers. Art presents itself as a concrete answer, a work of art, to this fundamental question: what is image?
In all the works present in the exhibition “Five Propositions for a New World”, running until 11 November 2013 at the Kaufmann-Repetto Gallery in Milan, this gesture passes for a stripping down, for a sort of reduction of the compositional grammar of contemporaneity. In some way, that which is needed to perceive this elementary grammar of the image is a certain nudity, a capacity for removing and leaving to breathe among the folds of being the constitutive nullity from which the image emerges. Faced with the accumulational proliferation of cultural, artistic and existential products, the gesture that aims at the essence of the image clears away space and time to let “that which is” emerge, nothing more and nothing less.
The problem of the essence of the image seems to present itself not as that of an ideal world behind the material world, but as that of a material world that opens itself to the abyss which it is for itself. Like in the work on display The Mystery hidden by a Cloud, matter appears as an infinite power, as the opening of this world to itself, to its capacity for endlessly creating sense. The quest for essence coincides with the sense of wonder for this world and with the impossibility of enclosing it a single system of meaning.
At the same time, a work such as Under the Surface, the Truth of Concreteness makes me think of how the wall of the image is not broken through – for the image is not the surface of depth – but the “amniotic wall of vision” is and must be broken through; that is what must be broken through is the layer of film that traps one’s vision inside clichés, in cultural context, in semiotic readings, thus not allowing for any real tangency. In order to get the sense of the essence of the image then, it is necessary to understand clearly that every ontology of vision necessarily entails a critique of the gaze and a practice that lead to seeing—by composing it—a world.
If one therefore imparts an essence of the image, this essence points towards an open space, the confines of which remain uncertain and in which, then, there is no possibility of an axiology, of a system of prescriptive rules, not even negative ones. The road towards the Open, towards this initial opening gesture, which the essence of image shows to be pragmatic, not axiological. It is the creative practice of the image that constitutes its essence and not the other way around. It is a practice of picture acts, of performing images that, with their appearance, disclose the insaturation of a world.
By Federico Ferrari