The divine incarnate, according to Alessio Delfino.
by Nicola Davide Angerame
For some time, Alessio Delfino has been looking in photography for an aulic response to the conflict, to that polemos that for the Greek thinker Heraclitus represents the ultimate truth, the metaphysical substratum of the universe and life. In the last series dedicated to goddesses, Delfino proposes an incarnation of i-goddesses through a series of photographs depicting women dressed in a thin layer of gold, taken in an inert but harmonious pose, according to the example offered by classical art and the result of the intuition of a moment, within a long path of research, which dictates the golden laying of an entire divine world. In the neoclassical iconography of Delfino disappear the symbols and connotations that we usually attribute to individual deities, as well as to Christian saints. After the first impact, we note that behind the neutral and relaxed pose of his “models” (who are both professionals and girls next door: beauty has many faces) lies a subtle work of study and comparison between the different physical, and physiognomic “types”. Behind each of these “divine types”, rendered motionless and dormant within the flows of gold, there are quite different worlds: from the Junonic one of Venus to the violent one of Hera, passing through the docility of Gaia. In this way, Delfino refers to the female body, one of the most abused images of our time, saving its evocative strength and the ability to embody the idea of beauty, harmony but also disorder and brute force, as it happens with some goddesses of discord present in the myth. Delfino makes a work of abstraction, removing all the superfluous and the banal and obtaining new icons, statuary images and symbolic forms able to express an unprecedented interpretation of the Myth, but also to offer a more intense vision of the feminine, deprived of the modern attributes of sensuality, eroticism, physical attraction in which femininity has been relegated by a culture that has lost the multiple senses of beauty, now understood only as a shiny and sticky patina spread over the void of advertising images, pin-ups and soubrette that represent nothing but themselves, trinkets for an audience in distracted worship of new false myths. With the multiplicity of its Pantheon, ancient paganism represented an example of tolerance, openness to diversity and cultural absorption: of hybridization and proliferation. Its spurious nature and the ability that in the past polytheistic religions had to absorb deities from other cultures, demonstrate a vitality, a capacity of acceptance that was later strengthened in monotheistic Christianity, through a greater plurality of examples, all aimed at representing the highest Christian virtues in the form of human “incarnations”, which are precisely the hundreds of saints present in the history of the church. There is the risk, which must be dispelled with a little attention, of a superficial reading of the consistency of this divine “platoon”, which may appear too à la modeif you do not consider the enormous baggage of meanings, narratives and emotions that contain in essence the individual bodies and faces representing the corpus divine. The femininity staged by Alessio Delfino is, in fact, a femininity that seems to be repeated and instead regenerates. If, in repetition, equality plays the main role, in regeneration, it is the difference that is the protagonist. This thin line of demarcation works in the images of Delfino and represents perhaps his most interesting result, not excluding another important milestone such as the physical consistency of the images, able to capture and reflect lights, muscles, fibers and expressions that seem to be part of a dreamy and motionless body, yet throbbing as if it were crossed by a dreamlike discharge or in the grip of inner storms dormant behind the silent and precious light of gold: as if behind the statue could still burn the wild and wild life of gods belonged to ancient myths outdated yet still able to act on our imagination and, perhaps, also to point out a cultural route that was thought lost forever and that Delfino enlivens with a new hypothesis of work and reflection. One last important aspect, which justifies the presence of only women in Delfino’s work, is the fact that the photographer refers to the sacred Feminine, to the primogeniture of the Feminine over the Masculine, and the fact that the primordial communities were matriarchal and worshipped female deities, such as those of fertility or generation. This series, therefore, turns out to be a shining homage to femininity understood as the supreme idea, as the place of the divine in general and in particular.
Recovery of pantheism
by Robert C. Morgan
The greatness of Alessio Delfino’s Metamorphoseis – a synthesis of photography and video in the purest sense – comes from an idea of fashion combined with an acute awareness of fine arts and history. Alongside his technical and formal virtuosity as a photographer, Delfino has applied a unique conceptual perspective to create a grandiose artistic work through the combination of different means. To transcend the common sense of craft, charm and academic style, the project asked the artist to move into an uncertain aesthetic territory. But Delfino accepted the risk and, in doing so, he discovered a method by which he could overcome the categories of means and achieve his visionary project. Metamorphoseis is a work of art that deserves much attention, not only as a show (which in a sense is) but also for two other irreconcilable reasons, namely the artistic taste and representation. It was recalled that Delfino’s recent project goes beyond the repetitive and mundane aspects of political art and reaches the heart of the concepts of beauty and identity in relation to women, through a historical and mythological awareness. There are several versions of Metamorphoseis, which predict static (photography) and kinetic (video) presence. The photographic versions are printed on metallic paper with a height of 167 cm and a width of 50 cm, in practice life-size.
In the video version it is a work in which the photographs are modulated in a sequence, where they appear and disappear, giving the impression of dissolving one into the other. Alessio Delfino sets up his exhibitions to give the visitor the opportunity to experience both the photographic version and the video version of Metamorphoseis. The naked bodies of the women are painted with golden cosmetic paint, lined together next to each other and facing the camera in the front position. They look like gold statues with eyes evenly closed. The subject is the same in both variants, but the video version implies a metaphorical transformation as the images of the various women appear and disappear merging into one another. Although initially women may all look the same (given the golden color and frontal position) on closer examination it is evident that each one maintains a distinct appearance. According to the artist’s more or less theatrical intention, each woman simulates the vestiges and character of a mythological goddess of ancient Greece, such as those depicted on the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, derived from the ancient Parthenon of Athens. Among them are Iris, Artemis, Hestia, Dione, Aphrodite, Persephone, Demeter, Orizia and Amfitrite. Delfino himself carried out the research.
Selecting his “models” he decided to choose ordinary people rather than professionals. During the selection he spoke with each woman to know her character, then looking for among them those that correspond to the goddesses of Athens. Her aspiration was not so much to express erotic qualities as to emphasize the concept of natural beauty at the expense of the mediatic one of instant glamour. Delfino intended to create a frieze of goddesses, a panatenaic procession (also shown in a bas-relief on the Parthenon) in which the ritual “peplo” or garments were presented to Athena “the goddess of wisdom” from which the name of the city of Athens derives. Women’s faces have their eyes closed, suggesting therefore that the mind is elsewhere and not specifically inside the body. The influence of the mask of Agamemnon’s Death plays an important role in that it refers to eternity rather than a secular historical moment. Observing Metamorphoseis – in static or video form – can come to mind the famous theosophical triptych of Mondrian, Evolution (1911), in which three naked women in blue look at the observer in a similar way to those who posed for Delfino. On the left and right side, the women’s eyes are closed, in the center they are temporarily open, alluding to a sudden, though fleeting moment of vigilance, to the illumination of an instant. The role of women of Alessio Delfino is similar to that of Mondrian, but with some interesting differences.
The Parthenon, in the fifth century BC, was dedicated to Athena, a mythological woman who possessed wisdom. The various gods and goddesses surrounding her were, shall we say, spiritual archetypes, each with a special function – hunting, fertility, joy, sorrow, frivolity, abundance, stoicism and so on. These deities were not simply “spiritual” entities transposed from normal life, but mythological entities symbolizing the attributes of earthly beings. The ancient Greeks were pantheists, not monotheists and believing in different gods and goddesses, the focus on quality of life had a more practical, we could say, more beneficial aspect. The rather disturbing, though evocative, show of Delfino, offers us what a pantheistic life full of female goddesses could offer at a time when monotheism appears under scrutiny. Robert C. Morgan is a critic, curator, poet and art historian living in New York. Author and editor of many books, as well as contributing editor of numerous periodicals, Morgan holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in Contemporary Art History.