The nude as the glare of the absolute.
All I know about the hope I put in love is that only a woman can turn it into reality
In the age of erotic-television winking Alessio Delfino seeks a shelter from contemporary visual obsessions by operating a lavish “cooling” of the nude, a theme as old as the world and as difficult as it can face a photographer of the 21st century. After having dedicated two photographic series to the relationship between the body and the light, with brilliant results both in the transformation of the body in landscape, both in the transfiguration of the flesh in thin and mysterious writing, the Italian photographer arrives in this recent series, dedicated to the “femmes d or”, to photography-object. A photograph that becomes a baroque, voluptuous and dramatic object. The bodies, and the background that houses them, become a single texture of light fed by homogeneous pulses; the skin on which the gold casting falls hardens until the woman turns into a statue. Delfino does this by quoting the text of a history of photography, which from Man Ray touches on Helmut Newton and lands on Robert Mapplethorpe, portraying his “femmes d’or” as many treatises on light. The perfection of the masses, the plasticity of the body volumes and the harmony of the forms follow Mapplethorpe as far as the American respects the classic canons of beauty, but abandon the Michelangelo of New York where he feeds his obsession with sex with a “pornographic photography” and muscular, as demonstrated by the icon-shot of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, exhibited in the eighties at the Museum of Modern Art as a living sculpture. Even Delfino is not insensitive to the eternal charm of sculpture, but the body has for him a spiritual value disregarded by other great photographers. The sculptural cluster of soul thanks to a game triggered between the metallic hardness of the reflection and the softness of its gradations. Pure photography evades the art of installation and the gold of the image reverberates in the concreteness of the frame, which seems to contain and protect the flesh dematerialized in photography. The golden leaves retain enhance the end of the body as a concrete presence. In the age of ambiguous communication and malicious subtexts for commercial purposes, the body becomes a receptacle of signs, of provocative and forbidden messages. Alessio Delfino remedies you by denuding the nude, removing all signs and looking for the body His shape, His life. And in order not to be exchanged with an erotic photographer neutralizes the calls of the skin with a blanket of gold, then dampens the tones of color and light. We are thus led into the platonic cave, in front of shadows that deceive but propitiate the vision of truth in those who are able to go beyond. We are in front of the vestal guardians of a sacred place, of the mysterious “without why” of life. Of the gratuitousness of the pure and simple presence. The photograph of Delfino, does not tickle, does not itch, does not wink. It cannot because it has no gaze, no face. Deprived of the instruments of expression, of the will as representation of a power and of the garments that are as many masks, his women cannot ensnare us but only offer themselves to our contemplation definitively deprived of the easy refuge in the seething magma of erotic persuasions homologated by the civilization of the image.
In the composed neoclassical poses, in the dance that develops unusual geometries or in the contortions of an acephal expressionism, the body of the model becomes hieroglyphic, symbol of something higher, extra-corporeal. Among these forms taken by the bodies, there are also illustrations of a possible sacred dance that the model improvises and that the artist catches on the folds of an infinite game between her arts and the cliché mantra of him. Dance is pretext and ritual. A private ritual that has at its center the camera, the mechanical eye that records the choices of the artist, his aesthetic his belief about beauty and salvation. Delfino’s difference is strange: art director and art photographer. Devil and saint; prosecutor of advertising fiction and romantic inquirer of the beyond. His condition is schizoid, cross-eyed, and leads him to transform women in as many art forms, in abstract visions of Brett Weston, the American photographer who transformed the nude by immersing it in a night pool and obtained fragments of light, cuts and flashes of a purity that Delfino seems to want to collect as a witness. But of what? Of bodies? It would be reductive, even if they are the obvious theme around which a series of reports studied and searched by the photographer revolve. For example, the evident sculptural crystallization of the flesh, the asphyxiation of the body in the baroque object, the transformation of the skin into light, the search for distinctive shapes and proportions, the creation of classical harmonies and modern geometries.
Very often naked photographs are not such. They are erotic visions, projections of a collective male unconscious dressed in refined clothes and silky persuasions that trigger endless games of fiction, role exchanges, perverts of love and delays in sexual satisfaction. Delfino, on the other hand, takes a more impervious path, leaving the beaten path of eros to tell the woman “one and multiple” that between ecstatic dances, endless rest and contortions offers to us as vestal, matron and hissing, whose soul is no longer in the skin but breathes on it like a golden waterfall that blocks in eternity its silent cry. The one portrayed by Delfino is a female body capable of extreme delicacies, Giotto curves, superior fragility, soft immobility, arboreal knots, roots planted in the flesh and directions that converge towards the center of the world. While sharing the elegance of the design of another nude painter like Helmut Newton, Delfino does not share the “fanaticism for the B-series films” and that taste for the scenography that exceeds the bodies, overflowing with meanings, stories and objects glamorous and fashion. Delfino removes all the inessential and lets others create immense collective male imaginaries. For him nakedness is first of all extreme poverty of meaning, abandonment of everything and self to the gaze of an audience that is questioned. For this reason the female body can become the symbol of the absolute, of what is ab-solutus, detached from any earthly, concrete, contingent and ephemeral relationship. Looking at the Femmes d’or, which stand out in the background as emanations of light, we see the photographer’s imagination, the opening of desire and those physical signals that arouse it, but we also see a moral position and a philosophical definition of what it means to photograph the nude. And perhaps we see, considering also the previous photographic series of Delfino, a cosmogonic fresco of the female nude. A pantheistic taste for the woman-universe, for the femme-nature, which starts from the Gustave Courbet of The Origin of the World and reaches up to the Gradiva of Federico Fellini, passing through the iconoclast Marcel Duchamp by Etant Donnée 1 or the gigantism of hallucinatory dreams by Charles Bukowski of Stories of ordinary madness. “When I was asked to tell an erotic fantasy of mine – confessed Michelangelo Antonioni – strangely I stopped at the idea of the mountain. Nature can be dramatic, pleasant or idyllic, but it cannot be erotic. But I was thinking of a landscape of human form, made of mountains and dunes with the body of a woman”. A world, that of Antonioni, that Deflino knows well, that is beyond eros: a world of unanswered questions, disturbing and silent. Capable of feeding a Vitruvian and Leonardesque geometry (that inscribed in the proportions of the human body), which brings Delfino’s research closer to the humanistic aspirations of the Renaissance, of man “the measure of all things”. In the “jellyfish” look of Delfino condenses a sensual mathematics that seeks in the body new figures of the universe, or rather fragments of it kept in golden frames, in exuberant cages in which to collect the findings of a personal wunderkammer, a room of wonders that invites us out of the color dreams of a contemporary contemporary media to immerse ourselves in the adventurous and fragmented reality of an ancient past from which come golden fragments of statues mills. Delfino’s microcosm is based on an ars inveniendi, a universal Mathesis that tries to grasp all possible forms of its subject. As for Cezanne la Saint-Victoire, the female body becomes the rigid obsession of Delfino: the beginning and the end of a motionless journey towards and beyond time and space, straddling a golden glow of light.
Which, by an ephemeral chance, is called a woman.