Notes upon Tobia Ravà’s historical position
by Toni Toniato
It is believed that the work of art, especially modern art, is, considering a certain point of view of its historical function, the result or ,even better, the whole of the interpretations that it suggests so that, in the end, it coincides with those intellectual and emotional experiences that, as a matter of fact, the work transmits to us, allowing us therefore to feel and live. Nevertheless, whatever reason is the cause of our related approach, we feel questioned by it, every time , in different ways. Let’s consider awareness of the fact that – as also happens for the art of the past – it will never be possible to understand it completely, that is to say that the links and meaning will never be definitively exhausted .
Viceversa the work of art is always something of its own because it abstracts from us what we cannot say, yet we still feel exists. A something that in the endless semiosis of listening lingers like a loss but nonetheless is present in the moment of its comprehension.
A circumstance that immediately offers to prove such is given in a resounding manner to those who have had the lucky venture of meeting a painting such as that which denotes the creative path laid by Tobia Ravà, through the last decades of his production, and with which the artist proves to have reached, because of its invention range and effective endurance, a phase of full and fertile stylistic maturity.
More, the complexity of the elements that he manages to generate while still using the traditional painting means, turns him into a true phenomenon in today’s art scene, due to its conceptual density and poetic quality, which explains, even if partially, the reasons for his difficult fitting into an official certification suitable to the realistic value of his work. His case is both peculiar and emblematic of a cultural condition that distinguishes, in a crucial way, the acts of thinking and being on today’s art horizon, whereas the tendencies, generally quickly homologated, of the dominating technological imaginary, have instead higher consideration and totally different kind of approval. So it’s exactly the singularity of Tobia Ravà’s language, the issues he deals with in the speculative process of his action that, instead of favouring the development of a significant survey upon himself, seem to obstruct even those authoritative critical and interpreting perspectives which have at lenght tried to conduct the artist’s personal position into the precincts of a comparison more systematic and of higher historical relevance.
On the other hand, Tobia Ravà’s creative story has always validly confronted and entwined itself with the most advanced proposals of contemporary culture, with the emerging expressive tendencies, and not only because of the more or less explicit linguistic references in his work or of the direct or indirect consonance with the major contemporary art phenomena , but due to of the richness of formal propositions and cognitive implications which he went on developing in the foundation of a “seeing” which really is identifiable once more with the “knowing”.
This conception is the base of all Tobia Ravà’s opus, even if today it resumes as the problem itself of his pictorial research and, consequently, of the unmistakable stylistic cipher which has distinguished recent figurations, woven of symbolic wefts and formal monads laden with renewed and amazing representative
Undoubtedly it is disconcerting, this creative season of the artist , who has always been a well refined experimenter, even among the first to use electronic media, who contrarywise turns back to a technique by now considered to be anachronistic and, furthermore, re-proposing classical visual thematics and genres.
But, behind the apparent simplicity of such subjects and expressive means – from the photographic retrieval of things and landscapes to their extremely elaborated pictorial reconstruction – instead streams of matter made incandescent by energetic investment begin to flow which, as a matter of fact, flows between the labyrinthine weaving of images, of numbers, of words, in a mutual mixture of growth, nearly paroxysmal, conceptual and perceptive vertigo. Therefore one must not believe that at immediate impact it is easy to decipher each of the factors that concur to the planned conformation of the paintings. Not only just because of his use, for those compositions, of holy scriptures and a mystical numerology typical of Hebraic culture, but on the contrasry due to his analytical proceedings and formal resolutions impose a totalling experience in itself to the observer’s view, as if to say a radical comprehension of perceptions, emotions, meanings, with the visionary depth of those marvellous representations , attracted as we are by the immediate capability of recognising places and references to a reality obsessively objective, but in the end lost in our attempt to recompose the ornamental textures in the vortex of its signal scattering, induced to trespass into our daily habitat, in our way of living the experience of the world.
At this stage our sensorial certainties stagger, they are lured, captured by the subtle deception of that excess of objective evidence, to later become free from those conjuring suggestions created by such visual sorcery , allowing us to know and discover dimensions until then concealed from our vision of reality. We finally understand the meaning of those iconographic hierophanies that disclose themselves within the circuits of their figurative metamorphosis, and so transcend their own valid formal motivations. It is a case of initiatory painting according to Klee’s precept to show the act of seeing, but for Tobia Ravà in the direction of questioning once more the paradigms themselves of any image ontology. In fact, it is not a coincidence that he uses visual nomenclatures which still belong to the mimetic function of representation but with the goal, at least it seems to us, to subvert its logic, to set to zero the appearance of things in order to recover not the abstracting meaning of every analogy and every artistic metaphor, but instead the real meaning that brings things and the signs of things to the light of a deeper knowledge. This painting is firmly anchored to the regulating truth of its introspective radicalism, that intends to solder reason and sentiment , formal rigour and poetic absoluteness, in an interaction of not only symbolic reflecting happenings between the spheres of visible and of invisible.
Moreover, in the paintings, he interweaves and in the end re-contrives, with analytic accuracy, a compared philology of the image that from time to time has influenced him and that he reproduces with the appearance of an objectivity even sublimed, made up of scrupulous revelations gathered from various photographic snapshots and reiterated elements, numbers, words, polychromatic cells, in an articulate logic and formal correspondence, created on the basis of sharp semantic relations and inventive visual structuralism. As a consequence, such procedures involve and take on mysteriosophic shapes and meanings, so deceitfully arcane as well as relentlessly surfacing, leading as a result to be able to revive into the mimetic representation of the world, landscapes and objects, into the perception of pure optical inspection, the similarly imponderable magic of a new metaphysics of everyday life.
Therefore, such a perspective can be nothing but bewildering to those critics usually accustomed to record and support expressive situations regarding themes and ways which are lesser problematic, more circumscribed – definable anyway in an artistic phenomenology generally already experienced – who prove themselves therefore to be unwilling to face with the right value, both aesthetic and ethic, the operational motivations of such an articulate polysemia that rules, in the end, both the linguistic and psychological apparatus of Tobia Ravà’s sumptuous representations, whose historical placing on the international artistic scene is at the risk of remaining, if not lateral, that of a main character who is, however, isolated and eccentric.
Nevertheless, his peculiar formal history suggests theoretical thought towards some basic questions regarding the perspective of contemporary painting, questions that become crucial with him not only in the direction of a new epistemic of seeing and of representing, but mainly about the original nature of the sense that renews and qualifies the research in creativity itself of the knowledge and poetic experience. In short, the artistic history of Tobia Ravà unwinds along a path of early changes of mind around such problems, thereby anticipating movements and personages among the greatest of our epoch, from Seurat to De Chirico, form Escher to Opaka, from Magritte to Warhol and G. Richter, intending to trespass both their conceptual and linguistic boundaries, therefore discovering in the potential of painting itself, still intact despite the announcements of it having been surpassed by electronic representations, a matter that becomes without equal in giving new substance to the image.
Tobia Ravà’s work has always been distinguished, in a fascinating way, for the dialectic double register by which he proved capable of mixing speculative contents and formal subtleties, traceable from his extraordinary debut at the beginning of the Seventies, continuing, in the following decades, to a linguistic experimentation nourished with sophisticated cultural references, both scientific and aesthetical, bringing him today to inscribe in the anamorphosis, more conceptual than visual, of his pictorial representations, not only the signs of the enigma of reality, but also the signs of reality itself of the enigma that surrounds the world. Here “seeing” really finds the first and ultimate meaning of every movement of “knowing”. This is the light that illuminates his and our gaze.