Ambiguity is a condition of language…
For a long time, perception has been the core of optic and kinetic experiments in Europe by the end of the Fifties and all along the following decade. The urgency and direction of those studies was a cultural consequence of the scientific discoveries in quantum theories and the first space explorations. It focused on the observer’s role and physiology in receiving an image. At the same time, it reflected the connection between the second and third dimension of space.
Fifty years later, in the digital era, the studies of the link between image and awareness must be revised or, at least, extended to the new perceptive standards. Patrick Tabarelli’s work is connected to this way of re-consideration the mechanisms of representation and the reading process of the image. He deeply investigates the hidden division between creative techniques and final result. The image, or the aesthetic work, communicates formal meanings in contrast with the emotional (and romantic) tradition of the artistic practice. Tabarelli paints flat, anti-substance surfaces, emptied of any psychological or emotional content. In his oils and alkyds on canvas (2012 – 2013), shapes have often biomorphic origins and do spread all over the illusory space through rotational, waving and swinging motions. The use of complementary colours and chiaroscuro emphasizes the artificial effects and adds to the images an almost photographic quality. They look like digital images, but they are made in a manual way. Tabarelli knows the image is by definition and essentially an illusion. So he highlights its misleading tendencies with an intentional, ambiguous and undefined way of painting. He works especially on dichotomy concepts, such as the conflict between the actual dimension of the image and the realisation process.
The consequences of this method are various. Regarding the paintings, Tabarelli shows optic devices which suspend the traditional aura of creation. The observer cannot find any sign or trace of the artist’s presence, even if it is clear and evident that these works are part of a project and procedure. Tabarelli studied design and worked for an agency specialized in scientific photography. Inevitably the artist has been influenced by his past while dealing with painting in his unique way. The distance between the author and his work, the creator and his object is achievable only through a project. It is also possible that the artist may follow sudden ideas and adjust his research during this process. Patrick Tabarelli hides, in a very clever way, his modus-operandi inside his paintings. The observer is pushed to question the ambiguous nature of images. Another division lies in distributing the pictorial space. The place of the action, the field of representation, is always delimited. It is sliced by diagonal lines which interfere with a possible proper fruition.
The space of the canvas is fragmented into static and dynamic areas. In the latter ones, where the bio-morphisms give the impression of a constant and fluent movement, lies a static condition. The first and apparent mobility of the shapes is blocked as in a freeze-frame. Motion stops a few instants after the first visual approach. This does not happen in the most recent series of pictures Zero-Om. The textured lines on the surfaces, coming from brushing the soft paste on the canvas, lead to chromatic aberration effects.
The most recent results of Patrick Tabarelli’s research challenge, through a different process, the dichotomy of his previous works. The only difference is that the artist explores now a digital territory. Around a year ago, the artist was interested into the Makers, a spontaneous movement made by digital artisans. Today, they can build objects which would have been too expensive to realize only a few years ago. It all came from the creation of Arduino, an electronic card invented in Ivrea. This card is able to build prototypes, in a semi-professional way, with the use of a computer and a 3D printer and software. This discovery induced Tabarelli to imagine the applications of this technology in art. Then, he studied and built a hardware and software to paint. His project is named NORAA (NOn Representational Art Automata), it is basically a drawbot, or paintbot, a device able to convert its software commands into painting.
Drawbots exist since a while. They are part of the tradition of Computer Art, which goes back to the Sixties. It is well explained in a recent essay by Grant D. Taylor, When the Machine Made Art: Troubled History of Computer Art (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014). Though, NORAA has been conceived as something more than a simple tool. It may become an open and shared platform, through which an entire community may work all together to realise an artistic project, from the initial idea to the final hardware. Anyway, this regards the next phase of the project. By now, NORAA allowed Tabarelli to create essentially bidimensional paintings on paper, using watercolour or acrylic markers. Differently from the paintings, these works look like hand painted. They present the inaccuracy and unpredictability of human contribution. NORAA, indeed, does not produce pre-conceived pictures, but it translates attitudes. Its software controls the way of operating, but not the exact quality or disposition of the painted images. So the structure of the paintings is surprising every time you use the machine.
By a philosophical point of view, Tabarelli is faithful to the aim of his studies: his fundamental ambiguity of perception. He switched the dichotomy elements. In the NORAA project, the process descends from digital technologies, but the results do not betray its origins. Every picture is different, but the pictorial effect is especially evident. Not only colours or structure (and their respective preparation), but it is the whole process to be clearly influenced by the artist. Perhaps, for this reason, the artist never shows his machine in its entirety, but only small parts of it. As usual, he wants to emphasize this apparent dichotomy: between man and machine, and, in general, between method and final result. His NOn Representational Art Automata reduces indeed the distances between man and machine. This is the demonstration that the concepts of creator and authenticity must be completely revised, since it has been confirmed also by the recent results in the field of technological ubiquity, or, as it is called by the experts, Ubicomp (Ubiquitous Computing), an IT branch focused on the realisation of new interactive and desktop-less models for computers.
Born as an artistic investigation on shapes and procedures, Tabarelli’s research opens new and unexpected perspectives. These discoveries will probably go beyond its artistic applications, considering the unavoidable repercussions of open source creativity into society. The exchange and sharing of knowledge is increasing, but we are not ready yet to abolish the authorial status of the individual.
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