The Never-ending Evolution of Art A Contemporary Master
‘I believe that the paintings exhibited today are only a phase, an initial phase, in Ventrone’s artistic journey.’ This is what Federico Zeri wrote in 1986. Twenty-four years on, looking at Ventrone’s new collection of works, one cannot but agree with the words of the distinguished critic and art historian that first ‘discovered’ the talent of the Roman artist.
The first association that these paintings provoke is with the thought of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. An evolution of the Platonic Myth of the Cave, permeated by metaphysical and epistemological concepts derived from Hindu philosophy and religion, his Veil of Maya correctly describes the philosophical potential that lies in Ventrone’s works. Maya – goddess of illusion – embodies reality, as it is perceived through one’s senses, which clouds with her veil the eyes of humankind preventing authentic knowledge. In Schopenhauer’s aesthetics, art is meant to ‘express’ and ‘represent’ the Platonic Ideas. Through art one can temporarily contemplate the essence of things and this is precisely the process that takes place in front of a still life, nude or a seascape of Luciano Ventrone. As the art-critic and author Edward Lucie-Smith wrote: ‘What we see in a Ventrone painting is not ‘real’ because it is not what we would see were we to look with the naked eye – we see more. Ventrone shows us things more fully and more clearly than they appear to us in reality; everything is in focus, everything can be scrutinised.’
The extraordinary mastery of the technical means makes of Ventrone a leader of a new figurative tradition. In his essay, published in 1989, Federico Zeri observed that ‘this is the second experience in European history of a return to figurative painting following a period of abstract, intellectual, anti-naturalist, arid cerebral formulae,’ referring to the naturalistic shift that characterised European art towards the end of the 16th century, with both the birth of still life and the development of a new aesthetic in art and architecture that stemmed from the Counter-Reformation, as exemplified by the writings of Gabriele Paleotti (1522-1597) or Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584). As a matter of fact every key moment in art history is marked by a declared return to naturalistic figuration. It happened with the artistic revolution of the 13th/14th century (i.e. the surviving frescoes and mosaics of Pietro Cavallini both in Rome and Naples, and the most famous fresco cycles by Giotto), it took place in the late 16th century and again in the mid-19th century with Gustave Courbet’s Realism. It is happening now with Luciano Ventrone. He is not the only representative of the genre commonly known as Hyperrealism, but he is by far the most accomplished author. His creations can be compared, for intellectual and technical significance, to the work of Masaccio, author of the ‘Trinitá’ in Santa Maria Novella, Florence (c. 1427). Ventrone, as the Florentine master before him, has conceived a new way to observe and think nature and, above all, has developed innovative technical and stylistic means to mark yet another fundamental step in the never-ending evolution of art.
Art Market Correspondent for Il Sole 24 Ore
Art Market Analyst at Art Tactic Ltd.