Born 1951 in Milan, Garoglio lives in Turin, where he met and collaborated with Mutus Liber. In 1986, Brian Kennedy invited them all to Northern Ireland and Danny McCarthy arranged for their work to be seen in Cork. Garoglio contributed later, in 1991, to the event organized by Brian Connolly, Brian Kennedy and Alastair MacLennan at Londonderry, and again, with Mutus Liber, in 1995 to the exhibition held in the spaces of Catalyst Arts, Belfast.
At that time, I linked his work to Brunelleschi’s structural rationalism, in principle a strategy of making the surface to reflect how the forms were arrived at, how they were made. Taken to its extreme, the strategy may deprive the viewer of sensual pleasure. Embracing some cover up provides a mitigating balance, which in turn intensifies the transience and joy of looking.
Garoglio favours staggering lines, unfinished volume, and light to pierce the surface with an illusion of infinite depth. Last year, Triskel Christchurch hosted his brief residency and production of site specific images and objects. Responsiveness to the inherited meaning of the spaces joined a desire for spiritually evocative marks offering sensual awareness of another time, another world. Gently excised wiggling marks manage to evoke silence and singular voices in a simultaneous experience, as one moves along the windows. I have not seen the work in situ, the photographs Garoglio mailed to me support my observation.
He also mailed me two books. Both are described as his project. One, FOGLI BOTANICI published in 2008, is a result of collaboration with the Torino Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali and the scientist Rosa Camoletto. A handsome volume in red presents the collection of images Erbario Sella, of a catalogue of herbs Alfonso and Ada Sella collated between 1954 and 1984. Garoglio’s photographs of each entry are said to present synthesis of his visual research. Combining both the descriptive and imaginative power of the lens, Garoglio harvests variation of scale, angle, tonality and light. Light in particular plays with and against acuity without losing each herb’s convincing look.
No wonder, that the second book is titled DISEGNI DI LUCE, Drawings of light. Published by Skira in 2012 for Garoglio’s exhibition at the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna di Ca’ Pesaro in Venice. It contains 58 photographs of sculptures by Medardo Rosso, and essays by Silvio Fuso, Matteo Piccolo, Maria Fratelli and Giovanni Romano.
There are eight of Rosso’s sculptures in the Venetian gallery, Garoglio chose Madame X, 1896, wax on plaster, and Ecce Puer, 1906, bronze. Later adding its version in patinated plaster, followed by a few photographs of Sick Child, 1903/4, bronze, both in Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan.
Both books, sets of photographs, are grounded in the same concept: photography as approximation of the sight, of looking, of that seeing called for in scientific classification of nature and indexing of closed sets of phenomena. There is a significant difference: the Fogli Botanici are ruled by the acuity and correct representation of the original plates from the Sella collection. Their authority and aura of the irreplaceable original determine the smaller sphere for Garoglio’s departures into free imaginative zooms and cuts of his lens. When he does, he plays up what a lens in his hand can do, e.g. enlarge a leaf to see its veins, light it up so that it appears precious.
Rosso’s sculptures had not issued any of the calls for scientific truth, but also insisted on the notion of aura wiggling out from the control by a lens. Giovanni Romano writes
Medardo Rosso took very careful photo shots of his own works, fixing an ideal vantage point to be privileged above all others, and cutting and reassembling his prints in such a way as to emphasize the dynamic effect of his shots. Angelo Garoglio has taken part in a similar operation with an opposite goal: he has approached the sculptures by transcending the limits the master had foreseen, at the risk of making certain details unrecognisable… (Disegni de Luce, p 22)
The result is rather wonderful, because it is poetic. Garoglio invests all visual force in a zoom and the light, in the mode so well mastered by painters, e.g. Rembrandt, Goya, Caravaggio, and, above all, Titian’s blackened Pieta in Academia in Venice. Their exquisite mastery of distribution of light echoed Plato’s cosmology, as well as his identification of light with idea. Garoglio’s idea comes across as an intoxication with joy of seeing. The visual sense is profoundly revered and celebrated by the obedient lens which partners the tonality of reflected light in a secret conspiracy to convince the viewer that the invisible is visible and vice versa. Maria Fratelli thinks of Garoglio’s views of Rosso as “An Artist’s Guided Tour”, knowingly comparing the museum rooms learning function with slowness of the photographic process: “Each individual detail is a window on a separate universe. The face of the Sick Child becomes a moon crescent suspended between the brightest light and the dimmest darkness, the face of the Puer a flow of lava and tears.” (ibidem p16)
Fratelli, moreover, believes that Garoglio’s photography may act as a catalyst of interest in Rosso by revealing the imperishable in art travelling from one work to another. The commission for guided visit given by photographs without labels has been a part of contemplative celebration of Medardo Rosso’s birth anniversary and of Fratelli’s research in Rosso’s disregard for words. She recalls that Rosso “had cancelled all the words in the catalogue of his 1905 exhibition in Vienna, by covering the texts with marks and drawings, leaving only one unfinished sentence…” (op cit:19)
She ends her essay with a Rosso quote:
“I enjoy sitting on the grass, gazing at it for hours on end, until I feel I am turning into nothingness along with the other tiny insects .. …”
Garoglio turns his gaze into tiny particles of light that reveal surfaces like the skin of Marsyas, and volumes like layers of lava. Abstracted head, reminiscent of Brancusi, turns into a shell, like growing moon. The subconscious natural rhythm of being stays in an uncanny harmony with its man made form. Seductive pull to prosopopoeia does not have to be resisted. On the contrary, it frees imagination. After all, that connection has a strong defense:
This is why, in What Do Pictures Want? I want to stress the non- or inhuman desires of images, and explore the neglected concept of totemism (with its emphasis on natural iconographies—plants, animals, and even minerals, including fossils, of course), in addition to the more familiar and anthropocentric concepts of fetishism and idolatry. My aim in What Do Pictures Want? is thus not to project personhood onto pictures, but to engage with what I call “the lives and loves” of images. (W.J.T Mitchell)
Slavka Sverakova, January 2013
PS: more images on www.garoglio.com