Fabrizio Corneli, Florencia, 1958
The work of poses above all surprise, provokes mystery and astonishment, turning the experience of visuality into an authentic adventure of perception. His works radically transform the space, but with a very slight impact on it: when activated by light, they reveal drawings of shadows, figures of faces, buildings or bodies suspended in mid-flight. In the absence of this activating light, the space of the walls where the forms and drawings appear is almost empty and naked. Only metal slats, combs or other materials protrude from the plane of the wall. As long as there is no light shining on these obstacles, the forms are not "activated".
This device, based on the relationship between light and shadow, can be understood as a mechanism of polysemic metaphors that ultimately places the perceptual experience in the foreground. Stories about shadows have fed the imagination since antiquity. The fantastic literature of romanticism has connected the shadow with a certain idea or representation of the soul. So it happens in the well-known story of Adelbert von Chamisso, Peter Schlemihl or the man who lost his shadow, in whose pages echoes Goethe's Faust, and also, although in a different way, in Andersen's tale, entitled precisely The Shadow.
This path of imagination, however, also leads us to the shadows of Plato's cave, to his metaphors on knowledge, and also to the myth that Pliny the Elder recounts in his Natural History, to explain the birth of painting.
The legend tells that the daughter of Butades, a potter from Sicyon, it is not known if it was in this city or in the neighboring Corinth, would have drawn a line on a wall, tracing the silhouette of the shadow of the head of the beloved man, the night before he left the city, in order to remember the features of his face. Shadow and painting establish from this moment on a paradoxical connection, while light assumes the role of illuminating by darkening. In this sense, Corneli's work becomes painting without painting and sculpture without volume that transforms the space, forcing a permanent interaction.
The form is the shadow. The image is constructed through darkness that comes from light. The procedure is very simple, but involves a complex process of conception and realization. Fabrizio Corneli uses light as matter and his tool is the trigonometric calculation directed towards the activation of games of perception through a very precise use of perspective that in turn works with shadows and reflections.
Mathematics and calculus become a methodology of systematic dematerialization of the work. It brings together optical research and the various traditions of perspective, used since the Renaissance but reinterpreted from the contemporary for an open visuality. The shadow thus functions as an expanded extension of geometry.
Corneli's work echoes all these paradoxes and resonances, placing itself outside of any current, but at the core of experimentation on visual perception. Although in the international art scene light and shadow have been worked from a wide variety of perspectives, it is difficult to find a project as coherent and rigorous as Corneli's, which is unique in linking a handmade manufacture with mathematical calculations, where the role of technology is minimal and is generally confined to optics.
"If we understand white as light and black as shadow, we could say that in my works there is neither light nor shadow, but a continuum of grays. The ambiguity of perception is a fundamental concept to understand the poetics of Corneli, who adds: "Although the approach of my modus operandi is rational and mathematical, the result in the best cases is difficult to focus. The image as meaning wants to be elusive and in any case to refer to a universe, that of shadows, fluid and unreliable.