Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Burk Frey reviews Felice Varini

     Felice Varini (born 1952) is a Franco-Swiss installationist (though he prefers the term “painter”) famous for his perspective-based geometric work. Varini chooses an existing indoor or outdoor space, usually with varied geometry of its own, before making a series of sketches and photos from eye level to begin to understand the location. He then laser projects a design onto the surface so that it can be accurately filled in with acrylic paint, latex, chalk, or resin.
Unite d'habitation (on vantage)
Unite d'habitation (off vantage)
     The end result is that a fragmented series of geometric shapes and lines can be seen from “off vantage” perspectives, while Varini’s design can only be seen from the selected vantage point (see above). Conceptually, we might guess that knowing the selected vantage point would be the most important view to understand his work, but Varini claims this is not the case.
     "No, I am not worried about [the right vantage point]. Everyone knows how a circle or a square looks like. My concern is what happens outside the vantage point of view. Where is the painting then? Where is the painter? The painter is obviously out of the work, and so the painting is alone and totally abstract, made of many shapes. The painting exists as a whole, with its complete shape as well as the fragments; it is not born to create specific shapes that need to satisfy the viewer.”
     I'm not sure I can take Varini's claim at face value. The act of selecting a vantage point implies authorial intent and priority over other, unselected vantage points. Supporting this, Varini states in a different interview, "For me a viewpoint is a point in the space that I choose carefully: it is usually situated at my eye level and preferably located in a key passageway, for example where one room leads to another, a landing." [Emphasis mine]
     Varini cites Italian Spacialist Lucio Fontana’s slashed canvases as an early inspiration, but Varini’s geometric work seems directly linked to John Pfahl (photographer covered previously). In turn, Varini preceded French photographer Georges Rousse (below).
Montferrand - Georges Rousse (2012)
     What I take from Varini, Pfahl, and Rousse is their ability to introduce a novel frame of reference, dismantling viewers’ preconceived notions on reality and spacial relationships.

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