A Dialogue with a Journey: viewing Beppo Zuccheri’s work
Browsing through my Facebook account, I suddenly came across some images that instantly captured my gaze. Looking at it, they were depictions of some strange distorted figures with extremely vague features, yet, from within the image, a semblance of an uncanny face looks out at you with provocative gestures and forms that seem to beckon you towards the image. But what images and whose images am I talking about? The images I am talking about are some scribbles and paintings from an artist named Beppo Zuccheri. To my good fortune, I got to know the artist personally through Facebook. The interaction we had on this social networking site helped me to know and understand more about him and his works.
Beppo Zuchheri is an Italian painter, graphic designer, philosopher and an image manipulator. This last designation is a very interesting part of this multi-faceted artist. He often works with old photographs or newspaper clippings by manipulating this and that in the image which eventually creates a new kind of visual. The methods he chooses to use shows his interest in working with different media as well as depicting objects which we can often find in his works appearing in different ways.
His works have a very innate quality of illustration. His experience in commercial world of graphic designing is a key factor that brings an illustrative character in his works. Beppo’s works tend to create dialogue that he himself has spelt out through his works and wants his viewers to participate in it via visual perception. Looking into his works one can notice a very strange feeling of melancholy and anguish, as if the soul is trapped in a cage and wants to get free. He is very much influenced by human psychology, philosophy, ancient history and mythology whose undertones consciously or unconsciously come into his works.
Beppo’s representation symbolizes a journey, a process with which he wants to seek some inevitable queries about life, about existential reality of life. This is where his series of painting which he prefers to call it ‘Hermetic Scribbles’ comes. He has been working on these scribbles for a long time. As he/she goes on looking at the scribbles, one has a feeling of reading a journal by turning a page from one entry to another. . Like the entries of a diary, the images that appear to be like layouts with a potential to be complete in future dwell in a private space of their own.
Beppo identifies his artistic philosophy with ‘Hermeticism’ . Carrying the essence of this spirituality, his works become a journey, a search for existence of life and how humanity functions. Images of angelic and satanic figures or that of human beings enchained within claustrophobic spaces often appear in these works. Beside this, there are also figures of ad- film models in different poses echoing Beppo’s long attachment with commercial fields of graphic designing. All these images, somehow, connect to each other and have an instinctive urge of breaking out from their social and religious barriers or from existential reality itself.
But the question that strikes me while seeing the images is the fact that the faces are covered in most of his works. This constant urge of hiding the identity of the characters depicted in the paintings and scribbles is an intriguing part of his work that occurs again and again. A strong sense of theatricality could be perceived, where his characters often hide their identities behind masks and other props. In most of the paintings his figures are masked with bird beak or covered up with strings and film negatives as if the viscera or veins are coming out in order to hide their identities. On one hand there is an intense urge of getting liberated from the claustrophobic realm and, on the other, a recurring motif of identity politics is present in the images.
The paintings also represent a feeling of sensuality mixed with tragic emotions. Talking about these images Beppo reveals his keen interest in Greek tradition of tragic myths and epics, where feminine body had often been an object of desire and pleasure, a trophy that could be won only by supreme power. His female nudes recall those historic women who were sacrificed or were pawns between the battle of the earthly and divine power. The distorted female bodies symbolize the tormented situation of those. But the images not only recall the past they also relate to the present. The female body is often treated as an object of pleasure, an object of commercial benefit. To be more specific, by looking at some of Beppo’s work I found out that some of the figures’ postures represent advertisement models. Hence the notion of using the female form as object of pleasure and attraction is a sensitive issue that gets nurtured by Beppo in his works with female nudity. However, the use of the masked face figure (what is this face figure thing?) appears to be iconoclastic where a tendency to obscure the identity of his characters resembles mythical creatures. However, in my opinion these faceless images create a kind of brutal slaughterhouse ambience where the animals, in the uniformity of exposed flesh, lose their identities becoming mere objects of gastronomic pleasure.
These distorted images tend to express an inner vision of the artist where he juxtaposes realism with abstraction and distortion. His figures represent a good sense of proportion and anatomy of realistic manner but at the same time he intentionally distorts them with different motifs and objects that create his own self-expression. However these distortions and abstractions tend to get repetitive, somehow creating a monotonous effect on the whole. The creative impulse of an artist to establish one’s own style is getting incarcerated within some limited space in Beppo’s work. The artistic journey that Beppo has voyaged for is getting obstructed by some boundaries of his own creation. Despite all this, Beppo’s images certainly have some elements which are striking. One can perceive a person who has a tormented inner self, an enthusiastic and anxious temperament that compels him to use whatever he can find close to hand when the mood strikes him. The anxiety of his mind is also visible in the rough brush strokes and scribble lines of his paintings. For him painting is an intuitive process where certain elements come together as a part of an intuitive and spontaneous thinking. Therefore the anxiousness that can often be perceived from the images is, as a matter of fact, also responsible in lending a dynamic character to his painting.
While trying to articulate Beppo Zuccheri’s work I found that it is a process where the artist is engaged in developing or rather expressing some thoughts and ideas which are sometimes inexplicable. Beppo tries to articulate or translate those inexplicable ideas through his scribbles, all of which resonates with his spiritual and philosophical beliefs and represent a journey that questions the very existence of life and its function in the social realm.
di Aranya Bhowmik