With a new awareness of spaces became visible thanks to cutting edge investigative and processing technology now being used in scientific research, Aqua Aura investigates and presents his vision of new environments, which it is easy to find fascinating.
We are captivated, for example, by his choice of subjects, as he is apparently drawn to the truest forms of beauty and an exaggerated seduction of the senses, with almost hypnotic results. They consist primarily, and simply, of flowers, chromatically intense and vivid, in a triumph of colours that is pure pleasure for the eye. Through these images, which cannot ultimately and definitively be described simply as “photographs”, Aqua Aura reflects on the anomalies of nature and on the very concept of normality in light of scientific data acquired from detailed studies of the human and plant world.
If the flower, the plant, the natural element itself, represents the spontaneous side of life, uncontaminated by culture and its associated activities, Aqua Aura breaks this generative chain by introducing elements that cause disruption in sensory terms, as well as in terms of meaning. He deliberately transforms that which already exists in and of itself, in its own independent dimension, simply adding a single biological entity from the infinitely small work of the smallest components of our bodies – cells, micro-organisms, viruses and bacteria – that can live within them or infiltrate them, sometimes taking the form of subtle and invisible threats. In some cases, even small larvae and fossils contribute to changing the natural flow of things, becoming part of an ecosystem to which they don’t belong, but in which they immediately seem to find a new role. The alienating effect is completed by the presence, within these bodies and worlds, of constituent elements belonging to dimensional realities that are very different from one another, sometimes even diametrically opposed, but which combine to create plausible or realistic substances and matter in a parallel universe that is captivating and at the same time somewhat unsettling. And perhaps it is precisely this act of transplantation, “The Graft”, which, of all the various elements and components, imbues what we see with a deeply attractive and seductive quality, and at the same time a trace of something threatening and disturbing.
In these images, which are deliberately reminiscent of the traditional still life photographic genre, the artist develops and presents an interpretation of the concept of organism and ecosystem, the result of an intense period of research preceding these pieces, and presents us with his reflections on genetics, chemistry and molecular biology together with new theories on the formation and nature of the cosmos. An active source of intellectual solicitation and images, fundamentally reformulating his concept of reality and vision of reality, on the cusp between experience and imagination.
In this way, the artist brings the age-old, conflicting theories on phenomenology of photography to their extreme conclusion, which were previously, at least until relatively recently, wholly reliant on objective reality: a slave to the subject matter, an obliging handmaid to the purest forms of artistic creativity. Altering reality in photography is not, of course, a new approach in and of itself. Rather, it dates back to the origins of photography, in the second half of the 19th century, with photomontage as its most accomplished expression. But in this work, the “manipulation” of the photographic product is a scientific act: experimental genetic science that becomes part of photographic language, using highly technological tools that lend themselves to innovation on an unprecedented level, without distorting their origin as mechanical and technical tools. If, in the earliest phase of photographic development, manual craftsmanship was the primary trait of the refined sophistication of the resulting object, in today’s world, which is so fluid and immaterial, modifications primarily take place in two specific locations, both of which are invisible: the artist’s brain and the electronic brain of the computer – environments that are “soft”, like the new frontier of creativity.
The equipment necessary to achieve these studies consists of technology common to the most powerful telescopes and optical and electronic microscopes. Such equipment can explore and produce images of the cosmos and of our bodily tissues, and so of structures made up of components of various natures and sizes, offering mankind the opportunity to expand its knowledge of an incredible, yet unsettling, world, which is real and concrete but too small, or too big, to be visible to the naked eye. Exterior and interior universes that Aqua Aura invites us to explore through his creativity, combined with the most recent photographic and image-manipulation technologies.
Manipulation. A term that often has negative connotations and that plays an even greater role here. One example of this is the choice of primary subjects for the “Monema” [Monem] series. This term captures the desire to emphasise the synthesis of many parts of various origins in a single and homogeneous visual reality, surreal yet realistic in the context of artistic fantasy. As well as the flowers and plants in “Monema”, particular focus is placed on neural networks, in the series “The Net”. Here, the viewers are required to engage with visions obtained by Aqua Aura from reconstructions and reworkings of images of the neural network structures, created from electronic microscopic examinations and then coloured in artificially. As such, the environment presented becomes more “abstract”, thanks to a process of double interpretation of reality, arising from the results of scientific research based on technology and on the artist’s creative work (and work as a creator).
It is for this reason that, rather than the word “graft”, which is certainly relevant on account of its accurate descriptive potential, I prefer to use the term “histological fusion”, as the union of the parts in these works serves to create a new reality, which does not exist in physical terms but which becomes truly plausible in its powerful vividness. I use the term “histological” because of the strong similarity between this artistic process and the study of the morphology of plant and animal tissues, made possible by the sophisticated equipment capable of exponentially enhancing man’s power to observe the infinitesimal entities that make up bodily tissues, and the nature of the changes and modifications they undergo, many of which are malign. The beautiful flowers in “Monema” – intense and vivid in colour and full and sensual in shape – do not originate from the normal world of spores, but rather represent plant-based seedbeds for human organisms such as blood cells, bacteria and viruses, potential carriers of disease or guardians of new life to come. Likewise, the neural networks in “The Net” become branches from which beautiful inflorescences emerge, but which do not preclude the possibility that an infinitely repeating reproductive chain could be set in motion.
A possibility that the artist does not elaborate upon, but that presents itself as a lingering fear for a potential future. The most recent series, “Cardio”, takes the consequences of all of these reflections to their extreme conclusion. It presents cardiac tissues as locations in a universe that grows progressively less physiological and more objective and real, only recognisable thanks to the artist’s creative intervention of introducing small flowers, perfectly incorporated into this evocative and unknown “environment”. A universe the physical nature of which is enhanced through images that do not exist in their absolute form, having been entirely reworked as 3D images using computers, and further touched up in terms of colour and light.
By presenting us with these images, Aqua Aura wants us to reflect primarily on the concept of visual truth and probabilistic possibilities. The reality that they represents lies on the border between the implausible and the conceivable, in the sense that experimentation is never just the prerogative of artistic creativity, but is also common in the world of science, something that has led to breakthroughs that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. It is this very characteristic that led Aqua Aura to declare, happily, in a recent interview that scientists “...are perhaps the greatest artists of our time. [...] They reshape our awareness of things in a way that the mind struggles to grasp. Or rather they imagine it, they create it, revealing it to themselves for the first time.”
And he does likewise, creating unprecedented scenes for our limited consciousnesses, inventing new theories that, for now, belong firmly to the immaterial realm of the imagination, but that we can’t rule out becoming reality in the distant, or not so distant, future. In this sense, the “surgical” precision with which the artist creates these works is the metaphorical equivalent of the scientific precision that new discoveries, and new solutions in scientific research, must inevitably adhere to.
Aqua Aura engages in the almost voracious observation of images that he comes across in archives of representations of infinitesimal visual units, reconstructed on computers, and with that same visual voracity he recreates a world of his own, combining and fusing together elements that are entirely incongruent, but that take on a new and realistic form in his consciousness, while ensuring that the viewer is not left in any doubt as to the lack of neutrality of what they are observing. Images that speak of perceptions, but also of premonitions regarding the actual potential of consciousness and experience of the worlds that exist within us, around us, and of which we represent an infinitesimal part.