21 Apr 2016

La condition inhumaine

La condition inhumaine, 2010-2012
Oil on canvas and acrylic on wooden frame, 115 × 96 cm (canvas 100 × 81 cm)

Although a pleasant activity, I seldom paint, essentially when functional to the artwork’s conceptual intent. In the case of “La condition inhumaine” (the inhuman condition), oil painting obviously was the only option, as I wanted to create a reinterpretation of the renowned surrealist painting on canvas “La condition humaine” (the human condition) made by Magritte in 1933.

The original painting, “La Condition Humaine” by RenĂ© Magritte

In 2010 I had the chance to thoroughly examine the original painting from the Washington National Gallery of Art (or at least a perfect reproduction of it) that was on display at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, and I covertly photographed it eluding the strict surveillance personnel, until I had enough references of the details and the paint texture.

As you may have guessed, the intent of my reinterpretation, in few words, regards environmental pollution, but more philosophically it is a sort of conceptual manifesto in parallelisms with the metaphysical question raised by Magritte.

Magritte was deeply interested in the comparison between the human sphere and the natural world, and on this point “La Condition Humaine” is one of the most paradigmatic, placing the observer inside a space, a sheltering room, an enclave, from which he stares at the reality of the wild through a window, while the painting pictured in front of it seamlessly matches the outside landscape, representing the fake experience of men who can not feel they are part of nature.

I deeply understand Magritte and agree with his view, but today we should make a further consideration, as mankind has gone further: we are destroying nature, as much subtly as obstinately. What Magritte would say looking at a the skies of today?
Men lie to themselves, as they do not want to see what they are causing to the environment (thus to themselves, if they only could feel they are part of it), because they just care about their own longings.
What they are not capable to see is on plain view in the sky, which is evidently disfigured by chemical pollution from jet trails, or chemtrails, and even invisibly, being full of nano-particles from incinerators fumes and noxious artificial radioactive ions from nuclear plants, either damaged by accidents or “normally” producing depleted uranium.
From the air tons of chemical compounds fall down, slowly poisoning everything, everyday.

So in my reinterpretation I just painted what I see everyday: a corrupted sky, while I kept the original layout of the interior, in this case with the pictured painting differing from the outside, to suggest that people do not notice any more the difference between a polluted sky and a natural sky: a normalisation has occurred in their mind, because they see that everyday, in the sky above and in all media. The artists must urgently ban or expose this normalisation in their artworks.
Just remember that right today the youngest people never saw in person a natural sky, and in few decades everyone would know how it was only looking at old records.

Beside the macroscopic change of the “geoengineered” sky, I added two nuclear plant towers and one incinerator chimney, which may be also the one of an oil refinery, plus some slight diversifications in the liveliness of the foliage and the saturation between the landscape outside and the one portrayed in the pictured painting, to enhance something that in real life is so subtle, and yet so real: the poisoning of the planet.

Obviously I replaced Magritte’s signature with mine, the pictorial one.

Technically speaking, first I cut a custom canvas to the measures of the original one: 100 × 81 cm, more precisely 99.99999909 × 81 cm (which quotient is 1.23456789), where I have then sketched the scene with graphite.

I really care about environmental issues, so I painted this canvas using only non-toxic pigments, and no solvents except water, as I used water soluble linseed oil: as said above, this is for the safety of the environment, thus of the painter too.

Oil painting takes much time, so the completion took nearly two years, obviously simultaneously to other projects, during the waits for the necessary drying.

When finished, in the next six months before the final coating, I designed the wooden frame and section on the model of the original one, that has been cut thanks to the help of Cecco, a very experienced carpenter and creative woodworker. I then assembled and hand painted it with dark brown and gold acrylics to resemble the original one.

Then the painting sat another year, awaiting the complete drying of the coating, before to travel toward its first public exhibition in 2014.