Davide Tonato's Reverse Labyrinth




One of the obvious characteristics of Davide Tonato's paintings is his attention to technique and material detail according to traditional principles which he uses with a philologic propriety intrinsically able to underline the ethics and cultural background of the artist. Tonato is well versed in the culture needed to develop the technique and quality of a research diretteti to emphasize the mimetic faculties ingrained in the practice of this art. Painting is therefore aimed at giving an optical illusion; as revered masters of the past practiced knowlingly, to create among the differentgenres the specific one that the French called, more descriptively than in any other language, trompe 1'oeil. It is a geme that from the Renaissance period, when painting reached its peck, has continued to be reproduced till today, obtaining a particular success at the enti of the nineteenth century and again during the Surrealism period, and very often appeared even in works of figurative theories apparently free of "capriccio" and fantasy genres in which one rarely found this peculiarity, as in conceptual art. This optical illusion therefore, goes beyond its pictorial substantiality, showing an expressive language extraneous to technique and aesthetic choice, like those practiced by Tonato. It is a product of well know artistic idea. Evidently, the technique of optical illusion, ingrained with fantasy, has been renewed and reproduced in every period through different languages, adapting itself to modero needs. In defining if optical illusion is practiced figuratevely and should be reproposed in modero research, ave cannot ignore the, facts. Even if ave do not want to consider that the imitation of ancient techniques, taken forgranted as an instrument materially available, enters in the summa of faculties given to modero contemporary artista who can choose from all fields of experiences elaborateti by ari through the centuries leading to today, is recognized as a technique widely practiced. Modero society is a simulateti one, and it is widespread practice in each field of communication to propose a voluntarily substitutive illusion of reality. I do not believe it is possible to extract modero convinction or actual images of a painter by reasoning about the techniques that he uses or bis aesthetical belief, but it is evident that to Tonato's painting techniques, rich in tradition, offers, as the fascinating world of optical illusion, characteristics and possibilities hardly substitutable by other means. Therefore one should look at his work without interrogating oneself - the rest is an irrelevant question of accepting the validity of a poethical idea - if bis techniques are modero or not, how functional they are to the expression the artist has fzxed beforehand. That is enough. Another question could be to see how the actual images avere obtained. The prospettive speculation, seen as a geometrie game or as natural spring without coordinateti directions, or as a vision of an imagined landscape, or of architectural mirage, is it the actual symbol of our times? Is "capriccio" useful in the assessment of a spacial idealogy, or if not idealogy, the assessment of man at the beginning of a new century? Me majority of us are not aware of how much the concept of space has changed. Nevertheless ave behave "naturally" as if in this relationship to convention ave continue to reason as before. From the point of view of popular opinion, the contribution of televison on space exploration has been fundamental, the awareness that the sideral emptiness, above and below, do not make sense if it does not define the space in relation to one's own position. Me dimensiona on which the certainty of our material position in space avere physically established have disappeared. The popular saying lo show soliti behaviour or the judiciousness of a decision "keep your feet on the ground ; does not make sense and neither does its opposite "to bave your head in the clouds". Even this acquisition, nowadays generalized and acquired at every cultural levd of psychoanalytical identity, has led one to an individual concept of one'srelationship to space. New age man is not limited by fixed ideas or conceptions acquired through his behaviour and has discovered that the new frontiera exist only in bis mind. And so ave see the return of symbols that avere once found in primeval ritual signs: the circle, the sphere and the labyrinth. In modero art, these symbols are seen with a noteable frequency, while the painting itself is widely considered a symbol. Me subconscious mind is often shown in the, form of corridore, mazes and labyriths. Recent studies on this topic bave shown a significant increase. Giorgio De Chirico, the great metaphysician pioneer alchemic painter and contibuter to Surrealism, had already painted the Severe Doors, a symbol the ancient Egyptians used to describe their underworld conception in the form of a labyrinth. Infact, in Tonato's rounded paintings one's gaze is ied around a labyrinth where it searches invain for points to rest, a base. Areni, uncertainty, aanxiety, doubts, and restlessness, feelings that bave moulded the behaviour of the last generation? These labyrinths, which are very often circular resemble in their forni (and so offer moments (f reflexion) man 's brain, as if the shape of a labyrinth, in some ways, resembles the concept of interior spirituality, a universe in which physical coordinations that define high, loca and other similar concepts, do not exist. This Veronese artist has interpreted a well known bretonian concept. In the Manifestation of Surrealism it is declared that traditional certainty ore which the concept of good sense is based, is untrue. Toreato invents aerial landscapes or circular undergrounds or, rather spheres, concaves or convexes that render captivating the quote of some of Maurits Cornelius Escher's analogue representations. Escher, famous for excellence in the exploration of reversable prospects, offers us the opportunity to discuss the distinction of surrealist Toreato, in that Escher with bis calculated tetrahedral vision, was evidently distant, because of bis evasion to any process of psycho automation. He was, as carote bis best biographer and critic, Bruno Ernst, "a builder of impossible realities". Or we could think of the false chaos of the anamorphic garden by Patrick Sourd. But we should ask ourselves if the impossible is constructed `with rigour and legitimacy ", do we bave to, however consider it impossible? This is also the case for Tonato, even though bis position is more flexible compared to the surrealistic dream, implying are utopian vision of romantic heritage for which one can say that the "reality" of bis images does not bave a rigourous and legitimate physical credibility. However in Tonato's paintings the anomorphic sign is always present. While we realise that to prospective calculation we bave to attribute realistic quality, we should however be aware that it is one of the highest arts of illusion through which we can conventionaily represent a third dimension; a dimension that the painting due to its limited language does not posses. Jurgis Baltrusaitis, in the epigraph of his famous work, carote that `cznamorphosis is not the aberration in which reality is dominated by a vision of the mind, but by are optical illusion in which the appearance eclipses the reality". In Tonato's work the eclipsed reality highlights are imaginary reality, unreal butprobable, impossible but conceivable, in accordiance with modem man '.s new understanding of spadai conception. It is not only the result of a prospective device, or more simply, of a game, because nearly all bis recent images can be placed upside down or made to turn without any variatile dimension help in the perception of the image that it represents. Many of Tonato's spherical labyrinths, if created again in orthoganal design, could resemble a mandala, forming circles that contain squares and viceversa. This shows primeval images, which Gustav, jung in bis works acutely loaded with meanings. Regarding the possibility of seeíng a material dimension of similar vision, il is enough to fiy over at a discrete level, the centre of New York to bave a real prospective sensation of reality conveyed by Davide Toreato in bis painting the abysses of "Utopia". His paintings are certainly not science fiction illustrations, but representations of a "real" spadai possibility not too far away from eventual realization using today's high technology. It could be relevant to now analyse the work of this artist, proceeding according to are acceptable criteria of attuai verification: i.e. bis fantasy is in lino with the success of the new age culture, be is are enthusiastic and avid expert of esoteric theories, bis culture corresponds to the empathetic capacity of bis representations, but instead we would like to concentrate ore the painting quality of bis figurative research. The spherical idea that dominates in Tonato's images reminds one that, according to specialists ore the subject, the human psyche itself can be compared to a sphere and corresponds to the recent "unconscious" concept of space. In the formai strutture of bis paintings, the divergent and convergent centrai vanishing lines radiate in a pluricentral vision. This is bis substantial diversity to the traditional prospective ideality and one which we can come across even in dechirichian metaphysical paintings. What other function can this deliberate disorientatíon prospect bave, íf not to instali in the viewer a sense of bewilderment, uncertainty and instability? But even in anticipation and curiosity, how we feel trying to discover the hidden meaning of our dreams. Tonato believes that many of his painted images with the beo of machinery could and can turn, showing wbat many experts define as "the sphere of the labyrinth". His idea ofspace, reinforced by his knowledge of indioasiatic religions, goes beyond the horizontal fine of Western conception and rather conjòrms to cosmogenic symbols, as for example, the mandala, in which the intuition of the universal spherecity, does not consent a pernicious anthropocentrism, that for centuries has placed man against his own environment. Eastern philosophies bave not elaborated anything similar to psycoanalysis, taking forgranted that the individual should look for harmony between body and the mind, which is the principal condition for spiritual growth. After having reflected in this way, however, we have to point out a particulazzty that attributes a peculiar sign to the labyrinth routes that we are speaking about. Infact as written in the Book of labyris2th, by Paolo Santarcangeli, "without a centre, a real labyrinth in the energy of the design and of the tracks to fòllow, do not exist". On this we need to reflect because, thanks to his cosmogenic convinction, Tonato's lab"znths do not bave a centre. However, areni they labyrinths? To answer this question, we need to recognize that bis images offer us a new configuration of this archaic and impressive design. They bave been created by means of a spacial concept that makes use of virtual spatiality and computer science, a completely new vision compared to the traditional concept of painting magie or esoteric or something else of plurimillenary tradition. ne labyrinth has an entrante and a centre, therefore it possesses a beginning and an end. In these paintings, however, tbere are no points of penetration or of arrival. ne structures that they are made of, articulate in every direction with an infinite expansive proliferation in whicb the observer can free himself, as if in a psycadelic fiight, escaping to any physical bound and mocking any spacial coordination as an astronaut without gravity. Normally the artist establishes these environments distributing space at regular intervals with straight vertical bands, among which curvilinearpassages creep through, like the weaving and warping of a carpet, distributing equally the portions avoiding with care an untidy mate and therefore obtaining plausible routes, probable architectures and fititure urbanistic sights. Fine columns support cross vaults, suspended arches seem to be without bases, spiral columns of jade and agate, strange transparent marble and glass arches, that reacb out superfluously towards the space above and below, creating a multitude of forms and architectural structures that distante themselves endlessly towards an empty star, and in these spaces one can only float and navigate ideally as in the images of virtual reality, evading every experimental rule, without weight and without positioning. All this is realized with a pictural precision that goes beyond the mimetic result of postsurrealist Dalì and make us look at Tonato's paintings in a similar way to those of a modern Monsù Desiderio healed from catastrophy with contemporary humain feeling, suffering a serious identity crisis and whose images widen themselves specularly, doubling themselves on each of their sides. It is evident that the morphologic paintings of this landscape so illusively defined, do not demand any fixed interpretation. They possess the right ambigious value that complessively determines the pitture as a symbol, therefore each person can decide bis own reading, be it simply visionary, or be it in a positive or negative allegorie sense. These pseudovirtual caves can be seen as images of confusionaiy material and therefore a moralistic warning, or they could mean those ideai and habitable places of refuge in an uncontaminated utopian world, and therefore offer hope for the future. nere is no doubt however, that bis pictures are very different, more anachronistic than diachronic, not only for the theme but also for the technical realization, in comparison to how the contemporary painters are elaborating, given that, due to the homologated levelling out, to the lack of stimulating offers and to the dispersion of the figurative faculties, Davide Tonato's work distinguishes itself by proposing a credible form to ancient landscape painting techniques. It is an interior landscape, mental, ideal, that leads the curious mind to explore that extraordinary labyrinth of wonder that is architetture without limits and without time, that is a part of ourselves.


Renzo Margonari