Reality Check

     The art of Luciano Ventrone transforms the viewer into a ravenous thing with insatiable eyes for a mouth, as his opulent fruit arrangements beguile the senses. A photorealist of the highest order, he is one of Italy’s most celebrated artists and a virtuoso of the genre.

     With echoes of pittura metafisica, his still lifes have the feel of antiquity, just as much in their superior execution as in the classical composition.

     Dense, meticulously assembled fruits and flowers, presented centre stage, seem excised from a Renaissance tableau. Their metaphysical aspect lies in the alchemy of which they are born.

     Like all artists of this style, Ventrone is a master illusionist, transforming photographic images into their identical, and beyond, painterly versions, redefining reality, confusing and transfixing the viewer.

     In a first exhibition of his works at Han Art gallery, the images seem to detach from the confines of the frames.

     His preferred subject matter – fruit – is exposed to the eye in detail that defies comprehension… and rightly so. For reality in Ventrone’s universe takes on another dimension, aided by the cold efficacy of technology.

     Probing the innards of melons and peaches with tiny camera lenses, he eviscerates the fruit as it were, reconfiguring the photograph numerous times before reassembling it on canvas with minute precision.

     The unspoken player in Ventrone’s theatrical compositions is light, surrounding the image, bathing it in clear, persistent sheen.

     Born in Rome in 1942, the artist draws inspiration from the great Caravaggio, and as odd as it may be to compare fruit with raw human musculature, that light, maybe…

     Ventrone, who uses specially prepared pigments and fine brushes, is known for the calibre of his work and the detail in his oil on linen paintings is truly breathtaking. Whether it’s the coarse shell of a walnut or the fleshy crimson belly of a ripe melon, the execution is one of a master craftsman.

     In Ritornello, a perfectly balanced configuration of forms and textures, Ventrone sets smooth skinned apples, plums and grapes against the cool translucence of the onyx bowl that holds them. The unrelenting theatrical lighting hides no detail, and the way the dried leaves on the apple stem fold and rest on the fruit is remarkable.

     The brightly lit pomegranate in Regno Visivo is eerily otherworldly in its explicit depiction; spilling seeds from its rent body, it seems to be bleeding. There is tacit violence in the way Ventrone dissects his subject matter, probing it in a coldly clinical manner until it has conformed to his exacting eye. The fruit is not what interests him. Its potential as visual material does.

     The process of transforming the final image into its painted doppelganger is one of intensive and lengthy labour, and the result, an evocation of a new (still) life. Through the magic of art, and chiaroscuro, the viewer is presented with an altered state, or to use the artist’s words, a parallel universe.

     So much insistent reality, however, can be unnerving, and Ventrone’s nudes offer an unexpected respite. Unlike his hyper-realistic edible subjects, the languishing female forms are undeniably painterly. The smoothness of the blemish-less skin is impossible in its perfection, the lack of definition further hinting at a work of creation rather than re-creation.

     In Oltre il Velo Ventrone’s talent shines in the depiction of the model’s hair and turban, the texture of both standing out against the quiet classical pose and monochromatic background.

     The art of Luciano Ventrone poses a particular dilemma, emerging as it were from two very different worlds – that of Old Masters and modern technology. The combination of the two in the Italian artist’s version produces a visual feast of high calibre.


Dorota Kozinska