Dimensions of the Possible, 2010
Uwe Haupenthal

Some Remarks on Robert Bosisio’s Pictorial Concept

Even the most fleeting of glances at the paintings of Robert Bosisio leaves an impression that reverberates equally with painterly and objective/spatial experience. A shimmering, changeable pictorial constitution dominates these images, rooted in color, persisting in its connection to seen reality, and yet reduced to an elementary directness in addressing an inalienable core theme, bound by atmosphere and thus by no means materially finite. A singular and yet very much present, almost palpable, stillness is captured here.

The pictures’ handling of the real focuses on the visualization of what is seen while giving equal weight to trying to convey this individual impression using primarily pictorial means. This is a stance that calls for a process-based approach to these works. The two poles of seen reality and composed picture have lost their usual diametric opposition here.

Bosisio resists overloading his pictures with content in favor of eidetic catharsis, within which iconographically readable contents are largely expunged. As countermove, he prepares the ground for a conceptual consolidation. And this now asserts sui generis the claim to “being the thing itself.” Which means: remote from any idealistically qualifying premises, form and color generate on the image medium as well as in the eye of the beholder a parallel world that, although still tied to representation, is conceived autonomously, in a process that eschews from the start any expressively performed exaggerations.

Landscapes are reduced to a few planar surfaces. In order to ensure readability without any presuppositions, this type of attitude calls for a strict compositional order tending toward construction. Any kind of optical supremacy is undermined from the outset. In some cases a single line drawn in opposition to the rest of the composition is sufficient to create compositional parity. The color schemes are likewise reduced to a few tones, their appearance muted and suffused, creating a sfumato that generates a pictorially self-reflexive, diffuse space within which the illusionistically motivated notion of figural movement is ruled out.

The same can be said of the artist’s largest group of works, those depicting interior spaces. Here we see spartanically furnished rooms in which table, chair or bed and a few scattered objects are marshaled into a strict central perspective. But even here, the strikingly constructive composition derived from these elements is undermined by individual, sometimes indistinguishable, objects, and even more so by open doors and by the flat application of paint. In certain parts of the pictures the paint has apparently completely forgotten its accustomed commitment local coloration. The same goes for the use of shadow, which occasionally breaks free from the laws of illusion and in certain, often marginal, zones limns random-looking patches instead.

The still lifes by contrast appeal to the eye with successively presented, informally splotchy formal solutions. What once were faithfully depicted objects – jugs, jars or plates holding fish – appear once again here as partially freeform and unbound painting, which nevertheless still has to assert itself against a clear and constructively determined pictorial composition. What counts most in this connection is the relationship between semiotically obliged form and an arrangement of colors that is first only partially and later more or less completely free. Representation and local texture, indeed the all-absorbing experience of light and shadow, make a painterly claim, asserted as a matter of principle, to conceptually re-establishing the genre of still life.

There are conspicuously few figures in Robert Bosisio’s pictures. All the same, the ones that do appear bear witness, sometimes only as shadows, to a melancholy that permeates the work as a whole. While the interiors also allow us to draw conclusions about the presence of their inhabitants, they largely leave out the moment of active occupation of a space. On the contrary, a symptomatic reserve pervades throughout, fastening our gaze onto the rooms as a whole and onto the details therein, so to speak onto their surfaces. Since everything is equally present without any temporal gradations, these spaces not only elude the viewer, but also emphasize their constructive and dappled, painterly openness as the decisive, indeed the supreme, pictorial criterion.

Bosisio’s spaces evince a bipolar constitution. References to reality correspond with an immanent conception that is autonomously generated by the picture itself, and is consequently as a matter of principle deemed of equal value. This is incidentally a pictorial strategy that has been pursued progressively: Bosisio’s spectrum of themes has in recent years undergone a far-reaching dissolution of pictorial forms. They now appear at most as summary, shadowy renderings. It is predominantly the diffuse light dispersion that drains the materials of their substantiality and which helps the all-over feeling with which the earlier pictures were already invested to break through as determinant of the composition.

Striking here is the way that the landscapes are now limited primarily to the horizontal division of the picture plane. Also important is the way the colors are carefully balanced to form the basis for the image, with modulations achieved by various means which bespeak both the experience of an infinite vastness that is no longer tangible as well as an intensification of the appearance of what is depicted. In other words: despite their grounding in reality, the landscapes describe a kind of “interim space” that cannot be clearly defined either emotionally or rationally. The viewer gazes into a world where his own corporeal sensations no longer serve as a reliable guiding principle.

The experience of the real bears witness to a transcendental experience (i) that is at once immediate and undisguised, within which one can distinguish between empirically possible reception and the general constitutional principles gleaned from taking a reflective step back. The central motif of space in Robert Bosisio’s artistic oeuvre is something Kant described as “a necessary representation, a priori, which serves for the foundation of all external intuitions. We never can imagine or make a representation to ourselves of the non-existence of space, though we may easily enough think that no objects are found in it. It must, therefore, be considered as the condition of the possibility of phenomena, and by no means as a determination dependent on them […].”  (ii)

Even more intensively than his landscapes, Bosisio’s interiors approach a transcendental experience, determined as they are by an increasingly simple geometric structure. Geometry, however, according to Kant, “is a science which determines the properties of space synthetically, and yet a priori.”  (iii)

Despite his schematic approach, Robert Bosisio still evokes in his pictures a radiant sensuality. He lends them this quality both to accentuate their unique, autonomous appearance and also as a way of reassuring himself once more of the visible reality he has witnessed. This is without doubt a strenuous balancing act, the downside of which alludes to a melancholy boundlessness within which there can no longer be any binding distinction between sensuality, disposition and reason, between experience, sensation and abstracted general representation.

By suspending the boundaries between inside and out, between the world that is seen and what is experienced emotionally, Bosisio once more turns things on their head. He strives for a novel melding of the transcendental planes, inadvertently joining the ranks of the eternally young Romantics. – “We dream of traveling through the universe,” says Novalis in Blütenstaub (Pollen), “but is not the universe within ourselves? The depths of our spirit are unknown to us – the mysterious path leads inward. Eternity and its worlds – the past and future – are within ourselves or nowhere. The external world is the world of shadows – it casts its shadow into the realm of light.”  (iv)

(i)   In his working notes Bosisio remarks laconically: “I want to transcend reality.” Quoted in: Südtiroler Kunstinstitut, Bozen, and Walther-von-der-Vogelweide-Stiftung, Munich (eds.), Robert Bosisio. Malerei, Bozen 1995 n.p.

(ii)  Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, edited and translated by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 175.

(iii) Ibid. p. 176.

(iv) Novalis, Miscellaneous Observations/ Pollen (1797/98) in Novalis, Philosophical Writings, edited and translated by M.M. Stoljar, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997, p. 25.