Horizons, in Silvio Wolf’s idea of light

Jacqueline Ceresoli

in Luce, quarterly AIDI publishing, Milan 2016

Silvio Wolf’s (1952) research of the expressive, cognitive, perceptive and analytic potentiality of art is not new to LUCE readers – n. 295/2011, “Sulla soglia della percezione. Silvio Wolf al PAC di Milano” (On the threshold of perception. Silvio Wolf at PAC, Pavilion of Contemporary Art, Milan). However, on the occasion of the exhibition held in September 2016 at Fondazione Antonio e Carmela Caldera in Vacciago di Ameno (Novara), the author was remotely confronted with the aniconic paintings of Antonio Calderara for the first time.

The title of the exhibition, curated by Cristina Casero, provides an interpretation of the fatal encounter of Calderara’s paintings and Wolf’s abstract photographs generated by light – both attracted by the idea of representing a threshold, a point of origin where the invisible, intangible, becomes visible, with suprasensitive shapes, mental images which however have different outcomes.

The authors investigate stages in the configuration of “landscapes” that dissolve in the light, and unexpected perspectives and minimal formal solutions, solved in structures that can return an abstract synthesis of the sensitive world. The threshold, the boundary between the real and the imaginary perceptive horizon, is a formal requirement that involves a constant redefinition of the relations between a line, composition, colour and intensity of light in painting as well as in photography, with the aim of pushing the spectator’s glance beyond what can be perceived, through works with a strong visual impact. In particular, Wolf’s photographs from 2000 to date, paradoxically appear an instant before the photograph is shot, before the action, like the representation of a reality that although denied, is still included, and is evoked in the inscriptions of light that are selfgenerated by means of a mindful use of the photographic equipment, with results that go well beyond the artist’s will. His Horizon “is a scrap of the photographic process, the initial segment of the film, developed together with the entire strip of sensitive material to reveal all the exposed images” as described by Wolf. In fact it is a process that takes place in the darkroom with the aim of writing actions of light, attributing the paternity of the images not to the shot but to the sense of the photographic object itself. The subject therefore is not so much the way of producing the photographic image as much as the language, the code, the referent meaning that it contains in its sensitive display, seen in apparitions, icons of immanent light, within space and time, through a hypnotizing energy with bright tonalities. His inscriptions of light, time, shape, matter and substance configure the analytical thought regarding the absence and presence of what is real, they are purposely ambivalent in order to configure a boundary between photographic objectivity and abstraction. In Wolf’s artistic research , the idea of absence is recurrent, of emptiness as in the Zen philosophy, a regenerative, dynamic concept, in which light becomes an image, an instrument to overcome the limits of the visible and the invisible , where horizons in their magmatic chromatism are manifested, threshold states between darkness and light, being and non-being, space and time.

His inscriptions of light materialize the perceptive experience and go beyond the contemplative aspect to generate emotional and cognitive sensations together, because everything happens the moment one looks at them. Through photographs, that are conceptual objects, the possible relations not of things, but of the signifier and the signified as Saussure would define them, are investigated.

Icone di Luce (icons of light) and other works of the end of the 90s, already rotated around the creation of images through light, anticipating the subsequent researches of the light boxes Black & Blue (2009), Light House (2009) and Stelle Braille (Braille stars,1991) the installation

in which light projections are inspired by the language for the blind, because they cannot see light, but imagine it, they perceive mental flashes beyond the darkness, while we do not. These images lead to the articulation of reflections regarding the capacity to go beyond images and areas of what is visible, with signs, segments, blades of blinding white light that cut across the darkness as can be seen in Skylight 08 (2002), thrusting our view inside daring unusual perspectives which take the form of sculptures, at the same time real and ethereal luminous objects, concrete and symbolic thresholds of metamorphic perceptions of the space in which they are integrated, that define hermeneutic horizons, to be experienced rather than described.

By shifting one’s attention to the original moment of the photograph, Wolf raises the question: which was born first, the light or the photograph? And in the synthesis of the thought and action, both real and imaginary, light becomes a display of life.