Silvio Wolf

Vittorio Fagone

in "Documenta 8", catalogue, Kassel 1987

Silvio Wolf is one of those rare European artists of the latest generation, who have based their creative work entirely on experimentation involving the technical nucleus of the resources of photography. They bring out a new world of images that are structurally dense and at the same time distant if not ungraspable.

In his work, Wolf constantly approaches the point where photography is no longer the creation of a mirror image of reality, the capturing of an image in the speed of an instant, but the close up exploration of how images themselves form and appear.

Wolf’s work hovers between a search of phenomena that is not closed in the description of an icon-sign, and the identification of a firm structuring node. It privileges an image that condenses sliding vision and the epiphanic revelation of the subtle and mobile border where light and time can either collapse in on themselves or move apart in an irrevocable and determining relationship.

These photographic signals of Wolf originate from a mechanism with two identifiable principles. It is a place, an elsewhere. Its uniqueness and its type are laid bare by the photographic eye without any recognisable classification of emblems or stereotypes, but with a coming close up that covers the arrangement of a subject in a contagion of particular and unique light (Belvedere, Praha or Trasfigurazioni dei Santi give an idea of a curved horizon of associations more than a single direction to look in). The other principle that qualifies all Wolf’s more recent production is the value of putting images created according to a constitutional logic side by side. This logic tends to emphasise the particularity and expansion of the images in a calibrated play of a “simultaneity” which rather than a futuristic energy, follows a more complex and angled iteration. Here, the gaps between one photograph and another are active residues between which the vigilant gaze establishes (recognises, shifts) structuring links, figures made final and frozen in their productive movement. These images, side by side, are ordered according to a rule that comes more from the traditional canons of the visual arts – the use of the term “polyptych” has a precise meaning in this respect – than from typical photographic sequences in which the reflection of reality follows a dynamic that mirrors movement. The simultaneity that Wolf proposes is complex. It is not so much what is seen that it expands as the virtuality  that the photography is experimenting with, its own active structuring movement clearly recognisable but not a resemblance, not of one dimension closed within the perimeter of repetition with minimal variations. Technique and the capacity to define a new autonomous and constructively oscillating image are balanced within a charged and unique synthesis in this procedure and the exploration of the new universe of photographic technique seen as a universe in progressive and unstoppable expansion is fundamental to it.

In his more recent studies Wolf prefers to construct series of images that live through a double system of active distances and relations. Each image, set against the ambiguous continuity and spatial arrangement of the series, constitutes its own virtual appearance which sums together a print on a strongly reflecting surface and a different print on the transparent surface of an acetate. The result is an ungraspable, dense, liquid and slippery image that has no centre and immobile focal point but a convex and fleeting tension.

Wolf’s work has the lucid rigour of experimentation that loves to stay close to the structural (technical and linguistic) game of taking a photograph; within this sphere he finds new icons that do not ask for ecstatic or idol-worshipping veneration, but for fast sliding openings of meaning, recognitions within the articulated, constructed density of a language which is still generative.