Arbor, Arboris: Homage to the Tree of Life
by Gigliola Foschi
The melancholic solemnity of black pines’ edges trapped among flowing clouds; the shape of a few bare trees on a hillock ridge leading towards the sky; the solitude of a frail little tree facing the immensity of the sea: after the Images and Emotions exhibition – where each shot was meant to evoke emotions and memories – in Arbor, Arboris Paolo Bongianino chooses only classic, accurately printed black and white images, aimed at describing his meetings with trees. Trees which Bongianino is looking after or has noticed accidentally, during a walk around Lake Maggiore or an excursion on the Biella mountains. Far from having a romantic attitude, Bongianino uses an extremely plain and antiepic visual script as if he wants to recall the importance of adopting a discreet and gracious glance so as to describe and reveal aspects of nature that we are no more considering for their being too “delicate” and unable of surprising us strongly.
Yet trees with their saps, their roots taken in the obscurity and ridges outstretched into the sky, once were the world axis leading mankind towards the holy light, the initiatory walk of our soul, the sacred epiphany and the incarnation of maternal strength….The world of symbols has now lost its power, it is almost doused. We hardly know its existence and we study its syntax as if it were merged in the past. The language of symbols has become too silent: it is not able to skim over people listening to shouted tones or people noticing only aspects determined by their simple semantic univocity. Thus, how can we look at the trees spotting beautiful landscapes, which man has not twisted yet, not striking and not even quoted as “must-see” in guide books? Paolo Bongianino chooses not to visually transfigure the reality playing with scenographic and contrasted lights, suggestive, rough or fuzzy images. He is not interested in a new, surprising point of view about the subjects he portrays. He is not even willing to evoke oneiric, visionary, shrewdly metaphysic atmospheres. His photos are the outcome of a careful, thoughtful, immediate glance, never aimed at emphasizing reality, not even at interpreting it in a subjective way or at grasping something of his world with a superficial attitude, without being emotionally involved. Bongianino doesn’t seize reality “à la sauvette”, in a fleeting moment. He doesn’t even wait for meeting a vision which may correspond and submit to a perfect composing and geometrical order. In his images, however, the landscape elements may be harmoniously composed, at the sign of a balance of signs, shapes and lights, so as we feel that the photographer’s main objective is not building severely faultless and deliberately suggestive images. Bongianino believes it is important to communicate a listening visual attitude able to return the emotion raising by a meeting or by a relationship. Being able to create images in which we can feel the immediacy of a poetic and aesthetic empathy with trees, with their leafy fronds bowing by the wind, rising flowered towards the sky or falling melancholic and sad on the ground. His glance, as opposite to the one shouted by media, is thoughtful, careful of the environments, of the littles variables of lights. Bongianino looks at reality patiently and tactfully; he is not eager to see, he is sensitive and ready to welcome the magic of a meeting, the epiphany of a natural world which is still a case of peace and poetry, of harmony and silence.