Partly by chance and partly out of curiosity, I came across the work of Francesco Fiscardi, Neapolitan, born in 1974, aficionado of documentaries, music, painting and travel. Francesco keeps the travel part on the inside, especially in the time of Covid. Ever fascinated by places and cultures different from his own, Francesco never ceases to observe, explore, seek to understand and, above all, dream of those places that he can appreciate by means of study and the tools that technology puts at his disposal. Between 2017 and 2020, indeed, his artistic output developed towards the actual creation of places – continents, countries, islands and cities – according to the vision he has evolved, visiting personally or imagining those lands and places, from Metropoli del Mondo [Metropolises of the World] (2017) to Evocazioni Sensoriali dei Distretti di New York [Sensory Evocations of New York Boroughs] (2018), to his Vedute Satellitari – New York City, Sydney, Venezia, Riyad e Tokyo [Satellite Views – New York City, Sydney, Venice, Riyadh and Tokyo] (2020).
Among the works I looked at, I was immediately intrigued by the collection Evocazioni Sensoriali dei distretti di New York: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island are depicted using the signs and strokes typical of Abstract Expressionism. The well-defined colors and the finely-punctuated rhythm (perhaps in search of a more distinct identity) are however, well-grounded in reality – or at least the artist’s reality, making the works distinctive for their sheer artistic force, as well as being extremely attractive.
Bronx is one of those works I’d love to own, partly because I find something in it that pertains to me, and partly because I recognize in it a discreet beauty, one that takes no account of what others would expect: an intimacy that has to be sought beyond the image, between the lines, the brushstrokes, the gloomy but vivid tones, the scratches and a distinctive melody – rap, of course, since it’s the Bronx we’re talking about! – conveyed in a skillful interplay. First in the eyes, then slipping under the skin, down to the stomach, brushing against some chakras that are unbound as I gaze at the painting, releasing some residual energy that was slumbering or blocked in a flawed dynamic. Because I’m convinced that in that work there is the energy of someone who is never content, who is constantly searching for that certain something, the final piece that would complete the jigsaw puzzle. The same goes for the work Manhattan, although the music here is different, with different rhythm and colors – most likely one of Woody Allen’s favorite jazz pieces.
Let’s move on to 2020, and Vedute Satellitari – New York City, Sydney, Venezia, Riyad e Tokyo – in which Fiscardi, with the utmost care and painstaking dedication, reproduces images of the earth relayed by satellite in a more authentic vision of reality. He chose places he knows or in which he has lived, like Venice, but also places he hasn’t had the chance to visit yet.
Just like when a play starts and the curtain rises, the stage-set that materializes before my eyes is a stunning New York, extending over sixty-by-sixty centimeters of oil and acrylic on canvas, exploding with vivid, bright hues that alternate, leaping about in tiny black and white boxes, between thin grey lines, splashes of green scattered about: its five boroughs, the Brooklyn and Verrazzano Bridges. But of all the shapes, rhythms and colors, I linger on the light blue selected by the artist for delineating the waters of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean.
You can spot Manhattan, the other boroughs, New Jersey and Staten Island, but it is that shade of blue that invariably makes me breathe an air of freedom and, at the same time, of solitude. A combination that is difficult to unpair, if one considers that the two feelings are often two sides of the same coin, just like New York: beautiful and bursting with freedom, but a city that never fails to remind us that deep down we live in an age, amid social media and image bombardment, in which we are reduced to a condition of profound solitude and uncertainty. In the depths of our hearts and in the most intimate parts of our identity, we are quite alone. And New York is more than capable of conveying this feeling. But despite certain undertones, the overall impression when looking at the work is positive; it’s almost as if we were really flying over the city, perhaps in the silence of a spring morning. The colors are sharp and clean, we can sense the fresh air awakening us from the sluggishness (springing from the monotony of habit or oppressive routine) that often envelops us unwittingly in the insidious comfort zone we inhabit and which has numbed us. This work dazzles, it’s a vision of a New York that makes your head spin, with that sense of dizziness that only the Big Apple can create, almost a sort of euphoric altitude sickness. We are reminded of a Greek god with winged feet, a Hermes swiftly and confidently crossing the skies, or a young Icarus, drunken on liberty or heady with the desire to acquire it.
“Francesco, how did you get the idea of reproducing satellite images”, I ask. “We live in the age of drones: it seemed natural to observe a country I wanted to visit and then offer a completely personal vision of it, underpinned by the wish to experience it as soon as possible. What’s more, flying over a city in a plane, observing its features and the places we’ve been to or recognize, always prompts a dreamlike, surreal sensation, not just because “flying” is not an ordinary condition for human beings, but also because it is unusual to glimpse the earth’s contours, which otherwise we would have no chance of doing. Visions mostly originating in the use of drones, which allow us, far more easily than in the past, to appreciate certain perspectives, especially the movement that the forms of the earth and specific locations and latitudes reveals to us in a more or less natural way.”
Francesco is a meticulous artist. Diligent and sensitive. A man who finds joy in painting and bringing his visions and visual and perceptual memory to life. It is no coincidence that his works have been exhibited and admired in many parts of the world. Some are to be found at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles; others at the Calandra Italian American Institute of New York City; the New York City Hall; the Italian Cultural Institute of Sydney, Australia; the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), Marseilles; the Tunisian Consulate, Naples; Capri Town Council; the International Centre for Ethnohistory, Palermo; and the Società Dante Alighieri of Rome.