Stefano Porcini was born in the Province of Varese, a town poised midway between the natural beauty of the Alps and the metropolitan buzz of Milan, into a family that was passionate about culture, constantly surrounded by beauty: artists, architects, designers and humanists, among whom he spent his childhood and adolescence, experimenting with innovative creative techniques and forms. He studied at the Scientific High School of Varese and went on to graduate in Industrial Design from the Polytechnic University of Milan. He has worked for important brands and multinationals – from Maserati to MV Agusta, from Aperol to Italia Independent, eventually creating his own fashion brand. He has long been an entrepreneur and designer as well as artist; indeed art has been his constant companion, an inextricable part of his life.
Extremely curious and conscious of all living things and his surroundings, he has grasped that his direction lies in his artistic quest, the only road open to him, and he has never abandoned, nor will ever abandon this conviction. Porcini does not aim narcissistically at “success”, nor is he beset by foolish vain ambitions. His lifelong experimentation has been carried out on a daily basis. It is in this gradual evolution that he discovers and then finetunes the essence of his style and art.
Energy, attention to detail, the desire to come to grips with everything the world has to offer, so that he can feel, rework, experiment and, eventually, create an artwork; these are seen as the only way of living. The artist gives himself up wholeheartedly to this quest, not bound by any conditioning or restrictions.
I focus on one of his latest works and I am immediately intrigued by the portraits, sculptures on milky white slabs, shiny, or colored, metallic and copper. The visual impact is strong, intense, piquing my curiosity and I feel the need to explore his work further. I notice that the volumes emerge from the vertical plane, the sculpture is fixed on the wall, as strokes of color shatter the harmony of the line. They are bright, acid, vibrant, fluo even – the aim being to clash with the smooth liquid white of the harmonious dimensions–so poetically achieved in the portraits of the faces. In this way, they are subjected to a brusque, often violent disruption, which nevertheless brings out the sheer authenticity of the work. These portraits strike me instinctively as fitting in a particular artistic context, that of the Gazing Balls (2013) project, by the US artist Jeff Koons, in which white classical statues are set off by the contrast with a blue sphere – sometimes hanging – reflecting the world, including that of the viewer, who sees himself/herself reflected in the sculpture via the ball.
But Porcini is not looking for reflections or playing tricks with reality, but rather seeking a concrete reality, a personal investigation aimed at reaching the true oneness of the subjects he decides to depict, an unmistakable clue as to their personality that the author absorbs and then puts back in a detail that he will insert into the work. The carefully studied inclination of the sculpture, the position, sometimes the “com-position” of the part being portrayed, the volumetry, all details that the artist chooses with precision to allow the entity and identity of the subject depicted to emerge. The same goes for the definition of color and movement, which are essential for communicating the personality of the subject and the overall sense of the work.
In this way, his colors stand out, hurled against the white background, often as if they were bandages placed to cover – or accentuate? – the gaze of the subjects (Yellow-filter-01); in others, it is the white over the eyes that predominates over the fluo-hued face.
These contrasts make viewers question themselves as they stop to think about the sense of what they are seeing, spellbound by the stillness of the works, which, in their determined and imperturbable immobility, seem to be looking at the inner parts we cannot recognize as our own, that we do not believe are ours.
From this solemn mood, we pass on to another dimension which, though requiring equal attention, contrives to take the gaze and the inner condition to contexts to which we may perhaps no longer relate, but which Porcini makes us covet as we look.
I’m referring to the portraits placed literally against the blue of the sky, amid the clouds: faces of children – Nico in the Sky is my personal favorite – transport us, in the blink of an eye, to a past dimension and manage to let us touch and breathe the scent of freedom, the purity, naivete and carefreeness that the adult no longer possesses; a gaze that is at one with the world, simplicity, beauty – the unmistakable beauty of an azure sky merging with variably defined forms of whiteness and of childhood (perhaps giving us a glimpse for a second of the oneiric Surrealist world of Magritte).
The truth is that Porcini’s works are contaminated, not only because his culture stems from such diverse fields and interests, but also because his background – in graphics, fashion, architecture and design – lends added value and imagination to his ideas (bubble-gum-lamp-01).
He always takes meticulous care with lines and choice of color, which constantly overlap and contrast, poised to invade each other, relentlessly, vibrantly, energetically.
Contrasts that I myself explore and, as Porcini affirms, “represent an invitation to look at the world differently, suggesting a positive way of looking, or merely a new one. Sometimes endowing them with a sunny color – like yellow or gold; others are imbued with tenderness, with the delicate tone of a romantic pink”.
Contrarily, a gaze left white, which personally makes me think of a sort of absence of color–hence of life – “could represent an invitation to keep one’s perspective intact, to keep it free of conditioning, not conforming to the rest of the world’s ideas, but faithful to itself” Porcini continues (Eny-g-01).
A gaze, therefore, that can be anything, depending on the artistic gesture imposed by the artist: whether truth or falsehood, absence or presence of self, in line with an authentic life or the involuntary inability to be truly faithful to oneself.
Let us see the process by which Porcini creates his works: “Each piece is hand-made, a different way each time, making use of 3D scanning, modelling and printing, thermoforming, graphic print, painting by hand and the manual application of the most diverse finishes and materials”, the artist explains.
But I am not done yet. My attention is drawn to other works of his – the com-positions, as I call them, like La coppia degli amanti (Pair of Lovers), in which two faces gaze at each other in eternity (where the inclination of the heads is the linchpin that creates the relation between the two subjects), totally absorbed in a dialogue that is continuous, all-engrossing, endless and at the same time constantly different (mariavittoriadaniele-03).
I’m also fascinated by the mysterious works in which the portrait of the same person emerges from more than one perspective, each one next to the other (three): several facets representing perhaps the various identities we possess, but in which we always remain ourselves (me-myself-and-i-01). We continue to exist even when the material covering the piece is copper and is in constant mutation: its oxidation transforms the work, making it take on infinite evolutions, in which the change in the color of the material employed varies exactly as our lives do, transforming us each day into something different from the day before.
Finally, the colored works are the most unsettling: the volume creates reflections capable of deforming reality and thus also the image of who is being reflected. A vision that poses questions in the mind of observers, now projected into what they see of themselves, and not finding a perfect likeness, but other new likenesses (since they are deformed), they begin to question themselves, and their potential further identities, to the point that they manage to convince themselves that somehow these forms do indeed belong to them (half-skull-mirrored-01).
Personally, I was very struck by the constant and repeated use of the face. Of course, we cannot rule out that in his perennial experimentation Porcini will break new ground in future – visual and graphic – exploring further types of movement and involving other parts of the body and, as the artist himself says, possibly creating classical faces of lesser-known figures – his portrait of Dante is ready – or creating different kinds of sculptures, more associated with design and using other materials, such as resin, of which Porcini is a great fan.
Finally, I discover excitedly how the glitch, that is, the result of a digital malfunction, only available in 2D at the moment, can take shape and materialize, since Porcini is working on it in 3D, projecting it onto lamps and various other objects.
His 3D glitch shows clearly to what extent the artist has been affected by diverse influences: originating as a digital element, it has been turned by Porcini into a concrete work of art, allowing it to reveal its imperfections, its faults; the accidental, the unexpected, that sneaks into everyone’s lives, defining simultaneously real, actual beauty, which is more imperfect than ever.
Stefano Porcini will be exhibiting in New York from 3 to 31 May 2021 in the AD ART SHOW 2021, which will be held at the Oculus of the Westfield World Trade Center, Manhattan.