Naima Morelli

I describe myself with what I see: Antonio Rovaldi’s at Monitor Gallery, Rome


We have seen plenty of celebrations of the sea. The only subject that is as hackneyed as the sea is the sky. And love.
But really, to be innovative is not to talk about a new subject for the first time. To be innovative is to be able of talking about a corny subject in a new, or personal or moving way.
If you are a musician, go ask Ivano Fossati about it. If you are a painter, ask Piero Guccione. If you are a photographer, do what Monitor Gallery did. Go ask Antonio Rovaldi.

As the story goes, according to the press release, Rovaldi cycled all the way along the perimeter of the Italian peninsula, photographing the horizon as he went. The title is “Horizon in Italy”, “Orizzonte in Italia”. The result is what Rovaldi defines a chain of images which represent the Italian coastline from north to south: “The camera reel unfolds along the line of the horizon, covering section after section of landscape.”
The photographs were in fact running all around the gallery space, driving your stare. All the photographs had the same size and the horizon is always at the same height. You start lazily to watch the first photograph expecting somehow conceptual monotony, but you end up caught in the string.

What I find interesting in this work is his underlying symbolism. Rovaldi is actually mapping Italy, but doing that he looks outward instead of inward. It’s like saying:”I describe myself with what I see”.
From north to south, on the Rovaldi’s coastline cycle route, the horizon encloses the boot-shaped peninsula. At the same time the horizon is a projection, a desire for an elsewhere.
In Rovaldi’s photographs this horizon, this desire, is sometimes sharp and clear, sometimes blurred and undefined. Sometimes the sea sight is covered by a grassy hump, sometimes the sea is there, glimmering and fierce.
There is a sea to cross that separates you from the horizon. And yet the horizon is unreachable, but you can’t help looking at it, and desiring it.

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