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Royal Image – Anatomy of Images

The value of art has always been that of acting as a sort of bridge across the abyss separating reality from the idea. (Erwin Panofsky)


A one man exhibition focusing on the palace at Caserta, one of the most beautiful and fascinating royal residences in the world. That’s how Maiorano describes the primary urge of an artist in his full maturity: a compulsion to show that is turned into a compulsion to exhibit, to manifest his most mature work in a superlative environment, an environment, between history and architecture, that is the monumental paradigm of culture.

For a contemporary artist, working in a context imbued with so much significance could open a debate that would be weighed down by a diachronic as well as synchronic comparison between what has been, what survives and what is destined to last. It means coming to terms with something that has already been historicised, with something immanent, as opposed to the becoming of a work informed with the openness of contemporariness. The character of the Caserta Palace has a historical, emotional, ideological and nostalgic imprint. And if the artists’ work hinges around the poetics of personal memory, as is the case with Maiorano, to relate with, to seek inspiration from and to reawaken amidst the tastes and smells of so much collective memory requires an approach that is highly personal, unbreakable in its intrinsic vulnerability and involves a discipline that is rationally structured.


It was only in the 1920s that art and photography drew nearer to each other. It was at that time that there emerged the photomontage, then a typically Soviet practice, and the integration of photography into the artistic creation, a practice initially Dadaist and successively surrealist. Some of the key issues the avant-gardes confronted involved technical conjunction, the mixture of genres, the creation of the earliest collages and installations. Photography thus lost its role as a pure aesthetic medium in order to take part in an operation of transformation that influenced all arts.

There exists in Maiorano’s work the influence of other technical means; contamination takes place by means of the lens, digital assembling and colour strokes, as with the warm and treaded expressionist red background painting of Sacrificio (“Sacrifice”). The challenge he sets for himself is to reconstruct and de-construct the photographic image according to models of pictorial illusion, saturating it with visual and cultural stereotypes. In this way the outcome is an underground transgression and a subtle rebellion. A paradoxical combination of space (that of the icon) and time (the fixity that encloses the eternal present), mixed with a deeper almost “pictorial” insight that puts before us a hypothetical truth.


In a system that is not nourished by clear-cut and absolute values, the issues raised by Maiorano’s work reveal themselves under the spotlight of the individual apparition as expressed in a language perennially seeking a balance between the objectivity of  photography and the subjectivity of painting. One of the earliest exponents of digital art, Maiorano draws from the surrounding social reality, from the structures of Italian and European cities, from lived-in communal interiors and, finally and with constancy, from the signs and presences of familiar places.

Maiorano’s relies on drift: on a drift of perspective in temporal, symbolical, physical and surreal guise – a guise not only subjective but strongly imbued in a highly personal and existential conjecture. A guise characterised by a metaphysical drift that swallows up spaces and reject scores, footnotes or treaded paths.

Within each image there is a “strain”, “an entropy”. The strain in Maiorano’s work arises from his telling stories that are indissolubly linked to history, to the characters that move from one work to the other producing alienation as well as a sense of a cross-eyed and sideward scrolling down that refuses the safety offered by stability, by the legitimacy of a pre-established file rouge and by the necessity of predetermined destiny.


Among the late-Baroque architectures of Luigi Vanvitelli the works Luogo storico (“Historical Place”) and Luogo sacro (“Sacred Place”) live as mirroring surfaces that however reflect a nature that differs from what reflects on them, engendering a short-circuit, an independent and suspended place that produces within the spectator a feeling halfway between danger and impotence: awareness that one is in the place and the doubt that arises from observing the works hanging on the walls. The instability is provided by the light that has been skilfully de-composed by the artist himself, by the oscillation of the bodies, by the mislaid perception of spaces, by the vision of objects that come from other places in the world, moved there without apparent effort, borrowed from other dimensions, from other stories. All contribute to destabilise perceptions, to create an aesthetics of dissolution where form dematerialises and reappears under another vision.

The works of Maiorano contain images to which the artists has endowed ubiquity for these are available in other versions or under different guises, sliding from one work to the other through a digital know-how that does not, however, overtly dominate but, on the contrary, doses its power by submitting itself to the binding pattern of unrepeatability. Either we are dealing with the parallel realities much flaunted by Philip K. Dick – Sguardo di luce (“Gaze of Light”) – or with the “conquest of ubiquity” – Protezione (“Protection”) –  as first revealed by the forerunner of tales involving the constantly mutating city and its intrinsic variables such as Paul Valery, the works of Maiorano are always and exclusively similar to themselves, borrowing sensations and images that are, however, integrated into a deep-seated code whose DNA is undisputed.

In this way each work is a unique piece, structured in such a way as to make any reproduction irremediably defective even if the single constituent image are available separately on different surfaces. The brush enters the scene last to amplify a tone and to add a dose of “warm manual dexterity” to the computer mouse’s “cold imperturbability”.


As a juxtaposition of the images – not unlike a light tattoo on the film-like layer that overlays the work – Maiorano often positions a topographic map of his home. It is a way to push the borders away, or to restrict them, so as to allow him to face his private demons, or maybe to bring familiar thresholds or contours closer. Seesawing equilibrium and stability is an existential feature of Maiorano, an artist who while speaking the language of art with a strong accent, has an artistic personality that presents a “treacherous” streak, in the sense that his works contain a compulsion for betrayal (Tradimento) – betrayal intended in its ancient meaning, therefore positively. Tradire, the Italian for “to betray” is a verb comprising two morphemes trans and do (=dare: to give). The prefix trans indicates a passage, the act of consigning something, of entrusting, of teaching, in other words, of handing down, of narrating. Cerchio di luce (“Circle of Light”) is a work that relies on the ineluctability of finding the signs of presence in a rather improbable situation, i.e. to betray. As also in the Madonna con bambina (“Madonna with female child”) where, if at a cursory and inattentive glance feelings rely on the spiritual comprehension of the spectator’s memory, our training, our atavistic heritage – by inducing us to turn our minds to ancient concepts linked to the sacred and to religion – at a less cursory and more attentive observation we discover, amidst the brilliancy and rapidity of the digital effects, a more common and familiar scene, not an apparition but, more simply, a reunion, a long abated fear. A mother who finds her child again, or a sweet gesture at a moment of sudden fatigue, a sleep that has thrust us into a dream. And if that child had lived in a Maiorano “Red Interior” then we have, once again, the private scenario, inaccessible if not in its deceitful retinoic, estranging and dizzying presence, in what is a collapse of certainties and of ideas.


Maiorano’s skill lies in constantly frequenting the poised threshold, in the ability in conjuring and amalgamating different art forms, photography and painting, in the process committing himself in compositions designated to express a range of emotions and movements that go well beyond technological and manual capability. What emerges is filtered by light – Luce avvolgente (“Encircling Light”) –, paced by black and whites, by fugues in perspectives and blinding flashes. The mise en scene is not real, there is no stage or film setting. There is, instead, an atmosphere that Maiorano creates and integrates in his studio – an atmosphere that re-appears, composed and disquieting, in the illusory play of the definitive work. The ephemeral emerges as a demand, as a way to shake memory; the ephemeral has an unclear aesthetic status, at the crossroad between multiple disciplines, bloating at the fringes of art to undermine the very survival of traditional and known categories.


In Architettura riflessa (“Reflected Architecture”) and Guardarsi attorno (“Looking around”), Maiorano once again develops the contraposition between void and fullness, between the presence and the absence of man. The flow and static immobility of respectively forms and architectures are modelled on the quest for objective beauty that all of a sudden emerge against the background of static movements and blocks. These works are extremely “pictorial”, they are amplified, the print of an action – of an artistic action – that engenders form, knowledge value, pure exploration in its coming out of the cognitive sphere in order to enter the stage of sensual and tactile values.


In Una luce abbagliante (“A Blinding Light”), Energie sospese (“Suspended Energies”) and Oscillazioni (“Oscillations”), Maiorano expresses active energy through clusters of chandeliers that without any qualms live in a place outside conscience, in rooms that are not theirs but clearly “borrowed”, in order to visualise an idea that has been transformed in apparent reality. That what we believe we are perceiving is a deaf sound, a sort of “musical image”, a tinkling dreamed or remembered, a tolling of crystals flustered by the wind. If we were “only” dealing with a photograph, we too would borrow something, a phrase by Roland Barthes: Photography is subversive not when it frightens, upsets or simply stigmatises, but when it is “pensive”… Photography must be silent, it is not a question of “discretion” but of music. Absolute subjectivity is achieved in a state, in an effort, of silence.


Theories of art clash but in the contemporary scene the tendency is the coexistence of conventions, memory of the place, of ideas and of the body – memories of ancient gestures and technological practices – in what is the boundless universe of eclecticism.

The complex and post-structuralist thought of Foucault and Derrida in art expresses the disorder of the contemporary world and the inconsistency of human action. The keyword is deconstruction, meaning overlapping lines, unconventional action, computerised processing, pictorial and photographic practice. In this light, Maiorano’s linguistic code is characterised by a purity devoid of deceit, a measured slowness that is tuned to original stylistic elements and to tested practices, placing him by right among those European contemporary artists with the broadest and most dizzying gazes.

There will always be someone who will look at works of art with a magnifying glass to try and see “how” rather than with the brain to imagine “why”. (Man Ray).

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