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38. LAURA VIALE

CE QUE TU ES

Photography literally means "drawing with light": I could say that I draw on a black sheet - night - with a palette made up of projected colours.
My work produces images that I no more consider "virtual" than I can define them as "different perceptions of reality".*

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Laura Viale, At the End of the World – I, II, 2002, C-prints under Plexiglass, 125 x 125 cm each
Courtesy the artist

Laura Viale's work has always been concerned with nature and the landscape. Their presence is both the subject and the object in a continually evolving research.
An important nucleus of the artist's output is to be found in the works made in the 1990s. In this period landscape and nature, usually photographed, seem to be part of a multicoloured world.
The dialogue with the natural context comes about in a direct way. The works are made in two precise moments during the day: in fact the artist prefers twilight and the night. The particular light of these moments allows the artist to pinpoint and record with a long exposure (from 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes) a variety of hues that otherwise would be nothing more than a rapid coloured glare that cannot be appreciated by the human eye.
The context for the photographs is like a theatre in which are various actors: the first and most important is the light, which comes from artificial sources on the "set" (rather like neon shop-signs) or that the artist purposely introduces. There then come into play the silent and damp penumbra of a summer meadow, slender and disorderly blades of grass, and then the analogical means.
And so in this way there comes about a fusion between a natural dimension (the lights and the nocturnal setting) and an artificial one (the colours and reflections due to electro-morphism). 
The photo, only in part accidental, has been taken. Everything will be reborn in the darkroom. The outcome is unforeseeable, just as is the complete range of colours that will be seen on the paper.
To an innocent eye such works as Alla fine del mondo (2009) or Florida (2002) might seem simple digital processing, with the precise aim of creating a fiction. Instead we are dealing with a survey, or perhaps a revelation, of a very particular moment when nature has been dressed, just for once, in an elegant gown of glowing colours.

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Above: Laura Viale, At the End of the World, 2002, installation view, Nuovo Spazio Italiano, MART, Palazzo delle Albere, Trento, 2002-2003 
Below: Laura Viale, Florida I – 1, 2, 2002, diptych, C-prints under Plexiglass, 100 x 100 cm each 
Courtesy the artist

Laura Viale's work has evolved through her constant attention to perception. The elaboration of ambiguous scenarios, apparently without codes for analysis, leads the imagination in various directions and suggests plural semeiotic analyses.
In her most recent works the artist shows her increasing attention and sensitivity to more mental, intimate, and social dimensions of nature. The range of colours has been reduced as though to say that there is no longer space for the carnival of colour, and there apparently only remain in play the calm and silence of black and white in all their varieties. (At a technical level, however, the artist makes use of coloured film that reveals the bluish gradations of the shadows characteristic of white LED lights.)
So from 2010 onwards she began the Ce que tu es (Paesaggio) series. A camp torch, knowingly hidden, highlights a wood that has appropriated the things that mankind has abandoned. The disused industrial areas lose their original vocation and allow themselves to be remodelled by the spontaneous action of perpetual nature.

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Laura Viale, Ce que tu es (Landscape), 2010-2014, diptych, lambda prints from negatives, 80 x 80 cm each, and archival pigment prints from negative, 150 x 150 cm each
Courtesy the artist

And perpetual nature is now investigated more deeply. Contact with it is even more intimate and the photos almost seem x-rays. It is as though she wishes to make use of a tool that allows her to go straight to the nucleus and gather the lymph.
We cannot know if we are dealing with an imprisoned nature. Certainly the induced reflection leads us to think of the role of man within the natural environment.
The union between ethics and aesthetics, the relationship between what is artificial (what mankind creates and produces) and what is natural (what is given naturally) are the themes that every day arouse new and important thoughts.

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Laura Viale, Ce que tu es (Landscape), 2010-2014, lambda print from negative, 80 x 80 cm, and archival pigment print from negative, 150 x 150 cm
Laura Viale, Ce que tu es (Landscape), 2010-2014, lambda prints from negatives, 80 x 80 cm each, and archival pigment prints from negative, 150 x 150 cm each
Courtesy the artist


* Laura Viale, an artist's talk given at the Djerassi Residents Artists Program, Woodside, California, 2002.