Landscapes enclosed in delicate gossamer phials
Stefano Ciol’s diaphanous images, representing labile semblances of snowy or mist-bound landscapes, might be suitably expressed by Eugenio Montale’s definition of old Chinese poetry: “droplets of water which ought to show us an ocean and just remain enclosed in their delicate gossamer phials”. These whites incised with thin grey lines in which “shadow is entangled and breaks”, as a poet of the Tang dynasty wrote at the end of the first millennium AD, also appear affected by the same poetic rarefaction which dissolves the elegant limpid images of a “floating world” in Japanese graphic art. Images like exhalations grazed by a sense of nostalgia, as though steeped in a gentle dream.
From his father Elio Ciol, the world-famous master of photography, Stefano learned the transfiguration of landscape visions plunged in an entirely interior, lyrically sublimated Time. The constant task of keeping up with new technology led him to interweave traditional techniques with the latest, most advanced ones in order to accentuate the poetic rendering of the representation, make its substance deeper in ontological terms, seize its fleeting echo. Compared to Elio’s emotional participation, Stefano looks at things with a sort of aloof raptness.
Using black and white he develops a language which amplifies the subject’s imaginative potential. The expressionist strength of black mingles, mixes in a magma of volumes massive mountain chains of Asia Minor, the Crete south of Siena, the Carnic Alps, rocks rounded like parts of a woman’s body, countryside landscapes of Friuli, Emilia, France. The panoramas of Andalusia seem to solarise Garcia Lorca’s poems against sombre backgrounds. Out of threatening mists rise apparitions of hills, possible frames from Orson Welles’ film version of Macbeth.
On the other hand the effusion of whiteness in which things project themselves emphasises the enigmatic poetic remoteness of vision, its poised wonderment. In this sequence of an imaginary White Film—to paraphrase the title of a masterpiece by the Polish film director Krysztof Kieslowsky—the photograph becomes as faint as a very light ink or pencil drawing. The labyrinthine weave of trees and shrubs become rarefied calligrams or exquisite silver filigree embroidery, the curvilinear lines of furrows, the rows of vines and stakes rising from a nothingness of white, are swift flashes, elusive ghost-forms. Echoing vague landscapes precious arabesques rustle. Veiled fleeting traces pass through the unconscious. Reality blurs into illusion with the impalpable lightness of a breath; lost, every material consistency becomes a lunar fairytale mirage.
“Whiter even / than the rocks of Monte Roccioso, / like the autumn wind” : the verses of the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō could be an emblematic epigraph for Stefano Ciol’s visual lyricism.