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Between art and magic: how Fabio Viale’s sculptures can trick your senses

Everybody knows that art is capable of many magic tricks, but among the most astonishing of them all are the ones that take origin from the relationship between sculpture and materials. In Italy we know it very well as we have a lot of famous sculptures who had to face themselves with this dilemma. According to Michelangelo Buonarrotti, the image was already inside the material, and it was the artist’s job to help it come out. And Antonio Canova was so good with marble that he found a way to make it take on the colour almost like human skin. That is because sculpting is a continuous quest to have the best result with a certain material and to do that you have to know the material itself. And one of our best contemporary sculptures is brilliant with it: Fabio Viale.

Fabio Viale was born in 1975 in Cuneo, a little city in Piedmont (Italy). From his young age he has chosen marble as the favourite material for his works of art. The peculiarity of its art come to light especially in those works where he tries to use marble to fake other material. The spectator is left wordless as marble becomes weightless in Viale’s little paper planes or when in 2002 Ahgalla, Viale’s marble boat, crossed the rivers of Turin, Rome, Milan or Saint Petersburg not only floating but also transporting people. Viale is able to transfigure the material in the unimaginable, making people doubt of their own senses. And while the spectator is trapped, feeling the impelling need of touching things when their eyes cannot distinguish marble form rubber, paper or cloth, Viale find his place in between great artists and great illusionists.

Another aspect of Fabio Viale’s art that made him famous recently was the series of sculptures he made reproducing classic masterpieces in a modern way. Among them we can see, for example, a version of “Laocoön and his sons” or of “Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss“ with tattooes on their back. When asked about how he chose those tattoos, he claimed to be inspired by the story of art or the Russian criminal tattoos[1]. Some of these works of arts where shown in an exhibition dedicated to him in Turin named “In between”, closing the 9th of January. Nowadays Viale’s “Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss “will be exposed in MART, the museum of art of Rovereto (TN), in an exhibition dedicated to Antonio Canova, celebrating the bicentenary of the great artist’s death.

In the art of sculpting, the artist can only make it if they work together with the material they use and that is what is evident in Viale’s masterpieces. When looking at his works we cross the line between imagination and reality, starting to look at our world with a brand-new pair of glasses: those of art. That is the real magic trick!

Articolo a cura di: Laura Tondolo

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