Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Landscape 01
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Landscape 02
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer works Landscape 03
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Landscape 04
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Landscape 05
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Landscape 06
Paolo Topy Rossetto Photographer - Landscape 07



This photograph was taken along an express lane, one leading to the center from the outskirts of a big city. In the foreground: shrubs, traces of a thwarted landscape that has been brutally truncated by a cement wall. The surface of that wall is sullied with all sorts of marks left by creepers that seem to have been ripped away (bits of stem are still visible here and there), water run-off, mosses and pollution. A great number of elements contribute to and provide structure for this shot, which might appear mundane at first glance. That faint, sad mundanity, stripped of all poetry, is the essence of the urban landscape that usually unspools before us without our stopping to look, without our paying the least attention to it, whether we are driving or even just walking by. Paolo Topy is taking stock of what “is,” in this case, part of the outside world. He has done nothing to compose a fictional or imaginative narrative. The concept is entirely descriptive. Looking at this photograph, we also perform an exercise in instantaneous description. We have been faced – through Paolo Topy’s intercession – with unadorned reality. By choosing this reality as his subject, he confers new value upon it. It becomes worthy of our interest, acquires “meaning.” But what is that meaning? He seems to be saying, “Let’s stop and take a moment to look carefully.” The invitation changes our relationship to that reality through the intervention of a deliberately disrupted relationship to time and space. The picture was taken very frontally. That frontality imposes a specific, very direct way of looking, one that leaves us no outlet. We are obliged to adhere to a certain relationship to the work, one that was chosen by the artist. By looking at this image, we are also agreeing to play the game of an encounter with Paolo Topy, with his way of thinking. We agree to follow him, to experience what he is offering. What is that? After briefly feeling put off by this static and seemingly insignificant mundanity, we find ourselves affected by it. We are unable to “say.” Facing the disenchantment of the real, we too are caught in the trap of muteness. At that point, we must “locate ourselves within his way of thinking,” to use an expression dear to the writer, poet and art critic Alain Jouffroy (1928-2015), locate ourselves within the way of thinking of the artist whose strategy was to deliberately disorient us. That strategy will lead us to undergo something that will allow us to see and experience the real differently. Surprisingly, our gaze, far from being blocked by the wall, gets lost in the cement surface that soon seems to slip from our gaze, to dematerialize. Matter disappears. A new space literally eviscerates its omnipresence, which seemed to be obstructing even the possibility of discourse. Surprisingly, even though they are anchored in literally concrete reality and participate in that reality, every single visible trace on the cement surface becomes a sign, creating the impression of being part of the highly personal vocabulary of the person who composed the shot. That is absolutely not the case however. Mentally organized by him, these preexisting signs enable another image to emerge, now that we are coming at them via his way of thinking. The vocabulary actually composes a new eventuality, one that is constructed and offered up for viewing, for perception, by the artist, superposing itself over the real by his intercession between it and the viewer. The real, encoded by the highly technical intercession of the camera and the photographic act, is simultaneously decoded by the singular filter that the artist’s gaze and way of thinking represent. Paolo Topy noticed what was interesting about that gray reality, marked by the plants’ genetically programmed but vain attempt to overwhelm what was destined to be overwhelmed, by the stigmata of the slow but ineluctable transformation of matter. He augments that reality, revealing both its complexity and its evocative potential. Our senses are called upon. The memory of landscapes observed, perhaps even of painted or drawn landscapes, overwhelms us. We transpose those images, which are buried deep within our memories, onto this surface, which we then must paint with our memories. Each element, no matter how modest, of that reality composes a new landscape that appears suddenly, invented through the imagination of the viewers we are, constructed by them from the visual vocabulary proposed by the artist. A set of “blocks,” one might say, that are made available to us, and that we appropriate and reformulate in order to build something from them. In the end it is we, the viewers, who manage to “overwhelm” and complete, not the raw, primal reality, but the new one that Paolo Topy has offered to our imagination through the intermediary of our eyes. Strategically revealed and organized by the artist, the lack of perspective for the viewer, the daily “sufferance” for those who live in hyper-urbanized areas, will stimulate the unconscious drive to satisfy the urge to flee, the will to escape this deadening reality and stimulate a desire for an elsewhere, another perspective, a too-distant or simply fantasized distance. Shared with the artist, this experience suddenly makes us aware of the harshness of our daily lives in an urban environment that, out of weakness, boredom and discouragement, we don’t always have the energy to challenge. Besides, the pace of our lives, in which we don’t always take the time to truly stop and look, rarely offers us the possibility of doing so anyway! With this photograph, ironically entitled “Landscape,” we have seen that we have been invited to transcend our perception of the real, to see and perceive it in another way, to live the real differently. This unexpected and enriching experience consecrates the encounter between the artist, the work of art and the imagination – fueled by feeling and affect – of the person who briefly plays with the field of possibilities and unlimited, ever-changing perspectives that the experience of art is. This brings to mind a comment the philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) made in his book La pensée et le mouvant (“The Creative Mind”), published in French in 1938: “What is the aim of art, if not to show us things, in nature and in our minds, within us and outside of us, that did not explicitly strike our senses and our consciousness?”

Yves Peltier

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