Fabio La Fauci’s transformative portrait paintings elegantly combine traditional and digital techniques and celebrate the dialogue between these two visual languages, while placing the viewer at the centre of the experience.
Fabio La Fauci is an Italian born artist based in Berlin who has exhibited his work in Italy, Germany, the UK and the US. His characteristic approach to painting evolved over time, from the purely abstract work of Alphabet (2016), to the more surrealist portrayals of Panta Rei (2018). Fabio first began to experiment with the traditional compositions and layered applications seen in his Is It You? series in 2018 and has continually developed the work into what is presented today.
Through his aesthetic research, Fabio has formulated his own distinct approach to portraiture. Using traditional materials such as acrylic and oil paint, he portrays a sitter in a somewhat conventional pose. Then, using a palette knife, he transforms the face of the figure, combining elements of both minimalism and abstract expressionism. Lastly, he adds layers of acrylic modelling paste and gel and manipulates them to achieve the sculptural finish. Ultimately, Fabio produces a surrealistic and thought-provoking scene which demands the viewer question the notion of a portrait. What constitutes a portrait and who is the sitter?
Fabio removes almost all of the traditional signifiers of a portrait; the context, connotations, gestures, nuances and facial expressions. The desaturated and monochromatic figures are even stripped of clothing. However, what gives life and personality to these figures are the colourful marks and illustrious strokes made by heavy layers of impasto and the sculpting of additional material on the artwork. The introduction of physical material creates dynamic movement and tension in the work, transforming the figure beyond the 2-dimensional plane of a painting.
In this latest series of work, Fabio further transforms his figures by utilising digital techniques which compliment his analogue artistic practice. In addition to drafting the composition by hand, he now renders the face and body of the figure using 3D software. Using the same methods as he would with acrylic and oil paint, Fabio digitally sculpts the head of the figure. From this model, Fabio selects a single snapshot of the figure which he then digitally manipulates further. The resulting image is printed as a unique piece and placed under plexiglass. Mimicking his usual technique, Fabio then paints and layers material on top of the plexiglass and physically blends his analogue and digital creations. This multidisciplinary technique not only merges the products of analogue and digital practices but also brings together a greater concept of the role digital media and technology plays in our lives.
The art world is currently experiencing a Digital Renaissance and with it comes new vehicles for visual expression. Art has always been influenced by the cultural and technological advancements of its time, but now more than ever, artists are exploring visual methods of communication beyond those classified as traditional and conventional. Digital outlets are becoming increasingly popular for artists, such as VR (virtual reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and the recent phenomenon of the NFT (non-fungible token), which enables artists to sell digital artwork using blockchain technology. Artists’ understanding of new digital languages such as these has been accelerated by the art world’s rapid engagement and dependency on digital media and technology during the ongoing global pandemic. In a time when traditional avenues for expression became stagnant, these digital outlets gave artists a new and valid means of visual expression.
The internet, for example, is an amazing tool which can provide us access to images at our fingertips. However, this untethered access to a digital world oversaturated with images can also create a disconnect between the viewer and the artwork. In an effort to counteract this, Fabio places heavy emphasis on the materiality of his work. His multidimensional work creates a dialogue between traditional techniques with digital innovation by physically painting onto the plexiglass screen covering his digital artwork, as if it were the screen of your device.
These atypical portraits can also be viewed as commentary on many issues which are often associated with a person’s digital presence, from identity to anonymity. Rather than represent a specific figure, these ambiguous figures can represent anyone. With the demonstrative tropes removed from the portrait, the viewer is encouraged to project their own reality, thoughts and artistic inclinations onto the faceless figures. The works then become universal portraits of the viewer in the digital age.
David Archbold, 2021