Mural landscapes / 23 April 2014 / 23 April 2014

The Muri (Walls) photographed by Sergio Silvestrini are everywhere around us, but in order to see them and grasp their beauty, more than the appreciating technique applied, what is needed is an intense receptiveness and ability to be moved by these simple stories etched by time and the elements.

We would like to share these image-textures by showing you some of them, along with the commentary by Federico Castelli Gattinara. Find out more on the website.



“There are few precedents on the subject of this recent work by Sergio Silvestrini, and for the most part they are oriented towards different directions. One of the best-known and of the best quality in the context of Italian photography is the long series of ‘Walls’ by Bologna’s Nino Migliori, starting from the early Fifties and continued until all the end of the Seventies. ‘I used walls,’ Migliori wrote in 1977, ‘because I was interested in man. The man in front of walls is disinhibited, whether he uses a coin, a key to scratch or a piece of chalk or a spray can; he frees the unconscious, his gestures and himself’. Here, the wall, and on it the graphic sign as a social and urban mirror, an ancestral place of off communication, is exactly what does not interest Sergio Silvestrini. However, there remains the layering of time, the completely random story of that piece of plaster. Human intervention but not only, any type of mechanical, atmospheric, animal and also human intervention, is seen, rather it determines his wall prints but with different intentions. His photos are by no coincidence ‘Mural Landscapes’, that is, they refer to an elsewhere that is not really about the reasons that have defined the formal features of that portion of the wall, although it is true that because of them, or rather because of their concatenation and settlement, the picture was then taken.

In short, we are outside that informal and semiotic-gestural element that still continues to “inform” much creative production today. There is rather a randomness outside of any subconscious and psychologism, which is used in a very deliberate and completely “formal” manner. There is a poetry of form, sought and found in the layers of time and incidents to which that part of the wall has been subject. Sun, wind, storms, drips of water, stains, mildew, even excretions en-plein-air, holes, cracks, patches and repairs, painting tests, abrasions, oxidations and all other kinds of interventions. All this, actually a photographic frame of all this, is carved in the works of Silvestrini and travels of historical-artistic echoes, of fantasy, of personal taste for lines and colours. Sergio has no doubts about it: ‘the content of my photograph is me. The content is the container, mine is a sort of photographic metonymy’.

With the advent of digital, the photographer initially has a clear, ideological rejection, which leads him even to uninstall Photoshop from the computer because he is convinced that through it everything becomes really too manipulable. Afterwards, he understands that digital means endless experimentation, immediate learning, an exponential rate of evolution. ‘I’ve never been able to experiment so much in such a short time, without distractions, without forced interruptions and wasted time. I could only have worked on Mural Landscapes in digital. In six months, I was able to achieve a capacity to recognise and transpose certain colours that I could not have done on film, not even in years of tests with a talented and infinitely patient printer’. Perhaps, however, he himself admits, there has remained an ideological tail, a trace, a non-love for special effects. In ‘Mural Landscapes’ the only effect used is the chromatic inversion from positive to negative, ‘but only to obtain the blues which, thankfully, are scarce on the walls of Rome’. This is how his  beautiful transformations are born, which fascinate also because they unite a love that is completely metropolitan with the sedimentation of centuries of art history, with easy or more complicated and valuable assonances with all of the twentieth century, and then proceed back to Turner and the ‘fresco’ painting of the Italian Renaissance.”