Nowadays the lives of individuals and communities are inundated with tons of news, images, flashes, noises and stimulus, therefore only the events having a high numeric and quantitative relevance can still claim for attention and for the right importance in public perception. In fact the crowds are those who move the massive media attention.
The leader – of religious or political ambition – is the essential element to gather the crowds, able to give a higher sense to the existence of his supporters, thanks to Weber aura that surrounds him. The multitude of individuals is swept away by the emotional involvement at a sublime level of dissolution in the elixir of knowledge. The five senses incitement does not allow any personal sensation, but drives the community towards a unanimous sensorial excitement.
Let’s consider a quite recent event: the mourning for the death of the North Korea dictator, Kim Jong-Il, that lead to people’s collective crying lasting many days and so much reported. Or the Hindu holidays of Kumbh Mela, pilgrimages celebrated in different places every 6 or 12 years: the Maha Kumbh Mela celebrated in Allahabad in 2001 was the biggest meeting of the planet with about 60 millions of believers.
Many of us remember the celebrations for the Jubilee of the Roman-Catholic Church in 2000, whose key event was the World Youth Day, where many delegations of different countries were prying together, or the funerals of the protagonist of that event (and of many other mass events of Catholicism) John Paul II four years later.
Besides the spiritual-messianic events, we can find similar mass phenomena that push the crowds to abandon themselves to enraptured impulses of the body and soul. Rock concerts, disco-rave and football matches can manifest symptoms of unanimous frenzy similar to those of the sacred rituals. During the last years Andrea Pacanowski has tried to seize the atmosphere of some of these crowded religious events.
Far from immortalizing the events through the reporter’s objective eye, Andrea Pacanowski went to that places to seize, through the lens of his camera, the typical atmosphere of the mystic meetings par excellence, or the spontaneous mystic of huge meetings.
Andrea Pacanowski’s training started in the fashion’s world; in the beginning of the Nineties the photographic sets of the big fashion magazines were the gym where he sharpened his sight and invested the posed models with the desirable aspect of beautiful icons. There he used the light to create the dream of perfection that covers the glossy pages of the fashion magazines.
After many years of editorial photo shootings and advertising campaigns on commission for magazines such as Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue Italy, Vogue Man and Cosmopolitan, in Canada and in the United States in addition to Italy, Pacanowski decides to dedicate to an inner research, with the intention to penetrate the surface of his subjects to visually crystallize their chromatic and energetic character that revitalizes their slight nature. The starting approach of the artist to represent the figures by drawing photographically their outlines, later has to give way to the new “shaded” style that evaporates in his pictures. From that time onwards, when Pacanowski takes pictures of people, urban landscapes, industrial glimpses or single figures, recalls the style “en plain air” of famous impressionism painters as Monet, Pisarro or Manet of the end of Nineteen century. The observer, looking at the pictures of this photographer from a certain distance, sees their figurative nature, while getting closer to them means to plunge in a hive of splashes of colour that give the chromatic feeling.
His photography seems to have a metamorphosis, the typical mechanical-digital aspect become paint vibrating brushstrokes. The bi-dimension that usually comes out on photographic paper, is transformed here in a three-dimension depth.
Andrea Pacanowski surprises the critics and the public with his skill in taking pictures, giving up with post-production, used so much nowadays. Pacanowski gets to the final work by the use of reflections created before the photographic click. He overcomes the limits of the simple epidermal representation to bring it to a wider dimension, through the use of glasses, reflecting surfaces and an extraordinary use of light sources together with the various openings of the diaphragm.
When the artist describes some moments of intense religiosity – where innumerable bodies dressed in the same way blend in the same meditative craving – we assist to the transformation of the images from figurative to abstract. Not figurative photographic works, therefore “abstract”, seem to appear in Pacanowski career after a process of desired and progressive divestment of the figurative description, blurring the real shapes through the multiplication of similar subjects, in the representation of a large crowd. A good comparison is the sequence of the Tree by Piet Mondrian where, starting from the pictorial representation of a tree, pretty similar to reality, the artist goes on to the simplification of its ramifications in order to make visible just the intrinsic structure, looking like an abstract image.
Through the visual means of his pictorial photography, Andrea Pacanowski sets colours and shapes free from the likelihood criteria, succeeding in the expression of spiritual contents with the same immediacy and “abstractness” of music (where abstraction is not a process of negation of reality, but its way to become true in a deepest dimension , through a divestment of the redundant details).
The places that allowed him to grasp the essence of spirituality in the chromatic pigment of his pictures are Rome, Jerusalem and Fes – the holy town in Maroc – one of the most attractive places of the Islamic world, all of them visited in significant circumstances of monotheistic religions occasions. Founding himself in these places during the gathering of enormous crowds of believers, Pacanowski took unusual pictures for the rituals that were taking place, intense moments of the relationship between people and the religious authority. Let’s consider his still images as the acme of a unique moment, as an instant full of tensions that mark the visual story, which is still influenced by the previous moment and already charging with a desirable coming one.
The result of these mass cathartic experiences is collected in the exhibition All’infuori di me dedicated to him at the Museum of Rome in Trastevere, where Pacanowski offers to the viewer the key to identify himself in the absorbing atmosphere of these collective events.
The artist wants to draw a mystic path that does not remain within the individual knowledge but ventures in the fields of the community sensations of our times.