Monday, April 23, 2012

Brad Pasutti – New paintings – review by Debora Alanna

Marcel Proust: But, when nothing subsists from a distant past, after the death of others, after the destruction of objects, only the senses of smell and taste, weaker but more enduring, more intangible, more persistent, more faithful, continue for a long time, like souls, to remember, to wait, to hope, on the ruins of all the rest, to bring without flinching, on their nearly impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.[1]

Brad Pasutti allows us to wander in the company of his perennial memories, that are vivid, elusive and aromatic, some that grow on other insisting verities. With rosy blooming in violet climes, he silently renders imposing individuality, radiant vistas burgeoning with portentous recall.

Melding into his oeuvre of 24 works at the Winchester, we discover Pasutti considers recurring allegories. For example, a Bruegelian Tower of Babel stilled in the upheaval of language multiplicity and Hieronymus Bosch’s mischievous defecator, expelling evil. 

Punctuated throughout are apocalyptic results of the unsettling revelations and consequence of these stories, with humour punctuating, like the Commedia dell’Arte’s Zanni - sly, cheeky provocateur peering out of crooks, reminding us that here, absurdity is conferred. Pasutti engages with comedic revelry, winking at our solemnity in the presence of elegant suspension.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, in his essay, Laocoön. An Essay upon the Limits of Painting and Poetry -1766 (Translated by Ellen Frothingham 1887), Chapter 3, states that “Since the artist can use but a single moment of ever-changing nature, and the painter must further confine his study of this one moment to a single point of view [...] evidently the most fruitful moment and the most fruitful aspect of that moment must be chosen.” In Chapter 4, Lessing promises that poets, specifically Virgil describe the Laocoön: “Further, nothing obliges the poet to concentrate his picture into a single moment.” Because Pasutti does not oblige his work to live in a single moment, accordingly, Pasutti’s paintings are poetry, painting absence and presence, beauty and its source, humanity’s complexity, complete with agonizing intellect and fearless desire in each work. 


With a pale to pronounced monochrome sepia palate, Pasutti’s whetting watercolour pencil mark works are embodied with dampened wipes painting surface swelling with pensive poise.

Pasutti screens The Garden of Earthly Delights around a Hieronymus Bosch Nasone “Oro”, beak formed by a man, and figures how desire epitomized can devour humanity, defecating subjects of appetite below, in privacy. 


Eccentric Pulcinella perches with an inverted funnel for a hat, a medieval symbol of lunacy (aren’t we all mad?), on a table with vacancy, and unquestioning constancy. We see the severing knife that lives between ears in Bosch’s 3rd triptych separated from listening hears on the right of this painting, still pierced by its shaft. Hunger severs lust with disquiet of violent banality in Pasutti’s rostrum.


The Hunger

Ink and watercolour pencil on paper 17 x 25 inches


Reining in the beams of comedic drama, Pasutti summons memory’s jest. In the lower left of the picture, we see a wistful man, remembering events appearing in arresting plays above and around him. In the centre of Commedia dell’Arte, we face a youthful coif, long hair on a naked back, the leading man facing Bauta or Boogy Man, wearing his three cornered hat, pointing his elongated snout into reminiscent mischief, with blackened lenses. As he is blinded by idealized youth, the creature manifests the youth’s future consternations, which is the past of the musing man in the foreground. Or the act can also be understood as the plague doctor masked, approaching the unknown with trepidation. This historical mask used as a sanitary precaution by 17th century Medico Della Peste, [2] ineffectual against what plagues. Either interpretation allows the comedic consequence invoked by macabre indulgence to be masked.

The scenes or canvases of the charade overlap and mingle. Jousters clamor between windowed panes, fighting off episodes of the memories with quixotic skill. Shutting in the action, windows transect diagonally, pointing to another act, a descending stair where an erect, pseudo balustrade is a rail to another adventurous tease through Pasutti’s explicatory drama.


Commedia dell’Arte 2012

Ink and watercolour pencil on paper 17 x 25 inches

To prevent the prophesy provided by the Delphi Oracle, that his son would murder his father and have sex with his mother ,Oedipus’ father, Laius had is son ‘exposed’. The myth showed that in spite of all efforts, the prediction came true, and Oedipus lived to kill his father, marry his mother, and solves the riddle posed by the Sphinx, a kind of recompense, an understanding that although desire was indiscriminate, deductive intelligence manifested through Oedipus’s solution is divine, and exempt from human foible.

Deleuze and Guattari wrote two books collectively entitled Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the first of the volume Anti-Oedipus.[3] Michel Foucault’s preface claims the book identifies "all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everyday lives. [...] but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploit us." The collaborators borrow from Antonin Artaud to form their theory, ‘body without organs’:

When you will have made him a body without organs,
then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom. [4]

The writers theorized that an individuals are a diverse summative of parts functioning with social libido and natural machines that require the Nietzsche framework of desire-production, at least. Oedipal desire is not desirable because it is neurotic, or permissible, if.... (the books postulate in great length).

Pasutti eyes with focused measurement, where Joan of Arc arches into an organic commodity. Freed from her body, statuesque, she is delivered from the imposition of her desire through sculptural rendition. A Sphinx-like bust is demure, setting man’s desire for answers adrift. Left of the female provocateur, a male espies a similar, male image, mirroring the unceasing machination of self-desire or desire of his own sex, connecting invasion and persecution, a sinister protraction of longing.

This painting’s foreground holds the fragments of slavish reactive desire that becomes productive. Pure multiplicities nomadically traverse the picture plane in a connective synthesis freeing new patterns of creativity: anti-Oedipal. 


Anti-Oedipus 2012

Ink and watercolour pencil on paper 16 x 20.5 inches

Pasutti’s colours are valiant and insistent, structuring incisive situations. With confounding dexterity he scrutinizes and integrates s ideas that possess humanity within elaborate environs. Dense figuration and symbols are held by multiple window and casement manipulations, stairways acceding and dissenting, bringing us into the nether regions of enquiry. Exploring the passage of time and allowing the past and presence of experience to intermingle, Pasutti’s symbology advances stratagem and calculation from painting to painting.

The artist’s operatic phrasing is becomingly visible. Articulating intimacy with purposeful pinks and magenta, Pasutti’s o range glow, caressing and arouse. Intricacy is charged with blues rascally painted shadows, mystery is expounded with yellow assertion. Purple discovers erotically mystic realms while red relegates and delivers the crux of thoughts. Black’s vigor defines and punctuates reference. Graying greens disquiet, acknowledging the cleaving poser. Pasutti’s paintings are largely gaily optimistic yet invite the introspection required for appreciating the depths of his consideration within each work.

Echoing the painting, Babel 2011‘s inquisitive rendering that drape shadows, unsettling revelations and consequential humour punctuates to provoke and engross, his reverential questioning dense. Intimation is earnest, confronting perception. Pasutti’s The Tower of Babel 2012, less ephemeral and influencing hope wears a warming colour, and his innovative, painterly contemplation, rooted in Giovanni Battista Tiepolo schematic perspective employs Ingre’s depth of field. 


Persistent allegory in both works, Babel, stilled in the upheaval of language multiplicity, the unfinished architecture aspiring to meeting creation’s source means a jumbling humanity, unsystematic, diverse and polemic interactions, in spite of the sited calamitous outcome. In the former work, quirky Bosch-like beings translate to disassociated iconography. In the later, the unobtrusive Bosch references are repeated, and titillate. Luminality, the humility of a significant transition is presented in the oil, where abundance is burgeoning and private life is demonstrative and deferential.


The Tower of Babel 2012
Oil on canvas diptych 48 X 72 inches 


Babel 2011
Acrylic on paper 21 x 28.5 inches


The Family 2010
Acrylic on paper 22 x 17 inches

Creating The Family with damaged, empty-eyed Mexican ‘Santos’, sculptures that represented saints, angels or other religious figures meant to convert indigenous cultures to Catholicism discusses hollow ideology and ineffectual interaction between societies translates to domestic relations in the midst of cultural corruption. When an ideal family is saintly, an angelic figuration that implies religiosity, this is a portrait of a realistic family that has been emptied of its fundamental humanity.

The Family members are united with identical enigmatically blue garb, all robes of contrition. The doll-like offspring held by the unflinchingly stoic father for the mother to interact with results in her introspective dismay. The mother that cannot hold her miniaturized child because of broken fingers peers down at her stumped appendages.

Pairs of Garden of Earthly Delights ears are compelled to listen to what exists between them – the force of the spear’s submission. Home, a memory, is in their empty skull in the background. A fish out of water is poised on top of an ear, near the open window that fits no home. Pasutti’s ethical offering is a view out to simulated domesticity, a view into defeat. Pasutti paints grief kindly; his view is cannily penetrating.



The Age of Chivalry 2012
Acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 inches


The Age of Chivalry is alive, the game is afoot. Chess pieces become dynamic soldiers playing in the confusion and charge of a warring army. Only one side is engaged. The fight is weighted. In the spirit of Paolo Uccello, whose feisty Battle of San Romano allows the eight hour combat to endure in three paintings, Pasutti paints fortitude and brusque with zealous vigour. Pasutti has imagined a fragmented skirmish, with the disarray that can be found in the Bayeux Tapestry, Horses in Battle of Hastings, 1070. In Tennyson’s 1857 poem, The Lady of Shallot, the chivalrous Lancelot is described: 


Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,

The helmet and the helmet-feather

Burn'd like one burning flame together,

As he rode down to Camelot.

As often thro' the purple night


The Age of Chivalry, adopts purple night, and the admiration of thick-jewell’d dazzle. Arthur, in Book 4, Chapter 3 of Le Morte d’Arthur, written in 1485 by Sir Thomas Malory, himself a knight: Unto arms, fellows, then he cried. And this quote can be seen as the cry within Pasutti’s painting. With elegant light intensifying action, he epitomizes his veneration of Vermeer with points of light, lovingly highlighting opponent pawns that could be construed as phallic. Historically, according to the medieval scholar Richard Zeikowitz [5], there is dispute about the homoeroticising versus homosocial expressions of chivalry. Knights were mythologized to be chivalrous, that is bold, fearless and loyal. With this attentive lighting, there is an indication that battling side of the chessboard has an intensely intrepid, steadfast regard for the other players’ men. 


Practicing the art of chivalry’s defense, Pasutti’s knights fight wildly in armor with horses, lances, wielding swords and shields, as defined in Chivalrous battles. [6] Front and centre is a heraldic lion, symbolizing all chivalric attributes, the king of beasts, protecting and guarding against the other side of the inactive chess board.

Battling here is within, a personal battle or confrontation, a fight fought in an interior space. Guido Cavalcanti medieval poet (circa 1259-1300), Dante’s best friend describes love as a tortuous battle in the surrendering of self to heart’s desire:


You whose look pierced through my heart,

Waking up my sleeping mind,

behold an anguished life

which love is killing with sighs.

So deeply love cuts my soul

that weak spirits are vanquished,

and what remains the only master

is this voice that speaks of woe.

This virtue of love, that has undone me

Came from your heavenly eyes:

It threw an arrow into my side.

So straight was the first blow

That the soul, quivering, reverberated,

seeing the heart on the left was dead.[7]


The Art of Chivalry embodies of this heartfelt conflict. Horse stables abandoned in the background, there is no castle to retreat to and the once lush growth of succulent grapes seen in other paintings is scant on the right of the resolute opponent’s area expressing the opponent’s withering inducement to participate because courtly love is misleading, disfavours the courting of internal conflict, preferring carnal advancement. 


Pasutti’s Art of Chivalry describes conviction in mastering potency, while the object of this play patiently waits for his turn. Pasutti strikes his devise deeply.



The Texture of Time 2012 

Oil on canvas 48 x 72 inches



With future dreams of a Venice in the distance, and a basement full of Boschian antics evoking the ground Pasutti’s playful exploration emulates, a familial Alice, just emerging from Wonderland is the buttress to Pasutti’s overlapping sensations within his timeless texturing of experience. She also peeks out an upper window, bemused at the orchestration of melodious conundrums to her left. Pasutti is committed to revisiting all his haunts, refashioning, repositioning, exploring new commitments that these returns can produce. And he paints this phenomenal reflection in harmonious tensions derived from desires, drives and impulses, but mostly, imaginative, tangled memories are exacting, rendered strenuously active by this a highly intuitive and consummate artist.


In the The Social History of Art: Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Volume 2, 1951 by Arnold Hauser on page 10, writes: 


The thesis that all this (solemn hieratic style of the Middle Ages), merely evidence of an anti-naturalistic rigid symmetry, its principles of sequence and accumulation. The thesis that all this is merely evidence of an anti-naturalistic reaction has, however, rightly been disputed, and attention has been drawn to the fact that naturalism in painting is by no means limited to the illusion of spatial depth and the dissolution of geometrically bound forms, but those ‘tactile values’ [...] with their deepening and extension of the space occupied by the representation.


Like previous masters before him, grappling with ways to react to and portray their involvement with their world, Pasutti is as diligent in his exploration of his version of faithfully presenting subjective and objective truths, equating and accumulating time, its reaction, forging intricate timing, and especially, providing ‘tactile values’, that deepens and extends his time – space relationships. Executing an altered texture from his medieval counterparts, Pasutti embraces abandon, paints diligence equally fantastical and existent.


Pasutti’s 24 paintings at the Winchester gallery, each an exceptional opus, the librettos implicit, deliberates contorted and complex human conditions. His humbling intimate histories with universal impact echo nuances staged to awe and delight. Projecting the psychology of compassion with vast acumen and historical panache, cleverly convoluting humour, Pasutti’s compositions, realms of beauty and its beast, are enlightening epic poems: immense.

April 3 to 28, 2012

Winchester Gallery

2260 Oak Bay Ave.

[1] Marcel Proust (1871-1922), French novelist. Nouvelle Revue Française (1913). Remembrance of Things Past, vol. I, Swann's Way, p. 47, Pléiade (1954).

[2] Christine M. Boeckl, Images of plague and pestilence: iconography and iconology (Truman State University Press, 2000), p. 27.

[3] 1972. Anti-Œdipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L'Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.

[4] Antonin Artaud. "To Have Done with the Judgment of God" in Antonin Artaud Selected Writings. Susan Sontag (ed). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976, p. 571.

[5] Zeikowitz, Richard E. "Befriending the Medieval Queer: A Pedagogy for Literature Classes." College English: Special Issue: Lesbian and Gay Studies/Queer Pedagogies. Vol. 65 No. 1 (Sep 2002) pp. 67–80

[6] James Ross Sweeny (1983). "Chivalry", in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Volume III.

[7] Guido Cavalcanti, The Complete Poems, edited and translated by Marc Cirigliano. New York, Italica Press, 1992;

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