Disrupted realism, according to John Seed, the philosophical mastermind behind the ground-breaking exhibition at Stanek Gallery, that features a constellation of figurative painters at the forefront of this relatively new tendency in fine art, refers to works made by artists who have deviated from so-called “norms” of strict traditional rendering in realism to favour its expressive and intuitive “disruption.” One of the artists in the group, whose solo exhibition appropriately preceded the current show, is Italian-born and raised Philadelphia transplant, painter Valerio D’Ospina.
Sitting down for coffee with Valerio is sitting down with a part of Italy, explosive beauty of the Mediterranean and its culinary flavours and, most importantly, its wealth of figurative tradition. Valerio trained at the Accademia di Belli Arti di Firenze in Florence, played music as front man in popular cover band while at it, met his wife Victoria who was studying abroad at the time, and eventually followed her to the US, having been offered a university position at IPU, before settling in Philadelphia to paint full-time.
Valerio cites Italian movement of Futuristi among his influences, locating it someplace between impressionism and expressionism, talks about Giovanni Boldini veering away from realism into disruption as early as late XIXth century, possibly even before John Singer Sargent, who was tackling some remarkably similar subject matter at the time, had a chance to catch on. D’Ospina is a master of gesture and fluidity, an avid seeker of abstract movement and energy, whose paintings, like an experiment in quantum physics, require an active engagement with an observer to complete or disrupt pictorial and emotional space created by painter’s energetic brushwork, all the while inviting a deeply personal interpretation of the work.
When I think of Valerio D’Ospina, first to come to mind are his majestic cityscapes, particularly large paintings of the New York skyline as seen from above, whose complex man-made geometries the painter finds liberating, all the while comparing its grid and colors to Giacometti’s painterly grisaille-like portrait drawings. Unlike Giacometti’s drawings, whose essence is disciplined and sparse, D’Ospina captures the human rush characteristic of a busy metropolis as effectively as in another painting he renders sunlight that’s passing him by on a fast bike ride through Vermont woods, all the while staying equally mindful of the interplay between light and shadow, perspective and form, whether in a rectangular street view, a shapeless tree-lined forest or a large active portrait, curated specifically to be among his works currently on display in the ongoing “Disrupted Realism” show.
Firm believer in art being a sort of a continuum, often capable of realizing itself through myriad of expressions, I asked Valerio whether his music contributes in some way to his studio practice. He hesitated at first, then observed that at the time that he was a very intuitive and experimental musician, his paintings tended towards a more traditional classical realism. Once he abandoned music as a professional pursuit, Valerio’s need to seek out new forms of expression transferred over to canvas and paint, as he continued to challenge himself by tackling different ever-evolving subjects and themes.
Valerio D’Ospina’s work is a testament to fierce inner competition that exists as he challenges his own abilities and searches for dramatic movement in his paintings, so that they leave his easel to pursue an impetuous life of their own every bit as alive in their independence as their creator.