A photographer and expert in traditional colour printing, he has always worked with abstract images and their potential, transforming his darkroom into a studio. Grandicelli’s experimentation does not stop with his work with photographic materials and techniques; in his works it is charged with profound reflections on the nature of photography itself.
He has held a series of solo exhibitions, including “Capture and Release”, The Rita K. Hillman Gallery, Manhattan, New York (2011); “Interior Dichotomy”, Cyan Gallery, Oslo (2013) and “The Fox and The Grapes”, Italian Cultural Institute, Oslo (2014).
In Federico Grandicelli’s work, every piece is part of a process, at once a stage and a trace of his ongoing research on the role and nature of the medium. In the series, the photographic medium moves within and beyond its limits, becoming sculpture and totem, study and bi-unique correspondence: visual traces of an experimental act in which photography’s transparency -the presumed direct connection between reality and representation- is simultaneously demonstrated and negated, traversed and unfolded.
The works swing between literal and metaphorical meanings, in constant tension between formalism and action, they elude the stability of abstraction to force us back into the midst of the material development of the process. As if in an alchemical world made up of transformations and mutual relations, the transmutation of the elements becomes an exercise in understanding that here feeds off a counter-current movement starting from a visual datum, both ethereal and monolithic, the totems.
These initial elements, the only ones apparently animated by a light of their own, and by colour, lead a more penetrating gaze to ask questions about the generating reality and the resulting image, and about the possibility of a stable relationship, not subject to the mutations of chance, here expressed by the equivalences. These are dyads of images consisting of black and white Polaroids showing photographic paper sculptures exposed by Grandicelli and the paper itself that, unfolded at a later point, seems to present itself as a pure and abstract figure.
These formal solutions are undone by a playful gesture, that makes things at once alive and opaque, eluding any sort of formalism. Following an inverse procedure to that which leads to the quest for the ethereal substance of the philosopher’s stone, here the flow towards inner growth takes place through a precipitation, a fall. It's a movement like that of a solid substance separated from its solution, revealing itself in its most visible form, present even within a presumed transparency.
The ideal bi-unique relationship, that which would in theory render idea and object, word and thought, image and reality, signifier and signified perfectly superimposable, is defeated by a spontaneous act, folding the photosensitive paper and giving it the childish form of an aeroplane. Thoughts become objects, precipitating in a movement of three-dimensional forms, the dynamic studies, which finally unfold in the studies: formal visions, not entirely intentional effects of a practical act that, thanks to this element of incalculability, turn into living matter. Whilst in the history of Japan, origami -literally folded papers- follow a pattern of folds to recreate real forms, Federico Grandicelli’s intervention takes us back to a spiralling circularity, as in Escher’s Drawing Hands, the act of folding and unfolding the photographed photogram follows and unfolds, through light, the very act of folding and photographing -writing with light.
With reference to language, this time directly to words, we realize how deep the relationship between the fold and knowledge is on a semantic level.
Our language is full of folds among the words. Concepts – but also wings and sails – are unfolded / explicated (as in, to make clear by way of unfolding). Complicate alludes to an excess of folds. By simplifying, we reduce all folds to one. Folds conceal a dark side, where light cannot reach, and refer to connections, relations, intertwining, clustered around their origins in the Greek verb plékô to weave, to interlace.
In the transition from sheet to space, from drawing to sculpture; among the folds of the drawing, between lines and structures, and in the movements of transitions, in the modulation of greys and the visual excitement created between the insistent profundity of black and the highlights; the accumulation of folds on the paper, their superimposition in a flow of compositions, gives rise to mathematical relationships and melodies, intersections of rhythms, tones and volumes. In the shadows of the darkroom, here both a laboratory and a studio, a place of action and speculation, the combination of a logical and linear thought and a strong materiality is resolved.
Observing Federico Grandicelli’s works makes us feel hanging in the balance between paradoxes. On the one hand, his reflections, as form and figure, use the photographic medium to allude to the dimension of sculpture and to “escape the limits of photography”, from its innate two-dimensionality. Yet on the other they exclude it and develop a discourse on the photographic that plays, in a material and speculative sense, on abstraction and on its relations with the minimum value to give life to an image. Paper, silver, light and two elements that are only superficially opposed: human intervention, the element that triggers the process of mutation, and chemistry, which tries to pin down this mutation. As if on a profound surface, we improvise, waiting to trip and fall just past the place we could have reached with our own steps.