Like the travelers that visited Italy in the 19th century – breathless from emotion and diaries intensively filled with notes and sketches – Tony Patrioli continues covering the peninsula capturing Italian boys in both quick flashes and meditatively balanced moments of seduction. Perhaps, no other country in the world offers, as Italy does, a panorama of contrasts so miraculously seductive – holding the ruins of an exalted past which surface everywhere along with signs of the prototype of modern banality, with the triumph of flourishing and blooming nature alternating with fantastic settings containing buildings and cathedrals erected by hand against time and misery.
Years ago, as today, the foreigner saw the Po Valley after challenging the severity of the Alpine glaciers and found before him a land rich with sun and fruit that was constantly changing – one moment detached, the next hot and welcoming but always alluring for its variety of costumes, foods, languages, and climates. The traveller in a few stops, found Venice, Mantua, Parma, Florence and Siena, irresistible and charming pearls, whose reflections he had no time to distinguish before finding himself in Rome, drunk with emotion. And then on to Naples bewitched by the sun. Then on to the oranges of Palermo and Aarigento… It was for this that little Wolfgang Goethe’s father recommended that he visit Italy first because “once having seen Italy no other place delights you.”
Everything is banal these days; the idea of travel no longer amazes because the distances are eaten up in just a few hours and the joy of waiting and anticipation have been lost. What once awaited and was unknown to the traveller has been spoiled by thousands of travel brochures and polaroids. The publishing and printing of collections of works by the Great Masters has rendered bothersome trips to museums unnecessary, thus no one looks after the museums. In any good restaurant one can taste truffels from Alba and “cannoli” from Sicily by digging deep into his wallet.
And so why was Patriot’s book entitled “Giro d’ltalia”? What is left to discover? A paradox lingers: that which is actually considered ephemeral and unattainable, human beauty, has remained unchanged over the centuries. The sighs of every artist over the transience of the youth of love has bestowed eternal life to the themes of poetic inspiration. Tony Patrioli’s work serves as a tool for demonstrating the speed at which beauty passes through youth and at the same moment captures it forever.
How many different types populate Italy! In every region boys are distinguished by their hair colour and their eye colour, the way in which they use those eyes in a brazen or timid way, the casualness in which they undress or the modesty in which they cover themselves once again. To the cultivated eye of beauty, the cut of the mouth – the position of the back and collar, stand as reminders of the youths of many centuries ago, characteristic of Mantegna and Bronzino’s portraits. The dignified and virile profiles. The same grace exhibited in the golden locks or the reflections of armor.
Now, with Italian cities becoming almost unrecognizable – cut with asphalt and sheathed windows of banks, gloomy and darkened by polluted skies and the clamour of traffic – the men of Tony Patrioli conserve naivete which surprises and startles. Leaving behind their jeans, shirts and watches, they advance towards you assuming the same languor and laziness of mind and body that softened Caravaggio and Sodoma along with detached unconcerned Leonardo. Patrioli catches surprised boys outdoors in places that have remained untouched by time. On the sun burnt rocks or in the green ditches of the countryside, the apparition of man spoils not nature. Rather, it completes it by adding the final touches. It produces in the spectator an antique and intense emotion gifted with authenticity.
As in his previous collections (Mediterraneo and Ephebi) Patrioli’s eye remains virginally “anachronistic”, with the freedom to eliminate signs of the times and current fashion, which have been cannibalistically forced to reproduce stereotypes and disguises.
Free from all aesthetic labels, Patrioli follows his only private obsession, separating himself from topical interests, which permits him to recreate the myth of a country that chose to sing its beauty. A beauty bestowed by the gods or an irreducible malediction – one can not say.
Ivan Teobaldelli (Translation by Joshua Canon Aalan)