Bruschi, Valentina: Gran Tour 2002

2002

Petra Feriancova references both the real and the fictional environments in her photographic work, which is concerned with exploring the territory between memory, perception and representation. Her approach to the photographic image is not formal and the technical aspects are secondary to the narrative which is usually constructed in a second moment. The first step is the “collection” of images, snapshots taken with a disposable camera which the artist then develops and selects. The images are then presented on their own or combined in a series. Sometimes, like for the exhibition at the Fondazione Olivetti in Rome (2002), the installations combine photography and drawing. Feriancova makes liberal use of the European Romantic tradition of both landscape paintings (Friedrich, Böcklin, Constable, and others) and literature. Beyond this, awareness of landscape is based on memories, often filtered through the aides-memories of holiday snapshots, postcards, travel books, documentaries or movies. For example, in the series of images “Greetings from Liliputtania” (2001), Feriancova recalls both the tradition of the eighteenth century “Grand Tour” of Italy - she places herself as a foreign artist looking at the Italian cultural and natural landscape - and the genre of the road movie which has entered our consciousness as a landscape convention. In some of the images, Feriancova was looking specifically for historical sites, such as “The Tomb of Cecilia Metella”, in which she recalls classical images of the roman landscape created by Nicolas Poussin or Claude Lorrain. When a figure enters the landscape, the narrative element is increased, suggested also by the title chosen by the artist, such as “Lilliputtania”, “Hansel & Gretel” (reference to the tradition of fables) or “Ophelia”. The latter is a snapshot taken on the seaside of Puglia which immediately reminds us of the famous painting by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais which depicts the victim of Hamlet’s manic behaviour. Millais's Ophelia shows an unearthly beautiful woman drifting "with palms upturned, just breaking the surface of the water, offering herself to death... the image is one of utter passivity”, but Feriancova’s representation insists on the simmetry of the image, creating a great sense of levitation which results in increasing the overall atmosphere of ambiguity. Is the woman dead or is she simply floating in the warm summer sea? The same ambiguity returns in the central image of the installation “Nutrip 98” which again recalls the typical enthusiasm of a tourist in Italy (in this case a friend of the artist) which is in contrast with the unpleasant part of the seaside at Fiumicino - the small village on the outskirts of Rome, near the airport - in winter, with black ferrous sand and the shabby huts on the beach. In effect, this landscape reminds us of Northern Europe, transforming the notion of a typical Italian seaside image in a sort of “non place”, a mechanism that can also be found in similar images seen in films by young Italian filmmakers, such as “L’Imbalsamatore” (2002) by Matteo Garrone. In the series “Almost Blow-UP, Victorian Boredom - diary 2002”, Petra has collected images which create an impact with the viewer. Part of this series is the work “Wanstead Flats”, which consists of six images of an empty  football pitch with crows. Even if the subject is the same, each photograph presents a different narrative which depends on the variation of the composition based on the distance and quantity of crows in the image. Usually the landscapes are void of figures and are difficult to classify, recalling the same sense of estrangement of the vividly textured images of nature abound in Andrej Tarkovsky’s cinema, notably his film “Nostalghia” shot in Tuscany in 1983. Similarly to the Russian director, Petra’s images often refer to the water element, to clouds and to animals such as birds and especially dogs, which appear frequently and often enigmatically, possibly representing another embodiment of the forces of the natural world. Valentina Bruschi, oct.2002, british school, Rome.