What You Need to Know: Agora Gallery, New York, will present a recent series of portrait paintings by Italian painter Giovanni B. Tresso in the solo exhibition “Mirrors, The Story of 7 Portraits.” These recent portraits are drawn from extensive photo sessions Tresso conducted with each sitter, which he then uses as source material—but not in the traditional sense. Surveying the range of expressions and “micro-expressions” across the images taken, Tresso locates the irreducible and unaffected facets of the individual’s visage and translates those elements into paint. Using a painting technique that employs both brushes and palette knives, the pigments extend into the third dimension and feature a relief-like texture. The exhibition with Agora Gallery will include seven recent portraits each completed with a bicolor palette and offer viewers a new way of experiencing and considering the tradition of portraiture.
Why We Like It: Tresso’s distinctive portraits offer both a heightened tactile and psychological viewing experience through execution and composition. Conventional portraiture generally forefronts a specific mood or expression, but in Tresso’s practice, he seeks to locate an inalienable authenticity, found through careful study and comparison. Using photography and an extended period spent with the sitter, the artist is able to sift through passing emotions and expressions to get to the heart of the subject. Interpreted through a unique process of stippling and building paint on the canvas, the depth of view is both optical and literal. Contributing to the sense of existential truth is Tresso’s faithful use of two complementary tints within the same hue of each portrait; the face of the subject appears carved from the more saturated color, a type of visual metaphor for the internal life of the sitter. Together, the works in the show are a testament to Tresso’s nuanced and researched practice.
According to the Gallery: “Italian artist Giovanni Tresso offers a glimpse into the portals of the human soul. Each portrait is the result of an intimate interlude between the commissioner and the artist that fuses painting and photography. Tresso meets the subject in person and builds his paintings on a collection of impromptu snapshots that reveal micro-expressions and movements indicative of their personality. The key is to catch the sitter off guard, so that they abandon their defensive social barriers and expose their authentic essence. Echoing his background in design and advertising, Tresso’s works possess a distinctive graphic aesthetic. The facial traits are carved out using negative space and a highly contrasting dichromatic palette of white and either blue, red, green, or black. This, combined with the imposing scale of the pieces, garners a powerful magnetic quality that keeps the viewer glued to the canvas. ‘My portraits are timeless stories,’ Tresso says. ‘They will go beyond the earthly life of the person they represent and become immortal.’”
See the portraits below.