PETER PASSUNTINO

To express the uncertainty and doubt prevalent today, Passuntino has invented a special kind of ambiguity that ties in with his studies of scale. To achieve ambiguity, most artists follow the methods of abstraction. He, on the contrary, relies on good draftsmanship, perspective, and anatomy. Few have mastered the comical form of ambiguity that is Passuntino’s forte, so that he has to hold his own lantern aloof in order to illuminate the way. William Hogarth’s eighteenth-century engravings come closest to his use of perspective. Both artists contradict their own spatial effects by making what is near appear to be in the distance, and what is in the distance appear to be near. However Hogarth has not influenced Passuntino in the least. 

Passuntino deals with ambiguities of size, time, place, and movement. He makes a glove look larger than it really is by placing a steamboat and many harbors directly beneath it. At the same time, the large glove dwarfs the harbors. The painting can be read either way, or both ways at once. If he wants, he can reverse the laws of perspective that make objects look smaller as they recede into the distance. With no criteria to lean upon in forming judgements, we become lost in ambiguous space. 

Some artists depend on vagueness to express ambiguity, but not Passuntino. He depicts everything clearly, including the way his fish on wheels looks under water. These details define objects so well that they cannot be metamorphosed into other objects. This is why he confines himself to changes in size, time, place and movement.

Monumentality has of course a great deal to do with scale. Passuntino archives this by painting his figures larger than life whenever possible and makes them look like statues, frozen in mid movement.

Text by Gordon Brown, Arts Magazine

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