He considers himself as “a worthy disciple of Ghirri”, but then adds that it’s not fair doing exactly what his master did.
Then he insists in declaring he is absolutely against gushy photos and against all the images which try to be successful through eccentricity, strangeness, strong colours.
In the choice of the subjects and of certain places rather than others, Riccardo Varini searches for and obtains a different definition of his field of visual investigation in comparison with the one promoted by his Master, but there are
clear similarities between the two deriving from the same way of “thinking by images”, a method which Ghirri introduced in the early Eighties.
With great incisiveness Gianni Celati has enunciated in one of his essay (Discorso di Fontanellato) that “photographing meant to him being surprised by everything…finding the right particular emotion able to make you imagine the immensity of the space even in the most common daily things. His idea of the natural vision coincided with the idea of a state of enchantment which we call poetry”.
This is the meaning of Ghirri’s teaching.
Varini shifts his attention from the simple things which he has come across to urban fogs and wide spaces of solitary seascapes or to the Big River, where the bridge standing above it breaks our act of looking thus evoking a longing for infinity. The bridge, in the delimitation of the landscape, has the same function of Leopardi’s fence which “excludes man’s sight”, thus kindling in the imagination the vision of a never-ending space.
Due to this tendency to an essential landscape vision where picturesqueness is completely absent as well as any romantic mawkishness or naturalistic satisfaction, Varini finds also in the painter Gino Gandini another important figure of reference. A painter who followed the school of Guidi and Morandi, and after providing excellent results by illustrating the pictorial stream of the 20th century between the two wars, created a very personal style by focusing on essential landscapes which were however distant from surrealism or fashion.
Gandini’s pictures – as he says – really struck me.
The snowy hills, the simple seascapes, some landscapes of the Po river area are painted by Gandini with just a few strokes defining the shapes using delicate different colour tones.
These are values which I tried to follow mixing them with the values of Luigi Ghirri, which are however in keeping with them. Varini’s art style has not developed by only following the aesthetic rules of the figurative culture of our time, but also by succeeding in establishing a contact with nature. “If I manage to represent with strong emphasis also “poor” landscapes – he says – I must thank my father who taught me the importance of staying close to nature. This is the most precious thing he has given me beside the love for simple things”.
I couldn’t wait for Saturday to come to go with him along the Po river fishing and listening to the cuckoo until dusk. Instead of going to dance I’d rather penetrate into woods, or sitting at the end of a table in a little-known tavern. Starting from this passion I began painting some pictures, but after the first brush-strokes the light would soon change. Then I passed to photography which brought me also towards a deeper compositional research. I think that photography spurs you to improve the work synthetic capacity.
“I think I have gone beyond the realism as an end in itself, not through mere experimentation.
I didn’t want to improvise a style, as many do. The path through art is slow and difficult; short cuts or easy dilettantism are not admitted.”
Love for wildlife does not mean to Varini cultivating the nineteenth-century myth of the fidelity to the naturalistic element. And his appreciation for the painter Gandini does not mean that he does not firmly believe in the autonomy of photography as an art expression, a theory which also A. Giulio Braglia already claimed in 1910 in the wake of the futurist vanguard. This is an aesthetic autonomy which, unlike in many other countries, is not always praised here. Photography means for too many people something to put in an album to close in a drawer and to glance through during some anniversaries.
The art value of a photograph is recognisable if, once it hangs on the wall, can successfully hold the viewers’ look, if it can draw the attention and convey meanings which are not banal.
This potentiality belongs to the photography of Riccardo Varini, a kind of photography that withstands the observer’s eyes communicating the emotions which only art can express.