Alberto Repetti’s new exhibition, Birorama: Real and Irreal Landscapes, currently on at the Coningsby Gallery, is certainly genre-defining. Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer is surprised to discover that the artworks are, in fact, drawn using nothing but an ordinary biro pen. The monochromatic drawings are united through a skilled use of the ballpoint technique, with which the artist brings to life forms convoluted and undistorted, irreal and real. Repetti successfully blurs the boundaries between the loyal imitation of landscape and the unbridled seduction of imagination which has led to the creation of a series of eye-pleasing and multifarious shapes and elements. Some of the works are large scale, and many are ‘Biroscapes’, a term coined by the artist to refer to A6-sized landscape drawings using a ballpoint pen.
Many artists have used the ballpoint technique for their artistic ends. Younger readers perhaps are already familiar with the works of the sensational Spanish artist, Juan Francisco Casas, whose works often occupied our social media timelines. Casas’s works are famously photorealistic (he actually draws from photographs taken beforehand). In the same category, the sublime works of Sonia Davel are sources of wonder and amusement.
Whilst there have been artists who have used the ballpoint pen for abstract creations, such as Il Lee, what Repetti brings to the genre is his unique negotiation with and exploration of the technique itself. He aims to work out what can be grasped by the technique, the result of which is the blurring of what reality offers to the artist, and what the artist imparts to a reality that is charged with the disturbance of method. As Repetti himself attests:
The relationship between my hand, the medium and the surface comes together to create a tangible image. The artwork is a summation of the signs and shapes I’ve perceived through the act of observing the real, and then transferred on to a sheet of paper. Time is the true protagonist, represented by the execution of the whole image.
Perhaps it is for this very reason that Repetti is not a photorealist—nor a surrealist for that matter. It is an inevitable result of such method to diverge from realist shapes and enter the realm of forms that would have remained otherwise undrawn. The conjuring of such forms via an empowered technique is bound to [mis]represent the abstract. After all, for Repetti, ‘[t]he deeper is the knowledge of painting and drawing techniques the greater is the chance of being able to express oneself and communicate’. The artist’s focusing (and I am using the term in an optical sense) on technique, has meticulously rendered some of his Biroscapes to resemble a world under the microscope: minerals, cells, textures.
One of my favourite pieces in this exhibition is Sensuous. In this work Repetti effectively creates a dialogue between ‘revealing’ and ‘hiding’. The artist masterfully creates minute shapes and textures, yet the result is forever out of focus and blurred. Through the consummation of this dialogical technique, which I believe unites most of the works in the exhibition and makes it a successful one, Repetti establishes himself as an artist that has a surprisingly comfortable relationship with reality and its neighbouring irrealities. His choice of using ballpoint pen on paper, which is astonishingly accessible and affordable, confirms the easefulness and serenity of this multilateral relationship.
This is a well-presented exhibition by the Coningsby Gallery, which specialises in illustrative and fine arts. Cosy and flooded with light, the gallery aptly allows art lovers to appreciate the highly detailed works of Repetti.
15 July – 24 August 2018
Coningsby Gallery, 30 Tottenham Street, London, W1T 4RJ