The repeated subject as an exaggerated, ironic, sarcastic, erotic and even metaphysical reflection of the human condition. Therefore, the thesis of so many works, the recurring theme of these lovely birds is not the penguins, but it’s men, women and children; in a certain sense, it’s humanity in an anthropomorphic way, which Vincent Gregory lines up in painstaking precision. This has nothing to do, however, with Disney-style anthropomorphism. It’s rather a repetitive, almost a rhythmic relentlessness, just as different as it is unstoppable; using a musical example, it’s like Ravel’s “Bolero”. So let’s look at the works of this bizarre globetrotter. If we linger on the captivating “presi nel vortice” (caught in the vortex) it can almost get you dizzy. However, just move your eyes on “giro, giro tondo” (ring around the rosies) or “bellezze al tramonto” (beauties at sunset) to regain balance and sweet surrender. Instead “alla ricerca di quale felicità?” (looking for which happiness?), “cloni come robot” (clones like robots) and “bloccati nel traffico” (stuck in traffic) draw from reality, even if dramatic. Just to mention a few. I personally enjoy and am intrigued by “pinguini sommeliers” (sommelier penguins) full of famous wine labels; this series is dedicated to working penguins, positive penguins, in the jungle, topless; those who are philosophical-meditative like in “il fiume della vita” (the river of life), “tra le correnti freddi” (between cold currents) and others where clearly the predilection to the artist-penguin for writers such as Kafka, Hesse, Garcia-Màrques and masters of colour like Klee, Gaugin, Mirò and others shows through. Beyond that polar bird, that does not fly but swims like a fish, where the artist summarises the world and humanity in general, his work turns out to be clear, vivid, liquid, lively, a throbbing movement of forms and colours different from one painting to the other.
The eye is often captivated and invites the mind to a thorough reading of details taking nothing away from the bright and contrasting “monumentality” of the whole. It is not an exaggeration to say that this work of over two hundred pictures is a sort of penguin-type monumentality. If we linger on the works that preceded his almost insane passion of the exponents of the Sphenisciformes order of animals, even those who do not have the right skills to go deeply into the property of art, (as your reporter here) you can’t help making strange, hazardous parallels with the fantastic and bizarre world of the great Flemish painter Jeronimus Bosch. Although totally different and coercive in the repetition of the main subject, his paintings randomly reveal a proliferating forest of obsessions and erotic-sexual symbolism “senza complessi e alla spiaggia in topless” (no taboos and topless on the beach) mystical “rosso di sera pinguino spera” (red sky at night, penguin’s delight), existential “alla meditazione” (to meditation). Many of his works can also be considered love letters that the penguins should be able to take far away. From what is gathered or observed, impact with people is always growing and this species of letter-penguins cross the oceans. Leaving the atelier, with my head playfully crowed with penguins and feelings balancing between our world and that of these animals, I think there must be a compromise between the extraordinary longevity of parrots and the ephemeral existence of butterflies, just like there is between the laughter of the hyena and the sadness of an ox, but also between the way we live and how (why not?) the penguins do. The answer is surely hidden in the crowded pictures and I missed it. Oh well, this gives me
an opportunity to go back and visit. In the meantime, at least one penguin, down in Patagonia or in the South Pole, probably keeps asking himself if he is a penguin or a waiter.
Eros Costantini, Lugano 1998 (Translation Emanuela Agostino)