Australian artist Fabrizio Biviano creates self-referential still lives and landscapes that explore notions of spent time, both his own and others’. Ciphering inspiration from the traditions of Dutch still life painting, graphic design and personal experiences, he employs motifs of daily life to examine his personal investments of time, loss and consumption. Loosely rendered commonplace objects, such as paper coffee cups, books and tourist mementos, sit in contrast to painterly, colourless spaces. Biviano highlights not only the object’s wear and tear, but also the time invested by those who created the wear and tear. Ultimately, the paintings are, in the artist’s own words, ‘monuments to the past’.
The works in ‘Potemkin Still Life Blues’ continue Biviano’s exploration of the symbolic currency of the still life. Building on the Vanitas traditions of the 16th and 17th centuries, the works are embedded with personal and cultural references to the historical and political contexts in which they were produced. Featuring crumpled coffee cups – objects defined by disposability – the paintings can be read as modern memento moris, portraits of transience that forge a tacit discourse on contemporary life and mortality. Biviano reflects, ‘By including these cups, not only am I directly referencing notions of spent time, consumption and finality, but also the social, cultural, and ritualistic associations many have with coffee – particularly as a means of passing time.’ The paper coffee cup reworks the traditions of the still life genre into a contemporary image of consumerism, depletion and the proliferation of our ‘throwaway’ culture.
Native Australian florals affixed to the cups further evoke meditations on the transience of life, as they are both literal objects of death and symbolic funerary ornaments. Blue masking tape, synonymous with house painters and decorators, physically engineers the still life while visually piecing together some form of beauty, albeit superficial and fleeting. Herein emerges moral messages inherent to Vanitas – the futility of pleasure and ephemerality of beauty. Visualising the titular reference to Potemkin villages, the makeshift florals create a facade that veneers the mundane detritus of modern life. The native flowers supplant conventional European arrangements with Australian motifs as the artist acknowledges the natural beauty and resource wealth of Australia whilst hinting at its demise given current government policy and social attitudes.
Fabrizio Biviano completed both a Bachelor of Art at Deakin University and a Master of Fine Arts from Monash University. An art instructor by day, the artist maintains a tireless dedication to his craft. Biviano was a 2015 finalist in the Arthur Guy Memorial Prize for Painting, the Paul Guest Prize for Drawing in 2014 and in 2010 finalist in the Belle Arti, Chapman and Bailey Art Award. His artwork is held in public collections including Artbank and Latrobe University Museum of Art, as well as private collections in Australia, USA and the UK.