GEOPORTRAITS – Portraits to Explore
How to give new life to the places of our Earth through art
Active for years in a field of research involving the relationship between illustration, art, and new technologies, Giuseppe Di Dio has been a pioneer in the creation of "Geoportraits," geographical portraits - through the use of digital art - which take on the appearance of the territories to which the depicted individuals belong. Exploring an unprecedented form of art through technology, he has created his own distinctive identity, with a fundamental focus on the relationship between humans and the Earth. Satellite maps have become the primary working tool of the artist. He uses the chaotic mosaic of houses, streets, roads, and landmarks as a canvas for his large and small-scale portraits, assembling geographic and urban elements to create figures that blend the ancient and contemporary. The artist creates and composes highly figurative images, using a wide range of tangible media across various digital surfaces and contexts.
The creative process starts with an attempt to "synchronize" the facial features of a person with existing topographic structures. After acquiring a series of data, the artist creates geolocated paths that fix the physical characteristics of the character to significant places chosen throughout the Earth's spatial extension. The portraits are designed to be explored through all those elements belonging to the chosen location, which the artist has decided to incorporate into them. Cities and regions take on new forms, new faces, built through the layering of streets, roads, squares, and neighborhoods of a specific place. The artist creates a unique artistic language for his portraits. From the era of Prehistory, the portrait carries human memory through physiognomy. From the Lady of Brassempouy - a fragment of an ivory statuette dating back to the Upper Paleolithic and the oldest realistic representation of a human face ever found - to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, painted in the early 16th century, to Andy Warhol's iconic Marilyn from 1962, and now to Giuseppe Di Dio's geographical portraits.
The need to imprint faces of illustrious figures from every era - using various supports and diverse artistic techniques - has always been prevalent. In the case of Di Dio, these are faces that have had a particular influence on his life and, in different ways, have forever changed humanity. Based on existing and famous portraits that inspired the artist, he presents geographical portraits, providing new interpretations for them. He immortalizes not so much the figure itself but its presence on the described territory, consequently highlighting the relationship between humans and the Earth. The profile of Salvador Dalì takes on the appearance of Catalonia, David Bowie's face becomes the illuminated Square Mile at night, Freud and Beethoven are imprinted with the colors of their respective lands, Leonardo da Vinci transforms into 15th-century Milan, and the Supreme Poet outlines Dante's Florence. These are portraits to explore; starting from a comprehensive, 360-degree view where the face of the renowned character is visible in a varied palette of colors - our Earth - the spectator gradually delves into the inner and geographic world of the depicted figure. In this way, the artworks represent both the portrayed individual and the scenarios of their beloved land.
The physiognomy of the depicted figure becomes a map to discover. These are portraits constructed through the history of the places that have marked the path and life of the characters on display. They are unique portraits, in a site-specific form, aimed at showing not only the profile of the portrayed figure - faces known to the general public - but, above all, a part of their story, inevitably tied to the places that have always shaped their existence. The compositional elements are not merely what is seen through the gaze; sometimes, as the Little Prince says, "One sees clearly only with the heart, what is essential is invisible to the eye." The geographic and urban elements may be the anatomical parts composing the face, but when observed through a romantic sentiment, they primarily represent the macro-universes present in each portrayed individual.
"Man and his land, a reciprocal influence that transforms places and personalities. Portraits of men realized through the earthly sign. The places, the cities, the paths narrate the lives of great protagonists. The indissoluble and indispensable bond between a person and their land, where they were born or raised, occurs from a tender age; despite all the journeys they may undertake and everything that may happen over the years, they will always return to it, to their fertile land, which, like a mother, takes care of them. The artworks speak of authentic and profound connections with their respective cities and regions. Thus, the place expresses a relationship of infinite closeness, like the one by nature between a father and his children, and becomes their refuge, where they safeguard personal memories, traditions, and hopes for the future. These places constitute ancient cities dropped into the depths of consciousness, creating a religious dimension."
At the same time, it is not guaranteed to have a sentiment towards the place where one was born. For many individuals, it may hold no significance. There can be various reasons for not nurturing feelings towards one's native country. The place of birth is not primary; rather, it is the place where one has grown up that matters. An important role is also played by the place of affinity, as it preserves the family's history. Equally important is the place where dreams and objectives have been achieved.
So, which places does Di Dio talk about in his Geoportraits?
"Leonardo in Milan" focuses on the relationship the great genius had with the city of Milan, where he found fertile ground from the very beginning. "Beethoven in Vienna" intends to celebrate the union between Beethoven and the city of Vienna, an urban center that warmly welcomed the celebrated composer. "Raffaello in Urbino" narrates the close bond between the great painter and his hometown of Urbino. "Dalì in Catalonia" embodies the perfect fusion between the subject and their birthplace; Catalonia has been both the starting point and the destination for the surrealist painter. "Freud in Moravia" highlights the streets of his hometown, paths that seem to lead to the key for unlocking the secrets of the soul. "Dante in Florence" celebrates the strong and controversial bond with his hometown, Florence. "Bowie in London" illustrates the strong connection between David Bowie, one of the greatest rock stars of all time, and the cosmopolitan city of London, where he was born and found fertile ground.
Di Dio's Geoportraits emphasize the reciprocal influence between humans and their land, a powerful synergy that transforms places and personalities.
by Alisia Viola