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  • Marc Wellmann

TENNIS AS A METAPHOR OF LIFE

The series of paintings that Vittorio Pavoncello has been working on since May 2023, currently comprising al-most 40  pieces, depicts human figures engaged with tennis in various ways. We see them less in the actual sport itself, such as hitting the ball or running, but often in situations on the fringes of physical activity. Pavon-cello is interested in these seemingly peripheral moments, where human experiences in the context of sports converge even more. For example, the handshake after a match, where players reconcile after their quasi-combative confrontation. Or the frozen shock of a fall, surrounded by spectators who want to help but don't know how. Or the forces of anger unleashed when a racket is smashed. Or even the colorful mass of spectators at a tennis tournament, translated by the artist into a modernist tangle of colors and lines framing the motionless player on the court. With a keen eye for the hidden emotions in the postures of the figures, Pavoncello shows us not only tennis players but humans. He succeeds in capturing the essence of these mo-ments.

To achieve this, he reduces postures and movements to pictograms. Like pictograms, which are understan-dable without text or additional explanation, Pavoncello operates in the universal language of the body. Pic-tograms are descendants of Egyptian hieroglyphs and are an integral part of our environment, whether at traffic lights, toilets, or airports. Abstracted pictograms were first designed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to denote sports, which Pavoncello's tennis series could specifically reference. Interestingly, tennis was already an Olympic sport at the first Olympic Games in 1896, but was removed from the program after the 1924 Summer Games and reinstated only in 1988.

But viewers of Pavoncello's works are not just passive recipients of messages, like with a road sign. We are also producers of sensations with his works. These sensations are all the more intense and distinct the more one is connected to tennis,  whether as an active player or as a spectator of public competitions. This sensory dimension of his paintings has much to do with the effect of colors and the blurriness of his lines, which chal-lenge the viewer to engage in what could be termed a "visual act."

The paintings are mostly constructed in two layers. On a patterned or monochromatic background, Pavoncel-lo outlines the figures and surrounds them with a uniform, opaque color. This color varies in each painting of the series, but they all come together as part of a palette in an overall harmonious color space, where refe-rences to the colors of major tennis tournaments are preserved. The figuratively outlined color fields are re-miniscent of stained glass windows, a comparison that Pavoncello intentionally makes, particularly regarding the spirituality associated with it. As a concrete art historical reference, one could look to the paintings of the French artist Georges Rouault (1871-1958), whose strongly contoured figures evoke a similar effect.

Vittorio Pavoncello came to painting through theater. For many years, he has worked as a dramaturg, direc-tor, and set designer. Just as he delves into the significance of figures on the stage in this art form, he focuses on human experiences and emotions in painting, distilled around his experiences as an active tennis player. Through his unique perspective and ability to translate complex moments into simple visual symbols, he invi-tes viewers to engage with the multifaceted aspects of sports and human existence.

Vittorio Pavoncello has been working for many years as a director and dramatist and he has approached painting through theater. Moreover, as he delves into the meaning of the figures on a stage, he focuses on the human and emotional experiences in his painting distilled by his personal experiences as an active tennis player. Through his unique perspective and ability to translate complex moments into simple visual symbols, he invites viewers to compare themselves to the multiform aspects of sport and human existence.

 

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