portrait and selfportrait

The unique dimension in the investigation of Paolo Mussat Sartor is their immersion in photography itself, in its language, in its device, along with that instant when, as if in an interrupted birth, there is a sudden leap beyond this snug, secluded paradise of perfection. In front of each one of these images is the expectation, the surprise of wonder about to occur, of a tightrope walker who has promised to his audience never to repeat the same feat of daring. A tightrope act is accomplished, for example, in grappling with one of the traditional and longstanding tasks of photography, namely the depiction of faces. With the portrait, the photographer inevitably discovers centuries of canvasses arrayed in front of his eyes and plunge into the vast historical flow of painting. Mussat Sartor does this with great naturalness. To take up a challenge as in the case of Ritratto di Baj (Portrait of Baj, 1971) posseses the significance of an image in which a subtly pictorial material contrasts with the almost neoclassical pose of the figure. In the portrait of Giulio Paolini, A Giulio (To Giulio1988), there is a subtle dialogue of gazes within the image, which summons up the great conceptual works of painting, from Giovanni Arnolfini and his bride by Van Eyck to Las Meninas by Vélazquez. The figure is portrayed from two points of view, from the right and from the left and the eyes meet in an imaginary mirror. The triangulation of the gazes always engenders a third and virtual image that extends the effect of these resonances. It is as if the viewer were being offered, as it were a secret gift, an unexpected booty.

Herein lies the vital process of further perceptions, of clandestine and unanticipated movements, which is triggered in the presence of the images of Mussat Sartor. This is the case with Ritratto di Pellion di Persano (Portrait of Pellion di Persano, 1973) a snapshot from four different point of s of view, an experiment seeking to pass beyond the two dimensionality of photography.  Like in other "snapshots multiplied by more points of view": Autoritratto (Selfportrait, 1975), I Gabetti ( I Gabetti, 1976), I Vitale (I Vitale,1976), Giuseppe Salvadori (Giuseppe Salvadori, 1990). At this point the investigation can also turn to play with the aspect of depth, as in the portrait-sculpture Per Elisabetta (For Elisabetta, 1992), a face which emerges from the three-dimensional surface of paper treated with frottage. The distances, the material, the disorienting effect of the solarisation no longer have anything in common with the perspectival box or its deformations. There arises here an investigative dimension which by restoring to the image its physical consistency, revives it vehemently in all its uniqueness and non-reproducibility.
This is the only possible way to allow photography to rediscover its inherent aura.

Torino 1993, Adalgisa Lugli