The earliest artistic endeavours of Madrid-based Argentine photographer Fernando Maselli (Buenos Aires, 1978) were not in photography but in painting and drawing. As a teenager he began drawing nudes in charcoal, based on commercial photographs, studies he would later exhibit on a provisional basis in his grandmother’s house, where he lived. This first experience with charcoal drawing inspired his use of pigment techniques on Hahnemühle paper for printing his images. This approach was not part of an attempt to equate his photography work with painting but rather because this texture reminded him of the drawings he had made as a teenager. All the same, it can be said that his approach to photography, and many of his influences, come from painting, not because Maselli retains a pictoral approach, but for the way in which he works. Just as the painter goes outside to make sketches of what later becomes the landscape in his studio, so he takes photographs outside and later, in his studio, composes the final landscape through the juxtaposition of different images he has captured previously. Maselli practices both modalities of photography, the commercial and the artistic. His commercial work enables him to engage in research and experimentation for his artistic work.
In his work, focused on landscape photography, we see references to painting, literature, philosophy and aesthetics. Maselli looks for natural spaces unspoilt by man, which takes him on long forays into nature, sometimes lasting days, to find the landscape he’s looking for. Places that offer a glimpse of his interest in aesthetic concepts like the Beautiful and the Sublime, sometimes referring to universal ideas like the perception of the divine and the religious fact. Thus, in his series Hierophanies he approaches the relationship between the human and unspoilt nature and how, thanks to this, vital concepts for man, such as spirituality, are explained. Maselli photographs “sacred” natural spaces around the Iberian Peninsula; to do so he has travelled several times to the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa, visits that aroused his passion for these landscapes and are behind his decision to photograph the mountains. This series can be considered the aesthetic genesis of the work that is now on display and the Museum of the University of Navarra, Artificial Infinite, and other works by Maselli.
His work is marked by the representation of the immensity of nature against the insignificance of the human being, not without a certain criticism of man’s perception that he dominates nature when, in reality, it is the latter that wields the power. And, at the same time, there is an absence of the human figure in his work. Despite this, the person becomes a protagonist of his photography as this takes on greater meaning when viewer contemplates it, becoming part of it. In fact, in some of his works there is a point marked in the foreground that signals the space where the viewer is positioned, a resource heavily influenced by Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar Friedrich, one of his painting influences along with William Turner, the Hudson River School and the Spanish painter Carlos de Haes. Among his photographic influences he cites Ansel Adams, Robert Weston, Charleton Watkins, Timothy O’Sullivan and the Dusselforf School, in particular Axel Hütte, Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth, and the work of Javier Vallhonrat. Like them, Maselli confronts the representation of an heroic and grandiose nature, in which one can perceive an admiration for the landscape compared to the aseptic and questioned image of landscape in the 20th century, and even more so in the 21st. In this vision, man pales into insignificance alongside the sheer immensity of nature, as Maselli seeks to “put the viewer before a sublime and daunting spectacle that makes them question their conscience, the universe, beliefs and their own origin,” which can be better understood as a moral and sentimental reflection on nature.