The chest of an elderly man is split in two. On the left, his thin body is whole and unharmed, but on the right, his skin has peeled away and his ribs, sternum, cartilage, and blood are visible. A small bird hovers over his intact shoulder and a few roses sprout from his exposed neck. This painting, oil and pencil on canvas, is called A Place to Rest and is part of a series of hybrid painting-illustrations by Italian artist Nunzio Paci. Interested in the merging of people and nature, Paci’s work deals intensely with the body and various bodily mutations. He says that he hopes to balance imagination with reality in his work, combining the fantastical with simple portraits of human anatomy.
Many of Paci’s painting series deals with elderly bodies, making their decay a poignant representation of the nearness of death. Several of the pieces depict bodies that have been completely maimed or decayed. In one, called When The Flesh Sleeps Everything Sleeps, only the top of the skull is intact, with the entire body from the cheeks down exposed, and one arm missing.
The more destroyed the physical body is, the greater the presence of nature becomes in the portrait. As the body decays, it is reincarnated as a tree or a flower, encouraging the presence of other animals, namely birds. One exception, called Anatomy of a Shrub, depicts a limbless body from neck to hips, accompanied by a series of tools sketched in pencil. This juxtaposition of man-made tools in a series which invokes only nature in all the other portraits, is jarring. In these portraits, humans are depicted in full unity with nature, separated from all technology.
In addition to painting and drawing, Paci has also worked with other media. His interest in the body has led him to work with x-rays, and to incorporate animals skulls into sculpture pieces.
To learn more about the artist, visit his website.