Nunzio Paci is an Italian artist living and working in Bologna. Paci paints human anatomy with a surrealist path, recalling the studies of the body from the Italian Renaissance. Body parts are numbered and labeled like dissection records, with marginalia scrawled softly along the sides. In the tradition of his Italian precursors, Paci takes an artistic approach to science, blending grim images of death and corporeality with a reverence for the complexity of the human form.
“My whole work deals with the relationship between man and Nature, in particular with animals and plants. The focus of my observation is [the] body with its mutations. My intention is to explore the infinite possibilities of life, in search of a balance between reality and imagination.”
Paci’s practice of exceptionally drawn artworks have a disturbing anatomical accuracy where one might immediately channel Leonardo Da Vinci. However, centuries of research bring us to updated studies and new men of science and art. Although having primarily studied Fine Art in his hometown of Bologna, Paci became absorbed in epidemiology in an effort to control what he knows he cannot. Being an “irrecoverable hypochondriac,” he went on to study anatomical pathology, then human and comparative anatomy and brought those influences into his oeuvre. With various expressions on his subject’s faces—sometimes apathetic and in others startled and very much alive—Paci is conveying the vitality of life rather than the innate passivity of death.
“For this reason the subjects are portrayed in a natural condition,” he said. This humble writer saw this as a reference to the decay of a human body and its return to the earth once it’s buried and that we, people and nature, are all connected. Paci simply replied, “I think both interpretations are true. I think it’s not possible to express only one ‘meaning.’ Rather, I believe that what you get from an artwork is the result of your life and your personal experience.”
Paci brings his own style into these anatomical portraits by expressively exploring the body’s connection to nature; veins that unravel past the skeletal contours sprout into leaves, and branches twist upwards from shoulders with a spring-sapling fervor. Birds perch on the blooming dead, and in the corner, dissection instruments are curiously mixed with garden tools. Beautifully macabre, Paci’s mutating cadavers explore not only the interrelation of life and death, but the material links between all living matter—expressed, for example, by the similar structures of arteries and branches.
All images: Nunzio Paci