Back To The Future BTTF 1
Disegni DS 6
Present Future PF 7
Corridor Pink B 14
Corridor Dark Blue 14
Corridor Orange 9
Step 01, Lilia Ben Salah, Inji Efflatoun
Step 02, Ani Molnár, Radenko Milak
Step 03, Federico Vavassori, Osama Alrayyan
Step 04, Barbati, Michael Lombardo
Step 05, Crone, Józef Jarema
Step 06, Whatiftheworld, Pierre Vermeulen
Good morning! Welcome to Artissima 2023. This is the AudioGuide project and you are listening to tour number 4 entitled Pinxit and dedicated to the state of international painting. Already in prehistoric times, painting was present in cultures all over the world, as from the very beginning humans felt the need to leave a trace of themselves, and painting technique was the most accessible and immediate artistic form for this purpose. Over time it has acquired incredible fortune, also in terms of critics and the market, and still occupies a substantial space in the contemporary art system. In the A Treatise on Painting , Leonardo da Vinci writes that among the sciences, painting «is the first; it is not taught to those whom nature grants it, as mathematics is [...]. This one does not copy, as one does letters [...] this one does not imprint, as one does sculpture [...] this one does not have infinite children as one does printed books; this one alone remains noble, this one alone honours its author, and remains precious and unique, and never bears children equal to itself. These words are also credible today: it is not enough to think of painting as the mechanical application of colour to a drawing. In the past, it was always considered "first among the arts" because it focused attention on more complex problems - the same ones that are still being questioned in the present - such as the rendering of colour, variations in tone, the study of light and shadow, the illusion of naturalistic spaces, the richness of technique, increasingly contaminated by the introduction of new materials. Together we will have the opportunity to focus on the meaning of this centuries-old genre, which is still alive in the contemporary world, both in its more traditional forms and as a field of technical experimentation, between figurative and abstraction, also paying attention to inspirations and languages. The audioguides were developed for Artissima by the mediators of Arteco. This tour was curated by Martina Furno. We are ready to go. Pause your player and head for the Lilia Ben Salah Gallery located at number 1 in the Back to the Future section, where we will begin our tour. Press play once you are there.
We start our tour from the Lilia Ben Salah gallery in Paris, which for its curated Back To The Future section presents the artist Inji Efflatoun, an influential feminist painter of Egyptian origin who lived between 1924 and 1989. Raised by a single mother in the French-speaking aristocratic circle of Cairo, Inji Efflatoun participated in Marxist circles in her youth, getting closer to the more politicised current of Surrealism. She was one of the first women to study art at Cairo University and led several campaigns for gender equality in Egypt and Europe. In 1959, she was imprisoned for four and a half years because of her activism within the Egyptian Communist Party. Whereas before this period her painting relied on the need to learn about the history and folklore of her country, in prison she focused on a more raw and explicit depiction of the human condition, of the hard physical effort of the peasants and the working class, of the struggle against imperialism and the affirmation of the role of women in national life. The social realism of these years slowly fades upon its release. Once released, in fact, she shifted her attention to a renewed vision of the world, characterised by the contemplation of a simple and unspoilt nature, which she had not been able to enjoy during her imprisonment. Her style also becomes more lyrical, as can be seen in the works on show, in which the figures are reduced to the bone, delimited by sharp, soft contours, and the brushstrokes dissolve - bordering on abstractionism - on a blank canvas in which empty spaces become an expedient for expressing light. The thick, textured and undulating line becomes the protagonist together with the bright, vibrant colours, because this is how the artist conceived her paintings, to «vibrate with life». In the preface to the catalogue of a 1964 exhibition, the Frenchman Jean Lurçat summarised the artist's poetics as follows: «She listens to nothing but the Egyptian voice that constitutes her profound heritage. That sound is the sound of the desert, of the Nile, and it is the horizon of her burning soul». We have finished our first stage. Pause your player and head for the Ani Molnár gallery in the Disegni section at section number 6. Press play once you are there. I will be waiting for you!
We now find ourselves in front of the Ani Molnár Gallery, in the curated Drawings section, where the work of the Bosnian Radenko Milak, who combines the photographic image with pictorial narration, is presented to the public. "My artistic practice has always been strongly influenced by the idea that our relationship with the world and its history is largely determined by the uninterrupted and continuous flow of images," says the artist. His works, in fact, problematise man's relationship with images transmitted by the media and that gap between the most authentic perception of reality and the photographic shots of the international press, which have an impact on our collective unconscious. Everyday life is presented like a film, in an endless stream of images that at first glance may remind still frames. If we get closer, however, the watery brushstrokes characteristic of watercolours and the play of transparencies reveal his artistry. The soft tones of black and white transform photographs from print media and the Internet into more intimate pictorial narratives, favouring urban scenarios and large anonymous apartment blocks, which vibrate with loneliness and absence. As a chronicler of the present, Milak tackles important contemporary issues - the environmental crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA projects - where reality is reduced to its essence, with the aim of reinforcing the message of the original image and stimulating the viewer to re-evaluate forgotten or invisible stories. We have finished our second stage. Pause your player and head for the Federico Vavassori gallery in the Present Future section at section number 7 on the black corridor. Press play once you are there. I will be waiting for you!
We are now in the Present Future curated section in front of the Federico Vavassori Gallery in Milan, which presents the work of Syrian artist Osama Alrayyan, born in 1995, now working in Basel. At the centre of his paintings, between figuration and abstraction, is the loneliness of the characters, while barely sketched landscapes appear in the background. The full backgrounds construct the shapes of the faces, the absent gazes, which tell of a humanity that is both distant and close at the same time. The boundaries between figure and background are not always well defined, the shapes seem to overlap, and sometimes interpenetrate. The artist states that he repeatedly returns to the same subject, repainting it several times as if to give the impression that there are many layers. And the final rendering fully emphasises the mystery or fairytale: behind the lightness of these floating figures, men and women like so many - often inspired by the great names of Goya, Daumier and Velázquez - hides an almost melancholic tension, a lived reality not always in the most comfortable conditions. Not even the choice of colour suggests this to us: the artist plays with contrasts between complementary colours, reds and greens that reach sometimes jarring tones. Painting here becomes a veil of Maya, hiding behind a visual code made up of overlapping veils, colour mixtures, and tonal gradations, a deeper, at times wearisome narrative. And perhaps, if we look carefully, we could say that Alrayyan's tale is that of a reassuring world that is not so reassuring, made up of colour contrasts and blurred edges, of bare and raw experiences, of a time that like a sword wounds us if we are not the first to wound it, as the artist himself states in the title of one of his works, Time is like a sword if you don't cut it cuts you. We have finished our third stage. Pause your player and head for the Barbati Gallery in Venice on the pink B corridor at section number 14. Press play once you are there. I will be waiting for you!
We are in the New Entries section, opposite the Barbati Gallery in Venice, which presents a selection of paintings by Michael Lombardo, a young American artist now working in Los Angeles. The group of works presented at the fair, all small in size, depict still lives composed of everyday objects collected by the artist himself. They are objects with sentimental value, linked to his childhood in Oklahoma or to periods of change in his life, which represent his interests and define his identity. These interact with the surface of the painting, made of stretched linen and canvas, on which the artist likes to intervene by adding unconventional ground materials to the paint, such as dirt collected from his childhood home or scraps of red oak wood. The addition of these materials seems to distort the images, to simulate the effect of a memory that becomes increasingly blurred over time. The artist declares, in fact, that he wants all these paintings to have weight and specificity in terms of vision, in the way they are made, but also a sense of distortion or detachment. Between semantic uncertainty and the concreteness of forms, the viewer is confronted with a real image, where objects and surfaces interact with each other and merge their own characteristics of light and texture. The viewer has to find the visual correspondences between the glitter of rhinestones and a drop of dew in the morning, between the grazing light on the ripples of a silk shirt and the refracting surface of an old road sign. We have finished our fourth stage. Pause your player and head for the Crone Gallery on the blue corridor at number 14. Press play once you are there. I will be waiting for you!
We are now at the Crone Gallery in Vienna, which for its Monologue/Dialogue section proposes a dialogue between the Polish artist Józef Jarema and the Franco-German sculptor Jean (Hans) Arp. Both of them have worked in the 1940s and 1950s, exhibited together, organised transnational artistic collaborations, written literary works and engaged in the search for a universally abstract visual language, far removed from the horrors and tragedies of the two world wars. It is on the former, however, that we will focus our attention. Józef Jarema, was born in 1900 in Austrian Galicia (now Ukraine). In 1918 he moved to Krakow, where he studied painting, and in 1924 to Paris, where he frequented the artistic circles of Louis Aragon. In 1931 he returned to Krakow and founded first the magazine «Glos Plastyków» and then the legendary avant-garde theatre Cricot, for which he wrote experimental plays. With the German invasion of Poland in 1939, he joined the army and took part in the Second World War, but still managed to pursue his artistic career. After the war, he moved to Rome and together with the futurist Enrico Prampolini founded the Art Club in 1945, an association of intellectuals eager to network with avant-garde artists from all over the world, "a common home" as Jarema himself calls it "for freedom of thought, words, images, hopes and senses". Between the 1940s and 1950s, the association promoted the organisation of exemplary exhibitions and the publication of foreign books on art and architecture, giving space to young painters and sculptors who would later become fully established, all with little means, infinite willpower and complete autonomy. The exhibitions were mainly attended by abstractionist artists, constructivist painters and sculptors, including Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, Max Bill, Giorgio de Chirico, Constantin Brancuși and Lucio Fontana, but also Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. Jarema's works are the outcome of this incredible experience. In his works, which are abstract in nature, he translates natural and organic forms into pure shapes with vivid colours, yet leaving them their authenticity and revealing their deeper essence through an intuitive and gestural painting style. We have finished our fifth stage. Pause your player and head for the Whatiftheworld Gallery on the orange corridor at section number 9. Press play once you are there. I will be waiting for you!
We have almost reached the end of our tour, which we conclude in front of the works of Pierre Vermeulen, a young South African artist on show in the Main Section at the Whatiftheworld gallery in Cape Town. The gallery presents a group of artists with a strong focus on the materiality of means of expression in relation to nature and the body. Pierre Vermeulen's practice, for example, has its roots in meditation rituals. Here, painting technique, in its most traditional sense, undergoes an entirely new and experimental contamination: his works are, in fact, characterised by the use of gold leaf applied to the linen surface, combined with sweat and orchids intertwined with human hair. Exploiting the corrosive relationship between the materials, almost as in an alchemical process, the artist developed a technique to create oxidised imprints on the surface of the gold leaf. Orchid prints, anthropomorphic figures symbolising fertility and desire, are placed on the painted surface in an only seemingly random manner. The flowers seem, at first, to float in space, but gradually take on more structured forms, advancing in criss-crossing movements. Desire becomes, therefore, pulsating energy dancing on the canvas: in and out, left and right, without a beginning or an end. We have finished our sixth and final stage. We hope that this tour has stimulated and intrigued you. If you want another perspective on the fair, go back to the info point or the AudioGuides landing page and select another podcast! See you soon and enjoy Artissima!