“With the word ‘magic’, as opposed to ‘mystic’, I wished to indicate that the mystery does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpitates behind it.” - Franz Roh, 1925
Within the historical surroundings of 17th-century Palazzo Capris, ARTUNER is delighted to present its third Artissima Week event at the venue: Through the Looking Glass, a group exhibition featuring paintings by contemporary artists Manuele Cerutti, David Czupryn, Patrizio Di Massimo, Ana Elisa Egreja, and Katja Seib.
Magical Realism is arguably one of the most fascinating movements in the art and literature of the 20th century. Evocative and subversive, many artists and writers were attracted to it as a means of expression. As a movement, its definition has proved ever-changing and open- ended and, as a result, it still bears relevance today.
The term Magical Realism was originally coined by German photographer, art historian and art critic Franz Roh in 1925 to describe a new wave of Post-Expressionist painting. According to Roh, Magical Realism is characterised by accurate detail, smooth photographic clarity and the portrayal of the ‘magical’ nature of the rational world. The movement reflects the uncanniness of our modern technological environment, looking at the mundane through a hyper-realistic, yet often mysterious, lens.
Roh wrote: “We recognise the world, although we look on it with new eyes. We are offered a new style that is thoroughly of this world, that celebrates the mundane… It employs various techniques that endow all things with a deeper meaning and reveal mysteries that always threaten the secure tranquillity of simple and ingenuous things… it is a question of representing before our eyes, in an intuitive way, the fact, the interior figure, of the exterior world.”
The five artists included in this exhibition work predominantly with the medium of figurative painting and share some of the characteristics outlined by Roh. Like at the start of the twentieth century, artists today are faced with the challenge of making sense of a rapidly changing world, increasingly dominated by technologies that most of us do not fully comprehend. Such dichotomy triggers a feeling of estrangement which, in the work of these artists, sets the scene for mysterious, uncanny situations; often mundane but, at the same time, magical.
Through her large scale illusionistic interiors, Ana Elisa Egreja opens a portal to another dimension, devoid of human presence. Paradoxically, her domestic-scapes vibrate with the force and grace of nature such as the imagined sounds of a flutter of feathers or the trickling of droplets from a water-lily petal. Egreja’s highly detailed style indulges on the tactile pleasures of objects and textiles, depicting everything with photographic accuracy - from the most mundane household items, to the exoticism of wild plants and animals. The coexistence of these realms in Egreja’s eerie scenes instigates a jarring feeling of displacement, which allows the viewer to see, as if for the first time, the magic of the everyday.
In a similar vein, Manuele Cerutti focuses his intense pictorial gaze on the world of inanimate matter. In his paintings, tools and components are divested of all conventional attributes determined by their function and, therefore, no longer have a subservient role. Indeed, Cerutti’s oil paintings depict objects in a way that is more reminiscent of portraiture than still life. Humble, inconspicuous objects that belong to the artist, which were forgotten and then repurposed as a means for exploring a more universal set of values, become the sitters for these unlikely portraits. Personal ephemera that have unexpectedly resurfaced from oblivion to enter the timeless realm of art cause the viewer to reflect on the construction of memory and the impermanence of the quotidian.
David Czupryn paints with a seamless technique: layers of thin and evenly applied paint eradicate all evidence of brushwork. While this results in a very flat surface, Czupryn uses ultra-naturalism (just like the artists described by Roh) to convey all the depth and richness of the materials he depicts. While the artist rigorously studies Nature’s vegetable and mineral formations, he is not interested in representing them as they really are. Indeed, Czupryn elaborates on nature, by depicting materials and organisms which, although verisimilar, do not exist in reality, but are the product of his imagination. They reverberate with the energy of the uncanny, with the disquieting combination of familiarity and estrangement which characterises Magical Realism.
Katja Seib’s figurative style approaches a dream-like world through a cinematic lens. Within her alternate realities, bright hues and mysterious narratives transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into the miraculous. Seib’s spaces offer an escapist refuge from a banal reality. That said, these paintings (and the parallel worlds which they embody) are not self-contained. Seib cultivates a sense of depth which refuses to be hemmed in by the contour of her canvas borders. Objects in these paintings are forever projecting outwards, with the implication that their magic exists also in the ‘real world’.
The human form is central to Patrizio Di Massimo’s practice, as it is to many artists. But, in Di Massimo’s work, the body is frequently posing so as to transform the familiar into the alien and the eerie. In these works, mankind appears simultaneously charming and tawdry, beautiful and hedonistic, soft and violent. The male protagonist tends to resemble Di Massimo himself, but these paintings are certainly not straight-forward self-portraits. They are theatrical; they enact different versions of the artist’s persona; they traverse the line between reality and fantasy, which exists at the core of individual human consciousness.