Manuele Cerutti

Moles, 2012

Oil on Linen

35 × 40 cm

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Before reading the title of this painting by Manuele Cerutti, the viewer may well struggle to comprehend or rationalise what hangs before them. A gnarled piece of wood perhaps, plucked from some sandy shore and placed on a window-side counter to catch the soft evening light. Or else the remnants of some strange tropical fruit, sat out too long and exhaling autumnal aromatics as it withers and peels beautifully.

What one is unlikely to perceive is four dead moles, carefully arranged and then petrified by the artist in his domestic freezer. Yet that is indeed what is depicted here: a natura morta (literally ‘dead nature’, Italian for still life) par excellence.

It may take a little while to come to terms with the unusual subject matter but, before long, one’s initial resistance gives way to an instinctual intrigue in the grotesque. Shortly, this too recedes, as the beauty one saw at first glance begins to re-emerge. Though the smooth surfaces which seemed to indicate wood are revealed to be glistening fur, and though the curling fibres which initially read as decomposing vegetation now read as claws, the enchanting aestheticism of the whole remains intact. Perhaps it is even enhanced by the bizarrely touching composition, which anthropomorphises the beasts by depicting them in a close embrace.

the artist

Manuele Cerutti (b. 1976) is an Italian painter graduated from the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti, Turin. His works has featured in numerous institutional exhibitions, including at the Wilhelm Hack Museum and Stadtmuseum Oldenburg in Germany, the Italian Cultural Institute in London and the GAM in Torino. In 2004 he was awarded the Illy Present Future prize. He currently lives and works in Turin. Manuele Cerutti's paintings are located at the intersection between the history of art, and the artist’s will of rediscovering the object’s essence, taking its pictorial representation as a springboard for further reflection. Stones, bones and scraps of metal, collected by the artist over the years, rest dormant in his studio, until the moment they turn from inert shapes into works of art on his canvases. Taken out of their original context, these ‘actors’ sit for the artist in compositions that are always on the border between balance and precariousness. The artist adopts clean lines and a thin layer technique, in order to create a dialectic relationship between different moments of his narrative. He considers the error, the pentimento as integral to the accomplishment of an artwork. His paintings call to mind stratigraphy; where amongst different layers it is possible to discern evanescent presences in his paintings. Often, such presences are human subjects portrayed in the act of supporting, or contemplating the object – the real focus towards which the whole composition points. In Cerutti’s oeuvre, even car mirrors are divested of all conventional attributes determined by their function, in order to experiment new unstable relationships with space. In the context of his works, roles are subverted: the human being does not emerge as a protagonist anymore, it is rather the object that reclaims its status as a peer to Man. The artist leads the viewer to modify their perception towards daily life elements, which too often pass unnoticed. Although Manuele Cerutti's structures might seem comparable to the tradition of still-life painting, the difference between them is radical: the artist confers a subjectivity to forms that are traditionally inert, that are considered mere ob-jecta. Such subjectivity turns them into protagonists which should be interpreted on the same level as any other social actor.

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.

Manuele Cerutti
on Artuner

Part of the

November 2nd, 2017 until
December 29th, 2017
Curated by ARTUNER