Patrizio Di Massimo

The Nail, 2017

Oil on Linen

155 x 125 cm


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Artwork
Description

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One of the reasons Di Massimo resonates so deeply with the genre of portraiture is because it directly engages with human experience and its carnal proclivities. By pushing the boundaries between the sexual and the grotesque, the artist entraps the viewer on the edge of a precipice, the resulting image a picture of the decisive moment that comes before a climax. In ‘The nail’, the woman’s countenance is marked with the anticipation of the pleasure she is about to receive; her entire body is tensed with the prospect of sexual satisfaction.

In other forms of painting, the figure is often a single element within a composition, contributing to the whole but by no means its primary focus. Di Massimo, by comparison, seeks to emphasise the erotic potentialities of figurative painting by positioning the body as if it were on display, the background merely a stage upon which to set the scene. Further, it is the woman in this painting who commands our attention. The man, clothed in black and facing away from the viewer is wholly focused on her, like a stagehand might gaze at a prima donna from the wings. He is instrumental in her performance, yet it is she who brings down the house.

About
the artist

Patrizio di Massimo was born in Jesi, Italy, in 1983. He was formally educated at Brera, Milan’s Academy of Fine Arts between 2003-2007, eventually moving on to complete a Master of Arts at Slade School of Fine Art in London 2007-2009.  He now lives and works in London.

On one hand, Di Massimo is a historiographer; his early work reexamines the politics of modernist European conflict and the failure of the continental utopia. By revealing the corruptible nature of historical inheritance, Di Massimo has challenged the basis for Western cultural hegemony, notably commenting on Italy’s attempt to colonise Ethiopia and Libya during the first half of the 20th century.

Yet what begins as an investigation of socio-political or historical issues often turns from “an aesthetic experience into a cognitive act,” and new generations attach contemporary value to the concerns of the past. Artifactual data has been continually framed as art throughout history, and a kind of rhetorical appropriation of its significance has arisen out of cultural memory and the politics with which it is displayed.

Such a collective approach to history fascinated Di Massimo and has figured prominently in his video, photography, and performance work, but lately he has instead been exploring more intimate and evocative imagery through painting and the genre of portraiture, self-portraiture specifically, one that is aptly suited to move his practice in a more personal direction.

Despite graduating from The Slade School of Fine Art in 2009, Di Massimo is a self-taught painter, and each of his canvases is an attempt to “restore the painting’s ancient functions of illustration and visual storytelling.” For the artist, “working with themes of the past means re-structuring them in the present.” Indeed, his paintings carry visible traces of his inspirations (from Otto Dix to Walt Disney), but they are reinvented for the modern eye.

In Di Massimo’s paintings, the human figure remains at the centre, but the boundaries of its poetics are pushed to the twisted, the eerie, and, most overtly, the erotic. The body is a spectacle, beguiling while simultaneously hedonistic, lewd, or even violent. They are performative, and the viewer notes that the same personages appear as if they are projections of the artist’s own ego. Di Massimo’s works can thus be viewed as, at least in part, self portraits, for he explores the intersection between fantasy and reality so central to individual human consciousness.


In Di Massimo’s paintings, the human figure remains at the centre, but the boundaries of its poetics are pushed to the twisted, the eerie, and, most overtly, the erotic. The body is a spectacle, beguiling while simultaneously hedonistic, lewd, or even violent.

For the artist, “working with themes of the past means re-structuring them in the present.” Indeed, his paintings carry visible traces of his inspirations (from Otto Dix to Walt Disney), but they are reinvented for the modern eye.


Patrizio Di Massimo
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition

September 7th, 2017 until
October 21st, 2017
Curated by ARTUNER