THOMAS BERRA, ELISA BERTAGLIA, LINDA CARRARA, ALBERTO GIANFREDA, THOMAS SCALCO
June 21st 2021/November 27th 2021
Opening: Monday June 21st 2021 @10.30AM
Frammenti Paesaggio is the title of the collective exhibition set up at the prestigious Palazzo Largo Augusto in Milan – headquarters of the Banca Sistema Group – which features as protagonists: Thomas Berra, Elisa Bertaglia, Linda Carrara, Alberto Gianfreda and Thomas Scalco.
On the occasion of the first 10 years of Banca Sistema – founded in 2011 by its CEO Gianluca Garbi – the Banca SISTEMA ARTE project presents itself in a different key with a group show of five artists selected through a deep investigation in the poetics of 35 talented young artists who, in the last 10 years, have been exhibiting their projects at the Banca Sistema HQ.
The five artists, who have demonstrated professional growth over time, both in Italy and abroad, are now dialoguing through an exhibition narrative from which the current poetics can be appreciated in comparison with the previous academic and experimental path.
Frammenti Paesaggio is a project expressed through an exhibition starting from the entrance of the prestigious Palazzo Largo Augusto and continuing to the meeting rooms on the seventh floor with a 360 degree view – from right –: San Bernardino alle Ossa, Torre Velasca, Museo del 900 and Duomo. In these places – landscapes to be precise – the contemporary artworks are in harmony with each other and in direct juxtaposition with the suggestive profiles of the architectural buildings defining Milan skyline. Fragments therefore as “pieces” that, in relation to each other, form a single piece, a lyrical moment with a positive and propositional value which, in the Banca Sistema project’s logic of support, confirms the commitment to offer artists tools of visibility and endorsement. From a curatorial point of view, we choose to dedicate a room to each artist in order to create “site-specific rooms” thus focusing attention on the individual. Installations, paintings on canvas, paper and drawing talk to each other spontaneously thus creating a path to follow.
At the entrance of Palazzo Largo Augusto we immediately face the large painting by Thomas Berra: a majestic triptych – 226×463 cm –, oil on canvas depicting a white plant in the foreground on the left and, along the surface, the silhouettes of “his” pinocchios, slim figures with protruding noses, Berra’s recognizable silhouettes. This artwork, which was presented on the occasion of the Casabarata exhibition in 2014, then for the private collection of Banca Sistema, is now flanked by the paiting Helskini – the artist’s current country of residence – which shows and demonstrates his most recent research.
The small painting, set up on a column, is from Elogio delle Vagabonde cycle, whose theme is that of vegetation, with particular attention to plants that are generally defined as weeds, invasive and therefore to be eradicated. The nettle, the dandelion, the penace of Mantegazzi, the South American porracchia, the prickly pear, the papaver somniferum, the Japanese knotweed, the Pampas grass… whose seeds carried by either the wind or animals, or even shoes’ soles invade cities wandering and conquering them with strength and vitality. Therefore, whether they are metropolises, gardens or uncultivated land, wandering plants are often denied even the right to exist. But are they really that dangerous? Berra presents them in the name of safeguarding, of defending planetary mixing, supporting inequality and diversity.
Moving down the stairs off the entrance, next to a geometric window, a large green canvas from which the gestural signs of the herbs seem to come right from the outside, from a corner of the city where a wandering grass has placed its seeds. Opposite, a diptych outlines the space as a real garden. Thomas Berra, faithful to his investigation, now proves his incessant attention to nature and to the colour green. The absence of characters – the pinocchios – is a confirmation of the unnecessary need to include elements in his works that would – today – be foreign and intrusive. His artworks are painting, literature and botany.
On the seventh floor we meet Alberto Gianfreda, a versatile sculptor who dedicates his studies and research to the analysis of issues associated with resilience and identity. Matter is a fundamental component of his works while the investigation of mobile assembly systems, which make the forms unrepeatable and give the installation an unprecedented value in a specific moment, are a peculiarity of his work.
Crossing the entrance, on the left, we notice the artwork Effimera: a circle with a diameter of 120 cm, made up of a large vase – decorated with figurative and floral subjects – first hammered to destruction and then tacked with wire mesh. And here is how the mobile support gives it the possibility of transforming itself in time and space. The dense metallic fabric of Effimera replaces softness with the danger of the fragment; delicacy and harmful are reversed. Now, the relationships between the pieces are bound, but unstable, even if they are defined by an apparently unitary form.
Continuing the dialogue with Effimera, we observe the artworks of the Nothing as it seems series: Chinese vases, always broken up and then reassembled, in which Gianfreda starts from a highly iconic object such as the vase – transgenerational and transcultural – to reach an object that loses its original function of containing with its infinite forms and is transfigured, through destruction, into a new artefact. Nonetheless, our eye will not stop recognizing it. The artist therefore places a reflection on the mobility of the ruined form and transforms the values of the initial object. Nothing as it seems thus overturns all values, including that of destruction as an end, in favour of adapting the icon as a possibility of existence. In Nothing as it seems there is also an ironic dimension that clearly refers to works by contemporary artists such as Ai Wei Wei, but reconstructs what was destroyed in the previous decade.
Pieces of pots coexist with the large installation: 12+1 gambe di tavolo rovesciate e 1 cielo, a sculpture from the private collection of Banca Sistema which highlights the evolution of the artist’s research. Exposed on the occasion of the Earthquake exhibition in 2014, the sculpture consists of 12 wooden table legs plus 1 upside down, and a series of bands covered in lampas fabrics, a sumptuous and precious fabric, whose designs and textures in gold and silver resemble baroque art: the lampas actually met its greatest success in the sixteenth century, despite its origins dating back to an even older era, the tenth century. In this corner, between different cultures and eras, once again the visual deception of Gianfreda is the protagonist.
Linda Carrara with her dedication to painting, presents a series of artwork from 2013 – the year of her eponymous exhibition at Banca Sistema spaces – until today, in the Mercurio Room. There are five paintings that we count in the room. At first glance we perceive a formal and pictorial diversity, but we soon notice that the matter of nature, which can be seen outside the window of Palazzo Largo Augusto, is found in the “landscape study” that the artist started in 2020.
Outerspace, the large painting on the wall immediately to the left, is like a zoom of the room. The artwork created in 2013 looks like a real cutout from the Mercury Room. The large window overlooking Milan continues on the canvas and the black lines, clear and vertical, create a natural optical game, virtuous of a pictorial research that over time has identified and analyzed the landscape elements. From the inside to the outside. And from the outside to the inside.
In antithetical dialogue, the frottages, placed on the large painting, demonstrate the artist’s attention to the landscape like they were a very close-up of nature from the window. The triptych – entitled La prima passeggiata – is the artist’s latest production in which we can once again observe how the object is the pretext for her painting. From the name Mercurio, the artist finds inspiration to create the three works whose shape, colour and meaning, are indispensable details for a complete reading of the project.
We encounter another small, very precious element inside the room: the Floating object. A pebble suspended in the void – made of acrylic and graphite on wood – that floats lightly as if it were to sweep from one place to another without any explanation. The glimpse of a room, the detail of a territory and a suspended element, all perfectly in dialogue with each other and with the view of the metropolitan landscape. Thus, even Natura Morta – the large painting in the Banca Sistema collection, exhibited in 2013 on the occasion of the solo show entitled Linda Carrara – depicting a Moleskine on an immeasurably multiplied scale, is a reason for painting and the study of a further object entirely dialogical with the current search.
In the Diana Room Thomas Scalco is present with two cycles of works: Hercafàlia and Frammenti.
The first – Hercafàlia – represents the cavities. The theme of the cave in Scalco’s research made its appearance only a few years ago, almost by chance, becoming then essential for its intense symbolic value. The cave, emblem of the depths, of a path that can ideally lead us to the center of the earth, is taken up as a metaphor for a cognitive journey in which the encounter with the enveloping shadow becomes, attenuating and altering our perceptive faculties, the medium for a trip to magical places that are inextricably linked to introspection. Apparently in antithesis to the Platonic passage, it is, if anything, only the change of a point of view, since what is underlying is the search for greater clarity, for a more limpid vision: the passage from blinding light to shadow manifests itself as the possibility of recovering much of what was hidden in the darkness and then returning to the light seeing it with greater clarity.
The second cycle, Fragments, began in 2018 and the title visually and semantically refers to the modality of the composition, and philosophically to the collection of Heraclitean thoughts. The series of cards aims at evoking the link between the single and the plural, in a game of relationships that passes from the forms to the pictorial gesture, up to the colours involved. Everything starts from large sheets painted in oil and acrylic with an informal painting, a reference to the first phase of the realization of the works on canvas, which is then followed by a work on the form, including folds, cuts and engravings. The residues of this phase, similar to marble pieces, take shape again by joining in a process that brings to mind the techniques of mosaic and inlay. In the case of collages, numerous figures take shape, each characterized by a hint of individuality, but basically all composed of the same material in different proportions, as happens, in a certain sense, in nature. The energy that freely manifests itself through painting, creating environments, crevices, and vaults in the case of the displayed paintings, is forced within predetermined limits in the series of collages. In fact, you can guess the gestures of scratches and brushstrokes, enclosed within irregular geometric shapes, merged with each other. In the series created for the Banca Sistema exhibition, Scalco tried to introduce small green-blue fragments in almost all the elements in relation to the colours of the paintings on the front – the Chinese vases by Alberto Gianfreda – creating a further, yet subtle reference mark.
Talking about which, we cannot fail to mention the Monochromo work of 2015 – exhibited on the occasion of the Ossimori exhibition the same year, and currently located at the entrance of Palazzo Largo Augusto – where we can recognize several of the aforementioned artist’s attentions: the geometric elements as fragments and the dense and dark brushstrokes mentioning the caves.
Elisa Bertaglia is the artist protagonist of the Sala Giove. Between drawings on paper and painting on canvas, for this exhibition the artist presents unpublished artworks belonging to two fundamental cycles showing the recent developments of her pictorial research.
Entering the room, on the right wall, the eye comes across a large canvas and a series of small paintings. The large canvas, the main piece of her latest production, titled Hic sunt Dracones is made with oil, charcoal and graphite on canvas, with two very light watercolour inserts on silk. The work – similarly to the Concerto. Singing over the Bones series to which it is connected not only by thematic but also formal analogies – sees the development of a two -levels narrative: the pictorial one, consisting of a refined variation of browns, greys, blacks, blue, purples and oranges; and the graphic one, consisting of a rich inlay of branches and lanceolate leaves drawn in graphite. Unlike previous works – such as those of the Metamorphosis series exhibited in 2014 on the occasion of the Bindwood exhibition at Banca Sistema – for the first time it is a landscape. The scenario appears devoid of characters, there are no girls (or boys) harnessed among the branches of the vegetation, there are neither bodies hidden among the tree branches, nor divers suspended in the void. But the ‘I’ is still present in the title. Hic sunt dracones refers to ancient cartographic maps – such as one of the oldest globes preserved today in the New York Public Library – when in the 16th century it was customary to interpose this writing on the margins between the known and those still to be explored, in the common imagination populated by dragons, fantastic animals and mythological figures. The title, therefore, brings the landscape vision back to a symbolic and philosophical dimension, typical of an imaginary, fantastic and dreamlike landscape. This is therefore a landscape built on the threshold, on the edge, the meeting place between opposites, between dualistic elements. The real place of metamorphosis.
The small works, on the other hand, are mostly part of the Brambles series, all unpublished and created during the last few months too. Some represent tormented volcanic landscapes, made of explosions and fluorescent drips of oil colour and minute drawings in charcoal and graphite; others are based on the harmonic rhythm of leaves with pointed shapes and diaphanous colours. Brambles recalls an attractive and thorny plant element, also a catalyst of ambivalent and plural concepts.
Nature and city meet through the large windows of the Sala Giove, Elisa Bertaglia stands as a compendium for a scenario that is now absolute and complete.
This post is also available in: Italian