Il mondo nuovo
The show is part of a two-episode project for which the artist will be working in Milan during 2020; in September Christian Stein Gallery will host Qui Dove Sono a solo show by Giulio Paolini in Corso Monforte.
Il Mondo Nuovo, the exhibition’s title, is inspired by the homonymous fresco by the Venetian artist Giandomenico Tiepolo (1727-1804): it represents a crowd of onlookers waiting to light some sort of magic lantern, that projects imaginative images of exotic places inside. As in Tiepolo’s fresco it is the curiosity for the unknown and for a mysterious future, that characterizes the scene, in Paolini’s works that are on display the temporal dimension is the protagonist. The obsession with the passing of time in the artist’s life, in the history of art, or in the succession of hours, runs through all of the artworks.
Upon entering the first room of the gallery the visitor is welcomed by the artwork Il Mondo di Prima, 2020, composed of an antique table on which are arranged, in scattered order, seven portrait frames with the same number of photomontages. The figure of the artist as a child is a recurring figure, we find him caught in different imaginary circumstances - artists’ ateliers, theatre stages, exhibition rooms, in contemplation of ancient paintings or female nudes. The random arrangement of the portrait frames forms a sort of labyrinth, while the round table on which they are placed underlines the work’s belonging to a domestic, intimate dimension. Next to the table, on a chair, a framed photomontage reproduces Giulio as a child waiting for us on the threshold of the same room where we are, in a sudden return to the present. As in an imaginary photo reportage, today’s artist portrays himself in his favourite environments that belong to past eras. With a game of time-shifts Paolini brings together ideal situations with the use of a few images, a series of “predictions to the past” of today’s artist and of “promises of the future” of yesterday’s child.
The artwork Expostio, 2019-20 – at the centre of the hall – is divided into four bases of different heights placed at the top of the square floor frieze. The whole suggests a “sound stage”, where each of the four bases presents a different object, thus creating an “elected place” for the exhibition. The plaster cast of Venus of Phidias, the one of Aphrodite’s head, an image of the night sky printed on fabric, a set of paper materials referring to the artist’s installation projects and a halogen lamp virtually create the place where the work can take shape. Expositio calls into question the visibility of a subject that, though openly “exhibited”, is hidden from our gaze. We look at the casts of a classical sculpture and other objects, and yet, in the here and now of their exhibition the final vision dissolves in the very instant in which it is announced.
Sotto le Stelle (Sculptor), 2020, composed of a medallion with gilded hooks, presents the reproduction of a male face by the neoclassical sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850), surrounded by fragments of a star map. On the upper edge of the frame there is a golden card diadem, while a fragment of the map highlights the name of the constellation “Sculptor”. The diadem – an attribute of dignity and virtue – idealistically encircles the male face, here called to evoke the very idea of sculpture. As the title says, the artwork pays homage to sculptural practice through a symbolic nocturnal setting.
Giorno e Notte, 2020 is composed of three elements with a white, grey and black background respectively, combined to form a perspective layout. The vanishing point of the central element reduces the scale of the image of the triptych itself; the diagonals of the perspective also are the hosts of four valets, recurrent figures in Paolini’s repertoire, servants of the stage and discreet witnesses of the rite of representation. The entire composition is animated by the flow of celestial bodies and astral elements in a symmetrical contrast between light and darkness, day and night.
The end wall hosts Il Mondo Nuovo, 2020 with a title taken from the homonymous fresco by Tiepolo; twenty-three collages in golden frames are freely set up around a central, larger, gilded frame that frames a virgin sheet. Each collage shows a fragment taken from the artist’s recent works on paper, inspired by Tiepolo’s fresco. Just as the spectators of the baroque fresco are not given to know the object of the gaze of the figures represented – the first projections of magic lanterns, exotic dioramas of unknown worlds – so Paolini’s “new world” is focused and exhausted in the empty central frame, which always renews an expectation of discovery punctually disappointed by the facts.
The small room next to the salon hosts Fuori Tempo, 2020 where, on a plinth, paper elements with different origins and decreasing sizes overlap: a grey card supports an edition of the artist’s work depicting multi-coloured brushstrokes on which, in turn, is laid the photographic reproduction of an empty golden frame. The sheets serve as support surface for an antique palette found among the family mementoes and an empty hourglass in a lying position. Fuori Tempo shows a coexistence of elements that are extraneous to each other by their material nature and yet similar in evoking moments from the past and leading us to a temporal dimension that is irremediably outdated.