BEIRUT: Imagine paints, wood, silk, organza and embroidery all mixed together on one single canvas. It can be hard work for the eye of the viewer to assimilate all these different materials at once, but it is also a good test.
This artistic mumbo jumbo can be seen at Saifi’s Galerie Piece Unique where works by Italian artist Marco Ceravolo are currently on display. Entitled “Cronospazi Cromatici” and under the patronage of the Italian Embassy, this exhibition showcases 19 of Ceravolo’s mixed-media-on-canvas works, and constitutes the artist’s first show in the Middle East.
His style is certainly eccentric and may not appeal to everyone. Ceravolo’s paintings – with the exception of several landscapes – implicitly refer to the Italian Renaissance. Massive architectural columns, three-quarter portraits and banquets are among the items which enable Ceravolo to describe his work as a modern twist on the Renaissance period. Some may even see a link to frescoes here.
However, the impression given by the artist’s technique is more akin to looking at a massive amalgamation of textiles, fabrics and paint, randomly assembled one on top the other. The result does not necessarily elicit distain, but it is certainly excessive.
The 100x150cm mixed-media work, entitled “Convivio,” captures three women sitting at a table in front of empty black plates. To create a frame, Ceravolo has cut at least eight different fabrics into fragments and glued small bits and pieces all around the female subjects. The black hues forming the background and dishes, the red-and-gray stripes painted over the women, the kinky designs of the fabrics framing the work, are all too much for the eye of the viewer – indeed they run the risk of eliciting a visual epileptic seizure.
“Ragazze al Pub” (100x150cm) also depicts three women in front of a table. The context is unknown. There is not a single impression of motion in the painting. Here again, bits of fabrics are glued onto the characters, almost depriving them of an independent role. Their postures and the black geometrical stripes create the impression that they are trapped in coffins, rather than engaged in whatever mysterious act they are intended to be performing.
Ceravolo’s landscapes are easier on the onlooker’s eye. Here textiles are given a whole new meaning, forming sunsets, waves and fields. “Campi e Cielo” (100x100cm) captures a sky and a field – as the title suggests – in such a way that it gives the viewer the opportunity to recover from the visual turmoil of the preceding works.
The fabrics are assembled in such a way that movement and rhythm emerge from the canvas, conveying the impression of a living piece of art. The blue sky is so vivid that it balances the brightness of the yellows and the more somber browns in the bottom half of the piece.
The 100x150cm work entitled “Nuvole” is probably the highlight of the whole show. Ceravolo’s mastery of the fabrics is evident here. He has used the gossamer of a veil to form the waves crashing on the sand. A more thickly textured textile has been used to represent the granular aspect of the sand. As for the sky, hues of white and ultramarine blue alternate, almost symmetrical to the colors of the waves.
Ceravolo’s exhibition is confusing. On the one hand we have paintings apparently inspired by the Italian Renaissance, but are disconcerting and overwhelming to view. On the other, we have beautifully rendered landscapes that evince a wise and skillful use of fabrics.
Marco Ceravolo’s “Cronospazi Cromatici” is now up at Saifi’s Galerie Piece Unique until Oct. 5. For more information, please call 01-975-655.