Marco Tirelli

04.12.2014 - 21.02.2015
Marco Tirelli
Marco Tirelli, Untitled, 2014, Mixed media on wooden panel, 150 x 150 cm
Axel Vervoordt Gallery - Antwerp is proud to present the first solo show of Marco Tirelli in Belgium and will host the most recent works of the Italian artist from 4 December 2014 until 21 February 2015.

His artworks—large paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations—do not show objects but their echoes.Tirelli invites us to lose ourselves in the threshold between illusion and reality, until it becomes impossible to determine whether he has abstracted things or imbued ideas with tangibility. Ideas are very important to him and he thinks that technique should derive from those ideas as the method of representing them. They stem from his imagination rather than from nature or actual objects. Beyond any mimetic-figurative impulse, his architectures of the spirit reside in that uncertain and unsure limbo between being and not being, appearing and disappearing, light and shadow.

His visionary images are rooted in sacred or commemorative architecture: archaeological sites, parade grounds, monuments and theatres; places where material becomes spirit. Caught between the classical tension of formal perfection and melancholy, the loneliness of the fragment, he tries to sublimate physical places in virtual places: “I think of and plan the work as a place to be lived in by the spirit, as its ideal home.”-1-  His goal is to elicit active sensorial and mental participation from the viewer. He invites us to enter an architectural transit space where nothing is taking place, just expectation and suspension. The sublimation of physical places is generated by way of subtraction, purification and distillation. His geometric objects are dilated silhouettes of spheres, rings, cylinders, tumuli, truncated cones and various kinds of polyhedrons as well as crosses and rectangular structures.

The vibrant visual effects of his trompe-l’oeil sculptural images are brought about by arresting contrasts of light and darkness, or rather, the geometric object becomes an excuse to cross the border between light and shadow. This affinity with the threshold between light and shade is a result of his immersion in the Umbrian landscape. After his time in the former Cerere Factory in the San Lorenzo district of Rome (where he co-founded the Scuola di San Lorenzo, one of Italy’s most important recent art movements), Tirelli spent much of the 1990s and the last decade in a remote house in the mountains of Umbria in the region of Spoleto. Traditionally Umbria has been known as Umbria Mystica: “On certain nights where I live in the country, if you look out of the window it is so dark that you cannot see a thing: a kind of black mirror that can only be filled by your spirit.” -2- In his art, he tries to make people look at the boundary between light and all-enveloping darkness, testing the limit between what is known and what is possible.

It’s on that mysterious boundary that Tirelli’s alternation between appearance and disappearance is taking place. This alternation is fuelled by Tirelli’s use of colour, which for him is the incarnation of light and its embrace with shadow. His palette is an ancient, subtly modulated one. Whites, blacks and greys are obtained through the composition and overlay of a vast spectrum of nebulized colours: greens, ochres and earth tones. Using low-pressure paint sprays and thin marten brushes, the chromatic buzzing of his dots provokes an apparent monochromatic effect. This perceptual slip, a modern-day sfumato, is at the core of the spatial incongruities of vision and deviations of perspective that create an alienating space, a window on perception, a passage way to meditation. His singular application of pointillism is a pictorial and philosophical choice: “The pointillist saw reality as something that was not objective, as if to say that we perceive the light of reality, but things in themselves remain far away from us, deaf and dumb; all we perceive is the reflection of light on their surfaces.” -3-

Tirelli’s ambition to show what cannot be seen draws inspiration in a free and modern way from some of the fundamental characteristics of the Metaphysical Art of Giorgio De Chirico and Giorgio Morandi. His geometry has a lot in common with the strange three-dimensional spheres, triangles and hexagons that crowd the disappearing perspectives of De Chirico’s silent cities as well as Morandi’s still lifes of 1918 and 1919, where rulers, rods, spheres and other curved or rectangular elements entertain a contradictory interplay between illusion and reality. The way in which he deals with these interests is influenced by his studies in set design. They taught him to think of things in relation to the viewpoint of the audience and this still stimulates him to distil every element down to its vital essence and to be as limpid as possible. His experience in the theatrical field of set design is most notable in his drawings and sculptures, which are studies for his large canvases as well as stand-alone works. They include geometric images that are far more varied and expressive than his paintings. This part of his practice reveals that behind the entrancing quality of his paintings lies a disparate yet consistent toolbox of elements, recurrent over time but with gradual variations and additions, with which Tirelli models a universe that is both personal and eccentric, imaginative and poetic.

-1- ‘Light, shade, rule’, text written by the artist himself in 1997 on the occasion of his solo exhibition Luce – ombra – regola at Baldacci Arte Contemporanea / Gian Ferrari Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy.
-2- Ibidem.
-3-  Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, ‘Distilling ‘til You Get to the Essence’, in: Marco Tirelli, exhibition catalogue, MACRO Testaccio, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome: Quodlibet, 2012: p. 75.
Marco Tirelli
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