(extracts from catalogue essay by Catherine Lampert)
A few months ago, Lino Mannocci organised a dinner at the Chelsea Arts Club in London, creating a rare occasion for collective sociability, and confirmation that the Galleria Ceribelli would host a sequel to ‘Gli amici pittori di Londra’, the exhibition held exactly ten years ago. After the decision to place May 20th in the diary as the opening date, ideas were floated, for example, the insertion of portraits of each other, or self-portraits, into the mix of four pictures each artist would send to Bergamo. This would extend to the three artists no longer living. Greatly admiring Lino’s initiative in making this bridge between artists of such exceptional integrity and between England and Bergamo, I agreed to try to weave words the artists would send into a single text. Although I am familiar with their practices, in only a few cases have I seen the actual pictures, so the collective and singular impressions of what these artists have in common is somewhat invented. With apologies.
When the paragraphs arrived, they reminded me how increasingly private these artists’ lives have become and how intangible their intentions and themes. The source material is frequently autobiographical and abstracted from lived experience, sometimes this might be a continuation from their previous art, or indeed refer to the art and literature of others. Indeed, imaginary companions drift into some pictures. In a way, Tony Bevan’s self-portrait speaks to the others: with age the skull becomes barer, bony, and his network of lines suggest the brain is wired in a way that covers vast mental distances. Similarly, his Head bursts open with angular containers, room to revisit and regret past actions, while making space for ideas and perhaps challenging discoveries that open up fresh pathways.
Once artists pass fifty inevitably they are less inclined to spare time to meet, argue and make explicit their ambitions. Efforts are directed to impossible tasks, like Luke Elwes’s ‘Picturing Time’.
‘If the image is grounded in, begins with, a particular place and moment, it is also refracted through the memory of previous encounters. What resurfaces of an experience in paint (that is, registered in the process of walking, travelling or simply “being” in a place) is also informed by – and perhaps inevitably filtered through – the imperfect recollection of previous paintings and encounters. The image exists in the fluid boundaries of past and present, between what is buried and retrieved, and how it resolves in paint on canvas is itself a process of distilling, erasing and recovering layers of time.’
Then he went on to link this statement to his painting Daybreak 2016. ‘What was originally observed and recorded when passing through a seemingly unfamiliar territory has become an exploration not only of my transient presence in the world but also of the restless elemental forces that shape it. The historical record (both of this place and its subsequent representation) becomes unstable as its material residue is subsumed by weather and pigment, with the result that the image appears to be suspended between resolution and dissolution.’
The pictures in this exhibition seem to exude a certain ease with mortality; the goal of each is to take up a subject that is specific to the individual life. By an act of faith, and a relish for a never solvable challenge, to turn a flat, rectangular surface into an image that is true to oneself, and if possible, rather beautiful and harmonious.
Catherine Lampert, March 2017