The semantic nature of the ruins lies exactly halfway between oblivion and memory: if the former is the cause of their very existence, they remain in the landscape, reassuring the mind that death is not the end of everything. For their privileged connection with the passing of time, the ruins have over the centuries exerted an immense fascination on the artists, to whom the merit of having blocked the progress of the degradation of which they are victim of in the moment of painting them, sung, photographed, described.
Michele Parisi, a Trentino artist born in 1983, had many questions about the meaning of memory in reference not so much to the testimonies of the glorious past – thus following a dear attitude to the eighteenth-century “rovinists” – but on the ruins that the present generates with processes of immediate destruction, which, apart from a long and gradual decay, has swept in no time entire cities such as Palmira, Hatra and Nimrud. Following a relfection begun with the project Irae, part of the exhibition “Arte Forte”, the artist created for his solo show at Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery in Trento, “Oblio”, curated by by Gabriele Salvaterra, a new corpus of works that face us in the same questions and contradictions. Working with the wise fusion of photography and painting that characterizes his artistic journey, Parisi brings images of recent wars and destructions, sometimes taken from the web and Google Earth, others directly from television frames of news bulletins or photographic reportage of newspapers, seductive Bird-eye views of Rome and Paris. These “ideal cities”, in the past places of legendary grand tours, are caught by Parisi in a “postcard” frame that encloses in a seemingly imperturbable architectural perfection a sense of vague nostalgia of the present, as if the instant stopped by the work was not meant to last. The same monuments, which outline the identity of the city, are nothing more than an all-human aspiration to immortality, whose emptiness is reminded by the absence of any reference to everyday life: no car, no face, no animals in the Champs Elisées, at the Colosseum no shadow of a tourist.
In this temporal-dimension, the exhibition continues with a series of seemingly independent works, set up in a kind of project room of the gallery, inspired by the story of Judith Beheading Holofernes; the focus of these works is played on a delicate representative sineddoche, in which the hands of many people, photographed by the artist, are identified with the murderous – and yet heroic / erotic – hands of Judith. Hands that perform random actions, seized in delicate and sensual poses, forgotten hands, immobilized in the instant before a crazy gesture. The narrative device related to the biblical legend is more explicitly described in the sculptural quotation that acts as a trait-d’union for all the works in the show: the unusual detail of the head of the Holofernes by Donatello reveals with compositional detachment the enigma of the hands without a body, and of the landscape views. All subjects are placed on the same level as the dominant monochrome, whose delicate matte effect compels the look to a filtered and freely interpretable view. The veil of oblivion lies in the sharpness of memory.
Michele Parisi – Oblio, 2017 exhibition view – Courtesy Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery