MATTEO EMERY - occhichiusi
Thursday 11 May 2017 - Sunday 18 June 2017
With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.
Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein”
More than twenty years on from his painting and artwork on paper, and after a long interlude dedicated to sculpture, installations and conceptual art, Matteo Emery returns to two dimensional formats with a series of works that in many respects take up the thread of his original creative discourse as he pursues his personal search that has manifested itself in different artistic forms that share clear traces of a common vocabulary.
The language of Emery's work has always been characterised by variety and experimental commitment, both empirically and technologically. He has used upcycled and variously sourced materials such as inner tubes, aluminium containers, led lights, nails, and other artefacts that have attracted his attention, to create new forms upon which to graft subterranean and intimate symbolism that swings between lightness and gravity, and between thought and hard matter. His objects are shells of clear spontaneity that embrace a wide range of sensory perceptions, including touch, sight and smell, while extending what is rendered by the outer layers to stimulate the subjective memory of all those who touch, look at, and smell the works.
The X-Ray works are no exception, picking up on many of the elements that have featured in the past, like steps on an authentic and coherent artistic journey. This is immediately evident from the technical viewpoint, with the repeated use of surplus materials, this time in the form of human and animal X-Ray plates, the manual stitching of film as he fashions a homogeneous mass while altering proportions and layering the surfaces. The continuity is above all apparent in the desire to cause an organic form (in this case clearly recognisable as explicit species identity) transport us into an inner, spiritual, and alternative dimension.
These animals, whether small pets or large wild beasts, are as if reborn from previous lives, incorporating primordial organisms, bones, internal organs and even human atoms within their perfectly cut lines. They come to light in their old formal dress and in new, and wholly imperfect, skeletal scans. There is no trace of zoological brutality in this reassembly, the beasts seem meek, with bears, wolves, pigs, wild boars, rhinoceros, elephants and hippopotami all suspended up to filter the light, as dolphins among the waves, crabs among shells, turtles on the sand, hares in the bushes, graceful cats and butterflies in flight. They are unified and purified, alienated and equalised.
It is difficult not to liken the X-Rays to cinema film, with their framing, their transparency, the negative images, and their predisposition to being cut and spliced as in the creation of movie sequence. Matteo Emery treats the X-Rays for each work with the mastery of a film director, superimposing them, assembling them and mixing them in creative investigation that transforms the interior study into art through narrative. In a film the image becomes matter, matter becomes sequence and the sequence becomes the story. In Emery’s works matter becomes sequence, sequence becomes form and form embodies the story.
The use of X-Ray plates as a medium is not new to the contemporary art scene, as Robert Rauschenberg did, for example, among the first. It has sprung from a desire to show man wholly from within, annulling his bodily existence to invite philosophical references and imbue the work with symbolic content. There’s no more effective way of revealing both our anomalies and our uniformity at one and the same time. In this sense these works of Emery are line with his own personal life choices, including his vegetarianism and his being a defender of animals in difficulty. He illustrates the communalities of men and mice, and bears, and dogs, and dolphins. We are all living beings made of deteriorating substance, of which at the end there remains only an impression on a plate to remind us not of who we were but of what we were made.
The result achieved is particularly striking in its effect and multi-layered in its message. If Frankenstein's creature was a noble soul of monstrous appearance, Emery's creatures return to primary innocence through the loss of corruptible identity. The appearance is safe.
Barbara Paltenghi Malacrida