A teatro assembled in London. Under flawlessly designed alcoves, paintings are hung around a spacious square, where a sculpture stands in its centre.
As I edge silently across the grass, transient lines suddenly emerge from the gallery walls, creating a mirage setting of soft gradients and harmonious colours. The perspectives act as a ruse to place the spectators at the heart of the Piazza d’Italia from wherever they stand, in the realm of a surrealist landscape where profound architecture and perfectly adorned paintings reign supreme.
This dream-like teatro is the creation of surrealism connoisseur and De Chirico admirer, Francesco Vezzoli. Both artists dialogue in their own times, speaking the same language and every so often are indiscernible in their works. My ability to denote reality from this reverie is blurred: I have officially entered the metaphysical garden at Nahmad Projects.
By curating the entire exhibition, Vezzoli has trespassed surrealism and in symbiosis with De Chirico’s metaphysical art, presents his interpretation of the world using the painter’s eyes. The exhibition transports one into another dimension where the feeling of belonging nowhere overwhelms and forces introspection.
The eye dives into the emptiness of the alcoves only to be saved by the mystery of De Chirico’s paintings. Unexpected objects coalesce with incongruous mise en scène in carved wooden frames surpassing each other in beauty. The paintings spanning from 1920s to 1970s nurture ubiquitous enigmas without ever unveiling their secrets.
The drawings on the wall; a girl playing with her hoop, a train vanishing over the horizon and a clock set on top of an empty temple, invite my sensitivity and imagination rather than search for logic. Hesitation evaporates, easing the transition from reality to metaphysics.
Nothing is to be feared while De Chirico’s self-portrait sits reassuringly on a retreated column. Vezzoli’s presence also punctuates the overflowing emotions.
The bronze sculpture, Minima Idea which thrones and shines in the center of the piazza, Portrait of Sofia Loren as Alcesti especially created for this exhibition and The Enigma of Marlene, resonate with pop culture, star system, TV and social media.
The pieces serve as reminders of the modern day. Would the exploration of De Chirico’s metaphysical art be possible without the intervention of Vezzoli? Anchored deep in memory, loss, war and his attachment to philosophy and poetry, De Chirico’s artistic world can be burdensome to explore alone.
When I thought the immersion and mesmerizing was over, I had yet to enter the darkest alcove which would lead me to the most luminous and radiant space of all.
In the obscurity of a troublesome existence, when there seems to be no end to perpetual questioning and inner soul searching, De Chirico brings light to Appollinaire’s despair.
De Chirico’s brushstrokes translate words and rhymes. A universe of poésie animates the theatrical setting of Sun on the Easel; one of the sixty-six lithographs illustrating the second edition of the book of poems Calligrammes. De Chirico drew a composition of stellar features next to each poem which are the heart and breath of each painting.
A bright yellow star and moon play hide and seek with a darker set of moon and star, linked by a fine endless thread. Battling for his life, patriot of a country where he was foreigner, thunderstruck by a lover who never reciprocated his feelings, Appollinaire stole the light from the moon and stars to feed his desire to remain alive.
I realize in this room that I am oscillating yet again between two lives, two individuals with independent artistic paths.
One artist’s entire soul fades into another’s vision. Like ink imbued on blotting paper, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the conversation between De Chirico and Apollinaire, the same way there is no limit to the discourse between Vezzoli and De Chirico.
Metafisica da Giardino at Nahmad Projects (Curated by Francesco Vezzoli) (28 September – 15 December 2017)