Anarchist Geography by Simone Pellegrini at MUSEC,...

Anarchist Geography by Simone Pellegrini at MUSEC, Lugano

On the lakeside of Lugano in a neoclassical building dating back to the mid-18th century, immersed in lush vegetation largely made up of tropical plants and shrubs, stands Villa Malpensata, since 2019 the new headquarters of the MUSEC previously located at the Heleneum in Castagnola, but born as a reality already in 1985. The fascinating Museum of Cultures houses a copious collection of ethnic art, the result of the generous donation of the Ticino surrealist artist Serge Brignoni (1903-2002). 661 works gradually joined over the years by numerous bequests from collectors who have enriched the original collection by another 20,000 pieces.

Simone Pellegrini, Accinti affronti, 91 x 192 cm, 2021 © Simone Pellegrini

Wooden sculptures, masks, sticks, shields, artefacts, ornaments, coming from the Far East, India, South East Asia, Oceania and Indonesia (and to a lesser extent Africa and America) follow one another, selected in a cyclical and thematic way, revealing a collection surprising with absolutely original characters. A splendid example of this is the recent temporary exhibition Art in the antipodes, extrapolated from Serge Brignoni’s collection, which includes 73 masterpieces from South East Asia and Oceania. The Director, Francesco Paolo Campione, supported by an attentive scientific committee, works to pursue the aims of a museum, that is, to collect, order, conserve, exhibit and enhance the works of the permanent collection with a careful eye in carrying out collateral projects capable of creating profitable and synergistic exchanges between art and anthropology and art in the broad sense. The museum hosts modern and contemporary art exhibitions, photographic exhibitions, conferences, educational and research activities with a privileged focus on ethnic art.

Simone Pellegrini, Chiavarda atta, 79 x 145 cm, 2020 © Simone Pellegrini

Global Aesthetics is the new project “dedicated to the exploration of the relationship between contemporary art and the ideological and cultural context in which it moves” and which includes the two solo shows opened this summer and currently underway: Lipiko by Filipe Branquinho (an important exponent of African art, known for his critical and irreverent gaze) and An anarchic geography by Simone Pellegrini, an exhibition co-curated by Francesco Paolo Campione and Nora Segreto, which goes well with this humus, given that traits and stylistic features can be traced in the works which resonate with the universal, the primordial, while the artist becomes an intermediary for other worlds. Both exhibitions were preceded by what can be considered the first chapter of the exhibition, The Presence, by the established Thai artist Attasit Pokpong.

Simone Pellegrini, Setsa farsía, 144 x 375 cm, 2022 © Simone Pellegrini

Simone Pellegrini (Ancona, 1972) with more than forty exhibitions to his credit, professor of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, presents in the Spazio Maraini a dozen large wall papers immersed in the shadows which document approximately fifteen years of activity. The penumbra accompanies the user in an intimate and maieutic visit of the works, replicating the same atmosphere of his studio house in Bologna, in that “space removed from the home” in which the lighting is poor and almost always artificial and in which Pellegrini works at dusk. The highly evocative titles placed at the sides of the illuminated works, whose slightly raised edges also reveal the reversal of the porous and material support for an unprecedented double vision, create autonomous hermetic verses and at the same time strengthen the work that accompanies them.

Simone Pellegrini, Sponda, monda serva, 93×167 cm, 2021 © Simone Pellegrini

On the large dusting papers displayed, the artist’s unconscious and imaginary worlds emerge, forms in continuous metamorphosis sometimes attributable to phytomorphic elements, portions of human figures violated and therefore tragic, distorted physicalities, cellular organisms, mysterious and sibylline details that betray expectations and give life to wandering signs that free themselves and begin their own independent journey. They are a constellation of images that appear after being imprinted on the vast surface by friction, through a steel tool built specifically by the blacksmith, transferred from matrices drawn by the artist with charcoal, on which pigments are crumbled and then partially oiled. These enigmatic maps, these dreamlike cartographies, are often the result of sketches, drawings and preparatory studies written on title pages, blank pages and colophons of those novels and essays on philosophy, mysticism and psychoanalysis that accompany Simone’s days. The bond with the word is undeniably strong in him, aware at the same time that each artist must make a radical break with it, to venture into the construction of a new language; hence the creation of an alphabet of unspeakability which develops by parataxis a germination of signs which claim their emancipation from any certain meaning and which continually escape any attempt at pre-established classification.

Simone Pellegrini, Ils asi patiovindo, 96 x 201 cm, 2023 © Simone Pellegrini

The large supports are the result of patchwork, assemblage, summa of papers torn from a large uncut roll waiting to receive images. A territory of an elsewhere dominated by crooked visions where archaic echoes resonate, which the artist gradually conquers with his work and which he recreates by sewing it up and gluing it with vinyl glue. An element which, as Francesco Paolo Campione writes in the text accompanying the exhibition, is “a sort of generative lattice, to fertilize the creative field and give it a tactile consistency and a contemplative value”. During this process, a true ritual that Pellegrini punctually implements, where he never comes into direct contact with the finished work, but only with the matrices which are born once and only once and which after their transfer are left to fall to the ground in the territory of the purgatory of all other waste, the practice of distance is fundamental. That distance is a true experience of intangibility, in which one is a few millimeters from the goal and escapes it. In this regard, a beautiful essay by Jean-Luc Nancy comes to mind, Noli me tangere, in which the philosopher “investigates the meaning of tangency without contact, of proximity that knows no promiscuity, assimilating to the Christological gesture the same painting that manages to make intense the presence of an absence qua absence”.

Simone Pellegrini, Traviso in fase, 71 x 147 cm, 2021 © Simone Pellegrini

Finally there is the Great Negative full of perfect imperfections that is exposed to the public; shroud, a trace that enters the spaces, releasing that smell of linseed oil with which it came into contact, while the surfaces used, denying themselves to the gaze of the public and the market, sacrifice themselves. (For the record, it should be noted that during the MUSEC exhibition it was chosen to leave some matrices at the foot of the Setsa Farsía work, giving the user the opportunity to be informed about the process). Anarchist geography contains impossible maps, almost puzzles, where artist and observer explore unknown territories, in which it is easy and advisable to get lost, because art requires a being beyond meaning, depositing the known, the toolbox to open up to unknown. And it is Pellegrini himself who says that the artwork has nothing to do with knowledge “because ultimately creating is a more or less lucid way of delirium… When you close the door of a studio the improbable happens. For this reason” continues the artist “I love mystics like Meister Eckhart who said that there is only one way to welcome God, that of clearing the field… Freeing the image and making it go beyond the territory of the imagination which we free as the more we imagine”.

Tristana Chinni


Simone Pellegrini- Una geografia anarchica
MUSEC-Museo delle Culture
Villa Malpensata – Via G. Mazzini 5, Lugano
20.7 – 26/11/2023
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