Gregorio Botta. Breathe Out

Four years after A cosa aspira acqua (What water desires), Gregorio Botta (Naples, 1953) returns to Bologna to inaugurate the new exhibition season of Studio G7 with the solo show Breathe Out, in which he presents two important unpublished installations, specifically created for space, and a precious series of small and medium-sized works, as a result of the most recent developments in his artistic research, which has always focused on the exploration of the thin border that separates full and empty and on the dialectic between presence and absence generated by the intersection and contrast of these antithetical and complementary suggestions. As the text by Marinella Paderni that accompanies the exhibition explains, Breathe Out is the second chapter of an important project, which started with the parallel exhibition Breathe in inaugurated almost simultaneously at the Studio Trisorio in Naples, which deals with the meaning of human existence from the point of view of the breath, understood as a vital breath and as an alternating inward and outward expansion. The artist’s reflection developed in Bologna is therefore dedicated to exhalation, a physiological and uncontrollable act immediately following inhalation, through which our body lets out what has been retained. “When we inhale it is as if we swallow a part of the world[1]” says the artist, suggesting that the subsequent release implies a temporary condition of lightness, but also a meaning of loss that is difficult to heal.

In the works on display, Gregorio Botta enacts a sort of secular meditation which, dwelling on the poetic and real dimension of the breath, ferries thought beyond the integrated vision of evidence and tries to give shape and consistency to the indefinable nostalgia for an “elsewhere” which is forbidden to the senses and to the human intellect, only allowed to approach it through fleeting negative intuitions. Inhaling, holding your breath and exhaling means introjecting the otherness that comes from the outside, making it consubstantial for a moment and separating from it by reintroducing it into the flow of cyclicities in a further production of difference. The osmosis between inside and outside generated by this process presents surprising analogies with the act of seeing, through which the human imagination feeds on external reality and then projects into it the visions triggered by this exchange, which in turn become the starting point of our interpretation of reality. The automatism, the inevitability and the uncontrollability of these mechanisms (and the problematic idea of ​​freedom that derives from them) are at the center of the works on display, which are presented as so many devices of meditation and mediation through which the artist it invites us to experience new possibilities of interaction with the immeasurable emptiness in which we are immersed.

Ideally, the exhibition itinerary opens with In molti luoghi ignoti (In many unknown places), a large sheet of glass that suggests the appearance of an immaterial door ajar on the void, a barrier-passage almost perfectly camouflaged with the invisible, which our eyes manage at first to perceive only in relation to the meager elements that define its spatial positioning: a thin iron wedge that supports it from the back, at the same time foreshadowing that the crossing will not be painless, and a wax cup precariously placed on its summit, ready to overturn the nothingness of which it is filled on the head of those who dare to widen the passage by moving the slab to cross the threshold. The cup is a recurring object in Gregorio Botta’s poetics, who has always been fascinated by the evocative power of this shape built from the perfect complementarity of full and empty, which in his work becomes a symbolic figure full of energy, capable of embodying expectation and tension for a filling / fulfillment perhaps destined never to happen.

If this first installation seems to attribute evanescent properties to the materials used by the artist in an ambiguous dialectic with their material accidentality, in the Untitled sculpture that occupies the opposite wall of the gallery (made up of a sort of glass guillotine that compresses some pigmented oilcloths) instead, the weight of the void becomes preponderant, here interpreted as a dense substance subject to the laws of gravity. What is retained – fragments of canvas residues from other previous artworks – is an already experienced living space that renews its strength and need to exist by returning to a state of latency and indeterminacy. The pressure exerted by this sculpture is counterpointed by the upward momentum of the Hölderlin Paradise installation, in which seven circles of glass materialize a movement of aspiration and liberation from matter, a vortex of emptiness that rises, bringing with it fragile terracotta flowers soiled by imperceptible traces of Nicosia green.

In the large paper Il cielo è a tal punto mentale (The sky is so mental) the artist uses the same spiritual tone, that recurs in the decorations of Islamic mosques, to draw a central empty circle surrounded by flowers and bloodstains, a free derivation of the frescoed Noli me tangere by Beato Angelico in the convent of San Marco, where drops of blood gush from the wounds of the risen Christ turn into flowers when they touch the ground. In Gregorio Botta’s reinterpretation in an abstract key, sacrifice, which in Christian doctrine waters the world and makes it fertile, becomes an ascetic evocation of suffering in the context of an individual path of acceptance of universal pain. Similar visual and conceptual suggestions can be found in the precious collection of Veronicas exhibited in the studio of the gallery, a series of small works also made of stratifications of semi-transparent papers with inserts of blood, gold and leaves that play with the elusive presence of a always veiled image which, while pressing to emerge on the surface, is never fully revealed to the eye.

In the indefinite sense of secular sacredness that emanates from the works on display, the existential questions that have always gripped man and the artist’s poetic reflection on the transcendence of form understood as a tool that allows to enter into a relationship with what cannot be defined while keeping its complexity intact. “What is clear and perfect is dead, while what has yet to be accomplished is alive” Botta says in front of his papers, suggesting how his ever more passionate and subtle research of the possible thresholds to elsewhere has to do with an incessant reconciliation of contrasting tensions in which the work is called to have a weight in order to become ethereal, to act as a a diaphragm to be the intermediary of revelations and to be incarnated in a body precisely to be able to free itself from it.

[1] G.Botta, Just Measuring Unconsciousness, exhibition catalogue, Galleria Nazionale di Roma, Silvana Editoriale, Milano 2020, p. 13.


Gregorio Botta. Breathe Out
text by Marinella Paderni
01.10 – 13.11.2021
Galleria Studio G7
Via Val D’Aposa 4A, 40123, Bologna

Gregorio Botta, Breathe Out, 2021, exhibition view, Courtesy l’Artista e Galleria Studio G7, Bologna. Foto Alessandro Fiamingo

Gregorio Botta, Senza Titolo, 2021, vetro, lino, cera, pigmenti, ferro, cm 45×189,5×4,5, Courtesy l’Artista e Galleria Studio G7, Bologna. Foto Alessandro Fiamingo

Gregorio Botta, Hölderlin Paradise, 2021, dischi di vetro, argilla, diametro cm 34 cad., dimensioni variabili, Courtesy l’Artista e Galleria Studio G7, Bologna. Foto Alessandro Fiamingo

Gregorio Botta, Breathe Out, 2021, exhibition view, Courtesy l’Artista e Galleria Studio G7, Bologna. Foto Alessandro Fiamingo


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