We have lived bitter, disillusioned months, often too heavy. Comfort has been sought several times in our own solitude, within a perceived time without end. The future seems so elusive, the present uncertain. Yet if we paused for a moment to reflect we could glimpse some positive stimuli. Alessandro Casagrande (Caracas, 1987), Italian painter and photographer, decided not to be overwhelmed by the apathy that characterized the last year, but allowed himself to be carried away and inspired by those everyday moments.
Intimacy, warmth, naivety. These are the words that come to mind after a first look at the works exhibited in the Galera San Soda gallery by Stefano Branca di Romanico in Milan. Curated by Clemente Tivioli and opened on 23 October, Lilac is a private parenthesis of idyllic moments and contemplative stasis. On the other hand, the gallery space is designed to be a modern home study, where you can isolate yourself and stay for hours to observe the paintings on the walls. At the entrance the pink neon draws the attention of the visitor, who cannot help but approach the main window with his eyes fixed on those colorful and vivid rectangles. As at the sound of a siren song, they ask us to enter. Absorbed, we understand that we recognize ourselves in the faces and, perceiving their own peace, we end up getting lost, but also finding ourselves again.
The corpus of works on display is particularly rich: there are sixteen new works on a large scale and twelve drawings on smaller sized paper. The exhibition stems from the dialogue between the curator, the gallery owner and the artist, who for the occasion presents a series of paintings made during the months of confinement. Being forced to live in a confined environment, with no escape routes, could be claustrophobic, but, at the same time, it forces us to take note of the transformation of our habits. Casagrande was able to react, transforming his imprisonment into a quiet journey, which transported him from the living interior to imaginary, bucolic and blurred places.
The lightness of the figures is also rediscovered in the title “Lilac”, given to symbolize a game of references; the lilac color is not only a pigment at the base of the color combinations of oil pastels, a technique used by the artist for this type of work, but also recalls the perfumed flower typical of the Far East, a warm reference to the torpor in which the subconscious gets lost.
From the first drawings that welcome the visitor inside the gallery, the recurring element of the delicately nude and pinkish silhouettes can be seen. In most of the works (for example, One night in March, Caramella, The pink tiger) we see that domestic interiors are inhabited by women portrayed as contemporary Venus, mostly reclining or sitting. They do not notice our gaze in the least, on the contrary they are completely at ease, depicted without any idealism; their bodies are real, soft, and show no malice. Only in Carolina or Self portrait with Paco, on the other hand, a male figure appears, or rather Casagrande himself, who decides to represent himself in an uninhibited and placid way.
Some paintings, including Blue of Lilac, play on contrasts. Bright interiors have to deal with the darkness outside the home. You can feel the desire to escape from that window left open, but also the bitterness that the bodies hide behind, curled up on the ground. Similarly, the work with the emblematic title Melancholia with flowers hints at an even more restless atmosphere. The protagonist is alone, in the center of the sheet, lying on her back to hide her face. But the sadness turns into a lucid dream in the remaining works outside. Here, exotic palm trees or forests, sometimes full of brightly colored flowers and berries, are the backdrop to the characters dressed only in their petticoats. Solstice and Suzanne are a snapshot that perfectly portrays the lightness and spontaneity of those moments, just as At sunset near the water manages to transport the observer elsewhere through the impetuous colors of the sunset. Finally, Down by the river is one of the most serene and playful works in the series, so much so that you can hear the gushing of fresh water in the distance.
Alessandro Casagrande’s entire imagery is revealed with extreme sincerity in this cycle of works, referring to his career as a photographer. If photography is his way of communicating and talking to others, painting is nothing more than a further modality of expression without fiction or predefined schemes. His artistic practice is straightforward and spontaneous, but still poetic.
“The works in Lilac”, writes Tivioli in the Press Release of the exhibition, “are a manifesto of domestic pleasure, of the beauty of everyday life, of the little things that make us happy in our hearts, that make us ourselves. Long waits that invite us not to contemplate nothing but instead force us to look inside ourselves. We get lost in the works as a mirror of our subconscious, of those solitary moments in which we lose ourselves in the silence that surrounds us, which embraces us and lets us reflect on what our soul asks only in the most intimate of circumstances. This exhibition is an invitation to look inside.”
All that remains, then, is to accept that invitation and find comfort in those silent faces and in the enveloping silence.
Alessandro Casagrande, Lilac, Galera San Soda, Milano. Courtesy l’artista e Galera San Soda. Foto Alessandro Saletta + dsl studio
Alessandro Casagrande, The pink tiger, oil pastels on paper. 70cm x 100cm. Courtesy l’artista. Foto Alessandro Saletta + dsl studio
Alessandro Casagrande, Melancolia con fiori, oil pastels on paper. 70cm x 100cm. Courtesy l’artista. Foto Alessandro Saletta + dsl studio