On 25 September the P420 gallery inaugurated two solo exhibitions by Merlin James and Marie Cool / Fabio Balducci, which mark the gallery’s first collaboration with these artists.
The first room displays the canvases – all medium and small size – by Merlin James, a Welsh-born and Scottish by adoption artist. From the entrance, turning left, you see Viewer and you have the impression of being welcomed – in an unusual way considering that he has his back to us – by the artist himself intent on observing something (as the characters of Audience also do). The distance between figure and background vanishes and the latter is free to become many things: if the viewer is Merlin, then the show could be us observing his works.
Beyond the apparent simplicity of some images, that of the Welsh artist is a painting that is not immediately decipherable, which therefore requires time. In fact, time – says the artist – is also one of the materials with which he creates. The canvases express a mysterious sense of aging, due to the long manufacturing process characterized by continuous reinterpretations and additions.
What the artist himself calls Trasparencies (frames reinvented with transparent polyurethane or nylon canvases sprinkled with stains, wounds, holes, seams) – such as House and Cloud or Buildings – coexist in the space with acrylic canvases poised between abstraction and figuration, such as Coast. They are works in progress, which escape the representation of the reality that surrounds us and which, free to be incoherent and heterogeneous, transport to the artist’s elsewhere.
The atmosphere changes, already in the office area and then in the second room, with the works of Marie Cool Fabio Balducci. She, French, comes from contemporary dance, he, Italian, from visual arts and cinema. They have been working together since 1995. A small body and a very long red braid: Marie. It is always and only she who carries out the actions in front of the public, with the intent, however, of representing the human figure in a broad sense. For the first two days of the exhibition, the actions were carried out live in front of the visitors’ eyes and will be visible on video for the duration of the exhibition.
The precision of the gestures is almost hypnotic: the artist touches a long adhesive tape with her fingertips that literally crosses the exhibition space, with a slow movement that produces a light sound, similar to the beating of an insect’s wings. She then manipulates the natural element of fire which, in the form of a flame, slowly consumes the artificial element of the cotton thread soaked in saliva.
The reality of the two artists, in the form of a ritual, invades the space and speaks to us of resistance. At what? The answer is in the objects on display: office tables and desks, cotton made from a work suit. All materials coming from company failures or staff reductions and therefore marginalized by the hectic and repetitive production cycle. These are reactivated by slow actions (the antithesis is fundamental in the work of the artists) which trigger a political, social and economic reflection. The invitation is to resist the work that can sometimes imprison a single individuality, transforming itself into a cage from which to try to free oneself, like the insect that flaps its wings.
The two independent exhibitions – which can be visited until 7 November – represent an alternative reality to the everyday one and build a contemplative dimension that pushes us to reflect and want to fight more for our freedom.
Merlin James/Marie Cool Fabio Balducci
25 September – 7 November 2020
Via Azzo Gardino 9 Bologna
Merlin James, installation view, 2020, P420, Bologna, Courtesy the artist & P420, Bologna (photo credit Carlo Favero)
Merlin James, House and Cloud, 2010, mixed media, 71 x 56 cm, Courtesy the artist & P420, Bologna (photo credit Carlo Favero)
Marie Cool Fabio Balducci, installation view, 2020, P420, Bologna, Courtesy the artists & P420, Bologna (photo credit Carlo Favero)
Born in Puglia (Italy), after a three-year degree in Cultural Heritage at the University of Salento (Lecce), she deepened her study of contemporary art, graduating in Visual Arts at the University of Bologna, where she currently lives and works. Author of the critical essay “Museum and Neutrality”. Member of the Muri di Versi Cultural Association. She believes that art is a powerful tool capable of arousing reflections and creating relationships.