Metamorphosis: France at LABS Contemporary Art bet...

Metamorphosis: France at LABS Contemporary Art between illusion and nature

From Saturday 16 March 2024, LABS Contemporary Art gallery in Bologna presents the “METAMORFOSI” exhibition starring the four French artists Cécile Beau, Nicolas Boulard, Jean-Baptiste Caron, Charlotte Charbonnel, in collaboration with the Parisian gallery 22.48 m2 and with the support of CNAP – Center national des arts plastiques. The exhibition is the result of an exchange project, born from the will of the gallery owners Alessandro Luppi and Rosario Caltabiano, with the intention of promote the vision and research of their artists, presenting new and thoughtful projects specifically for the respective exhibition spaces. In parallel, in fact, during the same period, LABS Contemporary Art presents “Puntinismo”, a double solo exhibition by Italian artists Giulia Marchi and Marco Emmanuele, which opened in 22.48 m2 on Saturday 3 March. The relationship between man, matter and the environment has always inspired the artistic, scientific and philosophical imagination. The intimate intertwining with matter and its many forms defines our relationship with the world around us. Various artistic practices, halfway between art and science, reveal to us that matter and its alteration are not only physical phenomena, but also the bearers of a dreamlike power that accompanies us towards a deeper understanding of ourselves and our contemporary world.

Opening of the exhibition “Metamorphosis”, 16 March 2024, courtesy Labs Contemporary Art

For the “Metamorphosis” exhibition, the diversified practices of the four artists find a meeting point in the observation of nature and man’s gaze on the latter. The selected works constitute a protean landscape that investigates the strength of nature in its fragmentation and through its perennial state of transformation. By examining the results of chemical, physical or geological phenomena, we will therefore have the opportunity to deconstruct the simplistic reading of a nature that is only and exclusively sublimated or demonized. Through micro-ecosystems (living, extinct or imagined) and meticulous interventions on matter, the artists investigate the essence of the identity of the living world as well as the incessant movement of universal transformation. These metamorphic processes triggered in the works are discreet, silent or even invisible, contrasting with the violence of the transformations undergone by nature, as it is witnessed by the unprecedented floods that hit the entire Emilia-Romagna last year.

Opening of the exhibition “Metamorphosis”, 16 March 2024, courtesy Labs Contemporary Art

The work that most struck my imagination was that of Jean-Baptiste Caron, “Au gré des existences”. A series of mirrors hanging on the wall caught my attention, also thanks to an incredible magic “trick”: if you breathe on them, they show their real nature, beyond their more artificial side. Multiple sentences appear upon contact with the hot air emanating from our mouths. A game between reality and fiction and the desire to be put in the foreground, as human beings. The second work, “Corps céleste”, is once again a real trick of illusion, a game between glances and counter glances. The disturbing question that arises is: can marble really float on water? In fact, the artist, born in 1983, was also an illusionist in the past. A careful observer of the world around him, his practice seeks to circumvent physical reality while adhering to a rigorous scientific approach. His works question the limits of the laws of physics and mechanics, manipulating the most varied elements to put them in tension, experimenting with the notions of gravity and weightlessness, density and lightness, materiality and immateriality.

Cécile Beau, “Vallen”, 2009, wood, India ink, sound device, 120 x 100 cm, courtesy Labs Contemporary Art

Continuing the tour we come across the works by Cécile Beau, an artist born in 1978, who lives between Paris and Brittany. Her images, visual and sound experiments, translate time and space, proposing interstitial territories with alienating features: sounds and images interact in devices that often reveal anomalies, absences, suspended spaces or fictitious environments in their apparent banality. For this project she proposes “Aoriste”, a work from 2018, which is nothing more than volcanic rock with moss that incorporates a characteristic audio system within itself. Only as we get closer, it reveals a complex mix between the noise of the panther’s purr and the very deep bass. Sounds that together can remind us of the noise of the earth’s core. On the side of the entrance, some of her imaginary planets appear, a tribute to the poverty of the elements, to the lively essentiality of the works, which meet with the artistic aesthetics of the artist. Homage to the traditions, to the nature that still marks our life today: “Enlil”, “Asag” and “Apsû”. “Vallen”, a work from 2009, on the other hand, forces us to study the smallest movement that nature offers us: a drop that falls or more clearly a drop that is generated and spreads. Can we grasp every slightest movement? Or are we too focused on the rest around us?

Charlotte Charbonnel, “Porifera n.4”, 2018-2024, (detail), petrified natural sponge, 20 x 18 cm, courtesy Labs Contemporary Art

Charlotte Charbonnel, born in 1980, lives and works in Paris, offers us a series of photographs, specifically “Ecrans Liquides” series. The specificity of the work is that of having been able to immortalize the underwater animal and natural world, maintaining their effervescent colours. The backlit plate support further helps to show the real color of the represented subjects. And again, “Porifera n. 4”, natural sponge altered to be able to maintain it as in nature thanks to a complex relationship with the limestone. Once again we must stop in front of the spectacular nature.

Nicolas Boulard, “Pain I”, 2021, hand-cut poplar plywood, walnut stain, 240 x 120 cm, courtesy Labs Contemporary Art

Nicolas Boulard, born in 1976 in Reims, lives and works in Clamart, near Paris. His sculptures and installations combine references to minimalism and conceptual art using organic materials, most of which come from the world of food production. In fact, at the end of the room, we can see his “Specific Cheeses – Castelmagno”, where we have a series of reproductions of the cheese starting from the modeling of other materials. On the right, however, “Pain I”, where we can stop to think about the precariousness and decadence of bread, reproduced in large dimensions on wood. How terrible? Once again Labs confirms itself as one of the galleries with an incessant desire to get involved, experiment and amaze.


AA.VV., Metamorfosi
19/03 – 11/05/2024
Labs Contemporary Art
via Santo Stefano 38, Bologna


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