“An island, a continent, alone a world” said Edgar Degas speaking of the Japanese master Hokusai, whose colourful landscapes – in an almost murky and vague way – came to my mind when I saw the works Honey Boxes. Panel #5.22 (2022) and Honey Boxes. Panel #6.22 (2022). Layers upon layers of wax and paraffin ranging from a blue-grey to a light blue or sea-green, with splashes of a greenish off-white and lapis lazuli dust that cannot fail to remind me of crashing waves, just like The (Big) Wave by the Kanagawa Coast (c. 1830-1832). It was with this ancient landscape in my eyes that I first admired the works featured in Terra!, the first solo exhibition by Stefano Cescon (Pordenone, 1989) at the Gaggenau DesignElementi Hub in Milan, a showroom directed by Sabino Maria Frassà, art director and curator of the exhibition.
A very young and emerging artist, Cescon touches the terrain of a new art with the works on show, sculpture-paintings of varying dimensions in wax, paraffin and pigments. It is a landing place that came about not without obstacles, which began with a career steeped in material and at times informal painting, and only ended after almost three years of artistic silence echoed by a work of introspection that bore the weighty question of “what is left to say?”. This question finds its answered in the fourteen works on show in a space that has nothing to do with the classic white walls of an art institution; the exposed bricks of the walls, the sofa, the sometimes transparent roof and the elegantly exposed electrical appliances frame well the novelty imbued in Cescon’s works: no longer works that only find meaning when surrounded by a faded void, but ones that individually shout out their own identity. And it is identity that is one of the great fulcrums of the exhibition. First of all, the identity of the artist comes to the fore: a pictorial path within his paintings is clear, marked by a not inconsiderable interest in the research of materials, both natural (wax, pigments) and artificial (paraffin), which he combines by himself, creating, in a Renaissance way, the colours visible in the paintings. Then there is the identity of the observer. Being works created through a layering of colour and matter, there is a clear reference to one’s own life as a set of events, emotions and experiences. In addition, the unpredictability of a collapse between one layer of colour and another one creates unique works in which each of us sees something different that refers to something else we know: just like Rorschach’s figures, in Cescon’s paintings one can see everything or nothing, in any case they leave an experience that can only be personal.
The other major focus of the exhibition is the artistic process behind it. Stefano Cescon’s art is a meticulous search for balance between its being past and present, so much so that when the work is finished, it simply works or is destroyed. It becomes, therefore, a question of rhythm and lack of rhythm; as Henri Lefebvre wrote “rhythm appears as regulated time, governed by rational laws, but in contact with what is less rational in the human being: the lived, the carnal, the body”. If one of the two aspects is missing, rhythm ceases to exist, and the work no longer has any value for the artist. Emblematic in this sense is the work Honey Boxes. Panel #1.22 (2022), the first of the series but not exhibited in the solo show, was only visible in the exhibition La Caduta presented in September by Frassà himself. It is a work that marvelously encapsulates the shift in technique proposed by the artist and is clearly visible in the wax that appears rough to the eye and to the touch, a detail that brings pathos to the work.
The tour concludes with a work that well illustrates the point of arrival of this journey, and also the starting point for the one to come. The column – so called by Cescon himself, who did not really give the work a title – is a large monolith in which the layers of colour-matter give shape to a parallelepiped built on the artist’s proportions: it is the same height of the artist, while the depth is given by the dimensions of his head. It is to all intents and purposes a self-portrait of him in which the three-dimensionality is now given by the layering present on all five sides (including the “head”). From rectangles of just over twenty centimetres Cescon has gone further, reaching his own height, the horizon of a new material journey towards unknown coloured lands.
Stefano Cescon, Terra!
curated by Sabino Maria Frassà
6/10/2022 – 22/12/2022
Gaggenau DesignElementi Hub
Corso Magenta 2, 20123 Milan
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