The irony of life on display at Galleria Continua ...

The irony of life on display at Galleria Continua San Gimignano

When you cross the threshold of Galleria Continua in San Gimignano you do not expect to enter such an extensive space. Instead, in the rooms that housed the cinema-theater of the Tuscan small town, you are introduced in a great unreal show in which the objects, paintings and installations of Valentina Ornaghi and Claudio Prestinari are the actors of their personal exhibition “Sbilenco”.

Ornaghi & Prestinari, Sbilenco 2023, exhibition view Galleria Continua, San Gimignano. Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio. Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA

The artistic duo of Milanese origin, active since 2009, which has been the winner of numerous awards and protagonist of several international exhibitions, has conceived here a project that puts the space as if it were suspended, in which they staged some of the works that most represent the concept of sharing and dialogue in their art. The artistic production of Ornaghi & Prestinari, which ranges between different media, provides for the exchange and the possibility of comparison between the two artists, giving rise to a parody of everyday life that exploits the representation of objects of common use, revisited from a material point of view, in a key of surreal and ambiguous reading. The parodistic feeling of the works is accentuated by the uncertainty of a precarious balance that the exhibition reflects in a delicate way, as you can see in the compositions resting on the long wooden structure that connects the space of the stage with that used in the past as an audience: a lopsided segment that unites, in the irregularity of the distortion, some small sculptures that reproduce objects of apparent daily use, which are resting on the crooked surface that appears too precarious to be able to support them safely.

Ornaghi & Prestinari, Parte, 2022, wood, Armenian bolus, gold, bunch of keys. Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo by: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

The visitor, while immediately recognizing the shape of the sculptures, later notes that their production is artisanal: not plastic or technological materials with which one is accustomed in the consumer society but wood and crystal, which are used to reproduce a pc, as Part (2022), or tubes of tempera color, such as Dance floor (2022). The artists’ research on the various facets of “material culture” is linked to the influence of their training in Industrial Design and Architecture, which aims to reflect on industrial production techniques, design and, finally, on the consequences related to dysfunctional consumption that is denounced through this estranged story.

Ornaghi & Portinari, Dance floor, 2022, wood, slide boxes. Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo by: © Ela Bialkowska OKNO studio

On the stalls, next to the wooden structure, there is a large double bed divided at the upper base: the artists were inspired by a story by Italo Calvino – Avventura di due sposi, taken from Gli amori difficili (1970) – to stage the imaginary depiction of a couple being physically impeded from meeting in the ultimate sharing place within a home. It becomes the metaphor for the words of the Italian writer, who told of two people who, although living together, could not meet because of their working hours.

Ornaghi & Prestinari, Bedroom, 2020, bed, fabric, wood, galvanized stell, glass, led, jacquard tapestry. Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo by: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

The little less than thirty works of the project (conceived specifically for the spaces of San Gimignano) give the impression of becoming part of a comedy inspired by everyday life, while perceiving its ambiguity. The feeling of restlessness, in fact, is omnipresent in “Sbilenco”, while you observe the installations and paintings housed in the side galleries of the former theater and you come across works such as Composizione per cinque elementi (2023), a wooden net that holds in an uncertain way some tools – a knife, a jar, a bottle – reproduced in wood or Sfiorare (2023), a painting with a polycentric character that appears divided into two.

Ornaghi & Prestinari, Sfiorare, 2023, wood, gypsum, Armenian bolus pigments OP7543C, pure gold. Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA. Photo by: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

The defect given by the evident irregularity, present in every work, seems to criticize implicitly the false perfection that today’s society seems to continually want to impose in the life of each of us, as if Ornaghi & Prestinari, manipulating the materials with which they are produced their works created in dialogue, wanted to show us that there is no certainty even behind the objects that seem more “normal”. The tension between balance and uncertainty seems to play with the influence of different references from the world of design and artistic and sculptural production to architecture, to investigate, through the concept of “lopsided” the complexity and poetry of everyday life.

Marina Zorz


Ornaghi & Prestinari, Sbilenco
21/01/2023 – 07/05/2023
Galleria Continua
San Gimignano


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