Two shows from Italian artists caught my eye this week. First, this exhibition from Franceso Arena at one of the west end’s least accessible galleries, up a flight of stairs behind Regent Street. Arena makes vaguely arte povera-aligned works, using natural and found materials.
The centrepiece of this show is rather grandiose: exactly as the title suggests, seawater is contained in a metal trough, 13 metres long, oriented diagonally across the largest gallery. Why a cubic metre exactly? Arena tends to use standard measures in his works, as these measures are after all an expression of the man-made upon nature.
We look at the tank with a sense of immensity constrained. A similar tension between the man made and the natural appears in other works in the show: my favourite was of a Times newspaper, discussing the latest Brexit doom and gloom, wrapped around a hefty slab of solidified concrete: and not quite holding it all in.
And a similar sense is evoked by the Luigi Ghirri show across town at Thomas Dane Gallery. This photographer, whose retrospective at Jeu de Paume I wrote about earlier this year, found fame in the 70s by photographing simple scenes around the comfortable suburbs of Modena, his hometown.
He did broaden his repertoire as his short career went on (Ghirri died in 1992) but this exhibition focuses on his star-making turn from the early 1970s, Colazione sull’erba.While never straying far from peaceful scenes of carparks, gardens and advertising posters, the photographer - who trained as a surveyor - is always precisely locating his photographs within gridlines and boundaries.
Immensity constrained, from two different periods in Italian history!
Francesco Arena - Cubic Metre of Seawater as a Diagonal is at Sprovieri (London). October 02 - November 15 2019