BY Mike Watson in Reviews | 25 SEP 15
Featured in
Issue 174

Gianni Politi

Nomas Foundation, Rome, Italy

BY Mike Watson in Reviews | 25 SEP 15

Gianni Politi, To have hunger for hunger and thirst for chairs (goji berry on top of a lung), 2013-15, mixed media, 1.5 x 1 m

Gianni Politi’s third solo show in Rome in three years demonstrates a marked development in the work of a young artist indebted to the history and culture of the city. Entitled ‘Mountaintop Waterdrop’, the exhibition at Nomas Foundation firmly consolidated Politi as an abstract painter, comprising a departure from the figurative work he had developed around the subject of his late father for the exhibition ‘From the Studio (Nightrider)’, held at C02 gallery, Rome, in 2013. Following shortly after Politi’s recent show at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, this latest exhibition extended his consideration of painting in its historical context. In keeping with this theme, the show’s two audio guides were recorded by veteran painters Enzo Cucchi and Giuseppe Gallo.

Above all, the show – featuring 18 paintings made on canvas with acrylic, oil, household paint and spray paint – reflected on the painterly method. The title, ‘Mountaintop Waterdrop’, refers to the circular journey a drop of water repeatedly undertakes as it moves between sky and land and back again. In the way that waterdrops evaporate after contact with earth, Politi’s collages often develop from the ground upwards, as leftover canvas cut from previous works are taken from the studio floor and reused for new pieces. One might be tempted to draw comparisons here with the works of the arte povera movement, given how roughly the pieces are worked on a surface level. However, as can be seen, for example, in the work Avere fame di fame e sete di sedie (goji berry on top of a lung) (To have hunger for hunger and thirst for chairs [goji berry on top of a lung], 2013–15), Politi’s use of colour is equally indebted to paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries. As in the baroque tradition, the suggestion of ethereality evoked by a rich palette of naturally occurring colours takes the viewer temporarily beyond the 1.5 × 1 m of the picture plane. This effect is interrupted by a raw, collaged piece of canvas aggressively daubed with plain white paint that fills the top left quartile of the painting.

Similarly, the large-scale work Veduta di Veroli, stavolta da fuori (senza grazia, partecipando) (View of Veroli, this time from outside [without grace, participating], 2015) features a bright and affirmative field of yellow overlaid with a similarly daubed piece of canvas, in turn overlaid with dragged black and white acrylic. On the one hand, the viewer feels bathed in light, on the other, the painting evokes the sensation of chewing on grit. This ability to convey such contrasts supports the idea that Politi has found in abstraction a vehicle for exploring the painterly tradition’s widely varying capacity for emotional expression. This can be seen most clearly in the Le ore del giorno e della notte (Stalker) (Hours of day and night [Stalker], 2013–15), which shifts from the fluid temperance of a colourfield painting to a rough depiction of what appears to be a window frame, and then to a large plane of bare canvas. Here, Politi reminds us of the versatility of the medium of painting by bringing out both its subtlety and its crudeness.

Mike Watson (PhD Goldsmiths College) is a media theorist, art critic and curator. Watson has curated at the 55th and 56th Venice Biennale, as well as at Manifesta12 in Palermo. His next book, The Memeing of Mark Fisher, comes out with Zero Books in September 2021.