Metamorfosi @ Dust Space Milan

At Dust Space, Milan

CEILING’S TALK #01 METAMORFOSI opens up the cycle of events curated by Fulvio Ravagnani, aiming to stimulate artists’ reflections on specific subject matters. Starting from the term ‘metamorfosi’ (Italian word for metamorphosis) and in an attempt to surmount its literary, zoological as well as scientific allusions and implications, artists have presented works that explore the concept from a wider and unbounded visual point of view.

The theme of ‘metamorphosis’ is about the change from one state to another, an object of transformation,” says Ting Bao, the gallerist behind Dust Space.

Following this curatorial line, multiple dichotomies coexist within the exhibition, as exemplified by the diversity of artistic practices as well as the origins of the participating artists coming from China and Italy. In a discussion on the reasons behind these particular choices, Bao explains: “The overall direction of the gallery is to provide a bridge between the East and the West, considering that me myself am Chinese. I took Milan as a key point and a gateway to other European cities, being also an important Italian center for contemporary art,” explains Bao.

Stepping into the gallery, one immediately finds the piece entitled Shan Hai Jing (mount sea view) by Kun Jia, a delicate and polished work in ceramic that rests on a scattered dust cloud on the floor. Jia’s work encompasses several artistic languages and forms, from weaving and pottery to the research of glaze transmutation. Through her practice, the artist makes references to Chinese traditional culture while exploring its meaning in broader contemporary life.

At a first glance, Shan Hai Jing appears as an enlargement of Earth seen from outer space, but as you go beyond the visual formality, you may catch the glimpse of a force majeure, a higher law, that is the great infinite in perpetual transformation.

Is it a breath or wind? Indeed, what can be perceived is a powerful and boundless energy that shapes the work, determining both the movement and direction of the solid white air in relief. This is the Qi force: the material energy, the life force, the energy flow.

As the clock strikes 7 pm, Liang Chen begins his performance Quando spingo la porta (When I push the door), whereby he walks on a carpet trying to enter an imaginary door, and even if the action is clearly impossible, Chen perseveres with firm conviction, driven by a strong inner belief.

Rapt in his own cognitive aura, the artist paints the words “in-between” on the wall in front of him. Through this action, Chen confers a tangible existence to that metaphysical inter land, that in-between space where transmutation and transcendence take place. However, the act of writing does not end with the materialization of the words, it perpetuates in space and time as the artist keeps tracing the words in the air at a certain distance.

With an intensity and commitment that pertain to rituals, Chen continues the performance by smearing himself with grey paint, perhaps as a conclusive act of self-annulment, one that is willful and possibly conscious too.

Next to the carpet where the performance took place and which is now soaked in paint, lies the work Strumento non strumento by Giulio Lanchini, a visual exploration of form and void, as well as a conceptual investigation into music and listening; the latter being a research that Lanchini has been pursuing for many years. The object has been transformed both in denial and abstraction, losing its original function but nonetheless acquiring a new meaning and reason to be.

On the surrounding walls, hangs the picture Senza tempo anni ’60 by Boy Sue, in which the artist builds a discourse around the notions of stereotypes and prejudicial codes. In this image, the familiarity of the place is striking; everything appears motionless, perfect and almost trivial. And through such fictitious and iconographic authenticity, a moment in time becomes here emblem of eternity.

In contrast, in Vincenzo Cabiati’s work Disegno con aureola, one can witness the metamorphosis of a drawing that becomes a person, a subject, a saint. In fact, ceramic plates tinted in gold serve as halos to Cabiati’s drawings. The artist addresses the desire to abandon “language” and, passing through language itself, to look at the world confiding in the presence, the being a subject.

Other artists have chosen instead to explore and expand the concept of metamorphosis from an anthropological point of view. Le Metamorfosi di Apuleio by Massimo Geranio departs from a great classic and explores the transformation that man constantly undergoes from birth to death, his mutation in the flesh as well as in thought.

Alessandra Cassinelli, on the other hand, offers a glimpse into the dynamics of a saving, prevaricating, yet righteous love. Having worked extensively in rehabilitation centers, her research revolves around the theme of interpersonal relationships, the bodies involved and its inherent complexities. For the show, the artist chose to shed light on the transformation process that a violent passion can lead to. Indeed, we transform ourselves every time we love or think we do, to never return as before.

Artists: Kun Jia, Giulio Lanchini, Boy Sue, Alessandra Cassinelli, Vincenzo Cabiati, Massimo Geranio, Liang Chen.

Anni Wu