When houses take flight – Matthias Brandes

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At Fideuram Bank, Milan

“The silent life of things”. These are the words the German artist Matthias Brandes uses to introduce his art. Us of WoMA are in the modern offices of the Fideuram Bank in Milan, where his latest artworks are now exhibited.

At a first glance his paintings seem to depict simple still lives, groups of houses. Yet something feels peculiar. The houses are bent one over the other, then a point in the sky… is it a house flying away? This details are enough to encourage the spectators to linger on the painting and take their time to better observe, analyse, assimilate what they are seeing. “Art is slow”, to quote Brandes, in a world increasingly fast, which leaves us no time to stop and reflect. Art should rather be savoured and meditated upon; it’s only then that the spectator can capture all the details and realize that the houses in the work “Village”are not the remains of an earthquake, neither broken, but represent instead a chaotic, lively, and even joyful gathering of houses. And that the houses that seem to loom over the landscape in another painting, “Cascade”, are actually a playful flock of houses migrating away.

Brandes is not interested in describing reality. His houses are not exactly copied from the real world, yet they can be found anywhere and everywhere: in the drawings of a child who struggles with his first pencil, in the simple huts of African tribes or in the rich houses on the Italian coast. They represent an ancestral idea of the House, common to the entire humanity and human history. But here, the concept is reverted, because nothing looks quite stable. The houses are free and it’s their “silent life” what we admire in the artist’s simple drawing, but that nonetheless entail complex consequences. A world that is different from what we know, where chaos dominates and the usual relationships between things have been invalidated. Only through time one can see the correspondence with his inner world of feelings, where everything feels confused, unstable, unexpected; indeed, the magic of an artist lays in his ability to speak to another man.

Dipinto di Matthias Brandes

However, as the German artist specifies, his art is not completely abstracted from reality. His personal experience and knowledge are very present, ready to be caught by an acute eye. Venice, the city that welcomed him when he left Hamburg, dictates its presence in the sense of precarious balance that pervades the images. This city that became everything to Brandes, while often being on the edge of bending and sinking, has survived a thousand years of threats and menaces without ceding. And is it not what human life is about? A constant struggle and sense of losing support but also the comfort of finding balance again. Faltering, swaying and wobbling houses that at last take flight to an elsewhere.

An in-depth look also allows us to get some insights on the models that deeply inspired Brandes’ work. And in this sense, we can perceive the signs and inheritances by Sironi, Magritte, Morandi, in the simple shapes he creates. But there is also Balthus, in the light that pervades the painting that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Brandes, as Balthus, does not follow the latest trends in art, his technique is far from being contemporary, yet the way he communicates to us, leading us to question our interior beliefs through means taken from the past, makes him undeniably contemporary. We learned many things in this intense encounter with the artist, we have appreciated him, admired him, but above all, we have understood that to properly see Art we need to dialogue with our inner emotions.

Anna Aglietta