MASSIMODECARLO VSpace is delighted to present Pastorale, an exhibition curated by artist Thomas Grünfeld. Pastorale is based on ideas pertaining to arcadia, a rural place of idyllic contentment where nature and its peacefulness is idealised and enhanced. The four works in the show, by Grünfeld, Neil Jenney, Félix Vallotton and Andreas Schulze, each present a different approach to the meaning of arcadia, showing contrasting artistic understandings of the theme.
Grünfeld’s work uses what he refers to as the ‘artificial approach’. The panoramic work not only draws its subject from nature but also uses natural materials: quartz, marble, onyx, slate, granite and agate. The artist is guided by the inherent qualities of the stones, drawing from them similarities to other elements of nature; a certain quality of stone is transformed into a tree trunk, while others are particularly suited to the graduated surface of fluffy clouds. The scene, though true to nature in its use of materials, is an artificial representation of nature, an imagined arcadia dictated not by a real location but from the allusions drawn up in the artist’s own mind.
Jenney’s ‘philosophical approach’ in Here and There keeps the viewer at a distance from his arcadian scene, encouraging reflection and contemplation. The roughly applied brushstrokes Jenney uses to describe the grassy meadows drip down over the white fence that divides the scene, breaking the illusion of a depiction of a real place. While the rejection of illusion creates a mental barrier that blocks the viewer from entering the arcadian landscape, the fence itself creates a physical barrier, literally dividing the scene into the titular ‘Here and There’. This dichotomy also exists beyond the confines of the artist’s painted frame, which differentiates the ‘here’ of the gallery space from the arcadian ‘there’ within the frame.
In Last Sun Rays the sinuous trunks and branches of Vallotton’s trees have a menacing anthroporphic quality to them; this is not a peaceful and harmonious depiction of arcadia but, what Grünfeld refers to as, a ‘hysterical approach’. The artist presents an expressive interpretation of a natural scene, his own vision of a heightened reality, which remains beautiful yet threatening, with grotesque shapes and an ominous hint of fiery red on the horizon.
Taking this a step further, Andreas Schulze’s work features a complete transformation of nature within an unbalanced overall composition contrastingly set against calm and harmonious swathes of colour. We are unable to make out what the object or creature might be, or the seemingly indefinable space within which is resides. Even the title cannot help to define the scene and an unsettling feeling pervades through this strange, yet still calm, form of arcadia that is tinged with the element of estrangement.