Alessandro Scarabello – the Garden of Phersu at The Gallery Apart in Rome

The Garden of Phersu – the latest collection of works by Italian artist Alessandro Scarabello  – opens tonight in Rome at The Gallery Apart in Rome. The artist’s research – both extensive and intensive – materializes in a series of large and medium-scale paintings and drawings on paper that show not only an artistic evolution but also continuity the previous work which The Gallery Apart has been following since the very beginning.

The exhibition’s title chosen by Scarabello is a reference that is halfway between history and myth as it recalls the enigmatic figure of Phersu, a character reproduced on the frescoes of Etruscan tombs at Tarquinia (Italy), characterized by physiognomic and proxemic elements that fully render the characteristic of a mask, as also corroborated by the name on the inscriptions – therefore meaning “mask,” corresponding to the Latin “persona.” In the artworks on show, which the artist considers the affirmation of a lexicon consisting of both technical and theoretical elements acquired and absorbed over the last two years, the focus on the body and corporality is mediated through the use of an object-simulacrum, the scarecrow, which imitates the same postures and shapes as those of the human body, but without the limits imposed by reality and verisimilitude, and rather leaving room for deformation and surreality, the mask indeed. In the artist’s imagery, both Phersu (who is the ferryman to the Underworld) and the scarecrow represent figures poised between neurotic laughter and horror, like several other characters from the Commedia dell’Arte and the Italian cultural tradition.

The work by Scarabello has always been related to drama, the mask, staging, but today his research is focused on the more specific field of identity. Like in a negative photographic image, the artist tackles it from the point of view of depersonalisation, in an attempt to clarify how people, in contact with mass culture, with the “show” and the constant proliferation of images, change themselves in order to better adapt to reality so as to effectively pursue strategies, sometimes even instinctive and unconscious, aimed at overcoming the atavistic fear of death. Strategies that sometimes have grotesque connotations, highlighting how men’s reaction to contemporaneity may be awkward, just like their behaviour. In Scarabello’s artworks, the figures’ movements become radicalised due to the lack of verbal communication to then become completely motionless because of an excess of balance.

The image simulacrum created by Scarabello is often set in environments characterized by a dense vegetation. It is a constant element that the artist relates directly with the way Westerners perceive the idea of escape, of distraction, of entertainment. The stereotyped image of landscapes and of nature, and therefore the desire for “exoticism,” for holidays in tropical destinations, comes directly from the (sad) legacy of Western settlers and by their unidirectional perception of the “new world.”

The new collection of works is the result of a long phase of in-depth study and reflection on the alternation of emptiness and fullness, dwelling on the experimentation of tridimensionality through the breaking of the canvas and the overlaying of pieces of paintings, influenced by a strong attraction to abstract art which manifested itself with an impulse that pushed him towards the exasperation of gestures and shapes.

All this contributed to the creation of the substratum upon which Scarabello has developed his determination to experiment with colour as well as to tackle the canvas with a greater expressiveness. In the paintings on show the figurative element is given back through an abstract reading of the detail and the notion of “emptiness” materializes itself through the way of painting rather than through the manipulation of the support.

The Gallery Apart – Via Francesco Negri 43, 00154 Roma
Opening 12 May 2016, 6pm
13 May 2016 – 31 July 2016