14 January – 4 March 2011
Josh Lilley is delighted to announce the debut solo exhibition at the gallery for Italian sculptor Benedetto Pietromarchi.
Two years ago, Benedetto Pietromarchi was awarded the Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship, which allowed him to live and work in the late British sculptor's studio residence in Kensington. During that period, while making new work, he has also spent a good deal of time travelling, not in the conventional geographical sense of moving from place to place, but in the imaginative mode associated with the mental wanderer, the armchair traveller. The current body of work has emerged in large part from that meditative process and particularly from Pietromarchi's interest in the nebulous realm of psychogeography.
As Guy Debord — the founding guru of psychogeography himself — acknowledged, the term has always had a pleasing vagueness, but to Pietromarchi its significance was clear enough. For him it marked the intersection of a number of his enduring interests, touching upon the idea of the voyage, the patterns of geological time, humanity's ecological footprint, and the illusory nature of representation. And there was something else that Pietromarchi noticed too. Despite its origins in aesthetics and the transformation of urban life, psychogeography has spawned little visual art to speak of, its main legacy lying instead within the literary and political spheres, and of course in the act of walking itself, where psychology and geography coincide.
The apparent absence of any psychogeography-inspired sculpture prompted Pietromarchi to combine into a whole a number of the ostensibly discrete works that have emerged from his recent research. It is these drawings, photographs, ceramic objects and an intriguing diorama construction that make up the current exhibition. While he has loosely conjoined them in such a way that they enrich and illuminate one another, they remain autonomous objects, each with its own subtle allusions. In this sense the work preserves something of the oneiric nature of psychogeography's essential character, while illuminating its connection to a surrealist sensibility.
Pietromarchi's classical training and respect for craft give him mastery over a broad range of studio disciplines. The decision to build a diorama might have prompted less versatile contemporary artists to outsource the work to a specialist workshop. However, the need for a wraparound hexagonal enclosure of backlit screens combining drawing and photographs merely presented to Pietromarchi an opportunity to do what he enjoys most, to hunker down and construct it all himself. The result unwittingly updates a long-neglected aspect of London's Enlightenment visual culture — the panoramas, dioramas and other optical devices that proliferated in the early nineteenth century.
Pietromarchi's screen chamber is a bewitching creation in the tradition of Philip James de Loutherbourg's famous Eidophusikon, or Louis Daguerre's dioramas that wowed the London public in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Such devices of wonder offered momentary escape from the here and now, a flight into the immersive solitude of the self. Pietromarchi's low-tech construction achieves a similar dream-like effect, drawing us into its strange oceanic ambience, slowing time, reconnecting the eye to the imagination.
The current body of work extends the arc of Pietromarchi's creative trajectory to date. We now look back to the extraordinary ceiling-hung work entitled Module 1 — an inflated rubber harbour-fender mounted with a steel-framed seat, completed shortly after commencing his Armitage Fellowship — and view it in a fresh light. A compelling sculptural object possessed of both airborne and maritime connotations, hovering somewhere between Géricault, Jules Verne and Heath Robinson, Module 1 offered a foretaste of the Surrealist psychogeographical travels that lay ahead.
Journeying deep into his minds eye, beneath the radar of his conscious mind, Pietromarchi has discovered a rich seam of experimental material that will likely sustain him for some time to come.
Benedetto Pietromarchi (b. 1972, Rome, Italy) studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Carrara, Italy, from 1994 to 1998. Solo shows include Carrozza, Flora Fairbairn Projects, London, 2007; It's for Real, b-49 project space, Rome, 2007; and Meteopathic, Trolley Gallery, London, 2005. Group shows include A Broken Fall, Josh Lilley, London, 2009; Reconstruction 1, Sudeley Castle, 2006; and Sine Qua Non, Bischoff/Weiss, London, 2005. He is currently artist-in-residence at the Kenneth Armitage Foundation in London.