Bologna, Italy

Marco Tirelli

Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna

In this exhibition, which represents the last ten years of Marco Tirelli’s activity, the artist attempted to draw our attention to the internal coherence that characterizes his work over time. While the consistent foundation for Tirelli’s art is geometric abstraction, his paintings are not rigidly rationalist, deterministic, aprioristic, or deductive. The artist does not devise disembodied schemas, and his forms, volumes, and spaces—while primary, even elementary—are not ideal essences but instead seem impregnated by the empirical concreteness of experience as we perceive it. Tirelli often works with deviations of perspective, perceptual “slips,” and spatial incongruities of vision, from which optical ambiguities cannot help but arise. Many of his forms and volumetric planes result from the progressive purification and distillation of everyday objects such as boxes and drawers, stairs and shelves. And his colors (predominantly blacks, grays, greens, ochers, and earth tones) are never pure or harsh but are subtly modulated with light and shade; in other words, they are colors of real life and not its projection or ideal model. In long arrays of canvases hung one next to the other or arranged to construct vast polyptychs, Tirelli uses his repertoire of forms and signs to present anew the secular mystery of seeing and its concomitant inner reflection. Indeed, the enigma of the quotidian lies precisely in the fact that it holds, hidden within, the ecstatic wonder of the sublime.

Tirelli’s work has an explicit conceptual, compositional, and poetic genealogy that is rooted in architecture. His antecedents are not overtly modernist so much as archaic, characterized by archetypal elements and forms (the tumulus, the column, the door, the sphere). Some works refer to the power of Roman construction, while others point to Piranesi, dramatically suspended between nostalgia for the classical design process and a modern awareness of the ruin and the fragment. In some way these canvases represent (beyond any mimetic-figurative impulse) virtual places, possible dwellings, architectures of the spirit, which Tirelli invites us, or challenges us, to inhabit. He puts together an enormous and complex stage set, marked by a strong sense of structural value. Elements are reciprocally supporting and complementary, and the significance of individual signs often changes in relation to their compositional, formal, and chromatic context.

It is precisely this strong, decisive internal and structural coherence that in some manner limits these imaginary horizons, holds them at the threshold of symbolic value where, in the absence of any strict compositional bond, volumes and forms—some of them gigantic—break free in the individual imagination of the viewer. This receptive condition seems explicitly linked to the type of installation Tirelli creates, which is extremely effective and completely consonant with the works themselves. He presents severely and hieratically subdued “stagings” in which the canvases are arranged according to a classical, almost Olympian rhythm and within which all perceptual ambiguities, which tend to throw the viewer’s glance off balance, can be resolved.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.