Luxembourg Pavilion, 59th International Art Exhibition. La Biennale di Venezia
Faraway So Close by Christophe Gallois, assisted by Ilaria Fagone
Arsenale, Sale d’Armi, Venice
April 23 – November 27, 2022
Tina Gillen (b. 1972, Luxembourg) will represent the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia with Faraway So Close. The exhibition, for which the artist has produced a new series of large-scale works, will take the form of an expansive painterly installation in the Luxembourg Pavilion, located within the historic premises of the Sale d’Armi in Venice’s Arsenale. In Faraway So Close, Gillen directs her attention to the connections between the interior space and the outside world.
Gillen, whose artistic practice is firmly rooted in painting, revisits well-established painterly themes such as landscape and architecture to explore the relationships we entertain with the world around us. Her artwork often stems from photographic imagery that she alters, simplifies, ‘translates’ and combines with other motifs into compositions that purposefully nurture a certain ambiguity, oscillating between abstraction and figuration, structural order and improvisation, surface and the translation of space. More recently, the artist has been keen to expand her practice beyond the traditional framework of the canvas by creating installations in which she experiments with different types of relations between painting and the exhibition space.
Faraway So Close was conceived in response to the Sale d’Armi, a historic building dating back to the fifteenth century, and its past as a storage location linked to Venice’s military history. ‘How could I integrate my paintings into a place like this, with its loaded history and inherent constraints? Rather than opting for a scenography in the traditional sense – building an architectural structure, temporary walls -, I wanted to work with the space.’, says the artist. The exhibition consists of eight large-scale paintings on canvas that assemble into a site-specific installation inspired by painted film sets – ‘As if they were there only temporarily, waiting to be moved and rearranged again (…) like a set still under production.
In this exhibition, Gillen pursues her painterly research into natural phenomena that lie beyond human control, such as extreme weather events, rising sea levels, or volcanic activity. The paintings that make up her installation thematize the four elements of nature we traditionally identify with the composition of the universe – earth, water, fire, and air – while simultaneously evoking the tangible effects of climate change caused by human activity. They represent what the French writer Marielle Macé has described as ‘uncertain landscapes‘ in literature.
At the center of the installation stands the sculptural element Rifugio (2022), whose shape was inspired by a small cottage on the Opal Coast in the North of France, which caught the artist’s attention and which she subsequently represented in a small painting on paper titled Shelter (2018). ‘In Shelter, I removed everything that was around this structure, as if its whole environment had been erased, washed away by the water. It looks as though it’s floating in this ethereal, immaterial space’, recalls Gillen. ‘For Venice, I wanted to project myself into this space of which I only know the exterior and imagine how it might be to see the world from within it.’
When transposed to the exhibition space, and placed in relation to the paintings, this form becomes a polysemic space to the artist, acting both as a place for withdrawal and a gateway into the world, a shelter, and a space traversed by an abundance of information, much like contemporary domestic environments. ‘It is both a mental and concrete space’, notes Gillen. ‘This refuge is closely connected to the here and the now. It is anchored in the present and in the space, whereas to me paintings act more as projections elsewhere, into the past or the future…’. Faraway So Close speaks to the complexity of the relationships that exist between interior spaces and the outside world, between proximity and distance.
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