This is a show that I’ve wanted to organise for a while now and which became possible after last year’s exhibition of 12 British painters in Bergamo, Italy . At the time it was the painter and critic Tim Hyman who identified a linkage between architecture and memory in the work of some of these artists. It had something to do as well with what another critic, Adrian Searle, wrote in response to Peter Doig’s paintings (shown at Tate last year), about ‘the sense of a world both trembling and stilled, on the verge of disintegration’ (Guardian, 05.02.08)
The aim of Genius Loci is to explore what this means in the work of five painters - Lino Mannocci, Arturo Di Stefano, Glenys Johnson, Alex Lowery and myself – who combine the exploration of a medium with the exploration of that uncertain territory which links a passage of time to a particular place. John Berger has said of Arturo di Stefano (which might equally apply to the others as well) that, ‘your paintings about places are more about time than the lie of the land… they are all images of what one has passed through and is leaving behind’.
This ‘place’ or location (which might be London or Dorset, Paris or Venice, Viareggio or Bergamo) is often specifically delineated, even if the structure is minimal and the outlines have become feint and ghostly. They act as formal devices, as well as serving a deeper metaphorical purpose. Some are more distant in time and space (seen from above or through a window), and some are much nearer to ‘home’, and often they seem to be simultaneously located in the present and the past.
Each painting is a private territory, yet together they share a quality of space and light, one that might be characterized as both expansive and spare, distilled and veiled, spectral and symbolic. Above all, these locations seem to be linked by memory, with each artist using the painted image as a locus for recollection. Often they return to seemingly familiar ground (whether it is a city, an island or a studio), but always in a way that remains open and conditional. What they seek to recover is the trace of their own fleeting presence as well as that of others; what the images contain are memories of a singular past (recalling a childhood or a private history), as well as of a wider past, where each is connected to a larger cultural and historical stream.
Genius Loci. Galleria Ceribelli, Bergamo Italy. 15 November 2008 to 17 January 2009.