Tigers in Flip-Flops
Marco Godinho, VOID
Tigers in Flip-Flopes
Galleria Massimodeluca, Venezia Mestre
30.09.2017 – 15.10.2017
Curator: Daniele Capra
A famous photo by Robert Capa shows Henri Matisse in his studio in front of one of his works while, with a long rod he used in the studio, he points to the profile of a woman sketched on paper. The floor is covered with newspaper pages to protect the parquet from the paint. By now old, the artist wears a woollen waistcoat and a pair of dark slacks and has a cigarette in his mouth. The clothing and the large but bare space give him a concentrated and tense air. There is, however, an almost invisible element that adds a touch of grace to Matisse’s imposing figure, an unexpected flash of levity lower down: the painter in fact is wearing slippers, without socks. His austere, almost hieratic, body in fact contrasts with the size and pale colour of his bare feet.
It is this very detail that gives a double sense of intimacy, with respect to the place in which the artist works, one that basically seems more an inhabited house than a studio, but above all with respect to his art itself, painting, which becomes a genuine extension of his life. To paint or, in a wider sense, to be an artist – Matisse, perhaps unconsciously, suggests this to us – is exactly the same thing: art finds its meaning only with the flow of our everyday life, which is made up of important events, of course, but also of cigarettes smoked in the studio while wearing slippers.
This photo came to mind while I was looking on my computer at the images of the third edition of the Darsena Residency, hosted by the Massimodeluca gallery in Mestre, which I had the pleasure of following as the curator in July 2017. For that month I shared much of my time with the artists Marco Godinho, and Arnaud Eeckhout and Mauro Vitturini of the VOID duo. They researched, slept, ate, spoke, drank, experimented who knows what else in the gallery. That place, that space consisting of two equally sized rooms, as well as a terrace that overlooks a darsena or harbour in which boats are kept and repaired, was the centre of their life and mine. A nodal centre that superimposed the flow of time, the bodies of the four of us, as well as the directress of the gallery, Marina, and the collaborators Eva and Chiara with whom we shared part of the spaces, time, ideas, and possible solutions.
Intuitively, a residency for artists is only a geometric move, in a determined period, of people from one place to another, from one point on earth to another. But it would be stupid to consider it just a fact of topological movement. In fact places are not all the same. Towns have a reason for being different, they are the result of an infinite sum of stories, environmental, social, cultural, and economical interactions. And then there are the mentality, the manner of working, the food, and all the rest. Residencies came into existence with modernity. In fact it is little more than two hundred years ago that to go somewhere else became central to the life of artists. Firstly as a journey for getting to know what is far from their own eyes (antiquity, mythology, the sea, light), and then increasingly as a means for searching for new stimuli, new relationships, new opportunities. Furthermore, the epochal transformations that have changed the world since the last World War have made residencies an even more important element for allowing artists to absorb further stimuli, further factors for change. Residencies, that is, act as a multiplying factor with respect to the possibilities artists have for undertaking a research or to fine tune their own practice. A residency, the fact of having to react to new impulses, in fact contributes to suggesting further approaches to artists, to increase the faces of their own multifaceted expression.
The show Tigers in Flip-flops collects together the results of the residency of Marco Godinho and of the VOID duo and condenses them into some fifteen works conceived in Mestre – developed, that is, also from the visual, historical, cultural, and anthropological stimuli of the territory – and that range from glass sculpture to tin casting, photography, a sound art environmental installation, jewellery, neon lights, and even the conceptual use of the written word. The show’s title, blatantly ironic, was inspired by a fact in the life experienced by the artists in the gallery. The life of an artist, like that of the present writer or of any other who undertakes intellectual work in private, consists of a public part of relationships and appointments in town where you have to be careful of how you present yourself or to use the most correct and best adapted words. But it also consists of bare feet, of beers drunk while in bare-chested tranquillity, of days passed reading or listening to music in an armchair, or in your underpants writing at the computer.
The oxymoron “tigre in infradito”, tiger in flip-flops, does not derive from the show but alludes to the complex and ambiguous condition of being an artist in a constant balancing act, called on to resist material difficulties and to try to overcome intellectually the trammels of the present. It is a metaphor for challenge, in the attempt to make a feline leap as though «burning bright in the forests of the night»,i with the existential and poetical complication of being like Matisse in his studio. Bare foot in flip-flops.1
- W. Blake, The Tyger, in Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 1794.