All Visual Arts are proud to present Regeneration, a unique installation from Italian artists Bertozzi & Casoni. The duo are acclaimed for their delicate depictions of a culture in decay, deftly rendered in fragile ceramic clay. Their latest work Regeneration queries the hierarchy of aesthetics, revealing the beauty in the neglected and discarded emphemera of our seamless culture. The pieces compel the viewer to confront the visceral decay of contemporary society, to expose the cracks between the artifice of the world we are presented with and to explore what lies within these fissures. With this imaginative approach to their practice, Bertozzi and Casoni align the traditional with the experimental, and allow us to construct our own narrative around their evocative scenes.
Bertozzi and Casoni manipulate the indistinction between the real and the simulacrum in their work, an obsession for detail which evokes the Decadent taste for imitation and crafted artifice as superior to the natural. In fabricating these visually and emotionally compelling still-lifes, the artists engage the viewer in deeper themes of impermanence and mortality. Through rendering the abject and overlooked in such exquisite detail, Bertozzi and Casoni signal the return of the repressed, the avoidance of our own mortality. In one piece in which the memento mori is explicitly rendered, an ox skull is dominated by a vivid monitor lizard, symbolic of both death and rebirth in its habitat across Asia and Australia. In the antonymously titled DisGRACE, vibrant blooms sprout from the polluted detritus of a decadent and avaricious society, a scene of nature triumphing over the excesses of hyper-capitalism.
Regeneration contemplates the possibility of change through rebirth, rediscovery and reappropriation, manipulating earth into elegant and fragile structures. In one piece, a cluster of butterflies flock to raise the severed head of a deer from an ornamental platter, recalling the Renaissance representations of John the Baptist or Holofernes. In a similar echo of classical scenes, and dominating the Regeneration is the serene image of a silverback gorilla resting in the Buddhist lotus position on a bed of discarded mattresses. A roe deer lies prone across its body, while wrens and goldcrests commune around the pair. The piece is an evocation of symbolic power, from the visceral confrontation of our Darwinian descendent dying out in front of our eyes, to the shift between the viewer and sculpture, object and subject as we find ourselves caught in the compassionate gaze of the animals. Our own mortality is inscribed in the taxbleaux where urban structures, religion and the animal world collide to reveal the grace in disgrace which Bertozzi and Casoni seek to capture.
It seems appropriate that the duo push their material to its limits and question the possibility of representation in their work at every turn. Their liberal accumulation and compilation of cultural references is evident in the playful amalgamation of objects in a work where a swordfish’s head juts from a guitar case; the shapes tessellating the natural with the cultural. Their curiosity and playful approach to objects creates a process of continual experimentation and discovery, freeing themselves from convention and the stereotypes of the ornamental and domestic associated with the ceramic medium, and producing unexpected moments of pathos and humour through their synthesis of past and present, nature and artifice. The artists subvert the established rules about the perception of applied arts through inverting the symbolic power of their traditional medium, exceeding the inherent conservativism of ceramics to sculpt fantastic and grotesque scenes that liberate both the artist and viewer’s imagination.
Inscribed in their material is the transience and fragility of life, etched into the familiar gloss of the ceramic clay. Their material significantly claims no preference for the objects it simulates, from the most delicate orchid to the decaying sod it stems from, the ceramic detail is precisely rendered without discrimination. This aesthetic redemption and regeneration typifies Bertozzi and Casoni’s work; by aligning objects outside of context and value systems, their imaginative, unbridled approach reveals the humour, depth and beauty latent in the interstices of a culture veiled by aesthetic superiority. Their work is a continuous cycle of discovery, awakening a curiosity within the viewer that fuels a return to innocence, a regeneration of Arcadia from the seeds of a crumbling empire.