As part of ART CITY Segnala 2019, in conjunction with Arte Fiera, the Banca di Bologna headquarters in Piazza Galvani will be housing its second exhibition dedicated to an Italian artist. This year it will feature Matteo Fato (b. 1979), presenting two works that hover between painting and installation. They make up a single project created in 2018 for Straperetana, an annual group show held in various locations around the village of Pereto in Abruzzo.
The exhibition centers on two landscape paintings of different sizes, both painted en plein air during Fato’s stay in Pereto. The larger one is based on a daytime view of the surrounding countryside, described in broad brushstrokes and colors so bold that they border on abstraction.
The smaller one shows the same landscape at night, in a darker spectrum. Each of these paintings is accompanied by its own “double”: another portion of canvas with brushstrokes from the same palette, which create a mirror echo of the main work. The two pairs of paintings are displayed on their packing cases, which acquire a completely different function upon entering the exhibition space.
The project, conceived as a single installation, has thus been recontextualized, taking on a new meaning that combines two pivotal themes in Fato’s practice. The first is his interest in en plein air painting: over the last few years, direct contact with nature has become a compelling need for the artist, who sees this immersion in the real world as an essential factor in his work. Painting from life allows him to achieve a sort of osmosis with reality, and thus a much more effective grasp of its image.
This phenomenological aspect leads us to Matteo Fato’s second focus of reflection, which is particularly important here: the importance of the relationship between a painting and the space around it. In his work (which also includes other media), the act of painting must be examined from different angles to be fully absorbed; as a result, the placement of the work in a specific context tends to problematize the boundary between two and three dimensions, so that it inhabits space in an almost sculptural way. The painting is seen in a new light, as an object, whose meaning is not fully contained by the canvas, but extends into the empty space around it. The presence of the crates, turned into pedestals, acquires this significance: they highlight the work’s physical presence within the setting, giving it a concrete place in the world.
In the case of the Banca di Bologna show, the glass wall of the exhibition space, which gives onto the square, creates a sort of short circuit; the reproduction of a natural landscape is enclosed in a space that is nevertheless open to the outside world, hour after hour (changing with the light, with the visitors, and with different modes of viewing). The work seems to become a sentinel, standing guard all day and all night. And so while the title of the exhibition—Stare a Cavaliere durante il giorno e nella notte (“Being in Cavaliere by Day and by Night”)—alludes to the Piana del Cavaliere, the valley below Peretro that is the subject of Fato’s two paintings, it is also a play on words that can be read as “Standing like a Watchtower by Day and by Night”: a position of “vigilance” towards the world around it that is a reference to the very act of painting.