Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Further inspiration: the work of Maurizio Anzeri

Monday I posted about my inspirational visit to the Robert Breer gallery at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

I know I'm milking this Newcastle trip for all it's worth on the blog, but I really have to share about the Baltic's Maurizio Anzeri exhibit, too. Thankfully his art was a little more understandable than Breer's floating igloos. The Baltic website explains: "Using portraits from the 1930s and 1940s collected at flea markets, Anzeri overlays abstract designs by sewing intricately patterned threads directly onto the photographic surface. Obscuring part of the photograph he both hides and heightens certain features of the face. His precise juxtapositions transform the discarded image, giving his portraits a disquieting and psychological presence."

I'm not sure you can tell from the images how disquieting, and mesmerizing, Anzeri's art is. You know that strange feeling you sometimes get when looking at black and white photographs? Moments frozen in time, people you hardly knew, relatives who will never be that young again? Anzeri captures that same effect, then plays with it, emphasizes it.

Here he explains his process:

"I put tracing paper over the photo and draw on the face until it develops. Sometimes the image comes straight away, suggested by a detail on a dress or in the background, but with the majority of them I spend a lot of time drawing. Once the drawing is done, I pierce the photo with a set of needle-like tools I invented and take the paper away; the holes are obsessively paced at the same distance to convey an idea of geometry. When I begin the stitching something else happens, drawing will never do what thread will – the light changes, and at some points you can lose the face, and at others you can still see under it.
.. Like a costume or other identity, my work reveals something that is behind the face that suddenly becomes in front. It’s like a mask – not a mask you put on, but something that grows out of you."

His words (which I heard in a video at the Baltic, and have copied from the Saatchi Gallery's website) seem to say a lot to writers developing character, too. There's always that person on the outside, visible to everyone, but then the inner side, too, the secrets we hide, our true selves.

And yet, for as much as this is a common idea about character, look at the unique place Anzeri's creativity has taken him. I find that pretty inspirational, too.

I bought two postcards of his work, and they've been keeping me company at my table while I start on my next project... but more on that Friday!

You can read more about Maurizio Anzeri and see further examples of his art on this page at the Saatchi Gallery's website.

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