Meteopathic
Benedetto PietromarchiWed 19 Oct 2005 - Sun 20 Nov 2005
Having moved from country to country as a child, Benedetto Pietromarchi's work is influenced by travel and attendant concepts of displacement. These influences merge with formal training in architecture and classical sculpture in London and Carrara. Three aspects: travel, architecture and figurative sculpture form the basis of his work.
Having moved from country to country as a child, Benedetto Pietromarchi's work is influenced by travel and attendant concepts of displacement. These influences merge with formal training in architecture and classical sculpture in London and Carrara. Three aspects: travel, architecture and figurative sculpture form the basis of his work.

Notions of the ephemeral, coupled with the solidity and permanence of architectural sculpture, are intended to make the viewer question the origins of what is presented to them. Pietromarchi presents scenes not inherently comprehensible, but which trigger some form of unconscious recognition. The surreal juxtaposition of objects removed from their expected context is rooted in the artist's exploration of the unconscious imagination and its relation to the human condition. Bachelard, Kant, and Merleau-Ponty have informed and inspired aspects of the work.



For his project Meteopathic, Pietromarchi fused lead sculptures in the studio, connected them to nineteenth-century glass buoys and then transferred them to the Mediterranean Sea. He later returned to film the suspended pieces, capturing an arresting tension between stasis and incident.



'Meteopathic'

by Marina Warner.



'In a lecture he gave towards the end of his life, the Italian writer Italo Calvino ranges widely over the quality of leggerezza, or lightness, in its many shifting manifestations: 'the idea of the world as composed of weightless atoms is striking because we know the weight of things so well', he writes; he then goes on to apply this figuratively, to his own art of literature: 'we would be unable to appreciate the lightness of language if we could not appreciate language that has some weight to it'. Calvino's perception can illuminate visual language too, as in Benedetto Pietromarchi's sculptural installation 'Meteopathic', which condenses matter and metaphor, balancing air against lead and thus suspending the very embodiment of lightness in equilibrium against the heaviest of metals.



Swinging gently at a stable level just three meters under the surface of the sea, a hieratic figure hangs upside-down; arms folded as if in thought, this enigmatic male body communicates a sense of inner composure. He resembles an antique monumental sculpture - an Egyptian priest, Chaldaean augur or Assyrian king - and his embodiment in mineral solidity has also been modified over time, through the difficult process of casting from a mould in lead by lost wax, and the many trials that exposed him to the depths of the sea and its corrosive currents. The figure bears the marks of these experiences, but his interior concentration and aloofness echo the consummate physical poise of the whole piece.



The title 'Meteopathic' alludes to someone who is so affected by changes in the weather that he or she suffers, and becomes SAD (as in 'seasonal adjustment disorder'). It resembles the Romantic idea of the pathetic fallacy but recognises that the body, not the mind, can be symbiotically attuned to physical phenomena. The sculptural exploration of the properties of water, air-filled glass and lead carries further an artistic quest to grasp physical sympathies and reveal how in relation to one another, things, elements, creatures - us - change their nature.



Everyone knows the strange sensation after a swim in the sea, when one's body upon reaching the shore turns into a dead weight. Yet in spite of such familiar experiences, we still focus on the intrinsic properties of phenomena - the wetness and heaviness of water, the lightness of air. Closer attention to the nature of things, as Pietromarchi pays in his work, reveals that such qualities exist in reciprocal exchange with the properties of other things and other forces. As 'Meteopathic' reveals, a mere bubble can make lead float; a glass sphere can stop a heavy statue from sinking under its weight to the bottom of the sea. This vision of forces in balance inverts expectations; it doesn't denature our understanding, but rather re-natures it.



The artist grew up on the south Tuscan coast, and has known from childhood how lead is used for fishing plumb lines and glass floats are used to hold the nets to the visible surface of the ocean. He carried out the experiments for his work there, found the antique glass buoy, and filmed everything with the help of a professional diver. The piece carries with it still the mystery of underwater light and colour, and the conflict in our responses between the sea's aesthetic pleasure and its physical danger. Above all 'Meteopathic' explores a rare element of sculpture; in the formal tradition of Eva Hesse, it probes natural gravity and grace in different states. When Dante, the great poet of solid and tactile vision, wanted to evoke a soul in paradise at one with the light and lightness of the heavens, he turned to just such an image. Of the enigmatic and lyrical vision of Piccarda Donati, he writes: 'Cosí parlommi, e poi cominciò 'Ave Maria' cantando, e cantando vanio come per acqua cupa cosa grave' ['She spoke thus to me, then began singing 'Ave Maria' and singing vanished, like a weight through deep water.']
Paradiso III: 121-3



The sea, like the amniotic fluid of the womb where babies turn weightlessly, offers us the closest experience we ever reach to shedding gravity and solidity and flesh; such a quasi-angelic state of oneness with water has long offered an image of touching the depths and approaching wisdom.'
Kentish Town, 15th October 2005
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