Tirelli is inspired, in part, by the local architecture and religious sites of his hometown, Rome, Italy. “I never felt entirely a part of it,” he has said of the city. “And this has had a big effect on my work because I’ve always sensed a tension between places, real places, and what lies unseen beyond.” In many of his works, the absence of architecture, and vacant spaces within architecture, are the models for abstract geometric images.
In one untitled abstraction, Tirelli depicts what appears to be a post-and-lintel structure common to sacred architecture all over the world. The image is something of an illusion, built up with diaphanous layers of pigment in rectangular arrangements of light and dark. This depiction of a non-specific interior space is archetypal and dense. Others seem to indicate windows and mysterious black squares, which might be read as the interpenetration of the spiritual (as represented by the window-like negative spaces) and the material (the undefined black swathes).
Some works allude to the ritual actions that devotees carry out in sacred spaces, including the circumambulatory paths trod by the religious during certain functions, such as at some Christian shrines, or around the Kaaba in Mecca, or the Buddhist’s clockwise movement around a stupa. One such work includes a tuning fork, from which concentric circles radiate as if projecting a tone by visual means. In another, concentric circles are seemingly invisible, revealed by the intersection with an overlapping black circle.
Recalling earlier forms of hermetic art—not just religious or architectural, but by experimental artists such as Sol LeWitt and Robert Rauschenberg—Tirelli’s use of abstraction and assemblage results in mystical interactions where the visible and the invisible collide.
Marco Tirelli is on view at Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Antwerp, Dec. 4, 2014–Feb. 21, 2015.