“Sensation is what determines instinct at a particular moment, just as instinct is the passage of one sensation to another, the search for the ‘best’ sensation (not the most agreeable sensation, but the one that fills the flesh at a particular moment of its descent, contradiction or dilation).” (1)
Apparently Alice Cattaneo and Michael Höpfner have different approaches, but despite the first being committed to the realm of sculpture and the second to the activity of walking, are their practices affected by common instincts. The exhibition shows a synthesized macrocosm and explores the notions of (inner/outer) nature and space. So, if on one hand Cattaneo’s materials investigate and present the essence of the constructed space, Höpfner’s focus moves instead across the presently uninhabited, untouched earth.
Cattaneo’s sculptures condense the substance, structure and dynamics of different spaces in few linear elements, as if they would attract and then concentrate the surrounding matter. Seemingly insecure and fragile Cattaneo’s sculptures are quite the contrary. Whilst assembling definitive (apparently conflicting) materials they place themselves affirmatively in the space according to decisive and precisely calculated tensions. Cattaneo operates via reduction to elements that despite their subtlety preserve markedly their weight, their presence, their “groundedness” and on the other hand seem to be able to expand again. Their potential instability is cohered by a specific momentum, that makes all the parts necessary to the others. The artist controls the dualism between permanence and transience: the objects–made of concrete, plastic, ceramics and Murano glass–materials that historically relate to architecture and decorative arts–find themself in a liminal condition between presence and absence and provide resolutely–via fine details (as slightly crooked surfaces and lines)–a sense of uncertainty, precariousness, doubt.
And it is the very same liminality that occurs in Höpfner’s work even if with a different focus. Pursuing actively and, most importantly repeatedly in time, the act of walking in desert places (such as Tibet and Nepal), Höpfner’s research start from the direct experience of nature. Through black and white photographs, collages and drawings the artist attempts showing the un-showable and investigating the relation between a human body and the bigger living organism of the earth. In a sort of a branched-out-being, his multi-layered work grows on different levels precisely around nature: the viewers are provided with diverse “coordinates” to sense the context that is around the individual–and therefore inexplicable–experiences. Of the landscapes one can now clearly at once perceive both their vibrating veins pulsing with lifeblood and their “lifelessness.” And it is through the blow-up, that the photographs become the evidence of the fact, or in this case the evidence of the absence of it. The viewer faces fragments of desert places that maintain traces of history and stand as the missing parts of a bigger whole. Höpfner’s presence is subtly, intermittently visible and deals in a delicate and purposedly un-spectacular way with both the grandeur of nature and horror vacui in front of it. Bringing together photographs–and fragments of them–taken over the last years (the direct record of the experience) and the drawings (the memory of it), Höpfner creates expressive intimate compositions.
Both the artists, through their longlasting research processes, have produced a consistent body of work where the viewer can travel amongst assorted time capsules and explore the passages between permanence and precariousness, proximity and distance.
Alice Cattaneo (1976, Milan) studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Glasgow School of Art. After time spent in the USA, and having matured a respectful exhibition history in galleries and museums, she returned to Milan where she lives and works. She currently teaches at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, Milan.
Michael Höpfner (1972, Krems/Donau) ) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna–where he now teaches– and at the Glasgow School of Art. Since 1995 Höpfner undertakes during several weeks and months walking journeys through the north of India, Ladhak, Nepal, Tibet, China, South Korea, Scotland, Island, Senegal, Eastern Turkey, Sahara of Libya and several regions in Europe.
(1)Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (London: Continuum, 2003)