Louisa Gagliardi, Deep Breaths / Installation view
Louisa Gagliardi: Deep Breaths
Mar 1 – May 18, 2024
Cultuurcentrum Strombeek
Grimbergen, Belgium

With Deep Breaths CC Strombeek presents the first institutional exhibition in Belgium of Swiss artist Louisa Gagliardi (b. 1989 Sion, lives and works in Zurich). Her artistic practice predominantly revolves around alienation, and dislocation as essential features of our current, global existence. Deep Breaths builds upon her ongoing interest in the so-called liminal space. In our highly technological and hyper connected world the borders between reality and fiction are becoming more and more blurry. We get tricked into thinking that our flesh self and virtual self might become one. “As much as we try to be in control, stay in our bubble, we crave human interaction, natural spaces, but fear it at the same time. We try to safely navigate what feels like an insane and more and more unsafe world,” explains the artist. For this show, the artist conceived a new series of paintings and a sculpture within a maze-like scenography, evoking a familiar yet alien world of calculated dissonance.

These paintings are a mix of domestic, urban and nature scenes. The nature paintings are nevertheless very much in relation to human control. At first glance, the landscapes appear calming and beautiful, but harvested, catalogued, surveyed at a second glance. Influenced by Belgian surrealism from an early age, Gagliardi did research into the work of Paul Delvaux and René Magritte, alongside the practice of the 19th century artist Antoine Wiertz. Particularly of interest is the way in which their paintings deal with the universe and the way the protagonist exists in it, long before the existence of a computer, virtual reality, or social media. The dreamlike sceneries, the distorted or exaggerated perspective, and multiple levels of reality, resonate greatly with the sensitivities of Gagliardi’s body of work. Gagliardi’s paintings which are typically digitally rendered form not only technically, but also visually a complex game denoting delirium or delusion.

Her oeuvre plays with expectations, fulfilling and subverting them simultaneously. She draws freely from the codes of painting as well as contemporary graphic design and advertising to rethink questions of figure and ground. Created initially as fluid digital images, her works are printed on vinyl and then intervened upon with a gel medium that lends texture that could be read as ghostly impressions of painterly marks. However, rather than appealing to the hand, this texture only underscores the surface as a complex field of visual play – a theme brought forth in this suite of works through the recurring motif of veils and unveiling. Dancing between dimensionality and translucence, her landscapes and characters bridge the divide between the enigmatic and the banal.

While the paintings challenge the way that we perceive today’s diffused reality, the scenography physically enhances the viewer’s sense of reality. The passageways created in the exhibition space introduce a sort of labyrinth. This particular structure gives the viewer a false sense of choice and a palpable sensation of enigmatic uncertainty. Similarly with the paintings, Gagliardi wanted to evoke the current tension between amusement and constraint as a typical characteristic of Western society. The space feels like the interiors depicted in the paintings, a seemingly navigable but uncontrollable path, composing a kind of “a dream within a dream.” The viewer may feel like an uninvited guest, interrupting the characters that inhabit the paintings.

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