Yūgen - Irene Cattaneo

Nadja Romain is pleased to present the first solo show of Venice based artist Irene Cattaneo. A series of made in Murano glass works. On the south side of Venice, overlooking the Giudecca canal and just off the dreamy Zattere promenade, one takes a few steps across the terrazzo floor of Il Palazzo Experimental's entrance hall and emerges out into a secret world. Scattered throughout the lush greenery of the 16th century building's cloistered garden the exhibition YŪGEN - CLOUDY IMPENETRABILITY offers a glimpse into the shimmering landscape of Italian artist Irene Cattaneo's creative practice. While visitors are often entranced by the dynamic compositions of the Venetian skyline, in this unique site-specific exhibition the artist explores a very different sky-scape through a series of exquisitely hand-crafted glass sculptures.

Dubbed 'clouds' these colourful bursts express a vibrant manifestation of Irene's fascination with the interplay between the lagoon and its reflections, between light and the shifting surface of the sky. Just as the water rises from the sea and slips into the air, gathering in these unique formations so Irene curates her clouded universe. What better medium is there to capture this fluctuating world than glass? Collaborating with the glass masters of Murano, an island famed for its rich history of glass craftsmanship, Irene brought her unique gaze to this ancient medium. Arranged in the gardens her works set out a trail throughout the foliage, a path for visitors to uncover in their own time, a place of quiet reflection. Irene's illuminated clouds present a moving contradiction, reforming those shapes that so often obscure the light of the sun and moon and instead presenting them as independent individuals, infusing them with their very own light.

The title of the exhibition "Yūgen" is a concept taken from Japanese aesthetics whose meaning changes depending upon its context. In philosophical texts it can be defined roughly as an awareness of the universe that inspires an emotional response too profound to articulate, a notion that resonated deeply with Irene's own experience and perception of reality. Literally translated as "cloudy impenetrability," the compound hints to a number of connotations, extrapolating on an unknowability and mysterious quality. Irene views these ambiguities, the 'cloudiness' of life as a fundamental part of its beauty. Not everything is to be clear-cut with concrete edges and clean lines, and in the bountiful undulating curves of blown-glass there is a keen celebration of this reluctance to conform to set notions and easy understanding. In her own words: "My clouds have reflective properties, and that comes from the sky reflecting in the water. It reflects, and it helps me reflect."

In a radical addition to these dynamic compositions Irene then adds language as a final fascinating layer, imbuing each piece with a new character and identity through individual words, comical linguistic plays, and intimate phrases. These objects are something to experience, not merely witness, sculptures that are not simply adorned on the surface but that hold within them a latent and less obvious language. Irene has said before how she views clouds as "the sky's thoughts", shapes that act as animated personalities in the sky, manifested and dispersed these mystical constructions can linger or be fleeting, that can cast great shadows or slip away without a trace. This continual ever-moving ever-evolving landscape is the universe Irene occupies, a world in which permanence is but a dream.


Thea Hawlin



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