The exhibition "From Nature to Spirit" started as a visual dialogue between a group of artists sharing an interest in the relationship between the natural and metaphysical realms. The central axis of the exhibition sprung from the empirical and experiential realization that as humans we have the possibility to access our inner spiritual dimension through nature.
From an anthropological perspective we find this theme reflected in the visual language of art and architecture as far back as what we know of human history with the animal carvings present on the pillars at Göbekli Tepe, a ritual megalithic structure carbon dated at 9,500 BC. Given my interest in the subject I started looking into the work of some very unique artists that I had the luck to cross path within the last decade, and had informal conversations on what they thought and felt about the relationship between spirit and nature.
Finally for the exhibition at Thomas Brambilla gallery I chose works from each artist that best encapsulated these exchanges. I favored pieces with a disarming immediacy, and gravitated towards a general aesthetic that directly engages senses. I wanted to have a vibrant and energetic starting point from which the viewer could develop more subtle considerations on their own inner realities. In the case of artist and poet John Giorno (1936-2019 - NY), I was amazed by his Perfect Flower series, in which the paintings are poems and the poems are paintings. With his brilliant use of words John infused the flowers with the esoteric imagery of Vajrayana Buddhism, creating a beautiful echo of the rich spiritual dimension that he inhabited as a devoted practitioner. The two paintings by John Giorno are exhibited alongside two stone masks by his partner, Ugo Rondinone. These works for me embody the evocative power of simplicity. Their poetic dimension is the result of a simple gesture, which brings stone to life, bestowing it with a gaze that connects us back to an ancestral shamanic dimension: The beginning of all spiritual traditions.
In the vicinity of their works I placed two small paintings of mine (Matteo Callegari), depicting colorful butterflies from the Amazon rainforest. They function as symbolic messengers from the spirit realms transporting vital energies across dimensions. To join the two rooms of the gallery I chose small embroideries by Matilde Cerruti Quara, intimate poems that connected elements from the micro dimension of nature with the macro elements of the cosmos. The evocative poetic power of words bridges two dimensions that are both the expression of the same emotional realm, according to the famous esoteric principle “as above, so below”.
In the main room one of my paintings of a roaring tiger is overlooking the whole space. It echoes the energy of the wrathful protectors found among many eastern traditions; these powerful beings compassionately direct their aggression toward the hindrances, the negative energies and the malevolent forces that prevent us from realizing our true nature.
On the wall next to it I installed a large selection of Tamara Gonzales’ drawings; a rich polyphonic ensemble of imagery and patterns that the artist brought back from visionary experiences and personal research across different spiritual traditions and places. Hindu deities surrounded by Amazonian plants remind us that there are connections in the spirit world that transcend cultural and geographic boundaries. Following we have Domenico Zindato’s drawings on paper and on leaves, which are maps of inner journeys where the artist explores the infinite forms that energy takes within our consciousness. These inner journeys have originated from the artist explorations through South America, and his encounters with entheogenic plants. The densely packed compositions present to us the many intelligent forms that populate both nature and other dimensions. Bruce M Sherman’s ceramics sculptures depict two very special trees, both covered in eyes and rendered in extraordinary vivid colors. These forms are both natural and otherworldly at the same time, and brilliantly point to nature as innately sentient. The work is playful and deeply moving at the same time; it mirrors the simplicity and depth that is achieved by pursuing a lifelong exploration of our inner reality.
A selection of drawings by Joe Bradley is hung on a forest green wood panel. They are very immediate and unfiltered, and remind me of the intuition that one can have while looking at nature with the realization that they are a part of it. The landscape shifts from external to internal connecting our consciousness with our surroundings, and animals become a mirror of our kaleidoscopic emotional state. The exhibition concludes with two paintings by Chris Martin — we can see how nature becomes the entheogen that explodes the boundaries of of our visual field and imagination, connecting personal elements of our being with the vastness of the cosmos. The magic of this connection is transformed in paint, glitter, collage; a rich materiality that echoes the multifaceted nature of our consciousness.
To conclude I see this exhibition as a small window that allows us a glimpse on the immaterial dimensions, both inner and outer, that are as much part of us as we are part of Nature.
by Matteo Callegari
To know more, you can also watch the video-tour made by The Brooklyn Rail with the collaboration of Tamara Gonzales: