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Ancient mythology and modern history

— September 2013

Associated media

Lanfranco Quadrio, Agony of Actaeon - the pack 2013, Oil graphite pen pencil on canvas, 150x280cm

rosenfeld porcini’s next exhibition (from 27 September)  is ‘The Agony of Actaeon’, the inaugural UK solo exhibition of the Italian artist Lanfranco Quadrio. The exhibition will include mixed media works on canvas and paper across both floors of the gallery space.  

Using materials such as acrylic, charcoal, graphite, ink, pencil, pastels, and oil paints, the pieces presented recount moments deriving from two well-known Greek myths, the death of Actaeon and the myth of the monster Scylla – in particular when she devours Odysseus’s sailors: ‘the goddess [Artemis] flung the hide of a stag around Actaeon, arranging for him a death that came from his own hounds’ Pausanias 9.2.3 (Greece c. AD 110 – AD 180) ‘they writhed gasping as Scylla swung them up her cliff and there at her cavern's mouth she bolted them down raw— screaming out, flinging their arms toward me, lost in that mortal struggle’ Homer (The Odyssey XII 275–79).

Born in 1966, Lanfranco Quadrio is a draftsman and engraver whose highly accomplished, complex and dynamic drawings fuse the ability of the Italian Old Masters with a highly personal contemporary vision. Quadrio’s obsession with the world of Greek myths and his extraordinary technical ability transports the viewer back to the golden epoch of Italian drawing. Yet the violence present in the works, his experimentation with colour and lines on the canvas immediately returns us to our contemporary world.

Violence is inherent to the modern and contemporary history of Sicily; take for instance the famous Mafia bombings, which slaughtered Italian judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992. Using the metaphor of the myth, Quadrio recounts an episode which both manages to illustrate the antique history of Sicily but also its far more recent turmoil. The artist adds to the interpretation by emphasizing a subject which is dear to him: the inevitability of actions. When the hunter Actaeon sees  Diana bathing naked in the water, she transforms him into a stag. Once the Goddess has pronounced her sentence, there is no escaping destiny, either for Actaeon or for his hounds that are compelled to devour him.

This reflection specifically addresses the problems of the island where Quadrio lives: ordinary people caught in a spiral of violence due to the deficit of the State and unresolved tensions, the aftermath of the Second World War. Yet the artist has absolutely no desire to present us with a political, social or economic message; his works are not closed in meaning, but rather give us a space to experience relevance through our own interpretation. Similarly with his depicting of Scylla, it is the moment of violence and transformation which obsesses the artist: instead of the sailors being eaten by the monster, it is his imagined portrayal of the men falling towards the sea.

Beyond depicting animal and human anatomy with a surgeon’s attention to detail, Quadrio’s compositions are emotionally charged works which provide a poignant testimony to the violence that undermines our world. What begins as an illustration of a moment from a great, timeless story develops into a comment on both the human condition and the inevitability of violence.

Lanfranco Quadrio The Agony of Actaeon
27 September – 21 November 2013

rosenfeld porcini
37 Rathbone Street

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